In our last post, we looked at the history of BCG. And following CaseInterviewHQ tradition, we will now continue with the specifics of the Boston Consulting Group (Case) Interview process, as we did with the McKinsey Case Interview. The basic structure of the case interview is the same, so I really recommend reading the McKinsey post (again).
About 75% of the interviewing process overlaps between firms, and within firms there is about 90% overlap. That means there are differences between firms but there are also subtle differences between offices. The latter is caused by specialization: New York offices focus more on finance, Detroit offices focus more on manufacturing. So what makes the Boston Consulting Group different from the rest?
The Interview Process
Normally, the process would be six case interviews with consultants in ascending seniority. So while you might meet a senior consultant in your first rounds, your final rounds will almost always be with partners. There could also be five case interviews, with the first interview being a telephone interview with recruitment, or an ‘experience interview’ (focused on your resume and motivation) at the office, also with recruitment. We’ll come back to the case interview later, first a closer look at some recent developments in the BCG recruitment process: the computer test and the written case interview.
A pretty recent development, currently only employed in Western Europe, is the computer test. While I have no personal experience with it, I have been told that it is comparable to the McKinsey PST, but focuses more on the quantitative part. To me, it looks like an intelligence test adapted specifically to the consulting practice. It’s a first round selection tool and probably features a cut-off score: if you beat it, you can expect an invitation to the case interviews, otherwise it’s over.
The Written Case
At BCG, you can expect two kinds of case interviews. Aside from the normal ‘conversational style’ interview where you ask questions to the interviewer and solve a case together, some BCG offices feature a written case. In a written case interview, you’re asked to solve a specific question for a hypothetical client and you’ll be handed a pack of paper with analyses. You’re then given one hour to analyse the data and present your findings after one hour. Since there is too much data to read and investigate everything (just as in real consultant life), you need to structure your analysis and focus on what’s important. Start with a hypothesis (“Company X can improve profit by reducing costs”) and set out to (dis)prove this hypothesis using the data you’ve been given: basically the same method as used during real case interviews.
There are good and bad ways to structure your analysis and we discussed the consultant’s method of choice a few weeks ago: the Minto Pyramid Principle. Using the above example (“Company X can improve profit by reducing costs”), you will want to split the analysis in MECE categories. In this case, Revenue and Cost would be interesting area’s of investigation and MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive): there are no other factors influencing profit. Since your hypothesis is that reducing cost will improve profits, you then break down costs into MECE-categories, for example Fixed and Variable, but you could also segment cost per product line or country. If there are indeed huge potential cost savings, you have proven your hypothesis and can start working on recommendations. If not, you change your hypothesis and start looking at the other branch of your analysis: Profit. You then continue to dig down until you’ve found the problem and it’s solution. But always let a hypothesis guide your analysis, an important thing to keep in mind even during normal case interviews. A great way to practice written cases is the Interactive Case on the BCG website.
Where BCG differs
Apart from the regional differences and the ‘new’ case interview methods discussed above, the Boston Consulting Company is a pretty selective bunch. They’ll be looking for candidates that ace their case interviews (so don’t screw up your math) and are passionate and enthusiastic about consulting at the same time. Try not to underestimate that ‘soft’ part of the interview, as it really does influence your chances a great deal.
BCG is also more qualitative in their cases then competitors, McKinsey in particular (another reason to polish up your math). BCG case interviews are also far more often ‘interviewee-led’, so don’t expect much from the consultant on the other end of the table, again different from the McKinsey case interview which is more often led by the interviewer.
Other than that, I can only say that practice does help, giving you the self-confidence necessary to appear relaxed and pleasant. More info on the consulting interview process (from cover letter to case interview), can be found in my book and on the Company Profiles page. Good Luck!