McKinsey Phone Case Interview – What to Expect & How to Pass

McKinsey Phone Case Interview – What to Expect & How to Pass
Picture of Liz Kenny
Liz Kenny

Former McKinsey

Beginning in 2021, many experienced hire and Ph.D. prospects have been invited to a 30-minute “McKinsey Phone Case Interview” at the beginning of the recruiting process. 

The McKinsey phone case interview is a 30-minute case interview conducted over the phone. It’s similar to a first-round case interview but requires slightly less depth in the case structure. Its purpose is to weed out candidates who are unlikely to pass first-round case interviews.

So if you’re considering a career in consulting as an experienced hire or a Ph.D., you’ll want to know what these interviews are like and how to put your best put forward.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why is McKinsey doing phone case interviews?
  • What the McKinsey phone case interview looks like.
  • 8 tips for passing the McKinsey phone assessment.
  • What the McKinsey recruiting process looks like after the phone case interview.

Let’s get started!

Why Is McKinsey Doing Phone Case Interviews?

The McKinsey phone case interview is a new form of candidate screening. This interview is meant to identify the candidates who are less likely to make it past the first round of interviews. 

In other words, McKinsey is using the phone assessment to weed out candidates who do not meet “the bar.” 

But what is “the bar?” 

While not an official term, if someone doesn’t meet the bar, it generally means they are not likely to be a valuable consulting team member. In the reality of consulting case interviews, it really means that someone crashed and burned. Or maybe they couldn’t even figure out how to find the cockpit. 

As hard as you all work to prepare for consulting interviews, it shouldn’t surprise you that there are some candidates who just simply can’t get over their nerves or have not practiced case interviews enough to feel confident during the first rounds. 

And sometimes those people have the worst 2 hours of their lives during their first-round interviews. (You may be dodging a bullet if consulting was not really a good fit!) The McKinsey phone case interview is partly intended to save both the interviewer and the interviewee from that misery. 

So don’t panic! If you’re preparing for interviews and working on case structures, you’re going to do fine on the McKinsey phone assessment. 

You may not even have a phone assessment as the practice varies by region and by the office. Certain offices in Asia have been using the McKinsey phone assessment for a while. In the past, it has been less common in other regions, but it is starting to gain traction. 

In North America, we have only seen McKinsey phone assessments for Ph.D.’s and experienced hires. As recruiting ramps to back up later this year, it’s unclear whether MBAs and undergraduates will be required to pass a McKinsey phone case interview before the first rounds.

What Does the McKinsey Phone Case Interview Look Like?

The McKinsey phone case interview is actually fairly similar to what you’d expect in a Round 1 case interview. It’s a bit simpler and focused on assessing a few basic skills.

The McKinsey phone assessment typically is:

  • A 30-minute call with a consultant. 
  • An “easy case.” There is less depth required in the case structure.
  • An evaluation that is focused on screening out candidates who can’t structure a case question or do consulting math.

Generally speaking, you can prepare for the McKinsey phone case interview similarly to how you prepare for other case interviews. However, there are a few nuances of the McKinsey phone assessment: 

  • The McKinsey phone case interview is interviewer-led. All McKinsey interviews are interviewer-led, but these phone assessments are even more so. The interviewers really drive these interviews to make sure they can “tick all the boxes” in 30 minutes. Do not worry about driving this case, and let the McKinsey interviewer drive.

  • It is designed to evaluate you quickly on your ability to structure a case. In the McKinsey phone assessment, structures should only be two levels deep and you should incorporate a small number of broad hypotheses.

    Be prepared to communicate your structure in just 2-3 minutes. Your structure should still be logical, MECE, and customized (e.g., not something pulled straight out of a textbook).

    Note: It’s not unusual for McKinsey interviewers to cut off interviewees who go on for too long or were too detailed. 

  • You may need to do some brainstorming. Be prepared to outline some basic conceptual ideas and tack on 4+ ideas per bucket. This could be a list of analyses to perform or the list of options for your recommendations for the client. 

  • There will be McKinsey case math. All of these interviews have a math component, and it is typically the same depth and difficulty as a Round 1 interview.

    You should over-prepare for math because you will be expected to get it right quickly. If you miss this portion of the assessment, it does not bode well for your progress. For more on this, see our article on case interview math.

  • There will be no exhibit reading or market sizing

  • You still need to provide a recommendation: You’ll have to move at a fast clip, so keep track of time and make sure you have time to get to your recommendation.

    Note: It’s not a dealbreaker if you aced your structure and the math but don’t get enough time to thoroughly cover your recommendation. 

  • There is rarely time to discuss your personal experience. So you will be scored in the McKinsey phone assessment on how well you do on the case. 

Now that we’ve covered some of the differences of the McKinsey phone assessment, let’s talk tips!

8 Tips for Passing the McKinsey Phone Assessment

McKinsey phone case interview: Recruiting Process

Here are some tips to ace the McKinsey phone case interview, including some general basics for making a good impression over the phone and some specifics for the McKinsey phone assessment. 

1. Listen intently and don’t interrupt.

It is hard to do an interview over the phone. Err on the side of giving your interviewer an extra 2 seconds before you start speaking.

2. Communicate clearly.

You don’t have the benefit of reading visual cues, so make sure you focus on clear and organized language. 

3. Make lists!

Because you’re on the phone, you won’t be able to impress your interviewer with a neatly drawn line down the left side of the page or how symmetrical your boxes are. Use numbers and letters in your conversation to help your interviewer follow along with your structure. Remember: lists are your friend.


Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

4. Find ways to help your interviewer engage with you in the process.

It’s difficult to build rapport during such a quick interview, but use tactics like asking clarifying questions, or confirming that you have all the information for the next step to show your interviewer that you are in a dialogue with them. 

5. Nail your structure.

Unfortunately, this can be a dealbreaker for you. The good news is, the case should be pretty straightforward and you should not encounter really difficult concepts that you may come across during your first round interviews.  

6. Nail the math.

This is another possible dealbreaker. Do your case prep so you are really solid on McKinsey math. It’s trickier than other firms’ and you don’t want to blow your chances with McKinsey if this is one of your early interviews. (See our article on interviewer vs. interviewee-led case interviews for more info on this.)

7. Keep an eye on the clock.

Remember, you only have about 25 minutes for this case, so keep some kind of clock or timer handy. You should not spend more than 2-3 minutes on your structure and should get to the recommendations between 20-25 minutes into the case. 

8. Try to make it fun.

You want to come across as a good team member. So even though this is a quick sprint, make it seem like you’re enjoying the challenge. 

The McKinsey Recruiting Process After the Phone Case Interview

McKinsey phone case interview: Recruiting Process

Once you’ve made it through the McKinsey phone case interview, you may have options for how to proceed with additional case interviews. 

Certain McKinsey offices are offering a “single round” option to candidates which is a single round of 4-5 interviews. Some offices are just mandating this, while others are giving candidates the choice between the traditional two rounds and the single round. 

If you have the choice, we recommend taking the traditional option with 2 rounds of interviews. This option allows you to get feedback from your first-round interviews and practice any areas of weakness before you get to the more challenging final-round interviews. It also gives you time to reach out to anyone in the office you’ve been networking with. This could push them to champion for you with the recruiting team, giving you that extra boost toward getting an offer.

Of course, if you have outstanding offers, you may need to choose the single-round option to get your decision from McKinsey faster.

You may also have to take the McKinsey Digital Assessment. The firm seems to be experimenting with different configurations to figure out the best screening steps.

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Why McKinsey has phone case interviews. 
  • What the McKinsey phone case interview is all about.
  • 8 tips for passing the McKinsey phone case interview.
  • What the recruiting process is like once you pass the phone case interview.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about the McKinsey phone case interview, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for McKinsey phone assessment found the following pages helpful:

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Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on the McKinsey phone case interview. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with to get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Tanya was able to get her offer from McKinsey.

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