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BCG Case Interview

BCG Case Interview

By Kim Tran January 17, 2015Case InterviewOne Comment

BCG Case Interview

By Kim Tran January 17, 2015Case InterviewOne Comment

To be honest, I am not the big fan of categorizing case interviews by firms. Are there really differences between a BCG Case Interview and a McKinsey (or Bain) one? Even if there are differences, most of them are just vague generalizations of the highly dynamic case interview world. You may notice that in our Youtube series, I don’t do any videos on any specific firm’s cases. And I also haven’t written any articles on these topics … until now.


No matter what, the fact is: everybody is still curious in knowing about different firms’ versions of the case interview. The volume of google searches for those keywords is massive and I still get questions about these every week. Therefore, I would like to take this chance to tell you and many fine candidates pondering about these topics.

Are there any real differences?

Well … let’s pretend there are. Like I said above, these differences, spread by word of mouth or documented, are just generalizations. But for now let’s find out about them anyway. First we need to understand how real projects work differently in McKinsey vs. BCG (and Bain). It is said that the case interview is just a reflection of real-life consulting, and in this context, that is very true.

The differences in real consulting projects – BCG and Bain project teams are more “powerful”

In McKinsey, sometimes it feels like the engagement team just acts like the front face or the representatives of the bigger, smarter, and more competent “somebody” backstage. The team has little say on what the project content would look like. Most of the content comes from the network of partners and experts with years of experience in that particular industry, function, or location. At McKinsey, “I drew it” is not the preferred answer to the “where did you get that framework from?” question. This may sound a little negative, but maybe that’s the key to success of McKinsey over the others (McKinsey on average commands much higher consulting fees than any other competitors).

On the other hand, at BCG (and Bain), the engagement team acts more like an independent cell in the worldwide network body. The team depends less on the network’s knowledge and expertise. There are more “problem solving” teams and less expert interviews.

Case Interviews of McKinsey vs. BCG (and Bain) somewhat reflect that aspect

Guess what, the case interview format does have the feel of that difference in real life. In McKinsey interviews, more often than not, you will get a so-called “interviewer-led” case, in which you are asked to work on specific parts of the overall case question designated by the interviewer. Usually the ability to look at the big problem as a whole and break it down is not as important as the ability to effectively and coherently solve mini problems.

In BCG  and Bain  case interviews, you will often get a format called the “candidate-led” case. This is the opposite of the interviewer-led format. The interviewer will give a case problem (i.e: case key question) and leave you on the island. You are expected to think on your feet, actively draw an issue tree (interchangeably called frameworks), tackle the issue tree based on hypotheses, and so on. The interviewer plays a very passive role. He / she doesn’t usually intervene unless you ask questions.

Management Consulting Prep BCG Case Interview

Studying for the BCG Case Interview? Learn candidate-led cases!

So back to my opinion, you may hear people talk through the roof about BCG vs McKinsey cases, to me, the much better and more important categorization method for cases is interviewer-led vs. candidate-led. This mindset allows you to articulately steer your study plan to learn case interviews in the easiest way possible. There are so many exceptions in the dynamic case interview world, don’t go into a BCG interview with “BCG case interview” knowledge armed, go in there equipped with case interview knowledge.

And the first and more important step to equipping yourselves with case interview knowledge is the Candidate-led case format. Let’s learn it with this wonderful video tutorial.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you would like more great content like this, please subscribe to our email list and Youtube channel. I look forward to seeing you again!



Tags: Consulting Case Interview, McKinsey Case Interviews, McKinsey Case Study Interview

  • Mark

    I am about to have an interview with BCG very soon and all I thought of was to learn the distinctive BCG Case only. Your article has proven me wrong. I think I will have to change my study plan right away. Thank you, Kim!