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CONSULTING INTERVIEWS:

A GUIDE FOR STUDENTS

The Boston Consulting Group

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GOALS FOR THIS DOCUMENT

Provide
Provide an
an overview
overview of
of the
the interview
interview

Describe
Describe the
the evaluation
evaluation criteria
criteria

Demystify
Demystify case
case interviews
interviews
•• What
What they
they are
are and
and why
why they’re
they’re done
done
•• What
What to
to do
do and
and what
what not
not to
to do
do
•• Provide
Provide aa case
case example
example

Increase
Increase your
your confidence
confidence and
and help
help you
you
succeed
succeed in
in consulting
consulting interviews
interviews

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INTERVIEW FORMAT
First Round Consists of Two 45-Minute Case Interviews

1-2
1-2 minutes
minutes Introduction
Introduction
Set
Set the
the agenda
agenda

10-15
10-15 minutes
minutes Be
Be prepared
prepared to
to discuss
discuss prior
prior experiences
experiences
Open
Open discussion
discussion (resume,
(resume, motivations)
motivations)

20-25
20-25 minutes
minutes Case
Case introduction
introduction
Case
Case discussion
discussion
Case
Case wrap
wrap up
up

4-5
4-5 minutes
minutes Q&A,
Q&A, your
your chance
chance to
to ask
ask questions
questions

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SOME KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA


Success -oriented behavior
Success-oriented behavior
•• Tolerance
Tolerance for
for ambiguity
ambiguity
•• Toughness/resilience
Toughness/resilience
•• Initiative/motivation
Initiative/motivation
•• Demonstrated
Demonstrated results/leadership
results/leadership

Analytical
Analytical skills
skills
•• Framing/organizing
Framing/organizing the the problem
problem
•• Prioritization
Prioritization of
of issues
issues
•• Identifying
Identifying relevant
relevant information
information
•• Drawing
Drawing conclusions
conclusions fromfrom facts
facts
•• Identifying
Identifying key
key implications
implications and
and next
next steps
steps

Presence/communication
Presence/communication
•• Listening
Listening skills
skills
•• Oral
Oral skills/articulation
skills/articulation
•• Charisma/spark
Charisma/spark
•• Credibility/maturity
Credibility/maturity

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OPEN DISCUSSION
Some Tips

Exhale!
Exhale!
•• It’s
It’s natural
natural to to feel
feel nervous
nervous
•• Think
Think ofof itit as
as an
an engaging
engaging conversation
conversation with
with aa colleague
colleague

Be
Be genuine
genuine
•• We
We don’t
don’t seekseek aa specific
specific profile
profile
•• “Fit”
“Fit” is
is aa two-way
two-way street
street

Convey
Convey your
your “brand”
“brand”
•• Your
Your unique
unique strengths,
strengths, characterized
characterized inin aa memorable
memorable way
way
•• Two
Two or
or three
three things
things the
the interviewer
interviewer will
will remember
remember about
about you
you

Prepare
Prepare to
to ask
ask questions
questions about
about firm,
firm, industry
industry
•• Usually
Usually after
after the
the case
case has
has concluded
concluded

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THE CASE INTERVIEW


The What and Why

Most
Most consulting
consulting firms
firms use
use some
some form
form of
of case
case interview
interview

Cases
Cases are
are mainly
mainly taken
taken from
from real-life
real-life examples
examples of
of BCG
BCG casework
casework

Typically
Typically structured
structured as
as aa 20
20 to
to 30
30 minute
minute discussion
discussion

Cases
Cases serve
serve as
as aa vehicle
vehicle for
for us
us to
to gain
gain insight
insight into
into how
how you
you might
might
approach
approach and
and analyze
analyze aa typical
typical business
business issue
issue
•• Also
Also gives
gives you
you aa perspective
perspective on
on what
what consultants
consultants do
do

Not
Not the
the only
only metric
metric we
we use
use to
to evaluate
evaluate candidates
candidates
•• Education
Education and
and work
work experience
experience
•• Interpersonal
Interpersonal and
and communications
communications skills
skills

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WHAT DO COMPANIES LOOK FOR DURING THE CASE?


Not “The Answer”

Analytics
Analytics
•• Provide
Provide structure
structure to
to unstructured
unstructured problems
problems
•• Break
Break problems
problems into
into components
components
•• Apply
Apply transparent,
transparent, logical
logical thinking
thinking to
to each
each component
component
•• Synthesize
Synthesize discussion
discussion into
into solution
solution

Poise
Poise
•• Appear
Appear excited
excited by
by the
the kinds
kinds of
of issues
issues consultants
consultants face
face
•• Are
Are not
not intimidated
intimidated byby process
process or or problems
problems
•• Assimilate
Assimilate information
information quickly
quickly and
and effectively
effectively
•• Ask
Ask insightful
insightful questions
questions

Creativity
Creativity
•• Apply
Apply aa unique
unique perspective
perspective toto business
business situations
situations
•• See
See the
the big
big picture
picture
•• Draw
Draw conclusions
conclusions from
from partial
partial information
information
•• make
make assumptions,
assumptions, see see patterns,
patterns, and
and generate
generate hypotheses
hypotheses

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THE SEVEN HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL


CASE INTERVIEWS

1.
1. Make
Make certain
certain you
you have
have aa clear
clear understanding
understanding of
of the
the objective—
objective—
ask
ask for
for additional
additional information
information ifif necessary
necessary

2.
2. Frame/organize
Frame/organize the
the problem
problem to
to identify
identify key
key issues
issues to
to be
be
addressed
addressed

3.
3. Prioritize
Prioritize the
the issues
issues you
you want
want to
to address
address

4.
4. Identify
Identify the
the key
key information
information that
that you
you need
need to
to reach
reach
conclusions/make
conclusions/make decisions
decisions

5.
5. Draw
Draw conclusions
conclusions from
from the
the facts
facts provided
provided to
to you
you

6.
6. Identify
Identify key
key implications
implications and
and additional
additional steps
steps

7.
7. Summarize
Summarize findings
findings as
as necessary
necessary

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SOME COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID

Pitfall Interviewer comments

Unstructured “It is very clear when you are interviewing a student who has not had a lot of
answer case exposure. They tend to lack structure in their approach.”

Narrowly defined “It is very common for a student who has a marketing background to focus
problem only on the marketing issues such as how the product is positioned or
someone with a financial background to focus on financing issues and ignore
the strategic reasons or fit for an acquisition.”

Generic or “Many students tend to be too simplistic in their analysis. Students need to
simplistic answer develop a framework unique to the situation presented. Imposing a generic
framework is generally a recipe for failure.”

“Interviewers look for a student to dig deep on issues instead of just skimming
the issues. Students should try to determine the most important issues and
ask penetrating questions regarding these issues.”

Focus on answer, “Too many students try to give the answer instead of walking through the
not thought logic. They should try not to make any assumptions, but if they feel they need
process to, they should clearly state that it is an assumption they are making.”

“Many students tend not to frame the problem. They say ‘I would look at this’;
instead they should explain why they would look at something, a hypothesis
about what types of factors drive the business or a range of possibilities.”

Lack of conviction “If I can get an interviewee to change his or her mind with one question, what
will happen when I leave him or her alone with a skeptical client?”

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HOW DO I PREPARE?
No Magical Formula

Prepare
Prepare mentally
mentally
•• View
View the
the interview
interview as
as an
an opportunity,
opportunity, not
not aa hurdle
hurdle
•• Remember,
Remember, most
most questions
questions have
have no
no “right
“right answer”
answer”

Practice
Practice
•• Case
Case interviews
interviews are
are an
an acquired
acquired skill
skill
•• Use
Use classmates,
classmates, friends
friends who
who interviewed
interviewed last
last year,
year, and
and people
people at
at
your school’s career services
your school’s career services
•• Look
Look on
on the
the Web
Web for
for firm-provided
firm-provided practice
practice questions
questions (bcg.com)
(bcg.com)

Read,
Read, read,
read, read
read .. .. .. and
and think
think
•• Wall
Wall Street
Street Journal
Journal
•• New
New York
York Times
Times business
business section
section

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A BCG CASE EXAMPLE

Your
Your client
client is
is the
the CEO
CEO of
of aa national
national fast
fast food
food restaurant
restaurant chain
chain which
which
operates
operates 500
500 restaurants.
restaurants. The
The chain
chain is
is thinking
thinking of
of instituting
instituting aa frequent-
frequent-
diner
diner program
program

The
The program
program would
would bebe modeled
modeled after
after the
the frequent-flier
frequent-flier programs.
programs. Each
Each
dollar
dollar spent
spent in
in the
the restaurant
restaurant by
by aa member
member would
would earn
earn one
one point.
point. After
After
20
20 points
points have
have been
been accumulated
accumulated they
they can
can be
be redeemed
redeemed for
for aa sandwich
sandwich
priced
priced at
at $2.00
$2.00
•• How
How would
would you
you determine
determine ifif this
this is
is aa good
good business
business proposition?
proposition?
•• Should
Should they
they institute
institute this
this program?
program?

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A SUGGESTED APPROACH (I)


Fast Food Frequent Diner Program Case

Develop
Develop aa framework
framework
1.
1. Suggest
Suggest aa hypothesis
hypothesis on on what
what chain
chain wants
wants to to do:
do: increase
increase revenue,
revenue, loyalty
loyalty with
with
customers, etc.
customers, etc.
2.
2. Will
Will want
want to
to look
look at at what
what competitors
competitors are are doing:
doing: Is
Is this
this becoming
becoming aa necessity
necessity toto
compete,
compete, oror is
is itit aa way
way toto differentiate
differentiate chain?
chain? Even
Even ifif others
others are
are doing,
doing, want
want toto
think
think about
about how
how can can make
make this
this one
one unique
unique
3.
3. Need
Need to
to assess
assess how how program
program will will impact
impact customers’
customers’ behavior:
behavior: frequency
frequency ofof visits,
visits,
dollars
dollars spent
spent at at each
each visit
visit
4.
4. Recognize
Recognize that
that itit may
may impact
impact different
different customers
customers differently
differently (i.e.,
(i.e., those
those that
that
already
already come
come frequently
frequently vs. vs. those
those that
that just
just stop
stop in
in once
once inin aa while)
while)
5.
5. Also
Also need
need to
to assess
assess the the costs
costs associated
associated with with the
the program
program (free
(free sandwiches,
sandwiches,
marketing, cards, etc.) and whether or not they are less than
marketing, cards, etc.) and whether or not they are less than the additional the additional
revenues
revenues

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A SUGGESTED APPROACH (II)


Fast Food Frequent Diner Program Case

Dig
Dig deeper
deeper into
into aa couple
couple areas:
areas: additional
additional revenue
revenue expected
expected and
and expenses
expenses
6.
6. Focusing
Focusing on on the
the revenue
revenue side,
side, interviewee
interviewee should
should outline
outline the
the factors
factors they
they
would consider, data needed and ideas for getting the
would consider, data needed and ideas for getting the data data
7.
7. Should
Should bebe able
able to
to use
use the
the data
data from
from the
the focus
focus group
group to
to estimate
estimate the
the additional
additional
revenue
revenue
8.
8. Interviewee
Interviewee should
should then
then move
move onon to
to the
the cost
cost side
side and
and identify
identify and
and estimate
estimate the
the
relevant expenses (can estimate sandwich costs from focus group
relevant expenses (can estimate sandwich costs from focus group data, data,
guesstimate
guesstimate other
other expenses)
expenses)
9.
9. Give
Give aa recommendation
recommendation as as to
to whether
whether toto go
go ahead
ahead with
with program
program

Other
Other areas
areas to
to think
think about
about
10.
10. Likely
Likely competitor
competitor responses
responses
11.
11. Ways
Ways toto use
use the
the program
program to
to gain
gain other
other advantages:
advantages: more
more effective
effective marketing,
marketing,
test new products, etc.
test new products, etc.

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SOME BACKGROUND DATA


Focus-group Results by Customer Segments

Customer Percentage of Number of Number


segment customers customers/store visits/year $ per visit

Heavy 40 8,000 30.0 4.00

Light 60 12,000 9.0 4.00

100 20,000 17.5 4.00

Key
Key questions
questions
•• How
How will
will the
the program
program impact
impact customers’
customers’ behavior?
behavior?
•• Will
Will this
this impact
impact the
the customer
customer segments
segments differently?
differently?

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