Candidate Led vs Interviewer Led interviews at MBB Consulting Firms

STEPVUE Candidate Led vs Interviewer Led Interviews at MBB Consulting Firms
Candidate Led vs Interviewer Led Interviews at MBB Consulting Firms

Do you know that among MBB firms, there is a difference in the type of interviews they conduct. And on top of it, these firms keep playing with different formats in different interview rounds!

On a broader scale there are two types of case-interview formats:

1. Interviewer led case

2. Candidate-led case

Let’s see what each one of them is:

1.           Interviewer led case:

These cases have a pre-structured format that follows a near set sequence. Each interviewer-led case has multiple mini-cases under a common case theme.

You will be presented with problems that you need to solve in a structured manner. You may receive data from the interviewer and the interviewer would ask you a set of predetermined questions that don’t vary much from candidate to candidate.

As a candidate, you need to understand the problem and develop a structure and seek data that helps you in your analysis.

It has been observed that generally McKinsey 1st round has this type of case interview format. The focused nature of McKinsey interviews allows the firm to gauge candidates on pre-defined dimensions more thoroughly.

In this format, you will get really pointed questions from the interviewer. In addition you should expect interruptions and turnarounds that are driven by the interviewer rather than your analysis.

The interviewer probes on the specifics of your response with many “what else” type of questions.

2.           Candidate-led interviews:

In these cases, you as a candidate are expected to lead the case. The interviewer acts as your resource bank, giving you all the data and clarifying information when you ask for it.

You need to ask relevant questions to develop and test your hypotheses. Your interviewer would share information with you only if you ASK for it or in extreme cases when you’re stuck.

These types of case interviews are a great way to test a candidate’s leadership capacity under scrutiny. The firm gets a holistic picture of a candidate over the course of 2-3 rounds and it is the preferred style across firms.

The general split among the consulting firms in the type of cases used is as follows:

Interviewer Led:
  • McKinsey
  • Accenture
  • Oliver Wyman
Candidate Led interviews:
  • Bain
  • BCG
  • LEK
  • Monitor/Deloitte
  • PwC

But take this with a pinch of salt, as these are general trends and not set in stone philosophies. In the last one year, there have been many surprises. McKinsey is increasingly going for candidate-led cases while there have been many situations where Bain cases have been interviewer led.

You would ask, Abhijeet, which one is more difficult to crack out of the two?

Generally, most candidates struggle in candidate-led cases. Reason is simple. Initially, candidates have problems in prioritizing the different aspects of the case and don’t know where to begin. The interviewer just shares the case prompt and expects you to guide the discussion which can be unnerving without sufficient practice.

For example, a question like ‘Our client is a craft brewing company from Germany, they’re planning to expand their footprint SE Asia. Should our client enter the SE Asian market?’

Once the interviewer asks this question, they would just stop speaking. Then it is up to you how do you drive the case and extract information.

On the flip side, some candidates struggle with interviewer-led cases as these cases tend to be abrupt and jump around from question to question. There may or may not be a flow among the questions and candidates can have a hard time coming up with structures to mini-case questions.

The real difficulty depends on your level of preparation. In our 4 week Cohort Based Course and 1-on-1 coaching sessions, we train you to tackle both these cases with confidence. You would be in a position to tackle any type of case at any consulting firm with the consulting-toolkit that you develop in our coaching programs.

My personal recommendation to candidates is to spend 90 % of their time in mastering the CORE skills of structured problem solving and remaining 10% focusing on the type of case they might encounter depending on the firm they are interviewing with. The secret of cracking ANY consulting interview is that it is a highly path-dependent exercise. You NEED to absolutely master your craft at candidate-led cases and only then you can master interviewer-led case. The ones who are able to come up with a solid structures to the problem and communicate it well in the interview get ahead in the consulting game.

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Abhijeet Singh
Abhijeet is the Founder & CEO at STEPVUE. He is a heady mix of ambition, sarcasm, sports and something more. Ex: GAIL India Limited (Brand Marketing), RSM MBA and DTU
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