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Why there is a difference in case interviewing approach?

Anonymous A asked on Mar 16, 2018 - 3 answers

One way of differentiating types of interviews is by the person who is leading the interview: whether it is interviewer led or interviewee led. For example, McKinsey is interviewer based and BCG is interviewee led.

I’m curious what drives this difference? Why does McKinsey prefer the first type and BCG - the 2nd type? Does this case interviewing approach reflect their way of managing real projects?

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updated his answer on Mar 16, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Anonymous,

given that I have done recruiting for both McKinsey and BCG, and hence have interviewed many applicants in both styles, I believe I can give a comment here. :)

The difference is essentially rooted in two different philosophies.

Candidate-led case style (BCG et. al): Here, the candidate's conceptual thinking ability, his ability to hypothesize and prioritize, as well as his leadership capacity to drive problem solving forward are under scrutiny. The interviewer will get try to get a holistic picture of the candidate! And over the course of 4-6 interviews, consistency of the candidate's process rigour is verified. Most firms have adopted this style.

Interviewer-led case style (McKinsey): McKinsey believes that a defined and limited set of qualities and abilities determine a consultant's success within the Firm. Hence, interviewers double down on these abilities in order to test them in a very focused way. This leads to the interviewer-led case style, which sometimes feels like multiple mini-cases under a common thematic umbrella. You can also see this philosphy in how McKinsey runs the fit part, which is much more focused compared to other firms: the Personal Experience Interview (PEI) at McK scrutinizes 3 defined dimensions in extreme detail (vs. more open discussion formats at other firms like BCG).

Cheers, Sidi


updated his answer on Mar 16, 2018
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  1. First of all - it is a myth that at McK or BCG absolutely all cases are Interviewer-led. I know a lot of partners in both companies who don't hesitate to ask the interviewee led the case.
  2. Secondly - indeed almost all Bain cases and many BCG cases are interviewee-led. Thus you have to drive the case and you have to come to a certain number and the conclusion in the end.
  3. The reason for that is timing - BCG and especially McKinsey spend more time on the FIT stories (Structured stories - Personal impact, leadership, etc), while at Bain they just ask a couple of questions (a story about yourself, your motivation to work in consulting and Bain, no fit stories). If you want to save more time for FIT questions you need to guide the interviewee and prioritize his analysis and efforts

It may seem to you that these 2 types of cases are different, however, the interviewer-led type is just a simplified version of the interviewee-led case. My advice is to prepare a lot in the interviewee-led format so that you could solve both easily.



Anonymous replied on Mar 16, 2018

Hey anonymous,

This is a really interesting question. Let me share my view on the topic, purely from my McKinsey experience (as I've never worked for BCG): McK really cares (a lot!) about being structured and communicate super top down (that's one of the first lessions you learn as a new hire junior BA), and that's something you can only achieve (in better terms) if you follow an interviewer-led type.

Besides, it's much easier life for the interviewer.



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