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McKinsey Case Interview Guide 2024 (by former Interviewers)

the image is the cover for the mckinsey case interview or problem solving interview article

Last Updated on March 27, 2024

The McKinsey case interview, also called the Problem-Solving Interview by the firm, is a crucial and defining element of the consulting recruitment process for one of the world’s most prestigious management consulting firms. This unique type of interview assesses a candidate’s analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills, as well as their ability to think critically under pressure.

With a reputation for being challenging and rigorous, the McKinsey case interview is often seen as a significant hurdle for aspiring consultants to overcome. Forbes ranked McKinsey’s interview process as the most difficult across all firms globally and the case plays a crucial role in that evaluation, besides the Personal Experience Interview .

Recognizing the importance of thorough preparation, this article aims to become the go-to resource for candidates worldwide who are seeking to excel in the McKinsey case interview and want to kickstart their McKinsey careers. By providing comprehensive insights, practical tips, and concrete examples, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and confidence required to stand out in the competitive world of management consulting.

As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in helping our candidates to effectively tackle this part of the McKinsey assessment. We found that the information on the McKinsey application process and specifically the case interviews is often wrong, outdated, or assumed to be the same as for every other consulting firm, and written by ‘experts’, who have never conducted an interview at McKinsey or even seen a McKinsey office from the inside.

As a consequence, the advice given can be detrimental to your recruiting success with the firm.

In this article, we want to shed some light on this mysterious, often-talked-about, even more often misunderstood interview. For those overcoming McKinsey case interview challenges, our article serves as a comprehensive guide, infused with McKinsey interview tips and tailored strategies that resonate with interviewers.

McKinsey’s Interview Process

Overview of the recruitment process.

Discover advanced techniques for McKinsey case studies and understand the McKinsey interview process, setting a solid foundation for your case interview preparation. The McKinsey recruitment process typically consists of the following stages:

  • Application submission: Candidates submit their resume , cover letter , and academic transcripts online.
  • Online assessments: Selected candidates may be invited to complete an online assessment, the McKinsey Solve Game (previously known as the Imbellus test, or Problem Solving Game/PSG)
  • First-round interviews: Successful candidates progress to first-round interviews, which typically involve two separate interviews, each consisting of a Personal Experience Interview (PEI) and a case interview.
  • Final-round interviews: Candidates who excel in the first round are invited to final-round interviews, which usually consist of two to three separate interviews with more senior McKinsey consultants or partners, again featuring a PEI and a case interview in each session.
  • Offer decision: Following the final round, the interviewers of the firm decide on whether to extend an offer to the candidate.

the image is a table that dissects the mckinsey assessment process that follows the resume screening. it looks at the solve game and the interview rounds

The Personal Experience Interview (PEI)

The Personal Experience Interview (PEI) is a critical component of McKinsey’s interview process. During the PEI, the interviewer will ask the candidate to share a specific example from their past experiences that demonstrates one of McKinsey’s core values, such as leadership, personal impact, or the ability to deal with change. Candidates should prepare concise and compelling stories that highlight their achievements, challenges faced, and the lessons learned. The PEI aims to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills, self-awareness, and overall fit with McKinsey’s culture.

To read more on this part of the interview, follow these links:

McKinsey Personal Experience Interview

McKinsey PEI: Courageous Change

McKinsey PEI: Inclusive Leadership

McKinsey PEI: Personal Impact

The Case Interview (Problem-Solving Interview)

The case interview is the centerpiece of McKinsey’s interview process. In this interview, the candidate is presented with a real-life or hypothetical business problem, which they must analyze and solve. The interviewer will assess the candidate’s ability to structure the problem, analyze data, generate insights, and communicate recommendations effectively.

During the case interview, candidates should exhibit strong problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills, as well as the ability to think critically under pressure. Preparing for the case interview involves practicing a variety of cases, developing essential skills, and understanding the McKinsey case interview framework (more on that below).

How to prepare for McKinsey case interviews encompasses more than just understanding consulting case frameworks; it involves a deep dive into McKinsey case interview examples and solutions.

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Understanding the McKinsey Case Interview

What is a case interview.

A case interview is a unique type of job interview that tests a candidate’s ability to analyze, solve, and communicate complex business problems. During a case interview, the interviewer presents a real-life or hypothetical business scenario, and the candidate is expected to analyze the situation, identify the key issues, and propose a strategic solution. The case interview format allows the interviewer to evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving, analytical, and interpersonal skills, which are essential for a successful career in management consulting.

Why does McKinsey use case interviews?

McKinsey & Company uses case interviews as a key component of its recruitment process for several reasons. First, the case interview format closely simulates the work environment and tasks that consultants face daily, providing the firm with a more accurate assessment of a candidate’s potential performance. Second, case interviews allow McKinsey to evaluate a candidate’s ability to think critically, structure complex problems, and communicate effectively under pressure – skills that are crucial for consultants who must deliver high-quality solutions to clients. Lastly, case interviews serve as a consistent and objective measure of a candidate’s capabilities, enabling the firm to compare candidates from diverse backgrounds fairly and accurately.

Regarding the last point, McKinsey invests significantly into creating an objective recruitment procedure with the cases. Interviewers are selected from the top performers of the firm, go through rigorous interviewer training, and shadow other interviewers in live interviews before being allowed to conduct interviews themselves.

Cases are created in a thorough training seminar based on stringent criteria that standardize difficulty levels across the globe. Also, the interviewer-led format allows for a more objective evaluation compared to the candidate-led format employed by most other firms. More on that next.

What is different in McKinsey’s interview format?

The McKinsey Problem Solving Interview is a typical case interview as it is employed by most consulting firms to test the analytical capabilities and communication skills of applicants. However, it comes with a twist. The interview simulates a client situation, where you are tasked to solve a specific business problem that they are facing.

You will have to answer a succession of several questions rather than driving the case yourself as would be the case in other consulting firms. Within the interview, which is a dialogue between you and the interviewer, you need to structure problems, propose concrete ideas, gather information, spot insights in data and charts, solve quantitative problems, and communicate professionally and calmly.

The case is the hardest part for most candidates since it involves several different skills that need to be demonstrated consistently across all questions and multiple cases in succession. Depending on the office, applicants need to go through four to six case interviews before receiving an offer. They need to convince the interviewers in all cases to start their McKinsey careers.

Types of cases you may encounter

During a McKinsey case interview, candidates may encounter a variety of case types that cover different industries, functions, and challenges. The following is just a selection of potential case problems that you would need to solve.

  • Market entry: Evaluating the attractiveness of entering a new market or launching a new product or service.
  • Growth strategy: Identifying opportunities for a company to grow its revenue, market share, or profitability.
  • Mergers and acquisitions: Assessing the feasibility and potential value of merging with or acquiring another company.
  • Cost reduction: Identifying areas for cost savings and efficiency improvements in a company’s operations or supply chain.
  • Pricing strategy: Determining the optimal pricing structure for a product or service to maximize revenue or profit.
  • Organizational restructuring: Evaluating changes to a company’s organizational structure or management processes to improve performance.
  • Operational improvements: Figure out and improve operational issues.

While the specifics of each case may differ, the core skills required to tackle these cases – such as structuring, data analysis, and problem-solving – remain consistent across all case types.

On top of that, McKinsey cases have become much more creative over the last couple of years, hence, using memorized and established frameworks will never serve you well . Rather it is important to approach every McKinsey case from a first-principles approach. While you might expect a case in a market entry context, it is almost guaranteed that you will have to create a non-standard case framework.

Consider as a case context an EV manufacturer that wants to enter the Chinese market.

What most candidates expect the framework question to look like: What factors would you look at when deciding whether to enter the Chinese EV market?

How an actual McKinsey framework question could look like: What key product characteristics would you consider and analyze when looking at the Chinese EV market?

No standardized framework would help you in this situation.

For instance, consider another real McKinsey case example.

You are working with an operator of a specific type of machines. They break down at different rates at different locations. What factors can you think of why that would happen? Example of a McKinsey Case Interview Structure Questions

There is not a single memorized framework bucket that would work here.

Let us look at an example answer for this prompt.

mckinsey case studies interview

Less than 1% of candidates make it through the recruiting filters of McKinsey. You want to provide insights that the interviewer has not heard before and not be just like the other 99% that fail to impress.

Learning how to deconstruct problems is the key to success, not memorizing outdated approaches and frameworks of yesteryear.

What is the Format of the McKinsey Case?

A typical McKinsey case follows the PEI in a one-hour interview session. It lasts for 25 to 30 minutes in an interviewer-led format , meaning that the interviewer takes the lead and guides you through the case. Your role as the interviewee is to answer the questions asked by the interviewer before they move on to the next question. While it is the interviewer’s responsibility to provide hints and move you through the different questions, you should take the lead with each question.

Depending on your performance and speed, you will be asked three to six questions . Question types are:

  • Structuring / Initial Case Framework
  • Data and Chart Analysis
  • Structuring / Brainstorming

Recommendations are usually not part of the evaluation, though they might come up now and then.

Only receiving three questions is a positive sign since the interviewer was happy with your answers to each question. Going above three questions usually happens when the interviewer wants to dig deeper into a specific question type to see if the quality of a previous answer to a similar question was just an outlier or can be confirmed with a second question.

Most candidates need more than three questions to convince the interviewer, so don’t be scared when your case gets a little bit longer and consists of more than three questions.

Some offices also offer a McKinsey phone case interview as a first screening device, which follows the same structure as an in-person interview.

Is the McKinsey Case Interview Different From a BCG or Bain Interview?

While there are many similarities between McKinsey interviews and interviews with other firms, McKinsey interviews are interviewer-led, while other firms employ a candidate-led format .

McKinsey, BCG, and Bain cases have certain things in common:

  • The elements of the cases are the same. You will have to structure problems, interpret exhibits, and work through some calculations, come up with recommendations or implications, etc.
  • The skills that are assessed are the same. You need to exhibit strong problem-solving skills, creativity, ability to work under pressure, top-down communication, etc.

However, there is one key difference:

  • In interviewer-led cases, you take ownership of every question and go into greater detail here, while the interviewer guides you from question to question. In the interviewee-led case, you drive the whole case and have to move along, get the correct information to work with by asking the right questions, and analyze the problem to then deduct a recommendation

In a McKinsey case, the interviewer will guide you through a series of connected questions that you need to answer, synthesize, and develop recommendations from. There are clear directions and a flow of questions, which you need to answer with a hypothesis-driven mindset . These are arguably easier to prepare for and to go through since the flow and types of questions will always be the same.

For McKinsey case interview examples, check the available interviewer-led cases  here .

In a candidate-led BCG case interview or Bain case interview, due to the nature of your role as an investigator, it is much easier to get lost, walk down the wrong branch of the issue tree, and waste a ton of time. While the interviewers will try to influence you to move in the right direction (pay attention to their hints), it is still up to you what elements of the problem you would like to analyze. Each answer should lead to a new question (hypothesis-driven) on your quest to find the root cause of the problem to come up with a recommendation on how to overcome it.

Nonetheless, it is not necessarily easier to convince a McKinsey interviewer, since your answers need to stand out in terms of breadth, depth, and insightfulness. You have more time to develop and discuss each answer but expectations about the quality of your answers are also heightened significantly.

For instance, in an interviewer-led case, candidates are afforded more time to elaborate on their frameworks. This demands not only a comprehensive framework but also one that delves deeper, aiming for three levels of insightful analysis. This depth showcases the candidate’s ability to think critically and provide nuanced insights. The discussion of this framework typically spans 5 to 8 minutes.

Conversely, in candidate-led cases, the strategy shifts. Here, the emphasis is on swiftly identifying and articulating the most critical areas for examination. Candidates must quickly prioritize these areas and then delve into a detailed analysis of the selected issues. This requires a concise yet targeted approach, with the initial framework discussion taking about 2 to 3 minutes. This format tests the candidate’s ability to quickly discern key areas and efficiently manage their analysis under tighter time constraints.

Questions of a McKinsey Case Interview

In the McKinsey interview you will have to answer  three different questions types  – broadly speaking:

  • Structuring (includes creating frameworks and brainstorming questions)
  • Exhibit Interpretation

Structuring

Structuring includes both the framework creation at the beginning of a case as well as answering brainstorming questions (usually at a later stage of the case).

A case interview structure is used to break the problem you are trying to solve for the client down into smaller problems or components. It is the roadmap you establish at the beginning of the interview that will guide your problem-solving approach throughout the case. A strong initial structure should cover all elements of the situation AND allow you to understand where the problem is coming from. Read more about case interview structure and frameworks here .

A common question would be:

What factors would you look at to understand the problem better? McKinsey framework question

Brainstorming has you come up with specific ideas around a certain topic (in a structured manner). Read more about brainstorming here .

What ideas can you think of that could decrease customer check-out time? McKinsey brainstorming question

Data interpretation

For chart or data interpretation , you are tasked to find the key insights of 1-2 PowerPoint slides and relate them to the case question and the client situation at hand. Read more about exhibit interpretation here .

Case math questions have you analyze a problem mathematically before qualitatively investigating the particular reason for the numerical result or deriving specific recommendations from the outcome. Read more on how to ace case math here .

How to Think About McKinsey Case Questions

Now for  structure and exhibit interpretation , there is no right or wrong answer in a McKinsey interview. Some answers are better than others because they are

  • hypothesis-driven
  • follow strong communication (MECE, top-down, signposted)

That being said, there is no 100% that you can reach or a one-and-only solution/ answer. Your answers must display the characteristics specified above and are supported well with arguments.

Though numerous strategies exist for tackling a problem, it’s crucial to understand that while there aren’t strictly right or wrong answers, not all approaches are equally effective. The misconception often lies in the belief that there’s a singular correct method, especially when constructing a framework.

In reality, you could employ over ten different strategies to analyze a case or break down a problem, potentially leading to the same analytical results. This versatility and ability to think through various lenses are precisely what McKinsey interviews aim to evaluate.

However, it’s also important to recognize that there are countless ways to miss the mark. This typically happens when your framework is either too narrow or excessively broad, lacks depth, or fails to offer meaningful insights.

As for  math questions , usually, some answers are correct (not always 100% the same since some candidates simplify or round differently – which is ok), and others are wrong, either due to the

  • calculation approach
  • calculation itself

Now, for the interviewer, the overall picture counts. Mistakes in one area need to be balanced by a strong performance in other areas. McKinsey wants to see spikes in performance in certain areas and a good enough performance in other areas.

The most common example we see almost every day: You can be strong in structure and exhibit, yet make a small mistake in the math section – overall as you might consider 80% – and still pass on to the next round.

Be aware that in 99% of cases, there is no recommendation question in the end. The case just ends with the last case question. This is something many candidates are surprised by when they get out of their McKinsey interviews.

Mastering the McKinsey Case Interview Framework

In the sequence of questions that you receive, you need to demonstrate that you can

  • identify the ask;
  • structure the problem to investigate it;
  • analyze data related to it;
  • generate insight and recommendations;
  • communicate effectively.

Problem identification

The first step in tackling a McKinsey case interview is to identify the core problem or question that needs to be addressed. Carefully listen to the case prompt and take notes, ensuring that you understand the client’s objectives, the scope of the problem, and any constraints. Clarify any uncertainties with the interviewer before moving forward.

Structuring the problem

Once you have identified the problem, develop a structured approach to address it. Break down the problem into smaller, more manageable components using logical frameworks. Tailor the chosen framework to the specific case, incorporating any unique factors or considerations. Present your structure to the interviewer, explaining your rationale and seeking their input or approval.

Data analysis and interpretation

As you proceed with your structured approach, you may be provided with additional data or information by the interviewer. Analyze the data, using quantitative techniques, such as calculating growth rates, market shares, or breakeven points, to draw meaningful insights. Be prepared to make assumptions or estimates if necessary but ensure they are reasonable and well-justified.

Generating insights and recommendations

Based on your data analysis, develop actionable insights and recommendations that address the client’s objectives. Consider the potential impact, feasibility, and risks associated with each recommendation. Think creatively and strategically, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative factors into your decision-making process.

Synthesis and communication

Finally, synthesize your findings and recommendations into a clear and concise conclusion. Use the “top-down” communication style, starting with your main recommendation, followed by the supporting evidence and insights. Demonstrate strong communication skills by articulating your thought process and recommendations persuasively and confidently. Be prepared to answer any follow-up questions from the interviewer and engage in a discussion to defend or refine your conclusions.

  • Pyramid principle communication
  • How to communicate in a case interview

In this format, McKinsey assesses in a case interview six skills that you need to demonstrate consistently in every case interview.

Skills Assessed by McKinsey

  • Problem-solving: Are you able to derive a MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) framework, breaking a problem down into smaller problems, and accurately covering all aspects of the problem?
  • Analytical rigor and logical thinking: Can you link the structure to creative thinking? Are you using a hypothesis-driven approach to your problem solving, i.e. have a clear picture of where you think the solution of the case is buried most likely? Do you qualify your thinking, follow your structure, tackle (likely) high-impact issues first, lead the interviewer, and ask the right questions?
  • Mental math and basic calculus : Are you able to structure quantitative problems and comfortably perform calculations? Can you derive the correct approach to calculate the desired outcome variable? Can you plug in the numbers and perform the calculations, relying on basic pen-and-paper math, shortcuts, and mental math?
  • Creativity: Do you think about a problem holistically, offering broad, deep, and insightful perspectives? Are you able to come up with different angles to the problem (breadth) and draft rich descriptions that qualify why these areas are important to investigate (depth)?
  • Communication: Are you able to communicate like a consultant? Are you following a top-down communication approach similar to the Pyramid Principle taught by Minto? Do all of your statements add value and do you guide the interviewer through your thinking?
  • Maturity and presence: Are you leading the conversation or are merely getting dragged along by the interviewer? Are you confident and mature? Are you comfortable with silence while taking time to structure your thinking?
  • Business sense and intuition : Are you able to quickly understand the business and the situation of the client? Can you swiftly interpret data, charts, exhibits, and statements made by the interview? Are you asking the right questions? Are you able to make sense of new information quickly and interpret it properly in the context of the case?

Now, these skills are assessed in a very specific interviewing format, which is not natural for most applicants and needs significant practice to become second nature.

the image shows a case interview evaluation sheet

You can download this scoring sheet for your case practice here .

Key Strategies to Excel in a McKinsey Case Interview

Using the mece principle.

MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) is a problem-solving principle that helps ensure your analysis is both comprehensive and well-organized. Apply the MECE principle when structuring your approach to a case by breaking down the problem into distinct, non-overlapping components while ensuring that all relevant aspects are covered. This method allows you to maintain a clear and logical structure throughout the case and reduces the likelihood of overlooking critical factors.

Applying the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle , suggests that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the context of a case interview, this means focusing on the most critical issues or factors that will have the most significant impact on the client’s objectives. By prioritizing your analysis and recommendations, you can work more efficiently and effectively, demonstrating your ability to identify and address the most pressing concerns for the client.

Hypothesis-driven approach

Using a hypothesis-driven approach means forming an initial hypothesis or educated guess about the potential solution to the problem and then testing it using data and analysis. By starting with a hypothesis, you can guide your problem-solving process more efficiently, focusing your efforts on collecting evidence that supports or refutes your hypothesis. Throughout the case, be prepared to revise or refine your hypothesis as new information emerges.

Incorporating creativity and business intuition

While frameworks and structured approaches are essential, it’s also crucial to demonstrate creativity and business intuition during a McKinsey case interview. This means thinking beyond the standard frameworks and considering innovative solutions or unique factors that may be relevant to the specific case. Use your knowledge of industry trends, best practices, and real-world business challenges to inform your analysis and recommendations. By combining structured thinking with creative problem-solving, you can showcase your ability to deliver well-rounded, impactful solutions for clients.

Preparing for the McKinsey Case Interview

Most candidates prepare using generic frameworks. Alternatively, they are looking for a McKinsey case book PDF or a case study interview questions and answers PDF with the hope that the cases will be the same across interviewers and interviews.

Do not learn case-specific frameworks by heart , expecting them to work for every case you encounter. There is no specific McKinsey case study framework or McKinsey case study book. It is much more important to learn the right approach that will help you tackle all types of cases. This is even more relevant for McKinsey interviews.

What you need to do is to study each question type and the associated skills in a case interview and learn how to approach it, regardless of the client situation, the context of the case, the industry, or the function. Your goal should be to learn how to build issue trees, interpret charts, and perform math no matter the context, industry, or function of the case, and follow our McKinsey case interview tips.

Similarly to the case types and frameworks, many candidates ask if there is a specific McKinsey implementation case interview, McKinsey operation case interview, or McKinsey digital case interview. In fact, the cases are usually a mix of cases in a domain-relevant context as well as cases set in a completely different context to the role you are applying for.

Be aware that frameworks were applicable in the 2000 years, the era of Victor Cheng and Case in Point. McKinsey has long caught up on this and the cases you will get during the interviews are tailored in a way to test your creativity and ability to generate insights on the spot, not remember specific frameworks.

In fact, it will hurt you when you try to use a framework on a case that calls for a completely different approach. Also, it gives a false sense of security that will translate to stress once you figure out how your approach won’t work during the real interview – We have seen this way too often…

Rather, focus on the following:

Developing the right mindset

Success in the McKinsey case interview starts with cultivating the right mindset. Being mentally prepared involves:

  • Embracing a growth mindset: Recognize that your skills can improve with consistent practice and effort. Stay open to feedback from coaches and peers and learn from your mistakes.
  • Building resilience: Understand that case interviews are challenging, and you may face setbacks during your preparation. Stay persistent and maintain a positive attitude. Use a proper case interview preparation plan .
  • Adopting a client-first perspective: Approach each case as if you were a consultant working on a real client engagement, focusing on delivering value and actionable insights.

Learning the essential skills

To excel in the McKinsey case interview, it’s crucial to develop the following skills:

  • Problem structuring: Break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components using frameworks and logical structures.
  • Qualitative and quantitative analysis: Interpret and analyze data to draw meaningful insights and make informed decisions.
  • Hypothesis-driven thinking: Develop and test hypotheses to guide your problem-solving approach efficiently.
  • Communication: Clearly articulate your thought process, insights, and recommendations concisely and persuasively.

Our courses and drills are designed to provide you with the precise knowledge you need. Drawing on our experience as former McKinsey interviewers, we understand what matters most and how to ensure you can leverage that to your advantage.

More on that next.

Studying relevant materials and resources

Leverage various resources to enhance your understanding of case interviews and management consulting:

  • Books: The most effective and exhaustive case interview preparation book is The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview (shameless plug). It goes much deeper than the usual suspects which are outdated and provide faulty advice on case interviews.
  • Websites and blogs : Websites like StrategyCase.com offer the latest case interview tips, practice cases, and industry insights. You can check out more free articles covering consulting applications and interviews here .
  • Online courses: Enroll in case interview preparation courses to gain structured guidance and access to a wealth of practice materials. We have created several high-quality courses for all elements of the McKinsey interview (see below)

We are the highest ranked and most successful case coaches on the web and have helped 100s of candidates break into McKinsey. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in getting our candidates into the firm. We can help you by

  • tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet McKinsey’s standards
  • showing you how to pass the McKinsey Imbellus Solve Game
  • showing you how to ace McKinsey interviews and the PEI with our video academy
  • coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
  • preparing your math to be bulletproof for every McKinsey case interview
  • helping you structure creative and complex McKinsey cases
  • teaching you how to interpret McKinsey charts and exhibits
  • providing you with cheat sheets and overviews for 27 industries .

Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program.

the image is the cover of a case interview industry overview

Practicing with case partners

Regular practice with case partners is essential for honing your case interview skills:

  • Find practice partners: Connect with fellow candidates through online forums, social media groups, or local consulting clubs.
  • Set a practice schedule: Aim to practice at least a few cases per week, gradually increasing the difficulty and variety of cases.
  • Seek feedback: After each practice case, discuss your performance with your partner, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Alternate roles: Take turns playing the role of the interviewer and the interviewee to develop a deeper understanding of the case interview process.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Common mistakes.

  • Insufficient structure: Failing to break down the problem into manageable components can lead to a disorganized analysis and an inability to identify key issues.
  • Overlooking the big picture: Becoming too focused on the details and losing sight of the overall objective or client’s needs can hinder the development of effective recommendations.
  • Ignoring qualitative factors: Relying solely on quantitative data without considering qualitative aspects may result in an incomplete understanding of the problem.
  • Ineffective communication: Struggling to articulate your thought process, insights, or recommendations clearly and persuasively can undermine the value of your analysis.
  • Failing to adapt: Sticking to a preconceived framework or hypothesis despite conflicting evidence may indicate a lack of flexibility and critical thinking.

Tips to prevent these mistakes

  • Practice structuring: Develop your ability to structure problems effectively by practicing with a wide range of cases and familiarizing yourself with common frameworks.
  • Stay focused on the objective: Periodically remind yourself of the client’s goals and priorities, ensuring that your analysis remains aligned with their needs.
  • Balance quantitative and qualitative factors: Recognize the importance of both quantitative data and qualitative insights in forming a well-rounded understanding of the problem.
  • Hone your communication skills: Practice speaking clearly, concisely, and persuasively, ensuring that your message is easily understood and well-received.
  • Embrace adaptability: Be open to revising your approach, framework, or hypothesis in response to new information or feedback, demonstrating your ability to think critically and flexibly.

McKinsey Interview Course

Unlock the Secrets to Acing McKinsey Interviews with Our Comprehensive Training Program

Are you eager to dive deep into mastering the McKinsey interviews? Look no further than our extensive 40-part Ready-for-McKinsey Interview Academy . This exceptional video program features simulated McKinsey-specific case studies and in-depth coverage of all Personal Experience Interview (PEI) dimensions and stories. Our Interview Academy is the ultimate resource to prepare you for success in your McKinsey case interviews.

We take pride in our results: an impressive 9 out of 10 candidates who complete our one-on-one Ready-for-McKinsey Interview Coaching program receive an offer. This track record has earned us consistent recognition as the best McKinsey and MBB coaches on several platforms.

the image is the cover for the florian smeritschnig case coaching program, the best on the internet

Frequently Asked Questions McKinsey Case Interview

How can candidates best manage their time during the case interview to ensure they cover all necessary aspects of the case without running out of time? Candidates can manage their time effectively by quickly understanding the case prompt, structuring their approach clearly, prioritizing key analyses, staying focused on the most critical issues, and keeping an eye on the time to ensure they cover all necessary aspects without running out of time​ ​. However, keep in mind that it is also the McKinsey interviewer’s responsibility to go through all necessary elements of the case within the allotted time. If you are too slow (problematic) or too exhaustive yet add value to the question (not problematic), they might move the case forward on their own.

What are the most common reasons candidates fail in McKinsey case interviews, and how can these pitfalls be avoided? Common reasons for failure include lack of structure in problem-solving, missing key insights by not delving deep enough into the data, poor communication of thought process, and inability to adapt to new information. These pitfalls can be avoided by practicing structured problem-solving, actively engaging with the data, clearly articulating thought processes, and being flexible to pivot as needed​ ​.

Can you provide examples of unexpected or unconventional case types that have appeared in McKinsey interviews in recent years? Recent McKinsey interviews have featured cases beyond traditional business scenarios, such as identifying the right stakeholders to talk to in a situation or identifying reasons why an app has a low customer retention rate.

How does McKinsey adjust its case interview process for candidates with non-business backgrounds, such as those from engineering or humanities? McKinsey’s case interview process for candidates with non-business backgrounds is the same as for candidates with a business background. All cases focus on problem-solving skills and potential rather than specific business knowledge. Candidates are evaluated on their ability to structure problems, analyze data, and think critically, with the understanding that business-specific knowledge can be learned​ ​. This article not only outlines tips for passing McKinsey consulting interviews but also addresses preparing for McKinsey interviews without a business background, ensuring a holistic approach to your consulting journey.

What specific aspects of a candidate’s performance are McKinsey interviewers most focused on during the case interview? McKinsey interviewers focus on problem-solving skills, the ability to structure and analyze complex issues, creativity in developing solutions, clear and concise communication, and the potential for leadership and impact​ ​. They are looking for candidates with a well-rounded profile that have performance spikes in some areas and a robust performance in others (without clear weaknesses).

How does the difficulty level of McKinsey’s case interviews compare to real consulting projects at McKinsey? The difficulty level of McKinsey’s case interviews is designed to be comparable to the challenges faced in real consulting projects. They simulate the complex, ambiguous problems consultants tackle, testing candidates’ ability to navigate similar challenges effectively​ ​. The main difference is that they are simplified to the extent that it is feasible to go through them in 25 minutes.

Are there any particular industries or business functions that McKinsey is focusing on in its current case interviews due to market trends or strategic priorities of the firm? While McKinsey’s case interviews cover a wide range of industries and functions, there may be a focus on emerging areas of strategic importance such as digital transformation, sustainability, healthcare innovation, and analytics, reflecting broader market trends and the firm’s current priorities​ ​.

How has the transition to more virtual interviews affected the case interview process and candidates’ performance from McKinsey’s perspective? The transition to more virtual interviews has required adjustments in how cases are presented and how candidates engage with the material. While the core evaluation criteria remain unchanged, McKinsey has adapted to ensure a fair assessment, paying close attention to communication and problem-solving skills in a virtual format​ ​.

What advice do former candidates who successfully passed the McKinsey case interview have for future applicants? Former candidates advise practicing as much as possible, understanding the case interview format, focusing on structured problem-solving, developing clear and concise communication skills, being prepared to think on one’s feet, and demonstrating leadership potential and personal impact​ ​.

How can candidates incorporate feedback from practice sessions into improving their performance for the actual McKinsey case interview? Candidates can improve their performance by actively seeking feedback from practice sessions, identifying areas for improvement, working on specific skills such as structuring or analysis, practicing under realistic conditions (e.g., timed), and continuously refining their approach based on feedback​ ​.

In summary, acing the McKinsey case interview requires a deep understanding of the interview process, mastery of essential skills, and the ability to apply effective problem-solving strategies. In this article, we highlighted the key strategies for McKinsey problem-solving interviews, ensuring your preparation aligns with the best practices for McKinsey interview preparation. By embracing the MECE principle, applying the 80/20 rule, adopting a hypothesis-driven approach, and incorporating creativity and business intuition, you will be well-equipped to tackle any case interview challenge.

Remember to invest time in preparing for both the Personal Experience Interview and the case interview itself, using the wealth of resources and practice materials available. Focus on developing a structured approach, honing your analytical and communication skills, and staying adaptable throughout the interview process.

As you embark on your McKinsey case interview journey, stay confident and persistent in your efforts. By applying the tips and strategies shared in this article, you will be one step closer to achieving your consulting career aspirations. We wish you the best of luck in your journey toward success at McKinsey.

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Florian spent 5 years with McKinsey as a senior consultant. He is an experienced consulting interviewer and problem-solving coach, having interviewed 100s of candidates in real and mock interviews. He started StrategyCase.com to make top-tier consulting firms more accessible for top talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about their recruiting. He ranks as the most successful consulting case and fit interview coach, generating more than 500 offers with MBB, tier-2 firms, Big 4 consulting divisions, in-house consultancies, and boutique firms through direct coaching of his clients over the last 3.5 years. His books “The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview” and “Consulting Career Secrets” are available via Amazon.

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McKinsey Case Interview & PEI - 6 Things You Need to Know

  • Last Updated January, 2024

Rebecca Smith-Allen

Former McKinsey Engagement Manager

If you’re interested in a career in management consulting, McKinsey & Company is probably on your list of firms to apply to. It’s the oldest consulting firm, established in 1926 by James McKinsey, a University of Chicago professor and expert in management accounting.

Today, the firm employs 30 thousand professionals working in 130 cities around the world. McKinsey regularly ranks at the top of lists of strategy consulting firms and is hired by businesses, governments, and non-profit organizations to help solve their toughest problems.

It’s difficult to get a job offer from McKinsey.

Like its top management consulting competitors, Bain and BCG, McKinsey typically hires only 1% of candidates who apply. In particular, McKinsey case interviews are tough to crack…but not impossible.

If you’re interested in trying to beat the odds, this article will tell you what you need to know to succeed. We’ll tell you:

What’s different about McKinsey,

6 things candidates recruiting with McKinsey should know,

We’ll provide a mock McKinsey case interview video, and

Provide tips on acing your McKinsey interview.

Let’s get started!

What’s Different About McKinsey? 6 Things Candidates Should Know

1. consultants are hired for either the generalist track or a specialist track.

Generalists at McKinsey are consultants who could be staffed to help clients in any industry and dealing with any type of business problem. Specialists are consultants with a particular area of expertise.

Areas of specialization within McKinsey  include digital and advanced analytics, marketing and sales, business turn around, operations,  software development and design, and implementation.

2. Consultants Work On-Site At The Client 4 Days A Week.

Most consultants travel a lot and at McKinsey, this is definitely the case. Consider whether regular plane flights and hotel stays are right for you.

3. McKinsey Cases Are Interviewer-Led Rather Than Candidate-Led.

Candidates are still expected to identify key issues to be addressed to solve the business problem presented by their interviewer and outline a plan to explore these issues. After they do that, their McKinsey interviewer is likely to tell the candidate which issue they’d like to discuss first. Other management consulting firms, like Bain and BCG typically let candidates steer their case interview.

4. Interviewers Assess Fit As Part Of Every Interview With Personal Experience Interview (PEI) Questions.

While all strategy firms ask candidates Consulting Behavioral Interview Questions  to assess their fit with their firm, many have one interviewer focus entirely on fit while others focus entirely on a case study question. 

McKinsey interviewers split their interview time between the case and PEI in every interview.

5. McKinsey Looks For Personal Impact And Entrepreneurial Drive In Candidates.

This is in addition to the structured problem solving and leadership skills that McKinsey, as well as other top consulting firms, look for in candidates.

6. Mckinsey Recruiting Uses Solve - a Gamified Digital Assessment.

McKinsey’s Solve Game was launched to broaden the firm’s reach to find the best talent regardless of geography as well as provide deeper insight into candidates’ problem-solving skills.

Keep reading for a deeper dive into these topics.

Generalist versus Specialist Track Roles

When the management consulting industry was first founded, simply having an MBA and expertise in solving business problems was enough to set a consultant apart. Consultants hired by McKinsey could expect to be staffed on a case in any industry and solving any type of problem.

To help clients solve these types of business problems effectively, McKinsey hires people with years of experience in functional specialties. These include advanced analytics, marketing and sales, business turn around, operations, software development and design, and implementation.

Specialists work alongside generalists on projects to leverage their functional expertise across the work of the team. The specialist practices are growing faster than generalist roles and get fewer applications, so if you have the right kind of expertise and apply to the practice, you may have a better chance of landing an interview.

How McKinsey Interviews Differ from Bain and BC

There are two main ways that McKinsey’s interviews differ from those of other top management consulting firms. McKinsey uses interviewer-led case interviews while other firms use candidate-led case interviews.

In the “fit” portion of the interview, McKinsey uses the personal experience interview and each interviewer you meet with in all rounds will assess fit.

Interviewer-led Cases

At the start of any McKinsey case study, candidates need to go through 4 phases to solve the business problem the interviewer has given them in a structured manner: the opening, structure, analysis, and closing. 

In a candidate-led case interview, candidates will pick which part of the problem they want to dive into first and proceed with it. In McKinsey’s interviewer-led cases, the interviewer will pick the first part of the business problem they want the candidate to address.

Is the interviewer-led case interview easier or harder than the candidate-led one?

If you’ve structured the business problem well, breaking the problem down into the MECE  issues that require further analysis, it should not matter who picks which aspect of the problem to address first. What is helpful is knowing what to expect in your case interview so that you don’t start down one path just to be redirected by your McKinsey interviewer.  You don’t want anything to throw you in the middle of your case!

For more information on these 4 phases of answering a case interview question, see  Case Interview Prep .

Behavioral Interview Questions - The McKinsey PEI

As mentioned above, fit or personal experience interview (PEI) questions are part of every McKinsey interview. 

How else is the PEI different?

While other top management consulting firms focus on bringing the best creative problem-solving to their clients’ problems (BCG is notable here), McKinsey is interested in candidates’ personal impact and entrepreneurial spirit.

McKinsey interviewers look for these characteristics in answers to PEI questions. Because of this, it’s good to have some insight into why the firm thinks these characteristics are important.

Personal Impact

McKinsey says this about personal impact on its career website:

McKinsey does not want to create PowerPoint presentations with elegant solutions that sit on an executive’s shelf, not implemented.

Personal impact means that McKinsey consultants work shoulder-to-shoulder, on-site with client executives, developing solutions that don’t just solve a business problem in theory but also do it in practice. This can require facing resistance to change in the client’s organization head-on and persuading people to reassess long-held beliefs.

During the PEI, questions like the following will be asked to assess personal impact:

  •   Tell me about a team you worked on when you needed to change someone’s mind on a topic that was important to them, or
  •   Tell me about a time when you needed to rely on your communication skills to solve a difficult interpersonal situation.

This belief that personal impact is key to developing an implementable solution is what drives McKinsey consultants to spend 4 days a week on client site.

Entrepreneurial Drive

McKinsey says this about entrepreneurial drive on its career website:

McKinsey doesn’t hire consultants who can only implement solutions they’ve seen in previous businesses. They want people who are willing to try new things, take solutions to new industries or new types of problems.

The McKinsey problem solving approach treats each client problem as unique. Each solution should push thinking about best-practices.

In addition to personal impact and entrepreneurial drive, McKinsey also assesses leadership using the PEI. We won’t address this in detail because this is similar to other consulting firms, but you can find more about how McKinsey assesses leadership in our page on  McKinsey PEI Questions.

It also includes What McKinsey Is Looking For and provides a list of 11 Common PEI Questions.

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

The McKinsey Interview Process - Traditional and Recent Changes

The traditional recruiting process.

For years, McKinsey focused on a group of core schools to find new analyst (undergraduate hires) and associate (MBA hires) candidates. 

While the firm now recruits from a broader set of schools as well as more diverse candidates, recruiting at these core schools still starts in much the same way. McKinsey consultants conduct on-campus presentations and coffee chats to talk to potential candidates about what it’s like to work in the management consulting industry and at McKinsey, in particular.

If the firm hosts an event at your campus, you should attend to make personal connections and to find out first-hand if a career at McKinsey is right for you. If there are no events at your school or if you’re already employed, check out the company’s career site for articles and videos that will tell you what it’s like to work at McKinsey and what it takes to get an offer.

Candidates submit their resumes (and optional cover letters) to the firm’s recruiting department via their school’s department of career services and on the firm website. Candidates who are invited to interview typically have their first round interviews on campus.

During first round interviews, candidates meet with 2 interviewers back-to-back. Candidates who pass first round interviews are invited to a McKinsey office for second round interviews.

In second round interviews, candidates meet with 3 interviewers. Unless a candidate’s interviewers are split in their decision, second round interviews are also final round interviews.

In each round of interviews, McKinsey interviewers walk candidates through a business problem and asks a series of  McKinsey PEI Questions , aimed at evaluating their potential fit with the organization. 

The Recruiting Process for Candidates at Non-core School and Experienced Hires

Candidates from non-core schools submit their resumes (and optional cover letters) directly to the recruiting department of the 3 offices they’d like to work in.

If they are invited to interview, candidates who live relatively close to a McKinsey office will be invited for in-person first round interviews. Others will be asked to do their first round McKinsey interviews via video conference.

Candidates already working in another industry or those working at another consulting firm submit their resumes (and optional cover letters) directly to the recruiting department of the three offices they’d like to work in. They will typically have a phone interview before the “first round” of in-person interviews.

In both cases, once candidates are passed to second round interviews the recruiting process is the same as for core school candidates.

Solve, The McKinsey Problem Solving Game

McKinsey is reaching out to more candidates outside of their traditional core schools to diversify its recruiting. As part of that, it’s launched  Solve , an online game  that assesses candidates’ problem-solving skills.  Solve is both more fun and gives candidates from non-core schools a better shot at getting a McKinsey interview than they’ve had in the past.

Example McKinsey Case Interview - Video

Below, we have 4 videos in which My Consulting Offer founder, Davis Nguyen, walks you  through each segment of a McKinsey case interview from beginning to end. 

Mock McKinsey Case Interview - Opening the Case

The key thing to do in the opening of a McKinsey case study is to repeat back the question so you’re sure you understand the problem you are solving. Then, ask questions to begin to get more information.

Mock McKinsey Case Interview - Structuring the Case

In the structure section of McKinsey Case Interviews, create a MECE list of important issues you will analyze to solve the client’s problem.

Mock McKinsey Case Interview - The Case Analysis

In the analysis section of a McKinsey case study, you’ll need to do analysis to evaluate the best option for your client. This may require interpreting data from charts or graphs provided by your interviewer or doing calculations based on numbers you’re given.

Mock McKinsey Case Interview - Concluding the Case

In the conclusion of McKinsey case interviews, you’ll need to pull your analysis together into a persuasive recommendation for the client. Restate the question you were asked to solve, lay out key findings from each section of your case structure, and show how your analysis points to the course of action the client should take.

Now that you’ve watched our sample McKinsey case interview, you should be ready to start practicing for your own interviews. 

Here are 5 tips on making the most of your preparation time:

5 Tips on Acing Your McKinsey Interview

  • Practice casing with another person. Answering case interview questions does not come naturally and it is not enough to practice on your own since casing requires having a dialogue. Give yourself as much time to practice mock interviews as possible by starting early.
  • Record yourself during mock interviews  using your computer or phone. Study these videos to see how you can improve your performance in each phase of the case interview. Aim to make your answers more fluent and conversational.
  • Practice sample McKinsey interview-led case interviews. Use  McKinsey-specific case interview examples  below to make sure you’re not just familiar with cases, but with McKinsey cases. Make sure you are comfortable with being redirected at times. 
  • Brainstorm several  stories to answer common personal experience interview questions. You can find a list of these common questions here .
  • Find out more about the  McKinsey Solve Game  before you take it. 

After reading this article, you should have a good understanding of what McKinsey’s recruiting process looks like and how McKinsey case interviews are different from other management consulting firms. 

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about McKinsey case interviews, the PEI, or working at McKinsey, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

People interested in this topic have also found the following pages helpful:

  • Why McKinsey?
  • McKinsey PEI Questions
  • McKinsey Problem Solving Game
  • Case Interview Examples

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My Consulting Offer has helped almost 89.6% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting.  

We want you to be successful in your consulting case interviews too.

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3 Top Strategies to Master the Case Interview in Under a Week

We are sharing our powerful strategies to pass the case interview even if you have no business background, zero casing experience, or only have a week to prepare.

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A Comprehensive Guide to McKinsey Case Interview Preparation

Looking to ace your McKinsey case interview? Our comprehensive guide has got you covered! From understanding the interview process to mastering case frameworks, we provide expert tips and strategies to help you prepare and succeed.

Posted June 8, 2023

mckinsey case studies interview

Featuring Ben L. and Jeremy S.

Nailing the Case with McKinsey & Bain Alumni

Monday, april 1.

11:00 PM UTC · 60 minutes

Preparing for a McKinsey case interview can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure where to start. As one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, McKinsey & Company is known for its rigorous interview process, which involves a unique problem-solving approach and an emphasis on communication skills. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through all the steps you need to take to prepare for the McKinsey case interview and give you the best chance of success.

Understanding the McKinsey Case Interview Process

The McKinsey case interview is a simulation of a real-world business problem. The interviewer will present you with a hypothetical scenario based on a real-life company, and ask you to analyze the situation, identify the key issues, and provide a recommendation for how the company should proceed. The objective of the case interview is to test your analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to communicate your ideas in a clear and concise manner.

It is important to note that the McKinsey case interview is not just about getting the right answer. The interviewer is also evaluating your thought process, creativity, and ability to think on your feet. Therefore, it is important to approach the case interview with an open mind and be willing to explore different solutions and perspectives.

One way to prepare for the McKinsey case interview is to practice with case studies. There are many resources available online, including sample cases and practice questions. It is also helpful to work with a partner or mentor who can provide feedback on your approach and communication skills.

Key Skills Required for a Successful McKinsey Case Interview

To succeed in a McKinsey case interview, you need to possess several key skills. First and foremost, you need to be able to think critically and strategically. You must also be able to communicate your ideas in a clear and concise manner, and be comfortable with numbers and data analysis. Additionally, you need to demonstrate the ability to manage your time effectively, remain calm under pressure, and work collaboratively with others.

Another important skill to have for a successful McKinsey case interview is the ability to ask insightful questions. You should be able to identify the key issues and ask relevant questions that will help you understand the problem at hand. This will also demonstrate your curiosity and eagerness to learn.

Lastly, it is important to have a strong business acumen. You should have a good understanding of the industry and market trends, as well as the company's goals and objectives. This will help you provide relevant and practical solutions to the case problem, and showcase your ability to think like a business leader.

For more tips on how to maximize your chances of landing a management consulting position that's right for you, check out these resources:

  • Mastering Case Interview Math: Essential Formulas
  • Writing a Winning Consulting Cover Letter: A Comprehensive Guide
  • Understanding the Salary Structure in Management Consulting

Mastering Consulting Case Frameworks: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Five Tips for Breaking Into Management Consulting

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Tips to Ace McKinsey Case Interview

Preparation is key when it comes to acing a McKinsey case interview. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Be well-prepared: Research the firm and the industry you are interested in and practice case studies.
  • Be analytical: Use a structured framework to analyze the case and identify the key issues.
  • Be confident: Always articulate your thoughts and recommendations with clarity and confidence.
  • Be concise: Communication is key, so make sure you get to the point and avoid unnecessary information.
  • Practice: Mock interviews are essential to improving your skills and getting used to the interview process.

It's also important to remember that the interviewer is not looking for a perfect solution, but rather how you approach the problem and your ability to think critically. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions and take time to gather your thoughts before answering. Additionally, be sure to listen actively to the interviewer and incorporate their feedback into your analysis. By following these tips and staying calm under pressure, you can increase your chances of acing the McKinsey case interview.

The Importance of Researching the Company and Industry before the Interview

Before the interview, it’s crucial to research the company and the industry you are interested in. Knowing the company's history, values, and key clients will help you demonstrate your interest and knowledge during the interview. Additionally, understanding the industry trends, challenges, and opportunities can help you come up with more insightful and strategic recommendations.

Another reason why researching the company and industry is important is that it can help you tailor your responses to the interviewer's questions. By understanding the company's goals and challenges, you can highlight your skills and experiences that align with their needs. Moreover, knowing the industry trends and best practices can help you provide relevant examples and insights that showcase your expertise.

Furthermore, researching the company and industry can also help you assess whether the company is a good fit for you. By learning about the company culture, work environment, and values, you can determine whether they align with your own goals and values. This can help you make an informed decision about whether to accept a job offer if one is extended to you.

How to Structure Your Responses in a McKinsey Case Interview

Structuring your responses is essential to communicating your ideas effectively and showing your analytical skills. Use a structured framework such as MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive) to break down the problem and identify the key issues. Once you have identified the issues, prioritize them and develop recommendations based on your analysis. Make sure to articulate your thought process clearly and concisely throughout the exercise.

It is also important to actively listen to the interviewer and ask clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand the problem at hand. This will help you tailor your response to the specific needs of the client and demonstrate your ability to work collaboratively. Additionally, be prepared to adapt your approach if new information is presented during the interview. Flexibility and agility are highly valued qualities in a consultant and can set you apart from other candidates.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in a McKinsey Case Interview

Common mistakes that applicants make in McKinsey case interviews include:

  • Jumping to conclusions without sufficient analysis.
  • Overcomplicating the problem.
  • Providing vague or incomplete recommendations.
  • Getting frazzled under pressure.

Avoiding these pitfalls can help you stand out and demonstrate your problem-solving skills effectively.

Another common mistake that applicants make in McKinsey case interviews is not asking enough clarifying questions. It is important to fully understand the problem and the context before jumping into analysis and recommendations. Additionally, not asking questions can make it seem like you are not engaged or interested in the problem at hand. Therefore, make sure to ask thoughtful and relevant questions throughout the interview to demonstrate your curiosity and analytical skills.

Sample McKinsey Case Interview Questions and Answers

Sample McKinsey case interview questions can range from market sizing to competitive strategies. Here are some examples:

  • How would you estimate the size of the global coffee market?
  • How would you advise a chain of retail stores facing declining sales?
  • How would you help a software company develop a new product?
  • How would you advise a hospital facing budget constraints?

Answers to these questions require a structured approach, including the identification of key issues, relevant analysis, and well-supported recommendations.

It is important to note that McKinsey case interviews are not just about finding the right answer, but also about demonstrating strong problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate effectively. Candidates are expected to ask clarifying questions, think critically, and present their ideas in a clear and concise manner.

In addition to the case interview questions, candidates may also be asked behavioral questions to assess their fit with the company culture and values. These questions may focus on leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, among others.

The Role of Creativity in Solving McKinsey Case Study Problems

Creativity is just as important as analytical skills in the McKinsey case interview. You must demonstrate creativity in identifying potential solutions and making recommendations that are both innovative and realistic. Creative problem-solvers are valued in the consulting industry, as they can offer fresh ideas and perspectives that can benefit their clients.

How to Develop a Personalized Strategy for McKinsey Case Interviews

Developing a personalized strategy for McKinsey case interviews is crucial to success. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and focus on improving your weaknesses. You should also participate in mock interviews and receive feedback from others to help you improve your performance. Consider working with a coach or mentor who can provide you with additional guidance and advice.

The Benefits of Mock Interviews in Preparing for a McKinsey Case Interview

Mock interviews are an essential tool in preparing for a McKinsey case interview. Mock interviews help you get used to the format of the interview, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and receive feedback on your performance. Practicing with different problems and cases also helps you become more comfortable with the analytical process and develop creative problem-solving skills.

The Importance of Confidence and Communication Skills in a McKinsey Case Interview

Confidence and communication skills are equally essential in a McKinsey case interview as analytical skills. You must be able to articulate your ideas in a clear and concise manner and demonstrate your confidence in your recommendations. Additionally, being comfortable with numbers and data analysis is essential in communicating your insights effectively. Practice your communication skills and prepare accordingly to increase your confidence and show your potential.

How to Follow Up After a Successful McKinsey Case Interview

Following up after a successful McKinsey case interview is an essential step that many candidates overlook. Send a thank-you note or email expressing your appreciation for the opportunity, and reiterate your interest in the position. Keep the communication positive, professional, and timely. This follow-up can help set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate your attention to detail and enthusiasm for the company.

Resources for Further Practice and Preparation for a McKinsey Case Interview

There are plenty of resources available online and offline to help you prepare for a McKinsey case interview. Some of the popular ones include:

  • Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation by Marc P. Cosentino
  • McKinsey & Company interview preparation resources
  • Victor Cheng’s Case Interview Videos

Make use of these resources, attend networking events, and seek out advice from professionals in the consulting industry to help you prepare for the interview.

Preparing for a McKinsey case interview can be challenging, but with practice and preparation, you can increase your chances of success. Keep in mind the key skills required for success and practice your communication skills, and make use of the resources available to you. Follow the tips mentioned in this guide, and put in the effort required to succeed. With hard work and dedication, you can ace your McKinsey case interview and start your career in consulting.

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McKinsey recruiters reveal exactly how to nail the interview and case study to land a 6-figure job at the consulting firm

  • The latest salaries report from Management Consulted, a consulting careers resource website, showed that McKinsey's hires with MBAs and PhDs make a base salary of $165,000.  
  • The consulting firm is working to diversify their applicant pool and bring in more hires from non-Ivy League schools. 
  • Business Insider spoke with two McKinsey recruitment directors on how to nail the interview and score a spot at the company. 
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Top management consulting firm McKinsey & Company offers some of the highest-paying salaries for recent grads. But it's hard to land a coveted six-figure role at the firm. 

According to the latest salaries report from Management Consulted , a careers resource website catered to job seekers in the consulting field, McKinsey's MBA and PhD hires make a base salary of $165,000 — and that's not including the $35,000 performance bonus for all employees, and the 50% MBA tuition reimbursement for returning interns. 

It's no surprise that management consultants are getting paid six figures from get-go. It's been that way for years. However, the report noted an emerging trend that serves as good news for those who might not have an Ivy League degree : Consulting firms are increasing recruitment from non-target schools — this means they're steering away from relying on Ivy League universities like Harvard for hires. In fact, these companies are holding up to 20% of their recruitment slots for those with non-target backgrounds, according to the report.

McKinsey, for example, hired about 8,000 people out of an applicant pool of 800,000 in 2018. Those employees were recruited from 325 different schools around the world, the company shared. 

Business Insider recently spoke with Kerry Casey , McKinsey's director of recruitment in the North American region and Caitlin Storhaug , McKinsey's global director of recruitment marketing and communications. 

The two experts shared insights on how to nail an interview with the company. 

When it comes to the case exercise: Don't wing it

mckinsey case studies interview

Every McKinsey interview follows a standardized process that is broken down into two components. Prospective candidates are asked to complete a personal experience interview and a case study exercise.

" It doesn't matter if you're interviewing from San Francisco, New York City, or Shanghai — the interview process is standard," Storhaug said. "There aren't harder or easier countries for you to get in." 

Every business school graduate is probably familiar with case studies. Harvard Business School (HBS) developed the case method teaching practice , where students are required to read up to 500 cases during their two-year program. Other MBA schools also adopted this strategy to prepare students for tackling real-world businesses problems.

McKinsey's case interviews, in particular, take about 25 to 30 minutes, and it's an opportunity for candidates to showcase how they approach problem solving and think on their feet, Casey explained. When you're tackling a case exercise, focus on how you would go about solving the client problem and not what you think the recruiters want to see in your responses. 

The company provided a case exercise sample and encouraged applicants to practice so that they know the exact format and the type of answers the recruiters look for. 

When you're prepping for an interview with the firm, keep those samples in mind, Storhaug added. 

Emphasize on your soft skills

mckinsey case studies interview

One of the most common mistakes that McKinsey's applicants make is that they focus too much on acing case exercises that they fail to really prepare for the personal interview, Casey explained in an email to Business Insider. 

"I encourage them to focus also on what are often referred to as soft skills — their aptitude for collaboration, team work, empathy, and leading others," she wrote. "In the long run, those are the qualities that make for success." 

Apart from those technical skills, a management consulting job requires collaborative and relationship-building skills. Ultimately, you can't get to the problem-solving component if you don't have a track record of working well with others. 

Additionally, Casey added that the personal experience interview doesn't have to be as formal as one might expect. In fact, she wrote that the best interviews are actually conversations rather than strictly planned questions.  

This second round is your opportunity to show your attributes beyond your résumé. What are some skills you're hoping to develop with this job? What are your own professional goals in five years? 

Casey recommends sharing your own career aspirations. That way, it shows that you know what you want.

Talk about your technical skills if you have them

mckinsey case studies interview

Technical skills are in high demand, and it's beneficial to have employees who understand how tech can impact clients. 

"While not everyone is a tech-focused consultant, of course, we see tech and digital skills being more necessary as we grow and expand into new areas," Casey wrote. "We appreciate candidates who may have expanded their knowledge to include coding, programming and other tech aspects." 

Some other top tech skills that employers want are program languages like Python, C++, and JavaScript, Business Insider previously reported.

mckinsey case studies interview

  • Main content

Next-gen B2B sales: How three game changers grabbed the opportunity

Driven by digitalized operating models, B2B sales have seen sweeping changes over the recent period amid rising customer demand for more seamless and transparent services. 1 “ The multiplier effect: How B2B winners grow ,” McKinsey, April 13, 2023. However, many industrial companies are failing to keep pace with their more commercially focused peers and, as a result, are becoming less competitive in terms of performance and customer services.

The most successful B2B players employ five key tactics to sharpen their sales capabilities: omnichannel sales teams; advanced sales technology and automation; data analytics and hyperpersonalization; tailored strategies on third-party marketplaces; and e-commerce excellence across the full marketing and sales funnel. 2 “ The multiplier effect: How B2B winners grow ,” McKinsey, April 13, 2023.

Companies using all of these tactics are twice as likely to see more than 10 percent market share growth than companies focusing on just one. 3 “ The multiplier effect: How B2B winners grow ,” McKinsey, April 13, 2023. However, implementation is not as simple, requiring a strategic vision, a full commitment, and the right capabilities to drive change throughout the organization. Various leading European industrial companies—part of McKinsey’s Industrial Gamechangers on Go-to-Market disruption in Europe—have achieved success by implementing the first three of these five sales tactics.

Omnichannel sales teams

The clearest rationale for accelerating the transition to omnichannel go-to-market is that industry players demand it. In 2017, only about 20 percent of industrial companies said they preferred digital interactions and purchases. 4 Global B2B Pulse Survey, McKinsey, April 30, 2023. Currently, that proportion is around 67 percent. In 2016, B2B companies had an average of five distinct channels; by 2021, that figure had risen to ten (Exhibit 1).

Excelling in omnichannel means enabling customers to move easily between channels without losing context or needing to repeat information. Companies that achieve these service levels report increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, faster growth rates, lower costs, and easier tracking and analysis of customer data. Across most of these metrics, the contrast with analogue approaches is striking. For example, B2B companies that successfully embed omnichannel show EBIT growth of 13.5 percent, compared to the 1.8 percent achieved by less digitally enabled peers. Next to purely digital channels, inside sales and hybrid sales are the most important channels to deliver an omnichannel experience.

Differentiating inside versus hybrid sales

Best-in-class B2B sellers have achieved up to 20 percent revenue gains by redefining go-to-market through inside and hybrid sales. The inside sales model cannot be defined as customer service, nor is it a call center or a sales support role—rather, it is a customer facing, quota bearing, remote sales function. It relies on qualified account managers and leverages data analytics and digital solutions to optimize sales strategy and outreach through a range of channels (Exhibit 2).

The adoption of inside sales is often an advantageous move, especially in terms of productivity. In fact, inside sales reps can typically cover four times the prospects at 50 percent of the cost of a traditional field rep, allowing the team to serve many customers without sacrificing quality of service. 5 McKinsey analysis. Top performing B2B companies are 50 percent more likely to leverage inside sales.

Up to 80 percent of a company’s accounts—often smaller and medium-sized customers, accounting for about half of revenues—can be covered by inside sales teams. 6 Industry expert interviews; McKinsey analysis. The remaining 20 percent often require in-person interactions, triggering the need for hybrid sales. This pertains to highly attractive leads as well.

Hybrid sales is an innovative model combining inside sales with traditional in-person interactions. Some 85 percent of companies expect hybrid sales will be the most common job role within three years. 7 Global B2B Pulse Survey, McKinsey, December 2022. Hybrid is often optimal for bigger accounts, as it is flexible in utilizing a combination of channels, serving customers where they prefer to buy. It is scalable, thanks to the use of remote and online sales, and it is effective because of the multiplier effect of numerous potential interactions. Of companies that grew more than 10 percent in 2022, 57 percent had adopted a hybrid sales model. 8 Global B2B Pulse, April 2023.

How an industrial automation solution player implemented game-changing inside sales

In 2019, amid soaring digital demand, a global leader in industrial digital and automation solutions saw an opportunity to deliver a cutting-edge approach to sales engagement.

As a starting point, the company took time to clearly define the focus and role of the inside sales team, based on product range, customer needs, and touchpoints. For simple products, where limited customer interaction was required, inside sales was the preferred go-to-market model. For more complex products that still did not require many physical touchpoints, the company paired inside sales teams with technical sales people, and the inside sales group supported fields reps. Where product complexity was high and customers preferred many touch points, the inside sales team adopted an orchestration role, bringing technical functions and field sales together (Exhibit 3).

The company laid the foundations in four key areas. First, it took time to sketch out the model, as well as to set targets and ensure the team was on board. As in any change program, there was some early resistance. The antidote was to hire external talent to help shape the program and highlight the benefits. To foster buy-in, the company also spent time creating visualizations. Once the team was up and running, early signs of success created a snowball effect, fostering enthusiasm among both inside sales teams and field reps.

Second, the company adopted a mantra: inside sales should not—and could not—be cost saving from day one. Instead, a significant part of the budget was allocated to build a tech stack and implement the tools to manage client relationships. One of the company’s leaders said, “As inside sales is all about using tech to obtain better outcomes, this was a vital step.”

The third foundational element was talent. The company realized that inside sales is not easy and is not for everyone—so finding the right people was imperative. As a result, it put in place a career development plan and recognized that many inside sales reps would see the job as a stepping stone in their careers. Demonstrating this understanding provided a great source of motivation for employees.

Finally, finding the right mix of incentives was key. The company chose a system based on compensation and KPI leading and lagging indicators. Individual incentives were a function of whether individuals were more involved with closing deals or supporting others, so a mix of KPIs was employed. The result was a more motivated salesforce and productive cooperation across the organization.

Advanced sales technology and automation

Automation is a key area of advanced sales technology, as it is critical to optimizing non-value adding activities that currently account for about two-thirds of sales teams’ time. More than 30 percent of sales tasks and processes are estimated to be partially automatable, from sales planning through lead management, quotation, order management, and post-sales activities. Indeed, automation leaders not only boost revenues and reduce cost to serve—both by as much as 20 percent—but also foster customer and employee satisfaction. (Exhibit 4). Not surprisingly, nine out of ten industrial companies have embarked on go-to-market automation journeys. Still, only a third say the effort has achieved the anticipated impact. 9 McKinsey analysis.

Leading companies have shown that effective automation focuses on four areas:

  • Lead management: Advanced analytics helps teams prioritize leads, while AI-powered chatbots contact prospective customers via text or email and schedule follow-up calls at promising times—for example, at the beginning or end of the working day.
  • Contract drafting: AI tools automate responses to request for proposal (RFP) inquiries, based on a predefined content set.
  • Invoice generation: Companies use robotic process automation to process and generate invoices, as well as update databases.
  • Sales commission planning: Machine learning algorithms provide structural support, for example, to optimize sales commission forecasting, leading up to a 50 percent decline in time spent on compensation planning.

How GEA seized the automation opportunity

GEA is one of the world’s most advanced suppliers of processing machinery for food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. To provide customers with tailored quotes and services, the company launched a dedicated configure, price, quote (CPQ) system. The aim of the system was to enable automated quote creation that would free up frontline sales teams to operate independently from their back office colleagues. This, in turn, would boost customer interaction and take customer care to the next level.

The work began with a bottom-up review of the company’s configuration protocols, ensuring there was sufficient standardization for the new system to operate effectively. GEA also needed to ensure price consistency—especially important during the recent supply chain volatility. For quotations, the right template with the correct conditions and legal terms needed to be created, a change that eventually allowed the company to cut its quotation times by about 50 percent, as well as boost cross-selling activities.

The company combined the tools with a guided selling approach, in which sales teams focused on the customers’ goals. The teams then leveraged the tools to find the most appropriate product and pricing, leading to a quote that could be enhanced with add-ons, such as service agreements or digital offerings. Once the quote was sent and agreed upon, the data automatically would be transferred from customer relationship management to enterprise resource planning to create the order. In this way, duplication was completely eliminated. The company found that the sales teams welcomed the new approach, as it reduced the time to quote (Exhibit 5).

Data analytics and hyperpersonalization

Data are vital enablers of any go-to-market transformation, informing KPIs and decision making across operations and the customer journey. Key application areas include:

  • lead acquisition, including identification and prioritization
  • share of wallet development, including upselling and cross-selling, assortment optimization, and microsegmentation
  • pricing optimization, including market driven and tailored pricing, deal scoring, and contract optimization
  • churn prediction and prevention
  • sales effectiveness, so that sales rep time allocations (both in-person and virtual) are optimized, while training time is reduced

How Hilti uses machine data to drive sales

Hilti is a globally leading provider of power tools, services, and software to the construction industry. The company wanted to understand its customers better and forge closer relationships with them. Its Nuron battery platform, which harvests usage data from tools to transform the customer experience and create customer-specific insights, provided the solution.

One in three of Hilti’s frontline staff is in daily contact with the company’s customers, offering advice and support to ensure the best and most efficient use of equipment. The company broke new ground with its intelligent battery charging platform. As tool batteries are recharged, they transfer data to the platform and then to the Hilti cloud, where the data are analyzed to produce actionable insights on usage, pricing, add-ons, consumables, and maintenance. The system will be able to analyze at least 58 million data points every day.

Armed with this type of data, Hilti provides customers with advanced services, offering unique insights so that companies can optimize their tool parks, ensuring that the best tools are available and redundant tools are returned. In the meantime, sales teams use the same information to create deep insights—for example, suggesting that companies rent rather than buy tools, change the composition of tool parks, or upgrade.

To achieve its analytics-based approach, Hilti went on a multiyear journey, moving from unstructured analysis to a fully digitized approach. Still, one of the biggest learnings from its experience was that analytics tools are most effective when backed by human interactions on job sites. The last mile, comprising customer behavior, cannot be second guessed (Exhibit 6).

In the background, the company worked hard to put the right foundations in place. That meant cleaning its data (for example, at the start there were 370 different ways of measuring “run time”) and ensuring that measures were standardized. It developed the ability to understand which use cases were most important to customers, realizing that it was better to focus on a few impactful ones and thus create a convincing offering that was simple to use and effective.

A key element of the rollout was to ensure that employees received sufficient training— which often meant weeks of engagement, rather than just a few hours. The work paid off, with account managers now routinely supported by insights that enrich their interactions with customers. Again, optimization was key, ensuring the information they had at their fingertips was truly useful.

Levers for a successful transformation

The three company examples highlighted here illustrate how embracing omnichannel, sales technology, and data analytics create market leading B2B sales operations. However, the success of any initiative will be contingent on managing change. Our experience in working with leading industrial companies shows that the most successful digital sales and analytics transformations are built on three elements:

  • Strategy: As a first step, companies develop strategies starting from deep customer insights. With these, they can better understand their customers’ problems and identify what customers truly value. Advanced analytics can support the process, informing insights around factors such as propensity to buy and churn. These can enrich the company’s understanding of how it wants its go-to-market model to evolve.
  • Tailored solutions: Customers appreciate offerings tailored to their needs. 10 “ The multiplier effect: How B2B winners grow ,” McKinsey, April 13, 2023. This starts with offerings and services, extends to pricing structures and schemes, and ways of serving and servicing. For example, dynamic pricing engines that model willingness to pay (by segment, type of deal, and route to market) may better meet the exact customer demand, while serving a customer completely remotely might better suit their interaction needs, and not contacting them too frequently might prevent churn more than frequent outreaches. Analytics on data gained across all channels serves to uncover these needs and become hyperpersonalized.
  • Single source of truth: Best-in-class data and analytics capabilities leverage a variety of internal and external data types and sources (transaction data, customer data, product data, and external data) and technical approaches. To ensure a consistent output, companies can establish a central data repository as a “single source of truth.” This can facilitate easy access to multiple users and systems, thereby boosting efficiency and collaboration. A central repository also supports easier backup, as well as data management and maintenance. The chances of data errors are reduced and security is tightened.

Many companies think they need perfect data to get started. However, to make productive progress, a use case based approach is needed. That means selecting the most promising use cases and then scaling data across those cases through speedy testing.

And with talent, leading companies start with small but highly skilled analytics teams, rather than amassing talent too early—this can allow them to create an agile culture of continual improvement and cost efficiency.

As shown by the three companies discussed in this article, most successful B2B players employ various strategies to sharpen their sales capabilities, including omnichannel sales teams; advanced sales technology and automation; and data analytics and hyperpersonalization. A strategic vision, a full commitment, and the right capabilities can help B2B companies deploy these strategies successfully.

Paolo Cencioni is a consultant in McKinsey’s Brussels office, where Jacopo Gibertini is also a consultant; David Sprengel is a partner in the Munich office; and Martina Yanni is an associate partner in the Frankfurt office.

The authors wish to thank Christopher Beisecker, Kate Piwonski, Alexander Schult, Lucas Willcke, and the B2B Pulse team for their contributions to this article.

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