Monday, October 12, 2009

1st Round Interviews at BCG

Between the time I had been invited to interview with BCG and the actual interview itself, I practiced case-studies like it was my job. I probably did 30+ cases a week for 6+ weeks. I went to our consulting club's case practice sessions on Monday and Wednesday nights, read cases when I was at work, read cases while I watched TV, and had my wife give me cases every night and a few times on the weekends.

My interview was at 9:45 am at the Boston office on August 14th. I got a cab in the morning ( I sometimes get headaches on public transportation and this was not a good time for a headache) and got to the exchange building at around 8:30. I got a bottle of water and a banana at the coffee shop in lobby of the building and started to go over some flashcards with frameworks on them. I had already memorized all of the frameworks months ago and knew them backwards and did help me get in the mood. I also made up a few simple profit margin questions and did the math quickly on a piece of paper to get the juices flowing. I sketched out the answers to personal interview questions---leadership, teamwork, failures, successes...that kind of thing. Once I had done that, I got my badge and headed up to the 31st floor to find the BCG offices.

I got in the office and was handed a set of bio's for the 2 folks that were going to interview me. One had just been promoted to project manager and the other was a principal. Both had very impressive backgrounds...MBAs from HBS and Wharton respectively. A piece of advice I had been given prior to this interview was to find something interesting in the interviewer's bio's to talk about with them on the way back to the interview. This makes sense if you think about it. Strike up a conversation...get them talking and keep them talking...establish some repose. The idea is that this congenial conversation will carry over into the interview and that the interview will become more conversational...they may even end up giving you help without even realizing it and undoubtedly you will have a more positive review if they felt they related well to you.

My first interview was pretty straight forward. The guy I was interviewing with had worked at Microsoft before coming to BCG (now a project manager)...I asked him if he was based in Seattle and talked about the hiking and outdoor activities in Washington and asked him how he liked it. Once we got into the interview, we talked a little bit about my resume. He asked me to describe a leadership experience. I talked about leading a small group of 5 people in a volunteer consulting project that we had undertaken to help a local 503(c) non-profit group develop their strategy to move forward. I talked about having to bring out new ideas in a diverse group of people and having to make sure the group reached consensus. That seemed to be taken pretty well and we moved on to the case.

The first case I got was a case involving a large office supply store. I was supposed to think of the store as something like an Office Max. The store had seen steady profits for 20 years, but recently started to see a decline and profits and thought it was because the industry trends were moving towards selling more computers and computer related accessories and focusing less on tranditional paper, pencils, and office furniture. He asked if I thought that shifting our focus towards computers and computer related goods was a smart move.

We talked about the general implications of the move some. I considered it analagous to an "entering a new market" question so asked all the questions about the market, the competition, the margins, barriers, how it would effect our existing business, etc.. Once we got past some of the general considerations, I was shown a number of charts. I was asked directly to calculate some profit margins for different products. Next we moved on to looking at some charts detailing the competition in the computer markets and another chart with the margins for computer sales (margins were different for different computers...high end vs. low end). Using those numbers I made the decision to enter the market with mid to high end computers (better margins and less competition from mass retailers). We then talked about how to rebrand the store to shift the focus from traditional office supplies to computers. All in all....not too bad. I didn't get stuck anywhere and kept the case moving and he didn't correct me at any point so I left thinking it was just OK....if I had to grade it, I would say B to B-.

We spent the rest of the time with me asking questions. What do you think makes someone successful at BCG, work life balance, favorite case, training when you start...that kind of thing. Then I was walked down the hall for case #2!


  1. What was the result? I just finished my 1st round as well...

  2. Did you have to do a 'Computer based Case study' or do you know what this implies? Is it just a fancy world for a numerical/analytical test, or is it an actual case study?
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, hope you got the job!

  3. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

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    Best rgs