BCG Interview Questions & Application Process
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is one of the most revered management consultancy firms in the world, advising some of the largest global names from both the private and public sector and employing more than 6,200 consultants worldwide.
Graduates applying for entry-level ‘associate’ or ‘consultant’ roles can expect to be faced with a rigorous application process, comprising an online test and at least two rounds of interviews. There is a heavy weighting towards case studies at each of the interview stages, which is designed to imitate the kind of client work undertaken by consultants at the firm.
The application process typically runs as follows:
- Stage one: CV review
- Stage two: Online test
- Stage three: Interview stage
Submitting your CV may seem like a fairly standard part of any interview process, but underestimate it at your peril. With BCG attracting an extremely high calibre of applicants, only a relatively small number of CVs make it through to the interview stage. You need to make sure yours is one of them. To prepare, read more how about how to write a great CV and look at different CV examples.
Tip: To ensure your CV stands out from the pack, it first of all needs to be clear, concise and easy to read. Make sure the key information – your achievements, including exam grades, prizes and scholarships, and work experience – is presented clearly and coherently. The person vetting your application won’t have time to scour through your CV, looking for the hidden detail behind your successes and achievements. Your application needs to do the hard work for them.
If your CV passes the initial review stage, you’ll be invited to undertake an online, case study-style test. This is essentially a computerised version of the actual face-to-face case study you’ll be presented with at the interview stage of the application process.
You are given 23 questions to answer, which are based on a series of different ‘cases’ or problems. These are heavily maths-based and require you to calculate the correct answer to a problem from a selection of four potential responses. For each question you get right, you are awarded 3 points, with 1 point deducted for every wrong answer and 0 points for any unanswered questions. You’ll be given 45 minutes to complete all the questions in the test and are able to move back and forwards at your leisure.
Tip: Obviously, one of the main things to be wary of here is rushing your answers and sacrificing points by guessing the wrong answer to a question. You’re better placed taking the time to answer the questions you are able to work out and skipping those you aren’t sure of.
BCG provides a shortened, sample version of the case test on its website, while there are further practice numerical and case study tests available through WikiJob and other providers such as JobTestPrep.
The number of interviews you are likely to undertake will vary from candidate to candidate. Successful applicants will usually face at least two separate rounds of interview, typically separated by a couple of weeks. The first round will tend to involve separate meetings with two (normally mid-level) BCG employees, each lasting around 45 minutes.
Each interview is divided into three separate sections:
- CV-based (focusing on background and experience)
- Case study-based (involving a problem or task to work through)
- A final Q&A session with your interviewer
The same format will then be repeated for a second and potentially third round of interviews, which will usually involve you being invited back to repeat the process with more senior members of the firm.
Here is a summary of each of the stages:
The initial part of the interview will typically last around 15-20 minutes. Its purpose is essentially to determine your suitability and ‘fit’ as a BCG employee. As well as the standard questions relating to your qualifications, interest in the role and knowledge of the company, you can also expect to face a number of behavioural questions. These will focus on your experiences and require you to give specific examples of past achievements, as well as problems or challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame these.
Here are some of the kinds of questions you can expect to face at this stage:
- Why are you interested in working in consulting?
- Why did you apply to BCG?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- Can you give me an example of when you successfully lead others?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Describe a time you aggressively pursued a goal
- Describe a time when you led a group to achieve a tangible goal
- Describe a time when you failed
- Have you ever had an idea rejected and, if so, what did you do?
Tip: The behavioural-style questions probably deserve more of your attention in terms of preparation, though that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the personal questions. Be prepared to know your CV like the back of your hand.
To prepare for competency-based questions, take some time to consider specific examples of challenges and achievements you have encountered. Following the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a good starting point for structuring your answers. Be sure also to check out our guide to competency-based interviews and competency-based interview questions for further advice on this topic.
The case study segment of the interview is arguably the most important component of the BCG recruitment process, as it tests for the kind of skills you would need as an associate or consultant with the firm.
Typically lasting 25-30 minutes, this part of the interview will normally involve being presented with a request or problem from a fictional client and then being asked come up with a plan to resolve the issue.
The key skills being tested for here include logic, analytical skills and commercial awareness. At the beginning of this session, your interviewer will outline the client’s situation that you need to evaluate; you are given the opportunity to ask questions and may be provided with additional data. Then it’s up to you to offer your approach to the problem.
Here are some examples of case studies you could be presented with:
- Evaluate a potential merger with a Chinese firm
- Evaluate the market potential of a new umbrella company
- How would you value the following business?
- How would you turn around a failing paper company?
- How would you help an oil company to increase its profitability?
Tip: While it’s impossible to know the exact nature of the case study you can expect to be presented with, you should be able to narrow it down to a select few question or ‘problem’ types, based on the ones described above. Take your time and present your approach and thought-processes as logically as possible, offering a clear framework and providing reasons to justify your decision wherever possible.
Your interviewer won’t expect you to have an innate understanding of a specific industry or sector (though some prior reading on major industries such as the energy sector could certainly prove useful), and there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to the question. What’s important is being able to demonstrate a good level of commercial acumen and identify what the key issues are that demand your attention.
Prior understanding of the case study interview format is essential; there are a number of online versions you can practise on and, while no substitute for the face-to-face version, these will help you to begin organising your thoughts and structuring your argument.
The final part of each interview round is a Q&A session, where you get the chance to ask questions and to quiz your interviewer about his or her role with the firm and life at BCG in general. This part of the interview will usually last no longer than 10 minutes.
It goes without saying that you are expected to be forthcoming in asking questions and showing genuine interest and engagement with the work being done by the firm. Don’t rely on being able to come up with these questions on the spot; having a few intelligent, well considered questions up your sleeve will help you avoid the risk of brain-freeze and will demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of the firm and its work.
Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask:
- What is the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
- Have you had the opportunity to work abroad?
- What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
- What do you find most challenging about your role?
- Have you ever had a client disagree with the advice you were giving them?
- Where you involved in [xxx] transaction deal? What was that like?