Below is a success story from a student who was an experienced hire who passed five BCG interviews. This story offers insight into the recruiting process for experienced hires as well as tips for success in the interview. It also includes a brief follow-up from me where I add a bit more about the experienced hire recruiting process.
This is a summary of my experience going through BCG interviews as an experienced hire.
First, I only applied to BCG because I had worked with them a couple of times and of all the ex-MBB people I know and asked for help, all 5 BCGers gave me prep cases but no-one else; most simply ignored my email. From a fit perspective, BCG was a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned.
I started preparing last September with a couple of case interviews with current consultants, then worked on mental math questions and read Case In Point. Something always felt off to me though, it was never clear how I could really get better consistently: on a specific scenario that exactly fit one of the 12 frameworks I could have nailed it I guess, but it didn’t feel very repeatable to me.
In January, I did a few more cases with these 5 current and ex-BCG, but again I didn’t see real progress in spite of probably a couple dozen hours of work.
I eventually applied on February 1st, but only got my invitation in early March for early April 1st round interviews. That left me a month to finish my preparation, so I looked on the web for case prep and found your site. I viewed the free videos and read tons of articles that weekend, which together convinced me you were for real; by Sunday night I had purchased LOMS and went through it a good 4 times over the next month.
One last prep case with an ex-BCG showed both he and I that I had made very significant progress: it wasn’t perfect and my hypothesis was dodgy but I had a structure, stuck to it, gave regular interim conclusions and started my final conclusion with the recommendation first. With that, I felt as ready as I could be, considering I didn’t have the benefit of ready and willing case partners to study with.
On to the actual interviews –
The first round had 2 non-traditional interviews. The first one I was supposed to do a market sizing then look at how to maximize value but was constantly interrupted and never got into a rhythm and felt a little frustrated; in hindsight it felt a little like the interviewer-led cases at the end of LOMS.
The second one I was supposed to figure out why profitability went down, but after a structured opening, my interviewer simply gave me a series of slides and asked me to read them aloud, one after the other – 7 pages, I think. I basically never wrote anything down, just having to read these support documents on the fly. Good conclusion with a little math then a lengthy general discussion that ran way over schedule, I felt good. At this point, it felt to me like I was a split read, with one good interview and a poor one. BCG decided to invite me for a decision round.
This second round, I had 3 interviews. First one we spent a long time just talking, then a quick case that I never got to finish (and can’t remember anything about) because the interviewer cut it short and we finished doing small talk – felt great though.
Second interview was more traditional but partner and I eventually engaged in brain-storming activity before he thanked me for the discussion and wished me well before walking me to the last room and setting up the video-conference call himself. Third one (on video conference) again went very well and interviewer basically mentioned he hoped to see/work with me again.
Two weeks later, the partner in charge of recruitment said they loved me but didn’t have a spot right now so to just call them in 6 months or earlier if my professional situation changed (i.e., I had an offer elsewhere). This is obviously no guarantee that I will ever join the firm, but he also didn’t have to spend 15 minutes with me on the phone, HR could have done that.
Overall, LOMS definitely helped me get as ready as I could be; I spent well over 100hours on it, and probably invested 120 to 150 hours in my total preparation, including 8 prep case interviews with current and former consultants.
Hardly any of the actual cases I had fit a standard format, but I clearly managed to do very well in 4 of them and good enough in the 5th (interviewer was also the most junior of the bunch, thankfully for me). Would I have gotten to the second round without you? Perhaps because I was heartily recommended by a few insiders but hard to tell. Would I have done well in the 2nd round? Definitely not!
Thank you, Victor, your product is amazing! I would never have known what I didn’t know without it; in hindsight I saw that my BCG friends had given me the same feedback but it somehow never resonated, never clicked until I heard others make the mistakes (e.g., fishing for answers, shying away from doing math calculations, not following a structure).
I got your book on the kindle but bought a paper version anyway – partly to increase your sales as a thank you. I am technically not an F1Y yet, but expect that it is only a matter of time with BCG. I will now apply to Bain & McKinsey as well, if only to convince BCG to extend me this offer now rather than later.
Finally, a little request for you – can I be added to the F1Y mailing as well?
Thanks for all you do – you are a good man Victor, your product changes lives!
My Reply and Follow-Up:
Thanks for sharing your story in such great detail.
Nice job coming as far as you have. Needless to say, you hit a breakthrough point in your career and the rest is just a timing issue. I should mention that I would take the BCG partner’s comments at face value– in particular because you’re an experienced hire.
The experienced hire recruiting process tends to be rolling and on-going because great people become available throughout the year (compared to campus recruiting that has more specific seasons).
For consulting firms (especially specific offices in consulting firms), the challenge for experienced hires is that the inflow of experienced hires who qualify is unpredictable. Meanwhile the outflow of consultants who quit is predictable (right around the 2, 4, and 6-year anniversaries of their start date, which typically follows the performance review cycle).
As a result of this, the on-campus recruiting cycle has a season — the start dates for the on-campus hires is timed to coincide with the exit dates of the hires from two years ago. (So just as a bunch of people quit or get promoted, the new folks enter). The problem with experienced hires is the start date doesn’t naturally fit into the normal ebb and flow of people.
In some firms McKinsey in particular, they will sometimes grant the offer now — with an intentionally delayed start date (say 6 months later). In the case of BCG, it looks like rather than making the firm commitment now for a start date in 6 months, they took a financially more conservative approach to have you contact them in 6 months (which is likely when one of their natural ebb and flow cycles occurs).
The thinking from their end is perhaps the number of consultants who exits is one fewer than they expected, in which case they aren’t committed to pay your salary and the salary of the person who stayed (double paying even though there’s only enough work for one person).
Now this of course isn’t to your advantage. And as you’ve figured out, the best way to nudge BCG into extending the offer sooner rather than later (even with a delayed start date), is to get offers from other firms. It is not easy to sift through a lot of candidates to find a good one. They are basically thinking that you aren’t going anywhere for 6 months, so it’s not much of a risk to not extend the offer now because most likely if they extended one to you in 6 months, you’d take it.
The key leverage point is to get another offer from McKinsey or Bain and use that as a credible alternative to BCG. Say to BCG that you would really prefer BCG would make an offer now (even if it’s with a delayed start date) if possible. I think the chances they would say “yes” are quite high under that scenario. And if they said “no,” it would really be, “we’ll extend an offer when we’re 100% certain we’re short a person,” as opposed to no offer at all.
Hopefully this gives you some guidance to work with. Also, you asked about my newsletter for new First Years. For privacy reasons, you can sign yourself up here: