BCG Interview Success

Here's a field report from a F1Y that successfully passed the bcg interview.

Field Report:

This is a very special moment for me as I have dreamt about sending this e-mail since the day I discovered your website over a year ago. I really wanted to have a success story of my own to share with you and the community. Well today is the day!

Although my recruitment process was more complicated than it usually is, this week I received a full time offer from BCG following a three month Visiting Associate (VA) role. I actually applied for the full time Associate position and had the usual 6 interviews (not just 4 as is the case with VAs) but because of my office's ways of recruiting I was only offered the Visiting Associate position at first, but then demonstrated my skills and got the full time offer! These were my only six case interviews ever so I feel that I did well enough 😉

I would like to cover four topics in this e-mail:

  1. My expression of gratitude to you and my feeling about the best preparation techniques
  2. My experience of getting a Visiting Associate offer when applying for a full time Associate position for those who might find themselves in such a position (not usual)
  3. My experience in the case interview process at BCG (vs. LOMS)
  4. A comparison of consulting at BCG and a Big 4 consulting practice (where I worked previously for a year) for those who will have to make a decision between one or the other (especially, like in my case, if it's a Big 4 in a global business hub location vs. BCG in a less glamorous location)

To begin, I would like to thank you very much for the video and LOMS material you have created. Both these materials were by far the most useful in preparing for the case interview process. I simply listened to LOMS on the way to work every day and a bit at home to draw my own issue trees.

Comparing LOMS to other materials I used (the usual - Case in Point, Wet Feet), I must say that it was much more practical and gave a sense of how the interviews really look. Actually, which is not surprising, it also helped me on the job during my Visiting Associateship as I really had to use structured thinking and be very MECE in my analyses.

I think the best advice I can give is to use LOMS and practice cases from case clubs (Harvard, Columbia, Wharton). Do LOMS on your own and then practice cases with your friends. Also, ask the HR person if there is a possibility of doing a practice case. Although I was in a different city, BCG set up a video conference from their local office to the office I was applying to and I had practice cases to understand the structure and to get some very useful feedback!

The second topic I would like to cover is finding yourself in a position of getting a VA offer instead of a full time Associate offer (not usual). It happens in offices which almost exclusively recruit Associates by choosing from their Visiting Associates, which is the case in my office.

As I had a full time job already, I applied for the full time Associate position, while most people apply straight out of university and thus their only option in my office is to go for the VA role. BCG explains this by telling you that they must be 100% sure of their choice, as they really want their people to perform on the job.

Anyway, when I got my feedback from the interviews, I was very clearly told which areas I would need to show top level performance in during my VAship to get the full time offer. I was also told that they really want to be able to give me the full time offer so I shouldn't treat it as some sort of sign that I am not good enough but rather I should just show them that I can perform to their standards.

So, I think if anyone finds themselves in this position and they are confident in their skills and are committed to working hard, then they should give it a chance! It is definitely worth it. And if you get an offer but somehow feel that this job is not for you, it's much easier to simply not accept it. It is a two way deal, they get to try you and you get to try them. Even if a full time offer after the VAship does not materialize, you still have a unique experience of seeing how a strategy house works.

Now, moving on to the case interview process at BCG and how it compares to practice cases in LOMS. I think that LOMS is a very good proxy for real cases in the office where I interviewed. I will only focus on differences here, and so the largest difference is the amount of independence required of you.

In LOMS cases, you really have to do everything on your own i.e. ask the right questions, develop the right structure, dig in the right direction. In my actual BCG interviews, it was much more guided by the interviewer. For example, I suggested a structure, but the interviewer also had a structure in mind, so although he complimented me on my suggestion, he told me how I should approach the problem and which areas I should explore. Then when I got to a point which was of real interest to the interviewer, he really focused on it, almost forgetting about the rest of the case. At these points, I had to do quick and complex calculations (of course no calculator, even in some cases no notes).

Finally, I almost never finished a case and that was perfectly ok, so I don't think you have to worry that much about getting to a solution (usually there was just a request to summarize the findings so far). Oh and of course you can get a case which is not really a case i.e. something more financial or a brain teaser. I had one whole interview and a part of another which was like that and there really isn't anything specific you can do to prepare, just listen to the interviewer and give it a try, always remembering Victor's tips which are also applicable here.

Finally, my comparison of consulting in a Big 4 and at BCG. Although I haven't been at BCG for that long, I can already see an enormous difference in favour of BCG (apart from the working hours).

First of all, the scope of work is very different (although the Clients are usually the same). Consulting in a Big 4 is all about taking a very specific chunk of the company and addressing a very specific problem with it, using pre-determined tools. At BCG on the other hand, it is all much broader i.e. you really need to find the problem, determine how to approach it and then develop a customized solution.

Second, the level of exposure to top level executives is very different. At a Big 4, it's all about working with middle managers and possibly doing one presentation for their boss at the end of a project. At BCG, you really get to meet, and work with, the 'top dogs' of companies - people from the headlines of business news - on a regular basis.

Third, the level of responsibility you get at an entry level position in a Big 4 vs. BCG is very different. In a Big 4 you also get your own module or work stream, but you really have quite a lot of supervision and support. Your work is controlled often and your manager will also make a significant contribution to it. At BCG, it's all about independence, you really have to manage your tasks and time on your own and the expectation is that you will get the answer right. The level of responsibility is related to the time commitment required.

Perhaps in my case it is also caused by working in a developed (Big 4) vs. developing (BCG) market, but I had to work more than double the number of hours during my VA-ship than in my graduate job at the Big 4. The hours at BCG do get crazy and everyone who applies knows that, whereas at a Big 4, you will never work too late and you will have sufficient amounts of time for your personal life (I think the Big 4 should really use the good work-life balance as a unique selling point vs. strategy houses, but instead their recruitment messaging is that it's consulting so you will work long hours).

To summarize, if you are committed to working hard, then in my opinion it is a no-brainer decision - always go for the strategy house!!! And believe me, the glamour, even in a less glamorous location, comes in a package with the job. 😉

That's enough from me. Once again, thank you so much Victor. I have achieved my dreams and I am sure that thanks to you, many others around the globe will achieve theirs, so you can really feel that you are making a significant contribution to many people's lives.

Best Regards,

The Boston Consulting Group

P.S. I just had to add that signature line, it looks so good 🙂

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