Case Interview Dress Code

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Question:

I hope you are doing great!

I cannot thank you enough for providing:

1. the free case interview preparation videos on your blog

2. my favorite - LOMS sessions at an affordable price

and last but not the least

3.  your frequent "insightful" emails sharing interview experience of other candidates

Being a MS student in Computer Science (zero business background/knowledge), I found the material to be the best (value for money) case interview preparation material that I have come across on the internet.

I have been invited to the McKinsey Round 1 in a week's time for the Associate position (I had three years work experience prior to my MS).

As I understand, it consists of two rounds:

-  the McKinsey Problem Solving Test

-  two "breakout" sessions of interviewer-led group case solving

Now to the question - although on the email from the recruiter, the dress code is mentioned to be Business casual, am I expected to wear a business suit (it is a consulting interview after all)?

I hope you understand -- I do not want to come across as an ugly duckling (in business casuals) amongst the candidates (wearing suits), hence I am asking you this question.

Please suggest what should do? Also, I am most interested to hear any other tips that you have regarding the 1st round break out sessions that you might have?

 

My Reply:

Thank you for your kind note.

If the recruiter says it is business casual, you should dress business casual -- but a very nice looking business casual.

For men, that is dress slacks (wool, sort of like the pants from a suit) as opposed to jeans or cotton pants that would be considered business casual in technology circles (I've worked in both), a nice long sleeve shirt or dress shirt, socks, dress shoes. In a business casual environment, you could definitely wear a blazer (no tie) still be considered business casual without being overdressed.

For women, I have no clue about women's fashion. But hopefully someone can cross correlate when a man wears a button down shirt alone or with a blazer with what a woman wears in a comparable level of dressiness.

If you overdress when the dress code is explicitly business casual, it may cause envy in the eyes of other candidates, but it will backfire with the interviewer. It looks like you are trying way too hard, which is a big turn off.

By the way, I should explain where this guidance comes from. It is the same rule of thumb that we apply on the job when deciding what to wear when visiting clients. General rule of thumb is to match what the clients wear, but slightly nicer. So if they are suit and tie, we are nice suit and nice tie. If they are business casual with jeans, we are business casual with slacks.

If everyone is in a t-shirt and shorts, and we come in a suit and tie... well that's being tone deaf and artificially creates a us vs. them dynamic that is counter-productive.

As for your other questions, here is more information on the McKinsey Problem Solving Test.

For the McKinsey Round 1 Interviewer-Led case, take a look at the .pdf handout in Look Over My Shoulder® titled - McKinsey Round 1.pdf (or something like that). It is in the handouts .zip file.

Note: this note was not included in the early version of LOMS, so you may need to go back to the site and re-download the handout file (the other files remain the same).

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