BCG, short for The Boston Consulting Group, is one of the top strategy consulting firms in the world. BCG invests a lot in training and coaching its consultants so it’s no surprise that it ranked several times in the top 5 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
Working at BCG is also a sign of being a top performer. It will remain on your resume for life and the experience you’ll get there will help propel your career forward.
Every year, many candidates from undergraduates to MBAs, Ph.D.s, MDs, and experienced hires apply for a chance to join the ranks of BCG Associates and Consultants. It’s not easy to get an offer among such a competitive crowd: preparation is required to shine through the BCG case interview and behavioral interview.
But don’t worry, I can help you get ready. In this article, I’ll discuss:
- What sets BCG apart from other top consulting firms,
- What BCG looks for in candidates,
- The BCG interview process,
- The BCG case interview,
- An example of a BCG case interview,
- The BCG behavioral interview,
- Tips for passing your BCG interview, and
- Further resources.
Let’s get started!
What Sets BCG Apart from Other Top Consulting Firms?
BCG Is One of the MBBs
BCG is among the top 3 management consulting firms alongside Bain and McKinsey, forming a group referred to as “the big three” or “MBB.” This isn’t to say that other firms are not tackling extremely complex problems brilliantly or that their staff is not composed of some of the brightest people you’ll ever meet. It does mean however that these 3 firms are better known and that Fortune 500 companies might pick them for their highest stake problems.
Working at any of these 3 firms will give you:
- More exposure to those high stakes projects,
- More exposure to the executives who sponsor them,
- More connections for your exit opportunities whenever you feel ready for your next chapter, and
- A higher paycheck while working there.
Pro-tip! Never ask about the pay in a BCG interview. It’s seen as caring about the wrong things.
Working for BCG, Bain, or McKinsey also allows you to cover a wide variety of industries and functions as a “generalist” before you choose a specific industry or area of expertise. (They are not the only firms offering this either though.)
What Makes BCG Different From Its 2 Main Competitors?
- BCG is often seen as the nerd among the 3. Still influenced today by the mindset of its founder Bruce Henderson, BCG strives to develop tools and insights that influence business thinking. Ever heard of the growth-share matrix? That’s a BCG concept.
- BCG tailors its approach to each client’s specific needs and situation, instead of replicating an existing recipe.
- BCG values unique points of view and fosters them through encouraging diversity in its recruiting and staffing. I especially remember [email protected] and [email protected] as being two very active internal networks, be it for mentoring or organizing events.
- BCG offers clients digital and start-up incubation services in addition to strategy consulting. BCG Gamma for AI and big data or BCG Digital Ventures for internal disruptions (they design and incubate start-ups within a client, it’s pretty cool) help clients overcome challenges and make transformations. As a consultant, most cases you’ll be staffed on will not involve those other entities, but if you show interest you might very well be able to join your dream project disrupting the industry you’re most passionate about.
- BCG’s people are unique. In all likelihood, what will end up making the biggest difference for you no matter which firm you pick is the people. There are real differences in fit among the three firms. When you work such an intense job, it’s really important to get along.
For the people, it’s not about which firm is “best” but which you like most. During your recruiting process, attend as many networking events and presentations from as many different firms as you can. Talk to the presenters, ask friends and friends of friends (or reach out to alumni from your school or any other club you’re part of) who work in these firms to chat with you and ask them what they like about working there.
It’s hard for me to contrast BCG’s culture with either Bain or McKinsey since I have not worked for the other two. From what I’ve seen during my time at BCG, people there care tremendously about each other and managers are very involved in your development. I know that some of the friends I made there I’ll likely keep in touch with my entire life. A former BCG recruiter agrees on the people being the biggest determinant and the people at BCG being awesome.
In terms of center of interests, most undergrads were what you’d expect of your average first-job-in-the-city 20-something (I was part of the NY office), and most MBAs/PhDs/experienced hires were pretty family-oriented in their free time (and some had cool hobbies or were high performers in their sport of choice). Company events were wholesome and typically welcomed partners and children.
During my recruiting process, I went through “Bridge to BCG,” an immersive workshop for Ph.D. students (I was finishing up my dissertation at that time). On top of having a recruiting track tailored for Ph.D.s, which let me know that BCG valued my profile, the people I met at BCG, from consultants to partners, are really what convinced me BCG was the best match.
And that contributes to self-selection: two guys I met when going through that recruiting event were also aiming for offers from BCG. We became good friends, practiced together like crazy, and all got offers. They’re still among the best friends I made during my time at BCG.
Personally, I was so set on wanting BCG that when I got the offer, I canceled my final round with McKinsey. If an additional offer wasn’t going to change my mind, I might as well start celebrating.
Alright, now let’s dive into how you can get there too.
What Does BCG Look for in Candidates?
I’ll first cover what all top consulting firms want, and then color my answer with some BCG green. Do not skip the first part if you’re not familiar with it though – these things matter tremendously and honing on the specifics for the BCG case interview is pointless if you’re not at the bar yet on the basics.
What All Top Consulting Firms Expect
All firms are looking for the same basics: smart people, able to think fast, accurately, creatively, and by themselves, and communicate the solutions they come up with concisely and eloquently. They are looking for people who are open to feedback, care about making an impact, are inspiring leaders to others, and thrive when working in teams.
The entire point of the case interview and the behavioral interview is to test precisely these skills. If you’re not familiar with these yet, the case interview is a business problem that you solve in real-time with prompts and data from the interviewer, while the behavioral interview is an opportunity for you to showcase soft skills such as leadership or impact through relating past experiences.
My colleague Rebecca (former McKinsey) dives a lot deeper into the basics of the case interview in our Guide to Case Interview Prep and also gives a few tips about the Behavioral Interview. It’s worth reading these if you haven’t already.
As you go through the interview, you are graded independently and methodically on all these skills to allow for easy comparison across candidates. At the end of the day though, the question the interviewer is answering internally is: “Would I want to staff this person on my team?” It’s that simple.
What BCG Emphasizes More Than Bain & McKinsey
All the firms care about the attributes below. Moreover, one thing my time in consulting convinced me of is that there is still more variation within firms than across firms in terms of personalities and style, so each interviewer will have slight skews in preferences on what they deem most important in a candidate based on who they’d like on their team.
That being said, here are 3 things that were regularly important in BCG recruiting decisions during my time there:
- A Tailored Approach
- The BCG Attitude
#1 – Drive
The most important thing to ace your BCG case interview is your ability to drive the case. This means always being in the driving seat as you go through the case interview:
- knowing where to go next,
- getting there by yourself, and
- explaining to the passengers (i.e. the interviewer) where to, why, and exactly what they need to know about it.
One way to do this is the “hypothesis-driven” approach that BCG talks a lot about, which simply means having a running hypothesis and driving toward testing it. For instance, once you are done laying out the structure of the case, do not wait for the interviewer to tell you what to do and take an initiative:
Example: “My hypothesis at this point is that the profit decline is due to a change in our client’s pricing since you mentioned attendance remained stable. Do we have any data on the pricing and membership model our client used over the last 5 years and have there been any recent changes?”
Drive is not just the ability to know what to do next and move toward it smoothly, it’s also the ability to constantly explain why you are doing it. It shows your interviewer that you have both the ability to think well and take someone by the hand through your thought process as you do so.
Example: “Now that we’ve established the revenues of our site each year, I’d like to compute the total cost to know whether these revenues are enough for our client to meet their target of breaking even in 2 years. Do we have any data on costs at this point? Maybe starting with investment costs?”
Why Is Drive So Important?
Because that’s what you need to do constantly on the job. As a consultant, your clients are paying your team a lot of money so they expect to know exactly what you are doing with that expensive time and why. It also helps prevent you from taking any wrong turn, as they are still the experts on their own business.
As a team member, your manager’s stress level will also go down by a lot if when they come out of the meeting, they hear you say that given the partner’s remarks you took the initiative to stress-test the results of the analysis you are showing the client tomorrow. They’ll know they don’t need to constantly tell you what to do: you’ll know what’s needed and you’ll be a good communicator about what you are focusing on so they don’t need to obsess over monitoring you either.
Drive also means knowing what to do with the results you find, and spontaneously getting to what we call 2nd level insight.
1st level insight: Using the result to answer the question you were asked. Example: “The total cost is $1.2M.Therefore, given the revenues we computed earlier, it will take us 3 years to breakeven.”
2nd level insight: The next-step that pushes the problem-solving forward. Example: “This does not match our client’s objective of breaking even in 2 years, so at this point, we’d have to recommend that they do not enter this market. Before doing so though, I’m wondering if we could explore additional revenue streams to see if they can make this a viable opportunity. Is it ok with you if I take a moment to brainstorm options?”
By getting to 2nd-level insights, you show you’re not just an analyst. You’re a consultant and you have the skills to do everything for the client if you had to.
I once saw a documentary about the recruiting process for the acrobatic show Cirque du Soleil. One applicant was told “Power went down, everybody else is injured, you’re the Cirque tonight. What do you do?” Some days on the job will feel exactly like that. That’s why you need drive.
#2 – A Tailored Approach
The second thing that is emphasized at BCG is the ability to tailor your approach to the situation at hand. As explained earlier, BCG is proud of coming to each client and business problem not with a pre-made solution, but with all their expertise and a commitment to developing what is best for the client in that case. This trickles down to the BCG case interview.
During the case interview, your structure will still rely on some basics that you might have seen in a book, such as “external/internal factors.” But as way you lay out your structure, and as you interact with the interviewer throughout the entire case, you are putting yourself in the shoes of a consultant that’d be visiting a plant, the client’s headquarters, or talking with the Vice President of Sales about their rollout strategy for this new left-handed stapler to address the situation at hand.
You can foster that skill for yourself by “using the words of the case.”
Example: Don’t say “volume is going down” but “the number of cases ordered by the supermarket went down so we’ve been shipping fewer bottles.’ Ask clarifying questions about the business model of the client during the opening of the case: imagine that you are trying to understand how your best friend is making a living. The hypothesis-driven approach is also helping you tick that box.
Similarly in any brainstorming question during the BCG case interview (for which you should also answer using buckets/a mini-structure by the way), use specifics of the case to structure your brainstorming.
Example: If asked about additional revenues opportunities, you could think about it each step along the customer journey of your client’s clients, or you could use “options within the client’s expertise area” vs. “options in adjacent areas” vs. “options in new areas of expertise.”
The goal is really to show your interviewer that you are not just a machine at rehashing models and frameworks. You know how to look at every situation with new eyes, and you’ll be able to catch the subtleties of each client.
#3 – The BCG Attitude
Last but not least is the attitude you project. I just came up with the term “BCG attitude” so no need to Google it, but what I mean by it is a combination of being personable, being coachable, and having a go-getter mindset.
In conversations among interviewers, I’ve seen candidates who did quite well on the case interview being disfavored compared to others because they failed to demonstrate these qualities. The logic is that if the interviewer does not feel comfortable having you represent them and BCG in front of the client or if they think you wouldn’t get along with the rest of your teammates (or that your teammates wouldn’t get along with you), there are plenty of other stellar candidates that day who would be a better fit.
Being personable. I don’t mean being a stand-up comedian or as charismatic as Barack Obama, simply that interacting with you is pleasant. The interviewer can naturally start chit-chatting with you, and ideally, as you go through the interview both you and the interviewer get the feeling of working together.
Anything perceived as arrogance is likely to be a turn-off for the interviewers: they don’t want to send someone who would project that vibe to a client. If you stay professional and make the effort to care about whoever is in front of you, you’ll be just fine.
Being coachable. Like other consulting firms, BCG has a feedback-heavy culture. You are constantly reviewed (upward and downwards, i.e. by both your managers and the people you manage, if any). There is a culture of sharing feedback directly and regularly (there is even a culture of discussing how you like your feedback to be given to you). Hell, that’s how you progress in these firms.
It’s not that you’re not expected to know everything when you start: it’s that you’re expected to not know most things, and be able to learn them fast, and then get feedback, and then course-correct even faster. So someone who does not take feedback well is unlikely to thrive in that environment.
In practice, try not to ignore cues the interviewers might be giving you on where to go during the BCG case interview. Abstain from showing annoyance at any point.
Having a go-getter attitude. This means always being game for more if need be.
On the job example: The team is exhausted. It’s already late Thursday, we have a presentation tomorrow. The client just completely changed their mind on what they want to see. Your manager doesn’t want to be worried about you throwing your laptop at the wall or being passive-aggressive in the windowless team room.
Instead, being able to take a breath and say: “Ok, it is what it is. What do we need to do and how can we do it efficiently so that we still get to sleep?”
Of course, all of these soft skills are hard to measure. But if you collapse when you realize that your numerical answer was off by a factor 100, the interviewer might have less faith in your ability to endure and perform under pressure. If that happens, just acknowledge it, explain why it makes no sense, and show the same structured approach in tracking down the error.
In summary, showing that “BCG attitude” is not some magic trick: stay humble, stay hungry, and try to have a good time. That’s about it.
Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 85% of our clients pass the case interview.
The BCG Interview Process – An Overview
How Many Interviews Will I Have?
As with most questions in management consulting, the answer is “it depends.” It is likely to vary with the country you are applying in as well as the recruiting channel (i.e., undergraduates, MBAs, advanced degree candidates such as Ph.D.s and MDs, experienced hires, etc).
Recently, BCG introduced the BCG Pymetrics Test and One-way Interview as pre-screening assessments in North American and other worldwide offices. They’ve also introduced the BCG Chatbot Interview as a round one case interview.
What was most standard in the US pre-COVID for the BCG interviews was to have 2 rounds of in-person interviews, each round composed of 2 interviews back-to-back.
- First round: 2 interviews back-to-back with Consultants to mid-level managers (i.e., Project Leaders or Principals)
- Decision round: 2 interviews back-to-back with more senior managers (i.e., Principals, Partners, or Partners and Managing Directors)
Each one of the interviewers would go through both a BCG case interview and a BCG behavioral interview (also known as “fit”) with you, so that’d mean 4 case interviews and 4 behavioral interviews in total. After the first round and the decision round, you’d hear back from the recruiting team to know whether or not you are moving on to the next round (or getting an offer) within a few hours to a few days, sometimes longer.
These calls would usually also involve some feedback on what you did well and what you could do better: BCG cares about people’s development, even here, and they want you to succeed.
There are exceptions to this schedule. Back when I was a Ph.D. student, I first applied to an immersive recruiting workshop called “Bridge to BCG” with a cover letter and a behavioral phone interview, which then led to a standard first round after the workshop. For my decision round, one of the two interviews was a written case.
Now, in 2020 at least some BCG offices moved to online interviews: the first round would be composed of one “online case study simulation assessment” where you’d record your answers to the prompts presented live, and one classic interview but conducted virtually.
For the next season and beyond, it’s not clear how things will vary country by country. The result will likely be an overlap of general company policy and office discretion in each.
While in-person interviews are likely to come back soon, it also seems reasonable to expect online case interviews to remain as part of the recruiting process.
In summary, you should prepare for something like 2 rounds of 2 interviews each, with some combination of in-person interviews, virtual interviews, and an automated online case study (at least for the first round), and be ready for any variation that might come your way.
The good news is that the skills required are pretty consistent throughout, and they are the ones you need to pass both the BCG case interview and the BCG behavioral interview.
What’s In a Typical One-on-One BCG Interview?
Whether you are in person at your campus, in a BCG office, or sitting in front of your laptop at home, here is what to expect when you are interacting with a (human) BCG interviewer, in chronological order.
One interview typically lasts about 45 minutes. If you are there in person, your two interviews will probably be back-to-back. One of your interviewers will probably either walk you or pick you up from the first room to the second.
The Intro (~5min)
If you are there in person, think about this part as starting the moment the interviewer comes and picks you up to walk you to the interview room. As they do so, they might chit-chat, asking whether you stayed in the city the night before or mention something they’ve noticed on your CV. Once seated, they will take about 5 minutes to introduce themselves and remind you of the agenda for the interview.
The Behavioral Interview (aka, the fit) (~10min)
The interviewer will ask you a couple of questions about your motivation, your experience, or how you’d handle a certain hypothetical situation. The goal is to showcase the skills such as Leadership, Impact, Coachability, as well as your motivations and fit for the firm. This part lasts about 10 minutes. Read more on that below in the penultimate section.
The BCG Case Interview (~30min)
This is the meat of the interview and lasts about 30 minutes-maybe less if you’ve been efficient. While you are rated holistically throughout the entire interview, most of what is tested is through the case interview. In the next two sections, I will go more in-depth on what makes the BCG Case Interview different from other firms and go through an example of a BCG case interview.
The Q&A (~2-3min)
Your Interviewer should make sure there is at least a couple of minutes left after the case interview for you to ask any questions you have about the job or the firm.
Those questions are your last shot to become memorable in the mind of an interviewer who might be seeing up to 9 other interviewees that day while having to think about answering 100+ client emails by Monday (and that one email from their Partner definitely tonight).
Pro-tip! Don’t ask about something that’s easily Googlable, as this shows a lack of preparation. Don’t ask about the pay or the hours: these topics are seen as inappropriate in the interview. If you’ve done your research, you know that the pay is good and that the hours can be long, and the assumption is that if the exact number matters to you enough to ask about it here, someone else wants this job more than you and will be a better fit.
So don’t neglect to give a thought to a few questions in advance. Of course, if something came up during the intro or the case that got you curious, go for it: the point is also to be authentic. If it looked like your interviewer was passionate about the industry you just talked about you might want to probe them on that; or if they mentioned having young kids and you’re expecting or would like to be soon, you probably care about how they managed and that’s also a great way to build rapport.
I enjoyed asking some of my interviewers what were the good and bad surprises on the job. Feel free to use that, or take a few minutes at some point during your preparation to come up with something you’re genuinely curious about.
The BCG Case Interview
The BCG case interview is a business problem that you are solving live with the help of the interviewer. It involves showing that you know how to think in a structured way, that you are able to drive toward an answer, have solid arithmetic skills, and the ability to communicate clearly. The interviewer of course knows the answer and hands you the relevant data and exhibits as you are making progress towards it.
Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep explains exactly what the case interview is and details its various stages:
- The opening,
- The structure,
- The analysis, and
- The conclusion.
It also gives you tips on how to become proficient at each.
In my experience, BCG cases are pretty standard compared to most you will encounter during your preparation. What is characteristic about the BCG case interview is to expect the interviewee to take the lead and be the driving force throughout. This is different from McKinsey, where the interview is led by the interviewer who really drills down on topics through a series of scripted questions (to prioritize an exhaustive assessment of your skills over this ability of driving the case).
As with any case interview, expect a fair amount of math, exhibit reading, brainstorming questions, or market sizing. BCG case interviews tend to have more variation than other firms in terms of industry, topic, or exact composition of the case. For instance, there are more often cases that are not about profitability, or you might solve a problem for a non-governmental organization (NGO).
Some cases end up being very math heavy while others are frankly mostly qualitative. I had a case during my first round where a financial services firm had a turnover problem coming from a culture mismatch after merging with a Japanese counterpart. In my decision round, a partner asked me about what I thought that Galileo, tired of being a broke scientist, should do to make a ton of money after having invented the binocular (whether or not any of that is historically accurate).
That being said, for the vast majority of the cases you’ll encounter, you can still expect some form of profitability or growth case for your BCG case interview, with a couple of exhibits, some math, and a market sizing and/or a brainstorming question. From your point of view at the beginning of the case, think about it as an open map in front of you that it is for you to explore to find a treasure: strategically, heading toward your most likely guess, and taking your interviewer by the hand on the way.
Let’s dive into an example.
The BCG Case Interview – An Example
“Your client is the Health Ministry of a small developing country. They want to roll out a polio vaccination program for young kids. How should they go about it and what will be the cost?”
The first thing to do is to repeat the main info in the prompt to the interviewer to make sure you got it right, and ask clarifying questions. If you don’t know what polio is or how old the kids receiving the vaccine against it are, it would be a good idea to ask your interviewer. Turns out polio is an infection caused by a virus that can lead to paralysis, and let’s assume we are targeting kids age 6 to 8. The location of the country does not particularly matter here.
Now is also the time to establish the client’s key success metrics: “What would success look like to the government of this country? Is there anything else they are worried about beyond costs?” Here, they simply care about reaching as many children as feasible in the country and want to estimate the costs.
You’d now ask for a minute to lay down your thoughts so that you can build your structure. Notice that this case prompt is not your average profitability question so you can’t just use a framework you learned.
Pro-tip! Take a moment to think about what you’d do before reading ahead, that’ll be infinitely more helpful to you.
Here’s one proposal you could go with:
- Logistics of the rollout program and the associated costs?
- Target population
- Program size
- How many kids do we have to reach?
- What are the biggest locations across the country?
- How do we make sure families are aware of our program?
- How will kids enroll in our program? Do we go to them or do they get to us? (homes, hospitals, schools, etc.)
- Any adjustment in rural vs urban areas? What’s the topography like?
- Program size
- Logistics of the programs
- Medical: Doctor, medical personnel, etc.
- Logistics: drivers, receptionist, etc.
- Do we need security guards?
- Built infrastructure
- Can we use any existing buildings?
- If not, a pop-up tent, or is it worth building?
- A medical bus?
- Vaccine storage
- How many vehicles?
- Any specialized storage needs? (frozen, etc.)
- Any shipping costs? (for refills?)
- Who will run this program?
- What are our client’s capabilities?
- Have they done other vaccination programs in the past?
- Do they have specialized medical staff who are public servants?
- Who are the other actors in the area (that we could partner with)?
- NGOs (such as Doctors without Borders)?
- Private actors? (private clinic, etc.)
- Neighboring countries with expertise?
- Who is responsible?
- How is accountability measured?
- What are our client’s capabilities?
- Target population
- Financial considerations
- How will this be funded?
- Is there a budget?
- Do we need to apply for grants or international help?
- If partnership, share costs?
- What savings will come out of this program?
- How much will we save in health expenditures down the line with fewer sick children?
- Can we also use this program to test/vaccinate for other usual suspects among children’s diseases?
- How will this be funded?
- Other considerations
- Do we have overall government buy-in?
- What are our relations with the rest of the government?
- Do they see polio as a priority?
- Public perception
- How is the general population seeing the Health Ministry in that country?
- Could we leverage this program for a PR campaign?
- Do we have overall government buy-in?
This structure is pretty exhaustive. Don’t worry if you didn’t come up with every bullet point on your own.
In practice since you only have a couple of minutes at most to lay it out during your BCG case interview, you would not necessarily write these full questions on your piece of paper but a couple of keywords for each bucket and each sub-bucket.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create a case structure, see our article on the Pyramid Principle.
Turns out the structure above is also pretty spot on. The first thing the interviewer would do after you lay it out is prompt you to brainstorm in-depth on the various ways to reach the kids, so if you’ve already alluded to it in your structure that gives you a headstart.
On brainstorming questions, you’ll be rated on both your structure and your creativity. Make sure to always articulate the logic behind your ideas, using your past experience, analogies, or your general knowledge (“I remember when we got vaccinated for measles in our school…”). One way to go about it could be:
- Getting to the kids (where are the kids?)
- Getting the kids to us (how can we get the parents to bring their kids?)
- Pop-up locations by neighborhood
- Have primary care providers refer them to us (is that feasible in this country?)
And the most pragmatic answer is of course to go where kids already are spending the most time, which is schools. Opt-in programs where recipients have to go somewhere end up having reliably lower reach, for various reasons from opportunity costs to the social stigma associated with going to locations like hospitals.
Once aligned with your interviewer on that, what would you ask next? (Remember the importance of drive?)
Sample follow-on question: “Do we have any data on the school repartition in this country?”
You’d then be handed a first exhibit: a map detailing the number of schools in each area of the country and the average number of students per school. Let’s say that there are 5 schools in area 1, 3 in area 2, 2 in area 3, and 10 schools in area 4. Each school has on average 400 students in our target age range. There are thus 20 schools with 400 students per school on average.
A great candidate will comment right away on the total number of students we are targeting, which is 8,000, and ask about any differences in the various areas that would require different logistics. There are none here.
At this point, knowing that we will be touring schools, the interviewer would ask you to brainstorm further all the precise cost items associated with that. This is already done a bit in our structure above (told you it was spot on) but you can give it a try for yourself.
Once satisfied, they’ll give you a second exhibit, this time with the following data. In each area, there will be a team composed of:
- 1x doctor ($50/day)
- 4x technicians ($40/day)
- 1x driver + vehicle ($110/day)
- Vaccines ($2/vaccine)
When seeing this, you might first want to ask about the slight ambiguity on the technician cost: it’s $40/day for all 4 of them, not for each. It’s up to you now to take the initiative to compute the cost of the program.
Take a break and try now. What do you notice?
You’re missing a very important piece of data: how many kids can we see per day? Only when asked about this would the interviewer share with you that it takes a technician 6 minutes to inoculate a vaccine to a kid. We’re almost there. Great, and how many hours can we work per day? You might ask if it’s ok to go with a standard assumption of 8 hours/day and your interviewer would let you know that in this case, it’s actually closer to 5 hours/day. Now we have everything we need!
A great candidate will also notice right away that since we only have variable costs here, the total cost will be the same whether we consider one team per area or one team touring all areas, so we can group all the computations at once to avoid doing it area by area (of course touring the areas simultaneously will however shorten the program length).
Each technician can therefore see 10 kids per hour, hence you can vaccinate 40 kids per hour in total with 4 technicians in a school. With 5 hours of work a day, that’s 200 kids per day which means exactly 2 days per school for each team.
Since there are 20 schools at $200 per day per school in staff cost and it takes 2 days per school, the total staff cost is $8,000 for 40 days of man-work. And of course, 20 schools times 400 students that’s 8,000 students which represent $16,000 in vaccine costs at $2/vaccine. The total cost of the program is $24,000 to tour all the schools once.
When getting to any kind of number, always take a moment to sanity check whether they make sense and comment on them. Big picture, $24,000 feels like a low number for a national program, and it is; you can link that back to the overall low number of schools (only 20 for the whole country). Whether that’s a lot of money for the Health Ministry is however an open question, and you might also wonder whether all kids in the country are covered by these schools: were these only the public schools? What about the rate of absenteeism in this country?
You can also comment on the overall timeline: it will be driven by the biggest area which will take the longest to tour. It had 10 schools, hence the program can be over in 20 working days assuming that transportation and school schedules do not slow it down.
Notice how doing the math methodically helped me realize that some data was missing? It also made the computations flow easily. Without a structured approach, it would have been easy to run around in circles or compute tons of useless intermediate results instead.
“The right hand of the Health Minister walks into the team room and asks you about your findings before she jumps on a call with her boss. What do you tell her?”
The final synthesis of your BCG case interview should lead with your recommendation to the client and details the key reasons supporting that recommendation. It then mentions any risks to consider which might impact the outcome and the next steps that you’d suggest to either cover these risks or double down on the analysis. There is no need to repeat everything you covered during the case: be succinct and stick to the key arguments.
What would you say? Give it a try before reading the end!
“We recommend rolling out the polio vaccination program for kids aged 6-8 by touring schools with one medical team in each area of the country. This program is reasonably low cost and would only represent $24,000 in funding and take only 4 to 5 weeks to reach all the schools in the country.
One concern we’d like to address next is whether absenteeism is an issue that would prevent us from reaching kids, especially in rural areas. That might inform whether running this program once a year is enough.”
Congrats, you made it through your first BCG case interview!
The BCG Behavioral Interview
The BCG Behavioral interview (or “fit”), is the portion of the interview that allows you to showcase the soft skills that would make you a good consultant and a worthy addition to their team. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that apply to all firms, including BCG.
At BCG, each interviewer you’ll encounter asks two different questions about you and your experience.
You can expect with a probability close to one that one of these questions will be what I’ll call a “motivation” question, which are things like:
- “Why consulting?”
- “Why BCG?” or
- “Walk me through your CV.”
These are not opportunities to ramble or be exhaustive about everything you’ve ever done in your life, but instead, tell convincing and alluring stories that make it obvious that you are exactly where you ought to be right this moment.
Personally, I talked about how during my Ph.D., while I enjoyed solving complex problems, I realized that I was longing for faster-paced environments that would give me a breadth and depth of exposure to many different issues and industries. I also mentioned that the people that I met during my recruiting (actually naming them and their office) convinced me that BCG would be a fantastic place to do that while building amazing relationships. There was a bit more color to it, but that was the backbone of my answer.
Other questions will typically ask you about “a time where you did X” or “what you’d do in hypothetical situation Y” (in which case, feel free to tell the interviewer about a time when you did exactly Y).
The main themes that come back for these questions are:
- Leadership – your ability to inspire others,
- Impact – how much effect you have on your environment and the lives of others,
- Influence – your ability to change someone else’s mind, and
- Resilience – how you fare against adversity such as after a setback or failure.
Within the same round, the interviewers are supposed to coordinate themselves so that the themes they ask you about do not overlap.
When answering any of these questions, it’s important to be able to do so pretty much the same way you answer the BCG case interview: with a structured answer, taking your interviewer by the hand. The “A STAR(E)” framework is an amazing way to do just that.
My Consulting Offer’s founder Davis provides an example of using this framework at the link above. I will just emphasize 2 ingredients that my interviewers complimented me for when I went through BCG interviews myself.
- Use your stories to show you are intentional and structured in the way that you tackle the Action (the second A in “A STAR(E)”). Instead of simply relating the series of steps that you took in that awesome story of you turning the tables over during that team project Sophomore year, also explain how you came up with the solution, and why.
Example: “I knew that to convince our adviser to give us that extension, I’d have to show her that there would be additional value for the lab, so I first contacted my favorite Professor to get them on board…”. You get the gist.
- Use that final bracketed E, the Effect: what did you learn, about yourself or people? Which self-reflections did that story lead to? What did you or what will you change going forward given what happened then?
A story about you overcoming a team disagreement that led to a deadlock will go a lot further if you wrap it up with reflections on team dynamics and the role you can play in those.
Example: “One thing this episode taught me is that if my team reaches a dead end, it doesn’t matter who has the best idea. Now, if I see a situation like this coming up, I take the time to listen to every stakeholder to understand why they are so attached to their solutions. This always helps find common ground for the team to pivot and move forward.”
Of course, that exercise is worth doing by itself. It will contribute to making you a better consultant and a better colleague whichever firm you end up working for.
And with all that preparation under your belt, sometimes a more senior interviewer like a Partner and Managing Director might just chat with you about a hobby you both share before diving into the case interview.
5 Tips For Passing Your BCG Interview
1. Be Methodical in Your Casing Prep
Commit to practicing regularly with a wide array of case partners. Make sure some are at your level and some are more experienced (and don’t turn down casing with a couple of beginners once you have more preparation).
Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to become blasé or a casing robot-but set a serious but realistic schedule for yourself between now and your BCG interview-whether that’s in 3 months or 5 days.
2. Make Sure You’re at the Bar on Each Part
When preparing, ask for detailed feedback on the various parts of the case and act on that feedback. Someone thought your conclusion was weak and gave you tips to improve? Go back to past cases you’ve done and rehearse the conclusions in front of a mirror. Get particularly comfortable doing math fast and accurately, reading exhibits, and coming up with structured answers on the go.
3. Focus on the Drive
Now that you have the skills, it’s time to embody a consultant. Demonstrate your ability to solve a business problem in collaboration with someone. When in doubt, walk your interviewer through your thought process. Same if you need to make an assumption at any point: explain why, how you are choosing it, and see if your interviewer is on board with that.
4. Don’t Skip the Fit
Have those 5 or 6 stories about your experience ready using the A STAR(E) framework, plus your answers to the motivation questions. Make sure to touch on all the typical themes and train with friends to alter your delivery of those stories in real-time to answer the plethora of prompts that might come up.
5. Enjoy yourself
At the end of the day, the BCG case interview is also a way for you to see whether you’d like the job. If even after solid preparation the idea of solving a business case live in front of the interviewer sounds horrific to you, this might not be the job for you.
Once interview day comes, go with the intent to really enjoy the process. Remember, the people across the table want you to succeed. They are investing time that they could allocate to their clients into finding their best future teammates instead.
They want that to be you.
In this article, we’ve covered:
- What sets BCG apart from other top firms,
- What makes a good BCG consultant,
- How to ace your BCG case interview,
- A BCG case interview example,
- What to expect in your BCG behavioral interview, and
- 5 tips to pass your BCG interview.
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about the BCG case interview, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.
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