Friday, October 4, 2013

McKinsey Interviews - What is a McKinsey Case Interview and Why Is It Important?

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If you've done any research into getting a job in consulting, you'll know that the case interview is a critical component of the interview process at McKinsey and other top management consulting firms.  Case interviews are also become more common in non-consulting job interviews, especially for Strategy roles and/or positions reporting to former consultants.

If you're just starting your research or it's not yet clear to you what, exactly, a case interview is, in this post I will answer:
  • What is a case interview?
  • Will it be a brain teaser?
  • Why are case interviews important?

What is a case interview?

The case is one of two types of interviews you'll face when applying for a job at McKinsey - the other is the personal experience interview (PEI).

In the case interview, you'll be presented with a business problem (the "case") to solve in about 30 minutes.  They are meant to be representative of real engagements that McKinsey teams are asked to solve for clients and are often based on real-life examples (that have been "sanitized", of course).

As you might expect given the time allotted to the case interview, you're not just being asked for one answer to one problem.  Typically, the case consists of several components that must be identified and solved in order to support your final recommendation(s).

Will it be a brain teaser?

The simple answer is:  NO.

Examples of "brain teasers" include questions like:
  • How much does the empire state building weight?
  • How many golf balls would fit into a 747?
  • How many pay phones are there in New York City?
At McKinsey, we would not consider these to be "case interview" questions, although my understanding is that brain teasers like these might get asked during interviewers for other firms, especially for more junior, Analyst-type positions.

No, but...

Although McKinsey interviews are not brain-teasers, there are elements of McKinsey case interviews - like market sizing - that will require this type of problem solving.  In the absence of data, how well can you come up with a logical approach for estimating something?

In these cases, you're not being assessed on how close you get to the "right" answer - although you will get dinged if your answer doesn't make sense.  Instead, your interviewers will be evaluating your thought process, how logical your approach is, and how well you explain and defend it.

Why are case interviews important?

Case interviews are important to you because they comprise half of your interview assessment score.  Case interviews are important to McKinsey and other firms because they're used as a way to assess your problem solving abilities and how well you can communicate your answer(s).  The reason the case is structured like a client engagement is so your interviewers can understand how you might perform as a teammate on a client team.


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