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What to Expect at McKinsey Case study Interview

  • Taniya Ahmed
  • Nov 16, 2023
  • Updated on: Sep 02, 2023
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One of the most prominent management consulting firms in the world utilizes the McKinsey case interview, often known as the problem-solving interview, as a critical and defining component of the consulting recruitment process. In this special kind of interview, a candidate's analytical, problem-solving, and communication abilities are evaluated, along with their capacity for critical thought under pressure.


The McKinsey case interview has a reputation for being difficult and demanding, making it a key obstacle for aspirant consultants to get past. The case review, in addition to the Personal Experience Interview, is a key component in Forbes' ranking of McKinsey's interview process as the most challenging of all firms worldwide.


This article intends to become the go-to resource for candidates globally who are hoping to thrive in the McKinsey case interview and wish to launch their McKinsey careers. Recognizing the importance of extensive preparation, it recognizes the necessity of rigorous preparation. Our objective is to arm you with the knowledge and self-assurance necessary to stand out in the cutthroat world of management consulting by offering in-depth insights, useful advice, and real-world experiences.


About McKinsey


McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm that provides advisory services to a wide range of organizations, including corporations, governments, non-profit organizations, and institutions. Founded in 1926, McKinsey is one of the world's most renowned and influential consulting firms.


McKinsey's areas of expertise span various industries, such as finance, healthcare, technology, energy, manufacturing, and more. The firm is known for its data-driven approach, rigorous research, and use of advanced analytics to provide insights and recommendations to its clients.


Overall, McKinsey & Company plays a significant role in shaping business strategies and influencing decision-making across the globe. McKinsey is also known as the “gold standard” in consulting. They work with the biggest name clients and charge the highest billing rates. Due to McKinsey’s brand name and prestige, McKinsey’s consultants have access to the most attractive and lucrative exit opportunities.


Why a Case Study Interview?


Case interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process at McKinsey & Company for a number of reasons. First off, the case interview approach offers a more realistic assessment of a candidate's potential performance because it closely mimics the work environment and activities that consultants deal with every day.


Second, case interviews give McKinsey a chance to assess a candidate's capacity for critical thought, the organization of complicated issues, and effective under pressure communication—skills that are essential for consultants who must provide customers with high-quality solutions. Last but not least, case interviews act as a dependable and impartial gauge of a candidate's talents, enabling the company to compare individuals from different backgrounds in an accurate and fair manner.


Further Reading | How a major New Zealand retailer reinvented itself around customer satisfaction | McKinsey


The Recruitment Process


The McKinsey recruitment process typically consists of the following stages:


  1. Application submission: Candidates submit their resume, cover letter, and academic transcripts online.


  1. 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)


  1. 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.

  3. 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.


  1. Offer decision: Following the final round, the firm makes a decision on whether to extend an offer to the candidate.


The Personal Experience Interview (PEI)


An essential part of McKinsey's interview process is the Personal Experience Interview (PEI). In the PEI, the interviewer will question the applicant to give a specific instance from their past that exemplifies one of McKinsey's core principles, like as leadership, personal impact, or the capacity to deal with change.


Candidates ought to craft succinct and appealing narratives that highlight their successes, difficulties, and lessons learned. The purpose of the PEI is to evaluate a candidate's interpersonal abilities, sense of self and overall cultural fit with McKinsey.


The Case Interview (Problem-Solving Interview)


The main component of the interview process at McKinsey is the case interview. The candidate is given a real-world or fictitious business problem to assess and resolve during this interview. The interviewer will evaluate the applicant's aptitude for organizing the issue, processing information, coming up with novel ideas, and successfully communicating recommendations.


Candidates should demonstrate good problem-solving, analytical, and communication abilities as well as the capacity to think critically under pressure during the case interview. Practice with a variety of examples, the development of key abilities, and comprehension of the McKinsey case interview framework are all necessary for case interview preparation (more on this below).


Types of Case Studies


Candidates may come across a range of case types that encompass various sectors, functions, and issues during a McKinsey case interview. Only a few of the various case issues that you could have to resolve are listed below.


  1. Market entry: Evaluating the attractiveness of entering a new market or launching a new product or service.

  2. Growth strategy: Identifying opportunities for a company to grow its revenue, market share, or profitability.

  3. Mergers and acquisitions: Assessing the feasibility and potential value of merging with or acquiring another company.

  4. Cost reduction: Identifying areas for cost savings and efficiency improvements in a company’s operations or supply chain.

  5. Pricing strategy: Determining the optimal pricing structure for a product or service to maximize revenue or profit.

  6. Organizational restructuring: Evaluating changes to a company’s organizational structure or management processes to improve performance.

  7. Operational improvements: Figure out and improve operational issues. 


What to Expect in the Interview?




A McKinsey case follows the PEI in a one-hour interview session, with an interviewer-led format lasting 25-30 minutes. The interviewee answers questions asked by the interviewer, taking the lead within each question. Depending on performance and speed, three to six questions may be asked. Most candidates need more than three questions to convince the interviewer, so don't be afraid when the case gets longer and consists of more than three questions.


Questions Pattern


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


  • Structuring (includes creating frameworks and brainstorming questions)

  • Exhibit Interpretation

  • Mathematics


1. Structuring (includes creating frameworks and brainstorming questions): In this section, the interviewer presents you with a business problem or scenario. Your task is to create a structured approach or framework for analyzing the problem. This involves breaking down the problem into its key components, identifying relevant factors, and outlining a logical path to reach a solution. You might need to ask clarifying questions to gather more information and refine your framework. This part assesses your ability to think critically, organize your thoughts, and develop a structured approach to complex issues.


 2. Exhibit Interpretation: In this section, you're presented with charts, graphs, tables, or other types of data exhibits related to the case. Your job is to analyze and interpret the information presented in the exhibit. You might be asked to draw insights from the data, identify trends, make comparisons, and come up with hypotheses or recommendations based on your analysis. This assesses your quantitative reasoning, data interpretation skills, and ability to draw meaningful insights from visual information.


 3. Mathematics: The math section involves solving numerical calculations, often related to the case context. These calculations could include estimating market sizes, performing profitability analyses, calculating growth rates, or evaluating financial metrics. The interviewer might ask you to perform mental math or use simple calculations to derive insights. This section evaluates your quantitative skills, ability to perform calculations accurately under pressure, and your comfort with numbers.


Also Read | The Potential Of Machine Learning In Credit Risk Assessment | Analytics Steps


Phases of Solving a Case Study


 There are 4 phases of solving a McKinsey case study are:


  • Opening: Identify The As

  • Structure: Structure The Problem To Investigate It

  • Analysis: Analyze Data Related To It

  • Closing:  Recommendations & Communicate Effectively.


1. Opening: At the start of any McKinsey case study, candidates need to go through the opening phase to ensure they understand the business problem the interviewer has given them. Candidates should restate the question or problem given by the interviewer to ensure they understand it correctly.


2. Structure: In the structure phase, candidates need to develop a MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) list of important issues or factors that they will analyze to solve the client's problem. This helps candidates organize their thoughts and ensures that they cover all relevant aspects of the case.


 3. Analysis: In the analysis phase, candidates need to use the structure they developed to guide their analysis. This may involve interpreting data from charts or graphs provided by the interviewer, making calculations based on given numbers, or applying relevant business frameworks. Candidates should be thorough in their analysis and consider different perspectives.


 4. Closing: In the closing phase, Candidates need to be able to clearly and persuasively communicate their analysis and recommendations to the interviewer Candidates should restate the question they were asked to solve, summarize key findings from each section of their case structure, and clearly articulate their recommendation based on the analysis they conducted. They should be able to structure their thoughts in a logical and organized manner, and be able to adapt their communication style to different audience.


Skills Tested


These following skills are assessed by McKinsey during case interviews:


1.  Problem structuring and math skills: Candidates are expected to demonstrate strong problem structuring skills and the ability to perform calculations based on given numbers.


2. Creativity and business sense skills: Candidates are expected to demonstrate creativity and the ability to come up with a range of ideas that make business sense to solve the client issue at hand


3. Communication skills: Candidates are expected to articulate a clear and actionable recommendation based on their analysis.


4. Leadership skills: McKinsey, as well as other top consulting firms, look for candidates with strong leadership potential.


5. Fit with the firm: McKinsey assesses candidates' fit with the firm through Consulting Behavioral Interview Questions and Personal Experience Interviews (PEI)


6.Problem-solving skills: McKinsey uses gamified assessments to test candidates' problem-solving skills


7. Intrinsic motivation: McKinsey assesses candidates' intrinsic motivation and values to ensure they align with the firm's culture.


Also Read | Different Types of Research Methods | Analytics Steps




The McKinsey case interview stands as a rigorous and pivotal evaluation of analytical prowess, problem-solving acumen, and adeptness under pressure. Recognized globally for its demanding nature, this interview method assesses candidates' critical thinking, structured approach, and communication proficiency. Through its structured Personal Experience Interview (PEI) and the core Case Interview, McKinsey seeks to unveil candidates' capacity to navigate complex issues and formulate innovative recommendations.


Success entails mastering the art of structuring, data interpretation, and mathematical analysis. A strategic mindset, adherence to the MECE principle, hypothesis-driven thinking, and a blend of creativity and business intuition are essential. By comprehending the phases, skills, and strategies outlined, candidates can confidently embark on their journey to excel in the McKinsey case interview and secure their place in the world of management consulting.

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