Boston Consulting Group, more commonly known as BCG, are a global strategy consulting firm with over $8bn in revenue and 21,000 employees worldwide. It is the second largest consulting firm in the world by revenue and part of the prestigious MBB group (McKinsey, Bain, BCG).
Every year BCG receive thousands of job applications from undergraduates, masters and MBA students across the globe. Working at BCG is considered one of the most highly reputable graduate jobs in the market and therefore is incredibly competitive. The acceptance rate at BCG is well below 1% and being an exceptional student is rarely enough.
The BCG case interview is the cornerstone of their application process and is a problem-based interview where candidates are required to solve a business problem with limited information.
2) What BCG are looking for
With such an abundance of talent applying for jobs at BCG they are particular about the skills and personality traits they are looking for and they go beyond academic excellence. The type of work that BCG do on a daily basis for their clients requires a mix of quantitative ability, business acumen and relationship building.
The traits they state they are looking for on their website are:
Problem solving – The problems that BCG work with their clients on are complex and natural curiosity and problem solving skills are critical.
Structured thinking – The complexity of problems mean it is easy to get lost in insignificant details and so BCG is looking for structured thinkers that can take a pragmatic approach to the problem in order to ensure analysis is comprehensive. This is at the core of the BCG case interview.
Feedback incorporation – The culture of strategy consulting is one of high performance and so whilst consultants need to be confident they also need to have the humility required to take on feedback and change their opinion when the facts presented change.
Alternative thinking – The unique nature of the client problems that BCG consultants face means that often there is not a best practice approach to solving it that the team can take, therefore, alternative approaches are highly valued by BCG.
3) BCG application process
There are four steps to the BCG application process, resume and cover letter, online assessments, first and then second round interviews.
The first step of the BCG application process is the same as most other graduate jobs. Applications for BCG are straightforward and done online. They require a resume and a cover letter as well as some personal details. The cover letter needs to be unique to BCG and not a generic cover letter with the company name changed.
The online assessments consist of two different tests; the BCG potential test and the BCG Pymetrics game assessment. These are their filtering mechanisms that test candidates quantitative skills and personality traits.
The first round interviews are similar to those at Bain, are usually with a junior consultant (3-6 years experience), and is where you will first be tested with a case interview. You will typically have 2 interviews both starting with fit questions such as ‘Why consulting?’ or ‘Tell me about a time when…’ for the first 15 minutes and then followed by a 45 minute case interview.
The second round interviews follow the same structure as the first round interviews but are conducted by more senior members of the team, usually directors, junior or senior partners. These consultants will be more rigorous in their assessment and provide a final hiring decision.
4) Types of interview
BCG use three types of interview across their network; case interview, experience interview and written case interview (also known as a structured case interview). The most common interview is the case interview but you need to be prepared for all three unless the recruiter states the type of interview you can expect.
BCG use case interviews with the same weighting as other strategy consulting firms and typically a candidate will face four separate interviews before they receive a job offer. The case questions are based on real life examples and the interviewers will have worked on the problem themselves, this allows them to provide context and data easily.
BCG are looking to test candidate’s ability to do the day-to-day work that will be required of them. On their website this covers:
These skills will be applicable for all case interviews and a full guide how to work through case interviews is available here.
The experience interview is normally integrated into a case interview or written case interview with the first 15 minutes of a 60 minute interview devoted to the experience and fit questions. The questions are closer aligned to other job interview questions but strategy consultants will want to see a certain approach to answering them. The types of questions they will ask are:
What is your greatest achievement and why?
When have you led a team and how did you approach the role?
What is a difficult decision you have made in the last year?
What is an example of a time when you showed initiative and leadership?
What do you most like to do in your free time?
Why would you be a good fit for one of our project teams?
The key with these questions is to develop a structure that can be applied to all of them. By structuring your answer, you will show that even when discussing non-business related topics you apply a considered approach to your answer. We cover an approach in our case interview coaching sessions.
Written (structured) case interview
The written case interview assesses the same attributes as the case interview and requires the same skills. However, instead of working through the case with the interviewer you are given a large document pack (20-30 pages) that contains all the information required to answer the case. The information pack is dense and the time provided to read and digest it is small (c.10 minutes). This means that you are required to find the key pieces of information, interpret data quickly and structure a recommendation to present back to the interviewer under time pressure.
As with the case interview there is not a correct answer and the important part of your answer is the consideration of trade offs for making decisions and comparing the possible strategic decisions the business in question can take. The interviewer will test your thinking and recommendations to see how robust your conclusions are and the steps you took to get there.
Our full guidance on the structured case interview is available here.
5) Case interview
The consulting case interview is the cornerstone of every strategy consulting firm’s interview process due to the ability to replicate the problems and challenges of the work they do.
To score well in a BCG case interview, you must meet the criteria laid out above and you can do this following a structured approach to case interviews. The structure of a BCG case interview is as follows:
1. Situation and problem
2. Hypothesis validation
3. Framework development
4. Root cause analysis
5. Mathematical calculation (sometimes)
6. Creativity test (sometimes)
At the start of the case, the interviewer will outline the context and the problem to be explored. An example might be:
“A high street retailer wants to cut costs by 30% in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, how would you approach this?”
You would then be expected to put forward an initial hypothesis on what the answer might be and explain your intention to prove or disprove it.
From there you will be expected to develop a framework to conduct your analysis and test it with the interviewer.
If your framework is MECE and you explore it correctly then you will find the root cause of the issue for the client (in this case where costs can be reduced) and begin calculations if relevant.
The creativity test is when the interviewer asks you for an alternative to your findings or recommendation e.g. “Okay, the client says they do not want to shut stores, how else can they reduce cost?” They may ask this more than once and it tests the candidates ability to think of alternatives, even if their answer is appropriate.
Finally you will be asked to provide a recommendation whereby you need to synthesise your findings and give a clear and concise proposal.
For more information on how to approach and solve case interviews, read our full guidance here.
6) Additional tips
Case interviews are pressurised situations where your anxiety levels are heightened and you don’t have the safety net of notes or the internet to fall back on.
For in-person interviews it is common that one of the questions will have a mathematical element or be a market sizing question included. These require long maths calculations without a calculator. If you haven’t practised long addition, multiplication, division or subtraction recently then it is a good idea to do so. Being quick at maths shows your competent quantitative skills and reduces unnecessary pressure during the interview, increasing your overall performance.
We have published guidance and practice questions dedicated to case interview maths here.
As with the maths, practicing case interviews is the best way to improve your performance. Through practice you will begin to develop a robust approach that satisfies the structure and framework components of the case and you will recognise how to navigate the case successfully.
If you are applying to BCG then you are probably applying to other strategy consulting firms too, this practice will be relevant to all of the firms you apply to as they all use case interviews in their application process.
We have published guidance and practice questions appropriate for BCG cases here.
Apply structure to everything
The key requirement of a candidate in a case interview is the application of structure, specifically with a MECE approach. As mentioned above, you can even apply structure to the FIT questions and it is recommended you do so.
An example answer to the question ‘walk me through your CV’ would be to segment your experience into; 1) Experience relevant to consulting 2) Experience not relevant to consulting and then briefly cover the experience you have in each bucket. This shows you understand what consulting is and what is relevant and also a key skill of a consultant – structured thinking.
If you can demonstrate robust structured thinking in your interview, you will score highly.
If you’re upcoming interview involves technical questions then please see some of our other online resources here: