The BCG case interview is one of the most conceptually challenging interviews you will encounter at top-tier consulting firms. Part of what makes BCG interviews tricky is the fact that they may be on bespoke topics. In addition, the interviewee is expected to drive the case forward, develop unique frameworks, uncover creative insights, and propose logical next steps. Take a deep breath – we will provide tips and tricks below.
On the bright side, once you are able to crack a BCG case interview, you will likely perform well in interviews for any other firm. This is one of the reasons why we often start preparing candidates through practice BCG case interviews, no matter which firm they’re targeting.
Table of Contents:
- BCG Case Study Interview Overview
- Core Skills BCG Is Looking For During Case Interviews
- Keys To Crack the BCG Case Interview
- What to expect in the different interview rounds
- BCG Behavioral / Fit Questions
- BCG Case Interview Examples
- BCG Case Interview Practice
- BCG Interview Variations
- BCG Platinion Case Interview
- Become a Case Interview Black Belt
Overview of the BCG Case Study Interview
BCG case study interviews are challenging for a variety of reasons, including:
- Style: They are candidate-led, meaning less “command and control” versus McKinsey’s interview. In a McKinsey case interview, you are given a specific set of questions to answer. When you finish one question, you move right onto the next one. On the other hand, BCG interviews are more like a conversation with the interviewer guiding you along the way. You are expected to take the initiative to move the conversation forward.
- Problem statement: BCG cases are anything but cookie cutter. The business problems you will be asked to solve range from more standard questions (profitability; revenue improvements) to bespoke topics (pricing for pharmaceutical products; distribution strategy). The bespoke topics, especially, require you to have strong business intuition.
- Creativity: You will need to use your problem solving skills and creativity to come up with non-cookie-cutter solutions. In consulting, you are helping Fortune 500 executives solve their most critical challenges. Clients are spending millions to bring in a firm like BCG and do not want to be told what they already know – creativity is part of the value you bring to your case team. Showcasing creativity can take multiple forms, including recommending out-of-the-box solutions and identifying additional insights / implications.
Given the difficulty of the cases, it is important to understand the core skills that BCG is looking for. Once you understand that, you can master the keys to crack the BCG case study interview.
Core Skills BCG Is Looking For and Keys To The BCG Case Study Interview
The core skills that top tier consulting firms look for are largely the same. For BCG, core skills include:
Conceptual Problem Solving
Problem solving refers to the ability to break down a complex problem in a structured way and come up with a solution. Here are some ways to showcase problem solving skills:
At the beginning of the case, you will have a chance to structure your approach to the problem at hand (AKA, build a framework). For BCG, the framework should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE) and reflect all the nuances of the case. Your frameworks need to be custom-made; BCG will not be impressed by a formulaic framework that does not fit the scenario (to learn more about frameworks, see our guide).
When presenting the framework, it is important to discuss the “why” behind each bucket and any emerging hypotheses on why the bucket may be important in this particular scenario. For example, if you are looking at why a CPG company’s profitability is down, you can say one area you want to look at is revenue, and specifically, revenue by channel over time for the client versus competitors. One hypothesis you have is that your client is losing its share in e-commerce given the rise in DTC consumer brands (e.g., Honest company) and consumers’ desires to buy more niche brands.
In addition, it is important to prioritize which buckets you would like to look at. Buckets can be prioritized based on the likelihood they are driving the problem statement or based on the impact you believe they can drive. The prioritization piece speaks to whether you can be 80/20 in your work or if you will try to boil the ocean in your analysis. Being able to prioritize is a key consulting skill because you will be tasked to solve large, ambiguous problems on a tight timeline.
Second Level Insights
One way to stand out is through the quality of your insights. Specifically, it is not enough just to say the surface-level takeaway. Instead, you need to dig deeper into what the insight can mean and the second-level implications. In addition, it is important to leverage all the information you learned throughout the case (not just in one question) when developing the insight. For example, in the prior example, if the data is showing that your client is losing out on e-commerce sales, the second and third level insights could be: “as consumers increasingly shop online, our client may continue to lose market share and see a drop in revenue.
It is important to diagnose why our e-commerce sales are slipping. For example, do our consumers not find our products engaging, or do our consumers find the digital experience clunky (e.g., limited coordination between mobile and online activity)? If the consumers do not resonate with our product line, we may want to consider acquiring a smaller brand with a strong consumer following.”
While you are not required (or expected) to have the “right” answer, it is critical for your insights and takeaways to be logical and practical. For example, if throughout the interview you learn that your client is strapped for cash, you shouldn’t recommend that the client acquire a new company (how would they finance the purchase?).
In addition, business judgment can be shown by making a nuanced recommendation versus implying that your recommendation is the only right answer. For example, if you are recommending outsourcing portions of the client’s supply chain, it is important to note the financial implications and also some of the risks (e.g., difference in quality; slower turnaround times; less control over the process). A standout candidate will also mention more creative issues with outsourcing (e.g., tariffs; inflation; geopolitical instability; PR / reputation).
Your quantitative skills are tested through math questions in the BCG case interview. The interviewer will assess if you can do quick, back of the envelope math and if you can answer specific math questions that may require an exact answer. The back of the envelope math is especially important given the real-world application. Mental math skills are tested often when you are talking with a client and need to give a range of magnitude answers to the problem they are trying to solve.
For example, your client wants to see how much revenue they can get from a specific initiative. It will be your responsibility to quickly size up the initiative and know whether it will be a $1M, $10M, or $100M opportunity. The quantitative skills piece also tests if you have the intuition to know if you need to provide an exact answer versus a rough order of magnitude answer.
Ability To Push The Problem Forward
The ability to push a problem forward is one of the most important skills for Analysts and Associates. On a typical consulting engagement, Analysts and Associates are expected to own their own workstream, identify the most critical elements to assess in detail, and propose next steps. Don’t worry, you are not expected to know all of this upfront during the case interview.
However, the BCG case interview structure is set up in a way to test if you can be hypothesis driven and propose logical next steps – even if they are wrong. Candidates that stand out in BCG’s eyes excel in the conversational style cases and can propose (and provide the rationale behind) which areas to look at further. As Jenny Rae says: “If you’re going to be successful in a BCG case, you have to know how to find value on your own. You can’t let the interviewer take you to it.” Candidates who wait until the interviewer tells them what to look at next will struggle in these interviews.
Communication skills are another critical skill to showcase in the case interview. Communication skills come in several different flavors including:
During the interview, it is important to start with your key takeaway and then provide the supporting facts. For example, imagine that you are wrapping up a BCG case interview and want to recommend that the PE client acquires a direct to consumer startup. You can frame your answer like this: “I believe our client should acquire the DTC startup for 3 key reasons.
The target plays in a multi-billion dollar market that is growing at 10% YoY. While there are 5-10 main competitors, the target’s product is more valued by consumers as evidenced by the target’s higher Amazon reviews.
The target has a large and loyal customer base with >70% of clients making return purchases. The target also has a strong social media presence with >100K Instagram followers.
Our client can double its money in <5 years, even in the downside scenario. This meets the client’s threshold, and there is additional upside not factored into our analysis which can also bolster the client’s return.”
Structured communication goes hand in hand with top-down communication. Specifically, when doing your case interview, it is helpful to group your answers into buckets / categories. For example, when presenting your framework, you can say you have 4 buckets you would like to look at and list out each bucket as you go. This helps the interviewer follow where you are going throughout the interview
Often during a case interview (or on a consulting engagement), there will be a lot to say! It is important to take the analysis you’ve done throughout the case and then distill and communicate the key takeaways and the “so what’s” associated with the takeaways. You want to be concise and clear with your communication (rather than word vomiting).
Here, BCG is testing if they can put you in front of a client. Tactical skills you can adopt to improve your presentation include:
- Tempo: It is important to not rush your answers (which can often happen when you are nervous!). Tactically, it is helpful to remind yourself to pause as you are speaking and take a deep breath.
- Intonation: Try to keep your voice at a level intonation and do not raise your voice at the end of sentences (often called “upspeak”).
BCG has also synthesized the “dos and don’ts” they are looking for across candidates (website with additional details can be found here).
What To Expect In A BCG Case Interview
BCG Case Interview Timeline
The BCG case interview timeline differs by region and by the “funnel” you are coming through (target versus non-target; on cycle versus off cycle). Generally, the interview cycle is 4-6 weeks and consists of the application, two rounds of interviews (often including an Online Case), and feedback in between. Following the final interview, you can get your results within 7-10 days (some candidates can find out their status on the same day or next day). Details on the rounds are below:
The BCG application is relatively standard vis a vis other MBB firms. You will typically need to submit your resume and cover letter. Make sure both docs are BCG-ready before you submit the application.
BCG Online Case
The BCG Online Case (sometimes referred to as the Potential Test or Casey Chatbot Interview) is typically the first step in the interview process, a Round 0 interview so to speak. The firm hasn’t yet rolled it out across every office and geography, but it’s becoming more common for applicants to face it. We recommend preparing for the BCG Online Case no matter which role you’re applying for. Read our guide to learn how to prepare.
The first round is generally 1.5 hours long and includes two 45-minute interviews. Each interview will contain both fit questions and a case, and the interviewer will leave time for questions at the end. Typically, the case is the longest part of the interview (20-30 minutes).
Feedback is highly valued by BCG. After the first interview round, you will receive feedback from the interviewer(s) that will cover both your strengths and development objectives. It is important to focus on the development objectives when prepping for the second round interview (or other consulting interviews too!). You can also request feedback after your second round of interviews. If you want expert feedback before stepping into your interviews so you can show up ready to go, work with an ex-MBB coach on our team today.
The second round typically occurs within a couple of weeks of your first round interviews and is usually conducted by more senior members of the firm. Generally, the format of the second round is similar to that of the first round (i.e., the interviews consist of fit questions and a case). However, for some offices, you will also receive a written case interview, detailed below.
BCG Case Interview Framework
Developing the BCG case interview framework is one of the most important parts of the BCG case. By providing a strong framework, you show the interviewer that you can take a problem, identify the key areas that may be causing the problem, and break these areas down into MECE buckets. A lot of the commonly used frameworks (e.g., Porter’s 5 Forces) won’t exactly fit the case’s problem statement. As such, the BCG case interview framework needs to be unique and tailored specifically to the problem at hand.
BCG Case Interview Questions
The BCG case interview questions span a variety of functions and industries. BCG provides two example cases on its website:
Distribution strategy for cereal manufacturer: “Our client specializes in sugar cereals traditionally distributed through grocery stores. Sales to Big M Mart, a discount chain, have been growing at 15 percent per year, and the chain has recently become the largest distributor of the client’s product nationwide. We are here to help evaluate the distribution strategy in light of Big M Mart’s growth.”
Growth strategy for medical devices and services company: “Your client is GenCo, a large, international, diversified company with a health care division that produces a wide variety of medical instruments and related services. The parent company produces medical devices and services, but before the acquisition was not involved in health care software. The company it purchased, MedCount, sells only administrative systems software to large hospitals. It is now looking for opportunities to increase revenues.”
An additional example from Management Consulted is included below for reference. A video of a candidate solving this case is here.
Pharma Commercial Strategy: Your client is a pharmaceutical company that is ready to launch a new drug. It’s a drug for severe asthma, essentially the same as what is in the market today. It’s better, stronger, faster, and can treat severe cases that are not properly treated with today’s medicine. The drug is seen as a breakthrough. The client is planning to launch this drug in Canada. They’re coming to you to determine how they should price the drug. What would you need to explore to determine a good price?
BCG Behavioral / Fit Questions
The BCG behavioral / fit questions reflect Bain’s fit questions more so than McKinsey’s. Here, you will be asked questions assessing your fit with BCG and how your background and skills will mesh with the firm’s culture and work. Common questions are:
- Why consulting?
- Why BCG?
- Tell me about a time you faced adversity
- Tell me about a time you used an unconventional approach to solve a problem
- Tell me about a time you worked on a team
- Tell me about a situation where you were responsible for others
BCG Case Interview Preparation
It’s true that there are multiple ways and methods to prepare for your case interview. After helping thousands of candidates, we can say with humble authority that some ways are better than others. What one wants to avoid, is practicing the wrong things. It can give a false sense of how prepared you actually are for your interview. Lots of practice and preparation doesn’t necessarily help you. Preparing the right thing, in the right way, WILL help you in your interview.
The below example of a candidate getting expert feedback is an excellent way of preparing for your case interview. An expert knows what firms are looking for, and if you’re exemplifying what they are looking for. An expert will tell you exactly where you’re casing skills are weak, and where they are strong, saving you precious time to focus on the weak areas. For more details on getting expert feedback, click here.
BCG Case Interview Examples
Again, BCG case interviews can span a wide range of topics across a variety of industries. See the video below on what a BCG case interview could look like, when Management Consulted Coach and ex-BCG consultant Ryan Smith interviews a consulting candidate.
When watching the video, note a few key elements:
- The conversational element of the case (versus the command and control style that you would see in McKinsey cases).
- The way the candidate lays out the framework, e.g., candidate included hypotheses on why each bucket was important to look at and proposed which bucket to look at first.
- The way the candidate references the framework throughout the case to stay organized & continue driving the case forward.
For a full set of BCG case interview examples, please see the Management Consulted Case Library.
BCG Case Interview Practice
The best way to do BCG case interview prep is to practice, practice, and practice some more! Live practice will enable you to better understand the flow of a BCG case and build competency. The most effective live practice is practice with an expert. You can sign up for 1:1 case coaching with an ex-MBB consultant. They’ll assess where you’re at, build a prep plan according to what you need, give feedback, and run mock cases until you’re ready for the interview.
If you need more case prep support, join Black Belt, a structured case prep program that also includes a live group training on case structures, case math, and a live case walkthrough. Sign up here.
BCG Interview Variations
Unsurprisingly, with the size and scope of BCG, the firm has multiple departments and subsidiaries that also use the case interview. These still require much of the same case interview prep, but with some nuances and variations. See some of these variations below.
BCG Online Case Interview
BCG interviews can include an Online Case depending on the office and region. The BCG Online Case is used by the firm as a screening interview. The test contains two components: GMAT-style questions and 3 chatbot cases that require a 1min video recording at the end of the case.
The Online Case questions are designed to test your business judgment and logical reasoning skills as well as your mathematical capabilities. Generally, you need to do mental math during the Online Case. Our chatbot cases are the best available resource to help you prepare for the BCG Online Case – after all, the best way to prepare is to simulate the real thing! For a deeper dive into the BCG online case, check out our full article here.
BCG Gamma Case Interview
Taking a step back, BCG advises its clients on a comprehensive suite of issues ranging from strategy to operational considerations. As big data and AI become more commonplace, it is important for clients to “supercharge” their capabilities in this space… and this is where BCG GAMMA comes in. BCG GAMMA consultants help clients understand how they can leverage AI and, from there, help them integrate it into their businesses.
A GAMMA consultant’s role spans across multiple topics that are more technical (data science; technology) and more qualitative (org structure; process creation) than generalist roles.
BCG GAMMA segments the work into three categories as shown below.
BCG GAMMA case interviews are slightly different from that of a generalist consultant. Specifically, GAMMA interviewees typically have to complete a technical skills test (e.g., data science test, coding test) and also a traditional case study. GAMMA case interviews typically deal with a smaller number of functional areas due to the specificity of the firm’s work.
See our full article on BCG Gamma here.
BCG Written Case Interview
The BCG written case interview is office-dependent. For example, the Chicago office is known for providing candidates written case interviews during the second round interview, whereas the Seattle office may never provide written interviews.
The BCG written case interview tests the same skills as the verbal case interview. However, in a written case, the prompt and data is provided in a set of documents (~40 pages). You will then be given ~2 hours to assess the documents and make a presentation (usually 3-5 slides) on your key conclusions. Some tips for the BCG written case interview:
- Show your synthesis skills by including an executive summary with your key takeaways at the beginning of the presentation.
- Take the time to build out your structure & framework, similar to how you would in a verbal case interview. The structure should be included in the presentation.
- Include a slide on your next steps (even better if you can link your next steps to your initial framework).
BCG Platinion Case Interview
BCG Platinion helps clients transform their organizations digitally, unlocking growth. The BCG Platinion interview process is largely similar to the process for generalists. However, you will be expected to deeply understand digital including IT architecture, agile development, and project management. The interviews often center around these topics. For more information on BCG Platinion case interviews, see here.
Become a Case Interview Black Belt
The Management Consulted Black Belt program is the gold standard in case interview prep. Our expert coaches are accomplished MBB consultants who have extensive experience with case interviews, from both sides of the table. In fact on average, 3% of candidates make the cut. However, ~80% of our Black Belt clients pass the case interview.
With management consulting roles to be worth 6 figures and a positive catalyst for the rest of ones career, Black Belts find it to be a crucial investment into their future. For more information on how to join the gold standard, click here.
If you want to work at BCG, preparation for the case interview takes time and focus. In fact, we recommend a minimum of 6 weeks prep time. So, kick-off your prep with our free case interview course. If you need a helping hand, book an hour or two of 1:1 coaching with an expert coach. Here’s to landing the offer!
- MBB: McKinsey, BCG, Bain; Are They Really the Best?
- Case Interview Frameworks: Ultimate Guide
- Consulting Resume: Complete Guide
- Case Interview: Complete Prep Guide