Advice > Consulting

Case Interview Prep (7-steps to ace consulting interviews)

By Max Serrano with input from the following coaches: Kai H John E Adrian C and  Garvit B . March 18, 2024
Case Interview

Today we're going to explain how to prepare for case interviews, step-by-step.

We've helped thousands of candidates ace their consulting interviews and get jobs at MBB and other top firms. Below we've summarised the seven most important preparation steps you'll need to take to succeed in your case interviews.

And here's one of the first things you'll want to know:

Memorising pre-made frameworks will NOT impress your interviewers. You need to learn to create custom frameworks that are tailored to the details of each individual case. We'll cover this in more detail in section 2.2 below. 

Here's an overview of your seven preparation steps:

  1. Learn what to expect in a consulting case interview
  2. Learn an answer method for each case component
  3. Solve practice cases (33 free example cases)
  4. Improve your case interview technique
  5. Prepare answers to fit and PEI questions
  6. Practise answering questions out loud
  7. Do 30+ mock interviews

You can use this guide as a launchpad for all your case interview prep. When you need to go deeper into a topic (such as using frameworks, case examples, specific firms, even what to wear, etc.), click on the relevant link.

Click here to practise with MBB ex-interviewers

How we wrote this article

We talked to six expert consultants from top firms: Bain, Oliver Wyman, EY, and Accenture. Our particular thanks to John, Garvit, Adrian, and Kai for their input.

We've updated the article numerous times over the last few years to make sure it's up-to-date with current case interview practices and to try and make it as easily digestible and useful for you as possible.

Step 1. Learn what to expect in a consulting case interview

1.1 What is a case interview?

Case interviews (sometimes called case study interviews) are used by consulting firms to test candidates on their problem-solving, maths, communication, and business sense skills. They usually last ~1 hour and they are the core of the consulting interview process.

1.2 What is the format of a case interview?

In a case interview, you are presented with a case study about an imaginary company facing a problem or challenge. You'll need to review the information, ask questions to get more information, and then provide recommendations on what actions the company should take.

Most case interviews are made up of the following six components:

  1. Prompt
  2. Framework development
  3. Framework exploration
  4. Quantitative question
  5. Brainstorming
  6. Recommendation

Depending on what firm you're interviewing for, the interviewer may control the case interview by asking you a list of questions, or you may be expected to take the initiative in the discussion.

Some firms, such as Bain and BCG, also use case presentations. In these, you are given a couple of hours to analyse a pack of documents and create a presentation (you can learn how to prepare for that in our guide to written case interviews).

1.3 Why do consulting firms use case interviews?

Case interviews aim to simulate, as accurately as possible, the day-to-day of a management consultant. If a candidate does well, the interviewer can be fairly confident that they've got what it takes to succeed in the role.

"Case interviews are the best way for a consulting company to simulate what a day in the life of a consultant looks like. Right from giving questions that they have encountered working with their clients to testing the skills that are needed to succeed in this role. Case interviews help consulting firms understand if the candidate is someone they can put in front of their client and is fit to represent the brand that the company carries." Garvit (manager at EY)

Let's take another look at those six components of case interviews. Garvit explained to us that at each stage, you're being tested on a different set of skills as you work your way toward satisfactorily solving the problem.

  1. Prompt (ability to filter information and focus on a relevant topic)
  2. Framework development (problem-solving skills)
  3. Framework exploration (problem-solving skills)
  4. Quantitative question (quantitative and analytical ability)
  5. Brainstorming (creative thinking skills)
  6. Recommendation (business sense)

1.4 Are case interviews the same across all consulting firms?

There are generally two styles of case interviews used across all main consulting firms: candidate-led and interviewer-led.

Candidate-led (used by Bain, BCG, Oliver Wyman, and almost all other firms): In this format, interviewers give you more control over the pace of the interview. You're expected to take the initiative and lead the way to solving the problem.

Interviewer-led (used by McKinsey): In this format, interviewers tend to control the pace of the interview much more. They will have a list of questions about the case they want to go through with you, and will take you from one question to the next. If they feel you spend too much time on one question, they might interrupt you and ask the next question.

Some consultants say that candidate-led interviews are harder because you have to take charge.

   "You're responsible for not only solving the case but also for guiding the discussion, asking the right questions, and managing the flow of information. This format demands a high level of organization, critical thinking, and the ability to prioritize information effectively. It's challenging because you must identify what's important without much guidance, decide on the direction of your analysis, and keep the conversation focused on relevant areas. This autonomy in structuring your response tests your analytical skills and business intuition more deeply, as you have to navigate the case with minimal cues from the interviewer." Adrian (ex-BCG interviewer)

  Another difference between firms is that Bain tends to use a lot more charts in its case interviews compared to McKinsey, BCG, and others. John (ex-Bain interviewer) tells us that "at Bain, you could easily see three to six charts in one case, or even more."

For more information on interviews at specific firms, see our bespoke interview guides:

1.5 What's the difference between first- and second-round case interviews?

Kai (ex-interviewer at EY and Accenture) explained that there are, in  fact, significant differences between first- and second-round case interviews:

  • Structure: Second-round interviews can often be more unstructured, without any graphs or exhibits, more focused on the brainstorming and creativity part, and on testing your business judgment.
  • Complexity: Second-round case interviews may involve more complex cases or scenarios compared to the first round. This is because candidates have already demonstrated basic problem-solving abilities in the initial round.
  • Depth of analysis: Second-round interviews may require candidates to delve deeper into their analysis and recommendations, exploring various aspects of the problem in greater detail.
  • Behavioural questions: While first-round interviews often focus solely on case studies, second-round interviews may include a behavioural component, such as discussing past experiences or fit with the company culture.

There is also a difference regarding who will be interviewing you.  You can expect a first-round case interview to be run by an Associate (2+ years of experience) or an Engagement Manager (4+ years of experience). In contrast, in the second round, you'll be interviewed by Partners (+10 years of experience) who are more likely to ask you tougher questions.

In theory, the firm takes into account your performance at both first- and second-round interviews when making final offer decisions. However, in practice, your performance during the second round carries more weight.

This is simply because Partners will have a stronger voice when the recruiting group discusses your application. It is therefore particularly important that you do well at your second-round interviews.

Step 2. Learn an answer method for each case interview component

We have analysed hundreds of case interviews over the past few years. And the vast majority of them are structured using the six components that we already mentioned.

The key to success is therefore clear:

If you learn how to consistently crack each component individually, then you will be able to crack case interviews as a whole.

Let's get into the first one.

2.1 Case prompt

The objective of a case interview is for you to solve a business problem. So, during the first few minutes of the interview, your interviewers will lay out the situation of the company you're trying to help. This is called the prompt.

Case prompt example

Your client is a car manufacturer whose profits have been going down. The CEO hired you to help turn the situation around. 

You should always begin this part of the interview by summarising the situation back to your interviewers to ensure you’ve properly understood the most important details.

Then you can begin asking follow-up questions. 

In this example, you might want to ask follow-up questions like these: 

  • How much have profits been declining?
  • When did the decline begin? 
  • What is the nature of the decline? Have they been declining at 1% per year for the past 5 years, or is it a recent and sudden 20% drop? 
  • What’s the CEO’s objective? For example, are they aiming to just stop the profit decline or do they want to reverse the trend?

The answer to these questions will significantly influence how you solve the case. This part of the case interview aims to test your listening skills and whether you are taking the time to make sure you understand a problem before trying to solve it.

Now here is a summary of the steps you should take in reaction to the case prompt to set yourself up for a successful answer:

Case prompt - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Play back the company’s situation
    • Confirm your understanding
    • Emphasise key elements
  • Step 2: Define and state the objective of the case
    • In scope vs out of scope
    • Quantify

2.2  Framework development

Once the situation has been established from the case prompt, the second step is to develop a framework.  

Framework development question example

What are the different areas you would look at to identify the cause of declining profits and turn the situation around?

In the car manufacturer example, your framework could have one branch on revenues and one branch on costs. By definition, profits will have gone down because of declining revenues, increasing costs, or both. And you need to look at both sides of the equation for your analysis to be comprehensive.

During a case interview, it often helps to literally draw your framework out on a piece of paper. This will help you organise your thoughts, and it will also help you explain your thinking to the interviewer because you can simply show them the paper and walk them through the details. 

framework development for case interviews - diagram

A common mistake a lot of candidates make is to memorise specific frameworks and reuse them as-is in their interviews. Interviewers immediately spot and penalise candidates who do this because the objective of the framework question is to test your creativity and business acumen – not your ability to memorise frameworks!

As a result, you should focus your energy on learning to develop customised frameworks that address the information you gather in each case interview.

This might sound a little bit intimidating at first, but it becomes easy with practice.

Here’s an overview of the process you can use to solve any framework development question you encounter in your interviews:

Framework development - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Ask for time to gather your thoughts
  • Step 2: Create the framework
    • Extract the main elements from the case question
    • Break down the main elements into components
  • Step 3: Communicate the framework
    • Spin your paper around
    • Begin with an overview
    • Highlight 3-5 considerations for each branch
    • Summarise your points
    • Prioritise next steps

2.3 Framework exploration

Once you’ve set up your framework, your interviewer will sometimes ask you to identify the root cause of the issue faced by your client. This is what we call the framework exploration component.

It’s worth mentioning that McKinsey usually doesn’t ask you to do this, but other firms such as BCG, Bain, etc. might do.

Framework exploration example

Can you explore your framework to find the root cause of the profits issue faced by the company?

The best method for identifying the root cause within a case is to explore your framework using a hypothesis-led approach.

For example, you might start by saying: “My initial hypothesis is that the profits issue faced by the company is driven by revenues.” You would then investigate the revenue side of your framework to identify if that’s where the root cause of the issue is. If revenues have been stable and are not the cause of the issue, you would then update your hypothesis and move on to the cost side.

For an example of this hypothesis-led approach, check out the BCG & Bain case extract we recorded previously: 

 

Since this method is focused on identifying the root cause, you can't get framework exploration questions in cases without an underlying issue. For example, it won’t come up in market entry or new product launch cases. 

To summarise, here’s the repeatable process you can use for solving framework exploration questions:

Framework exploration - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Make a hypothesis
    • Pick a framework branch
    • Hypothesise that the branch is the root cause of the problem
  • Step 2: Ask for information to test your hypothesis
    • If hypothesis is invalid: cross out the branch and update your hypothesis
    • If hypothesis is valid: continue digging down

2.4 Quantitative questions

In each case interview, you will likely have to solve quantitative questions. The aim of these questions is to assess how comfortable you are solving problems with data. Broadly speaking, there are two types of quantitative questions:

2.4.1 Quantitative question with data provided

The first is quant questions where you will be provided with data. This data usually comes in the form of graphs and tables or can also be provided by your interviewer orally.

Quantitative question with data provided example

Data provided: table with volume and price for top cars sold by the company.

What do you think is happening with revenues based on the data available in this table?

This is the stage of case interviews where it becomes essential for you to be quick and accurate with mental maths. 

Almost every candidate will need a mathematics refresher prior to their interviews. Plus, there are some handy shortcuts you can learn to help you make calculations more easily. Check out our free case interview maths guide to learn more.  

Here are the 4 steps that we recommend you take for each quantitative question you encounter:

Quantitative questions - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Map out your calculations in advance
  • Step 2: Do the calculations
    • Make data assumptions (only if necessary)
  • Step 3: Sense check your results (optional)
  • Step 4: Relate back to the initial question and suggest next steps

2.4.2 Quantitative question with no data provided

The second type of quantitative question is where you are not provided with any data.  

Quantitative question with no data provided example

Could you estimate the market size for cars in the US by making assumptions?

This is the other type of question that isn’t typically used by McKinsey (this one and framework exploration), but other firms like BCG and Bain do ask this type of question.

The process for solving a quant question without any data is exactly the same as solving a quant question with data, except now you’ll be using the sub-step under step 2 below: 

Quantitative questions - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Map out your calculations in advance
  • Step 2: Do the calculations
    • Make data assumptions (only if necessary)
  • Step 3: Sense check your results (optional)
  • Step 4: Relate back to the initial question and suggest next steps

If you’re not sure where to start with making data estimations, then we’d encourage you to study the process described in our market sizing question guide

2.5 Creativity questions

At some point during your interview, you will also be tested on your creativity. This type of question is very open-ended. There are no right or wrong answers. 

Creativity question example

Now that we know that the profit decline is driven by a decrease in number of SUVs sold, what are some of the ideas you have to turn the situation around?

Creativity questions aim to test your ability to generate new ideas and solutions in a pressured environment, but you need to do this in a structured way, rather than just throwing some ideas around.

Here’s the basic process for answering a creativity question systematically:

Creativity questions - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Ask for time to gather your thoughts
  • Step 2: Brainstorm within a mini-framework
  • Step 3: Prioritise your ideas and highlight potential risks

2.6 Recommendation

The last component of every case interview is the recommendation. As the name suggests, this is the part of the interview where you’ll be asked to summarise your findings and explain what the client should do.

Recommendation example

The CEO of the car manufacturer gives you a call and asks you for your final recommendation.

What would you say?

For instance, you might recommend that your client solves their profit issue by launching new products that can increase revenues. 

Regardless of what you recommend, there is a particular structure that you should use to deliver a thoughtful recommendation. Here it is: 

Recommendation - IGotAnOffer method

  • Step 1: Ask for time to gather your thoughts
  • Step 2: Give your recommendation first
  • Step 3: Then provide 3-5 supporting arguments
  • Step 4: Outline next steps and potential risks

Step 3. Solve practice cases (33 free example cases)

The best way to master the case interview process we've outlined above is to practise with realistic example cases. 

Below are several example cases for leading consultancies to get you started.

3.1 McKinsey case interview examples

 

3.2 BCG case interview examples

 

3.3 Bain case interview examples

 

3.4 Deloitte case interview examples

3.5 Other case interview examples

 

If your target firm isn't included above, or if you want even more practice cases, check out our list of 47 case interview examples. This list includes free cases for other firms like Accenture, Oliver Wyman, PWC, Roland Berger, etc. There are several more McKinsey cases there as well.

Step 4. Improve your case interview technique

Interviewing is a skill in itself, and that applies even more so when you're in a case interview. So once you've practised using the methods we outlined above, take the time to polish your interview technique and make sure you're following these best practices:

Tip #1: Listen carefully and ask clarification questions

At the beginning of the case, your interviewer will lay out the situation of the company you are trying to help (e.g.: Coca-Cola's profits have decreased by 10% over the past 12 months). Your job in that part of the interview is to make sure that you understand the situation correctly by asking the right clarification questions (e.g.: In which countries have profits declined? And for which products?).

This is what partners at McKinsey and other firms do with clients. They sit down with them, listen carefully to the problem they have, and ask clarification questions before trying to solve the problem. They do this because it's impossible to solve a business problem you don't understand in detail. And you should therefore follow a similar approach in your cases.

Tip #2: Structure, structure, structure

Once you understand the situation in detail, your interviewer will expect you to put together a framework that you will use to solve the problem your client is facing. For instance, if your client is facing a profits issue, your interviewer will expect you to look into 1) potential revenue issues and 2) potential cost issues because profits issues can be due to one or both of these factors.

Consultants use frameworks to structure their thinking all the time because it's client-friendly. If you don't solve the problem in a structured way, your client will probably lose track of what you are doing and be unhappy. If you solve it in a structured way, they will know what you are working on at all times and feel that you have things under control. Interviews are the same. If you structure your approach and communicate in a structured way, you'll have a happy interviewer!

Tip #3: Don't reuse frameworks

We mentioned this in section 2 but it's worth repeating because so many candidates fall into this trap: don't reuse generic frameworks. As we explain in our case frameworks guide, interviewers will immediately notice if you do this and you will get penalised. Each case is unique, and you should therefore create a custom framework for every case you do. This might sound difficult, but it actually isn't if you take the right approach.

Tip #4: Think before speaking

Consultants sell advice. Once you have said something, it's hard to take it back. One of the things you learn as a junior consultant is to think first, decide how you are going to say what you want to say, and then finally say it. If you can do that well in your interviews, it will truly set you apart. In practice, it means that you should take some time to organise your thoughts before speaking and that you should avoid jumping to conclusions.

Tip #5: Try to convey confidence

We know this one is hard, but conveying confidence can make a big difference in your interviews. We all have doubts, and we are all stressed when we interview. It's perfectly normal. But you should try to keep these doubts and stress to yourself. You should try to look your interviewer in the eye and speak as confidently as possible. Conveying confidence is a core consulting skill and if you can do it in your interviews, it will take you a long way!

Tip #6: Brush up your maths

Virtually all case interviews involve doing maths computations without a calculator. Having rusty maths at the beginning of your preparation is normal. But in our experience, successful candidates take some time to brush up their maths when they start practicing. You should take the time to refresh your memory and be 100% comfortable doing basic additions, subtractions, divisions, multiplications, and growth rate calculations mentally. We really encourage you to take the time to do this. Trust us, it's worth it!

Tip #7: Don't calculate silently

When you're on the numerical part of the case, it can be tempting to go quiet as you do calculations in your head. This is a mistake. "It's much better if you can keep your interviewer engaged in your thought process and speak your calculations out loud", says Garvit (ex-interviewer at EY).

Tip #8: Draw conclusions

As we mentioned above, consultants get paid for their advice. One of the things clients hate is to pay a large sum of money and not get a clear answer about their problem. Even if they are halfway through the project, consultants avoid telling their clients: "We don't know yet." What they say instead is: "Based on what we have seen so far, our current hypothesis is that the profit decline you are experiencing is mainly driven by the Chinese market. We think this is the case for 3 reasons. Reason #1 is etc."

You need to do the same thing in your cases. At the end of the interview, your interviewer will ask for your conclusion. You can't dodge the question. You've got to give a clear answer with supporting arguments based on what you have learned doing the analysis. The trick is to caveat your answer with a sentence such as "Based on this initial analysis, etc." And to also highlight additional areas to explore to confirm that your current understanding is the right one.

Tip #9: Catch the hints

99% of interviewers have good intentions. They're here to help you perform at your best. During your interviews, they will give you hints about whether you are doing well or not. If they try to steer you in a direction, follow them - they're trying to help you. This might sound obvious, but candidates sometimes get so stressed out that they don't pick up on the hints interviewers give them.

Tip #10: Read up on business events

To pass a case interview, you don't necessarily need to be up to date on the latest business deals, but you can sometimes impress the interviewer if you bring in real-world knowledge. "I recommend to candidates that they try and know a bit about everything. Understanding current business and economic trends can help," says Adrian (ex-BCG interviewer).

Demonstrating interest and an ability to discuss business topics can also help answer fit or PEI questions, which we'll cover below.

Tip #11: Do targeted drills as well as mocks

You'll want to do plenty of mock interviews as part of your preparation, but don't think that you should only practise full-length interviews. John (ex-Bain manager) recommends doing targeted drills to ensure you are improving on your blind spots. He says, "For example, if you are consistently strong at chart clearing and brainstorming, but you tend to omit key points in your framework and often make one or two math mistakes, you need to focus on specific exercises targeting framework improvement and math accuracy.

Step 5. Prepare answers to fit and PEI questions

During case interviews, you'll typically be asked a few behavioural questions in addition to the case-related questions we covered above. So, in order for your overall case interview to be successful, you'll need to be prepared to answer behavioural questions. 

Behavioural interview questions can be categorised into two buckets:

  • Fit questions. These are generic questions such as “Why consulting?” or “Why McKinsey / BCG / Bain?”
  • Personal experience interview (PEI) questions. These are questions such as “Tell me about a time when you led a team through a difficult situation,” or “Tell me about a time when you had to manage a team conflict” 

All firms ask a mix of these two types of questions, but some are more focused on one type than others. For instance, McKinsey almost exclusively asks personal experience interview questions. But Bain tends to put much more focus on typical fit questions such as “Why Bain?

fit and pei questions

While case questions are used to assess your problem-solving skills, fit and PEI questions are more focused on the three other attributes consulting firms look for: leadership abilities, entrepreneurial drive, and personal impact.

So what specific questions do you need to prepare for? We have analysed hundreds of interview questions on Glassdoor.com for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain and have summarised the most common questions below. 

5.1 Top 5 fit questions (and how to answer them)

top 5 fit questions consulting

Let’s walk through the top 5 fit questions you will come across in your interviews and briefly discuss each of them.

Please note that the percentages listed below are of total fit questions. For instance, for 100 fit questions, 26 will be “Why firm X?” As mentioned above, the balance between fit questions and PEI questions varies from firm to firm.

#1 Why firm X? (26% of fit questions)

If you've applied to BCG (for example), they'll want to know why you prefer their firm, and not McKinsey, Bain, or another company (even though you may have applied to them also!).

It's important to prepare an answer to this question that is totally unique to your target firm. This can be challenging if you don't think through it carefully because many consultancies (especially MBB) have a lot in common. 

For this reason, it's really useful to talk to consultants you've met about their firms, or to look at specific projects that your target firm has done. That will help you get more unique information that's not going to be the same across multiple firms. To learn more about preparing an answer for this type of question, visit our guides on the Why McKinsey / Why Bain / Why BCG questions.

#2 Why consulting? (24% of fit questions)

Consulting is an intense job. Consulting firms will therefore want to check that you have actually done your homework and that you have thought about why you want to be a consultant.

There are many great reasons to go into consulting. But here are our three favourite ones:

  • You will work for senior execs early in your career. This opportunity is unique. In most industry jobs, you have to wait for many years to have the same level of exposure to CEOs / CFOs.
  • You will learn a lot - very quickly. Changing industry and project every 3-6 months is one of the things that make the job challenging. But it also means your rate of learning will be much higher than in other industry jobs.
  • You will work with bright people. Getting into consulting is hard and as a result, your teammates will be extremely intelligent people. Consulting is one of the most stimulating environments you can be in.

#3 Introduce yourself / Walk me through your resume (14% of fit questions)

This question is a great opportunity to summarise what you have done in the past in a way that illustrates how you would make a great consultant. For instance, you could say something like:

“I’m Chris, I’m currently doing a master’s degree in economics at Cambridge. I think I’ve done three things in my studies/career so far that are relevant to consulting and motivated me to apply for this job. First, etc. ”

You could then summarise the three most relevant points on your consulting resume.

Read our detailed guide on how best to answer this question: 4 ways to answer "Walk me through your resume"

#4 Tell me something that’s not on your resume (6% of fit questions)

This question is particularly popular at Bain, and it helps your interviewers get to know you on a more personal level. They are trying to find out what kind of fun stuff you do outside of work. It could literally be anything: playing sports, being part of a band, writing a book, etc.

Exactly WHAT you do outside of work doesn't matter as much as HOW you do it. Your interviewer will be looking for signs that you are pursuing that activity with passion, drive, and intensity.

For instance, imagine you say that you love basketball and you've set up a team with your friends, with matches and training every week. This shows passion, commitment, and organization skills, and suggests good social skills.

By contrast, imagine that you say you play basketball once or twice a month. Okay, it shows you're not a complete couch potato. But it doesn't really give the interviewer much else to go on and doesn't show passion or drive.

#5 Tell me about your greatest accomplishment (4% of fit questions)

Unless your interviewer specifies that it’s ok to talk about an accomplishment outside of work/university, you should stick to these two areas.

A great answer will focus on a recent achievement that’s relevant to the skills you need to be a good management consultant.

The best thing to do for this question is to reuse one of the stories you will be preparing for Personal Experience Interview questions, which we will cover later in this guide.

#6 Other (26% of fit questions)

Finally, there is a long list of other fit questions that consulting firms ask, but they're not as common as the ones we've covered above.

If you have time towards the end of your preparation, after you've prepared thoroughly for case questions and the most common fit/PEI questions, we suggest coming back to the following additional fit questions:

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses? (3% of fit questions)
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (3% of fit questions)
  • What do consultants do, in your opinion? (2% of fit questions)
  • Why do you want to work for this specific office? (2% of fit questions)

5.2 Top 5 PEI questions

pei questions case interview

Personal experience interview questions are different from fit questions because they are less generic. They aim at testing the SPECIFIC skills you need to be a good management consultant.

Here are the main five themes that you're likely to encounter in these personal experience interview questions:

#1 Leading others (23% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you led a team through a difficult challenge

To answer questions about leadership, you'll want to be ready with examples of specific steps you took to solve a problem. It's good to emphasise teamwork and collaboration, but you need to be sure to outline your role as a leader and demonstrate that you're capable of making difficult decisions.

Don't feel you have to use an example where you were a designated leader. It can be just as effective to use an example where you took the lead even though it wasn't explicitly your responsibility to do so.

At the end of your answer, reflect on what this experience taught you about leadership and how it made you a better leader.

#2 Managing a team conflict/situation (22% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you worked in a team and had to manage a conflict

Here you'll want to emphasise your approach of active listening, open communication, and impartiality. If you have experience working as a manager, demonstrate that you had processes in place for conflict resolution.

Showcase how you fostered teamwork and collaboration to find a mutually beneficial resolution.

#3 Managing a personal conflict (21% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a colleague / your boss

Consulting firms are high-pressure environments, and professional disagreements are inevitable. The interviewer wants to see that you're honest enough to say so when you disagree with something, but that you also know when to give way when necessary.

It's probably easier to use a work-based disagreement in your example rather than talking about a clash of personalities, as the latter may end up giving the impression that you are difficult to deal with.

Demonstrate that you are a good listener and empathetic even when you disagree. Talk about specific steps you took to resolve the conflict and the lessons you learned.

#4 Influencing others (17% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you changed the mind of a group of people/an individual

Persuasion is a key skill for a consultant. You'll need to persuade clients to adopt your recommendations, and you'll need to persuade team members that your strategies are the right ones.

Your interviewer will know that persuasion starts not with talking, but with listening. So a good answer might talk about how you took steps to properly understand why person X was convinced of Y, and then by addressing each of their concerns, you were able to convince them of Z.

#5 Overcoming challenges (11% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a challenge you had to push yourself hard to overcome

Consulting firms want to hire people who will go the extra mile to get the job done well, and who rise to the challenge rather than feel out of their depth.

Choose an example of when you stepped out of your comfort zone. Describe how you sought additional resources, thought outside the box, invested extra time and effort, or even asked for help, in order to overcome the challenge.

If you're short on relevant work experience, feel free to use an example from university, sports, or any other personal project. The important thing here is to show that you're a resourceful problem-solver and are mentally strong in the face of setbacks.

#6 Other (7%)

See examples of what the "other" questions might be in our consulting interview questions guide.

5.3 How to prepare PEI stories

People remember stories. On the day of your interview, your interviewer will see six to eight other candidates, so you need to build memorable stories that will make you stand out.

There are multiple ways to tell a story, but we like to keep things relatively simple with the framework below:

  • Situation: start by giving the necessary context
  • Problem: outline the problem you / your team faced
  • Solution: explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem
  • Impact: if possible, quantify the impact you had in solving the problem
  • Lessons: conclude with any lessons you learned in the process

Using this framework as a guide, we recommend preparing five specific stories that you can use to answer PEI questions during your interviews. 

By using this story-driven approach, you can typically use your stories for different types of questions, which will help you be ready regardless of the specific PEI questions you encounter. 

If you are preparing for McKinsey, we would also encourage you to read our article on McKinsey PEI questions. The same five themes we covered above are used by McKinsey, but in slightly different proportions. And we also share common mistakes to avoid in that article.

Step 6. Practise answering questions out loud

Your answers to behavioural and case questions are important, but your interviewers will also be evaluating how you COMMUNICATE your answers. It's important to speak in a structured way and to avoid drifting off-topic or spending too much time on each question. 

We recommend that you practise by interviewing yourself out loud. Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking the questions and answering them, just like you would in an interview. 

This may sound strange, but it will help you master the rhythm of case interviews. It will also help you to memorise the key details of your answers to behavioural questions, without any crutches (like notes, glancing at your resume, etc.). 

Do your best to replicate the conditions of a real case interview as much as you can. It might help to look in a mirror while you're giving your answers. You may even find it helpful to practise in the same clothes you intend to wear to your interview

As you go through this process, if you'd like a broader list of questions to practise with, you can check out our consulting interview questions article.

Step 7. Do 30+ mock interviews

Practising by yourself is critical, but we all have gaps that we won't be able to identify without a partner that can see our performance more objectively. 

As a result, we recommend that you do as many mock interviews as possible before your interviews. We've found that most successful consulting candidates do 30+ mock interviews to prepare.

This probably sounds like a lot, and it is, but case interviews are a skill that is developed with experience.

7.1 Do mock interviews with friends and family

First, you can practise case interviews with friends, colleagues, or family. 

These are great ways to catch communication mistakes, but at some point, you'll probably notice that the feedback you are getting isn't helping that much anymore. 

Once you reach that stage, we recommend practising with ex-interviewers from top consultancies.

7.2 Do mock interviews with ex-interviewers

If you know a consultant who has experience running interviews at a top consulting firm, that's fantastic. Practise with them as much as you can!

But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practise multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practise 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc. Book your consulting mock interview in a few clicks.

 

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