BCG Interview Questions and Answers

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Question:

First of all I would like to express my gratitude and biggest thanks to all that you [do for] potential candidates. Thanks to your video as well as LOMS trainings, I was able to qualify into final rounds with BCG. Yesterday I had a big day with finals. Surprisingly, the last 2 interviews with partners were extremely difficult. If I spent not more than 20 minutes solving all 5 cases during different rounds prior to finals, cases during the finals were out of our frameworks and I just lost. I could not solve them.

The first case was about mortgage banking and the case started with lots of prepared materials and slides. He just asked, "Should we enter subprime credit segment," and "what are the ways we can reduce the risk of getting payments late?" The trick was that bad debt was not an issue, rather the data was showing that the percentage of customers paying for 3+ late was about 28% percent. And I stuck on finding the ways to reduce that risk. I could not even choose which framework to choose from. I tried Customer, Product, Competitors and Company. Could not go through... I remembered your words, "segment, segment, segment." Did that as well, but again unsuccessful. I feel so bad and cracked down, that I lost confidence in myself.

The second case was about reducing the cost of raw material. Again I could not solve. Perhaps I was sooo anxious that my brain got stuck...

In feedback sessions from previous rounds, my interviewer mentioned that I got the highest scores for structuring and solving the case, and told me that she is 80% confident that I will pass the finals. I am wondering myself, how could I excel in all previous rounds, solve more than 20 cases, practice, practice, practice with LOMS and know all the frameworks and then fail... I have not got the answer yet, but I am 99% sure that they will reject.

Previously I passed the 1st round with Bain, and could not get though the finals because I did not segment. I learned from my mistake and was soo successful with BCG interview questions. Passed up to 6 cases and then at the final... such a shame. ūüôĀ

In 2 weeks time, I will have my interviews with McKinsey. That is my last chance. I do not know how to return to my previous confidence level. I am sooo afraid now that I lost any confidence that I can ever become a consultant. I could solve any case, but now do not know will I be able to solve even a single case...

My Reply:

Sounds like you've been having a rough time. I can tell you that  given how far you've come so far, you're more than capable of  working at any of the Top 3 firms.

The mistakes you've made along the way are fixable (more on that in a second) and not structural. If you have structural problems, you never make it past Round 1.

Also, you are very close to having all the pieces together. Even though you may feel like you're missing the mark by 80%, you're actually off by about 12%.

Now let's talk about your BCG interview questions, and how to fix the last 12% or so.

For your bad debt case...

1) What was your hypothesis?

2) What factors did you need to test your hypothesis?

The mistake you made was you were trying to "force" a "standard" framework for a problem where the standard frameworks don't work. What you needed to do instead is state a hypothesis and consider what is needed to test that hypothesis.  Often segmentation is involved in testing the hypothesis.

In structuring unusual problems that don't neatly fit into a standard framework, the tools you need to re-master are:

  • the issue tree
  • using a MECE approach to structure your issue tree
  • never forgetting to have and then test a hypothesis

For example, instead of coming up with all the ways you can think of to reduce delinquency risk, you want to think of the categories of risks that contribute to late payments, and then you want to make sure your categories are MECE... and then you let your hypothesis help you prioritize where you focus.

My guess is you didn't have a hypothesis... panicked a little and  forgot to think about what you needed to test the hypothesis.

A framework is nothing more than a frequently used issue tree. But, it's the issue tree approach that is actually the underlying skill you want to master.

That being said, the McKinsey interview is much more pre-structured than BCG and Bain... and is in many ways much easier.  Be sure to listen to Cases 6 - 8 in LOMS for the McKinsey format. The key things in McKinsey that differentiate candidates are the up front structuring and the synthesis.

I suggest practicing your issue tree structuring.

Here are a couple of unusual cases to structure:

1) For dinner, should we eat Mexican Food or Indian Food?  (What is your hypothesis? What are the components of your issue tree? Is your issue tree somewhat MECE?)

2) Should you vacation in Hawaii or in New York City?

Finally, try to avoid thinking of McKinsey as your last chance. It'll just make you nervous. If McKinsey doesn't work out, you can always reapply later, there are other firms, there are many, many options.

So don't make the McKinsey interview harder than it is by putting all this pressure on yourself.

Just do your practice and let go of the outcome... and read my article at www.caseinterview.com/linsanity-lessons for more on this.

Good luck!

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1 comment… add one
  • Nag Mar 27, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Victor, I just love reading your write ups – whether its Strategic or as in this email, Psychological. You are one of a kind. Thanks for everything! ūüôā
    – Nag

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