Below are two emails I received from students who were successful in obtaining BCG internships as well as some advice from me on how to succeed as a BCG intern.
Some thoughts/observations on the BCG Internship interview process below, which might be of interest to you (although I imagine you get a lot of these!)
Feedback from one of the BCG interviewers after the first round was mostly good, with (as they put it) some ‘minor tweaks’, specifically (with my thoughts in italics):
- In one of the cases, the interviewer felt they needed to do a little more ‘logical leading’.
Seeing as these were case lead interviews, I suspect this had the result of me assuming that the interviewer was going to lead the case, but they said on the phone that they wanted to see me drive the case more (and perhaps with some logical inductions), although I can’t remember it that specifically! I think the key thing is that as soon as the interviewer stops, you (the candidate) need to continue onwards with the case unless they pull you another way.
- At the start of the first interview I seemed ‘slightly withdrawn’ although the second interviewer didn’t spot this.
I wonder if this had something to do with the 8:30am start. I had an L.E.K. Interview Thursday (the day before my BCG final round) and I realized that whilst I wasn’t late, arriving on time isn’t a good idea– this backtracks from the time I wake up and leave the house. With interviews in banks I’ve had before, there has been so much waiting around there’s no need to arrive early.
To be totally mentally alert and full of beans, I woke up particularly early before my BCG final to arrive 30 mins before and basically wander around town on the way in with a coffee. Definitely felt really ‘with it’ before (and then during) the first and subsequent interviews yesterday. This sounds silly, but something I guess I hadn’t fully considered– other interviews I’ve been through often had a lot of waiting around, but consulting ones are very much full on as soon as you step through the door!
- Math error (wrong answer the first time) in an interview with a table of numbers.
Despite preparing beforehand for the first round, I think even the timer on your website doesn’t simulate the pressure of an interviewer staring at you do math!
When practicing case studies with friends, I had zero (none at all!) problems with math. I prepared even more on your site, but I still fumbled in the final round on a couple of math points. I found preparing for the pressure of the actual interview with math questions difficult. The advice I would give is write everything down and talk out loud with calculations.
I received a phone call late that same evening of my final round interview, to offer me a place as a Summer Associate! Based on how I handled the cases in my final round, I was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be made an offer– a few times math needed correcting, and in one case I attacked the wrong part of the problem (not ideal!).
I’m certainly very excited, although actually the hard work starts now (well, in the Summer)! I had a quick look on your website, but nothing too obvious was there– is there anything you recommend graduates/interns to read/do before they start?
It helped me even more than any books did.
Honestly I did not have time to finish reading all the books, so I just glanced through the beginning of Case In Point and practices. I am a first year MBA and I am trying to recruit for internship position.
I heard that an internship position is even harder than the full-time, due to limited space, so I was very worried. My quantitative skill is not that strong, and I had to find a way to organize my math so that I can remember where to look for numbers.
I had a nervous breakdown during the time I practiced cases because I felt that my learning curve was becoming flat and I did not improve.
I had to stop doing cases for a few days and review what I have done before starting practicing again. My seniors and friends also helped boosting my confident by providing constructive criticism.
Right before I went to interview (three interviews back-to-back) with BCG, I felt like I was at my peak and I did succeed in getting an internship offer from BCG.
Thank you so much for your helpful resources. I really appreciate it!
I will keep on learning from your resources on how to be successful as a new intern. Hopefully I will be able to show my best performance and receive a full-time offer after summer.
I think it is helpful to know that the recruiting process can be an up and down emotional roller coaster ride.
It is quite normal to have ups and downs, and as both of these students pointed out when you hit a rough spot, just step back, calm down a little, and assess where else you can focus to improve.
The big lesson is stick to a proven process, ride out the emotional ups and downs, and feel free to step back from the process to regroup when necessary.
With respect to the feedback Student #1 provided, I totally agree with this students’ conclusions. With the exception of McKinsey, most firms, including BCG, want you to drive the case. If they want you to go in a different direction, either because you’re out of time, or they want you to pursue a different aspect of the case, they will simply redirect you.
In terms of the issue this same student had with being alert for cases, I had the same problem with my McKinsey final rounds. I did two final rounds -- one in Los Angeles, and one in New York. I had to get up at 7:30am NYC time, which was 4:30am California... combined with the fact that I had a hard time falling asleep (a little nervous) let alone early (due to time zone), I was tired. My worst-case performances were in the NYC office final round — but in aggregate good enough to get an offer.
In hindsight, I should have drunk more coffee to compensate but wasn’t a coffee drinker back then.
As for the pressure of doing math while someone is staring at you, it’s not easy! One of my McKinsey final round interviewers was someone who was formerly a fully tenured professor in Astrophysics at Princeton. He was only a 1st year associate at that time.
As you suggested, a few things are helpful. Don’t just do the computation in your head, write it down. This allows you to double check your math on the spot. If you make a mistake, but catch it yourself, that is so much better than missing it entirely. In addition, I prefer writing down the text version of the formula before writing down the numerical.
So, if I’m calculating net profit, I would write
Net Profit = Sales - Costs
Net Profit = $100M - $90M
Net Profit = $10M
I could have easily said net profit is $10M and done it all in my head, but as the computations get more complicated and the answer to one computation becomes the input to another, it is very easy to get confused.
In addition, using the approach above is also very client friendly as clients, even those not exceptional in mental math, can follow your work and not feel dumb. So, it has the dual benefit of being good practice for client interaction, reduces the chances of getting confused, and facilitates double checking computations.
Lastly my advice on preparing to do well on the job as an intern, is I would recommend my Consulting Internships Secrets program — it focuses on the specific skills you need to demonstrate during your internship, broken out into the 3 phases of the internship — beginning, middle and end.