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Category: Case Interview Mastery for McKinsey, BCG, Bain
Blunt message to an unsuccessful BCG candidate
Written by Dr. Sidi S. Koné
Here is what happens to many MBB candidates who see themselves as "well prepared" after having practiced based on the commonly available preparation resources
This is a question we received a while ago from someone (not a mentee of us) after he got rejected by BCG, and how I answered it to explain what hapened...

The Question

"Hi! I just try to rebound from a very frustrating experience when interviewing with BCG. I had practiced about 30 cases prior to the interviews, and especially the last 10 practice cases went very well. I always came to the right solution without needing significant help from the case partner. Feedback was also very positive and stable. I had good confidence when walking into the interviews. 

During the interviews and cases at BCG I also had a very good feeling, and I finished every case with a clear recommendation. 

However, the feedback then confused me big time. I was later told that each of my structures covered all areas and where very exhaustive (I have developed more detailed custom structures based on some of the standard frameworks from Case in Point for example), but nonetheless my structuring was perceived "weak in a methodical way". They told me "just outlining the areas is not enough - make clear what you want to analyze!". 

So what do they mean with this? I told them what I want to analyze! I am at a complete loss here. 

I also want to apply to McKinsey and Bain. But after this experience I am unsure if I need to do other/different preparation?"

My Answer...

I believe it is quite clear what has happened to you. I have also seen this with many candidates who saw themselves as "well prepared" after having practiced based on what is commonly available in terms of case literature. 

However, there is a very important thing that most people are unfortunately completely unaware of: the structures in the most popular casebooks are mostly arbitrary and suffer from a fundamental lack of rigor. They are usually written by authors who have not been long enough in MBB firms to have acquired the skill of logic-based top-down structuring (which you usually only start using systematically as an experienced project leader, once you start designing (not creating!) proposal documents for clients). 

So here are a couple of fundamental points to understand:
  • Creating a strong structure does NOT mean to just tell the interviewer which areas you want to look into. This is not a structure! It is just a bucket list. Even if it contains dozens and dozens of elements!
  • ​In order for a structure to be strong, it has to be a logic. The logic according to which you will answer the question at hand. It is ideally rooted in a top-down disaggregation of the criterion by which the client objective is met. This client objective underlies the core question.
  • ​The disaggregation is best done with a driver tree, which allows you to identify the conceptual drivers and sub-drivers of your focus metric (thereby you create a (mostly) quantifiable operationalization of the client's objective).
  • ​Only AFTER this is completed (i.e., the logic is established), then qualitative elements (such as consumer demand, market structure, company operations, etc. --> the "buckets") can be outlined and mapped to the sub-branches of your driver tree!
This is how you create an integrated approach which is focused, rigorous and does not rely on industry knowledge, gut feeling or just luck - contrary to the typical "bucket frameworks" that you can find in most canonical case books!

These frameworks usually have a lot of good content, but lack the most important part - the inherent logic of what you are testing for! They emerge from a quite immature way of thinking, similar to what people are conditioned for in most schools or even universities (aka, learning things by heart, which goes against everything that MBB firms are testing for. This explains why such bucket lists are often seen as an indicator for inherently "weak thinking").

How we can help you break you into McKinsey, BCG, or Bain

If you, as an applicant at one of the big strategy consulting firms, would like to learn how to ensure success in your interviews with McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, then feel free to apply for a free initial consultation with us. In this free session we will find out whether we can help you, and if so, how we can help you to reach your goal of joining a firm like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain & Company. 

Within the last years, we have helped more than 350 people to receive job offers from the three MBB companies! On average, every single week, two of our clients are signing an employment contract with either McKinsey, BCG, or Bain.

About the author: 
Dr. Sidi S. Koné

Former Senior Engagement Manager and Interviewer at McKinsey & Company | Former Senior Consultant at BCG

About The MBB Offer Machine™

We help aspiring graduates, young professionals, and seasoned topic experts to ensure success in their job interviews with the world's most reputable Strategy Consulting Firms.

We place a special emphasis on "MBB":
  • McKinsey & Company
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  • ​Bain & Company

About the author: 
Dr. Sidi S. Koné

Former Senior Engagement Manager and Interviewer at McKinsey & Company | Former Senior Consultant at BCG

About the author: 
Dr. Sidi S. Koné

Former Senior Engagement Manager and Interviewer at McKinsey & Company | Former Senior Consultant at BCG
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