Group Case Interview

Question:

Thanks for all the valuable information you share on your site. Its just about the precise, concise prep I’d ever seen. I have been invited to Round 1 of McKinsey interviews later this month.

The interview process has a 60 minute Analytical test (Computer based), followed by 2 case sessions where a McK facilitator will work on a case with 3-4 candidates in a group. McK says the following capabilities are tested in this group session:

Breakouts:
•        Influencing others
–       L/U/R*(learning, understanding, responding)

•        Building relationships
–       Teamwork

•        Presence
–       Language skills
–       Communication style
–       Body language

•        Problem solving
–       Baseline problem solving

Can you share some insights on how these group case interviews are different from the typical 1-to-1 interviews. Have you conducted such APD interviews in the past. Any insights would be useful.

My Response:

I have not personally participated in a group case study interview as either interviewer or interviewee. It's an interview format that started becoming more popular after my time.

That being said, I think it's very good idea and I certainly understand why it is now being used more often. It is a closer simulation of what life would be like as a consultant working with other team members or with the client.

Let me explain why this is the case which will give you some insight as to what they're looking for -- and then I'll talk about how to do well in this environment.

Let me start by explaining why some new consultants do poorly on the job.

1) Poor client management skills - New consultant has the right answer, client disagrees (but is factually wrong), consultant who is eager to prove that he's right tells the client he is dead wrong / really wrong, client gets upset (even though client is wrong).

The reputation of the firm and the client's satisfaction with the team is now damaged... and now an engagement manager or partner has to do damage control.

See in this situation, the new consultant nailed the case from a technical and analytical perspective but pissed off the client. This is bad.

A consultant who is likely to irritate a client like this could pass the more traditional 1:1 case interview format.

2) Not Invented Here - Another problem with some new consultants is they have a hard time accepting new ideas that they didn't come up with. So if a new consultants thinks the right approach is X, and someone else on the team says it's Y -- and also has the hard data to back it up. It's clear the teammate advocating for approach Y is right.

Some consultants will have a very hard time accepting they are wrong and will push hard for a wrong position. Instead, the right move is to say, "You know what... that makes much more sense, lets go with that."

From an engagement manager's point of view, one doesn't want a consultant on the team who is stubborn, inflexible, and argumentative. In consulting, insights (especially counter-intuitive ones) backed by the facts rule. It doesn't matter what you think, it only matters what you can support/prove with the facts.

If you got the facts on your side, you're expected to present your perspective. If you don't, you need to be flexible enough to see that and move on. In other words, don't be adversarial.

This again is a negative trait that is simply not tested in a traditional 1:1 case interview format. But I expect something like this would emerge in a group case interview.

Tips for Group Case Interviews

Overall, you want to approach the group case interview as follows. It's your team versus the case. It is NOT you versus your team mates.

If one of the other candidates says something really stupid, resist the temptation to yell out "Hey you're a moron, that's totally wrong.... you should get dinged!"

The reason you don't want to do this is because sometimes a client will say something "stupid" (e.g., not supported by the facts but supported by opinion, belief, emotions). And having the tact to gently give a client a different (e.g., factually correct) perspective without making them look bad or feel foolish is a key skill.

So how you handle co-interviewees with BAD ideas IS very much being tested.

Equally important is how you handle co-interviewees with GOOD ideas is equally important. So if someone else comes up with a good idea (e.g., they "plus-ed" your idea) it's VERY important that you acknowledge it and work with it. (As opposed to shoot it down because you want them to look bad so they won't get an offer).

In real life, I wouldn't want a consultant on my team that's going to constantly shoot down my ideas. However, I would like someone who spots flaws in my thinking, doesn't shoot my down, but rather incorporates my ideas, and adds some insight or fact and makes it better.

Remember it is NOT you vs. the other interviewees. It is you and your co-interviewees vs. the case!

So long story short, solve the case, work with your co-interviewers to solve the case, and whatever you do.... DO NOT BE AN A**HOLE.

Finally don't worry about making yourself look good/smart by taking down someone else. If you are good, from an evaluator's point of view it is VERY obvious who is sharp/analytical and who is not. It is also equally obvious who is a JERK. So don't be jerk and trust that your case / consulting skills will shine through naturally without you having to worry about the competitive aspects of the situation.

For more on what to expect in a case interview, watch my free video series on Case Interview Secrets .

Additional Resources

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