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Business Case Example: The 10 Best Free Examples in 2022 (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte etc.)

The Consulting Offer within our Premium membership is, by far, the best way to prepare for case interviews. However, you may be just starting your case interview preparation and not ready yet to commit the resources, time, the effort that is required for serious preparation. So you may be looking online for a business case example to practice with and dip your toe, so to speak, to see if pursuing consulting is even of interest to you.

Or it may be the case that you, just like a large number of FIRMSconsulting members, are an executive or a manager outside of consulting, interested in developing problem-solving skills. If so, you may be searching for a business case example/business case analysis example to start honing your skills. If so, this article will also be helpful to you.

Before we dive into business case examples, we would like to share with you 2 free resources we prepared for you as a gift, based on FIRMSconsulting book on brain teasers and another FIRMSconsulting book on solving business cases and overall consulting case interview preparation. These downloads include 20 brain teasers including explanations on how to approach solving each of those brain teasers. It also includes a comprehensive estimation cases guide. Estimation cases are very often used in consulting, either as a separate case or as part of a larger case. As part of your preparation for consulting case interviews, you will certainly come across various estimation cases. It is crucial for you to learn how to solve them. You can get links to download copies of both resources below. It is completely free. Get it now and thank us later. Enjoy!

FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE


FREE GIFT #2 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – A Comprehensive Estimation Cases Guide: CLICK HERE



Before we dive into any particular business case example, you may be asking yourself do all consulting firms use similar interview style?

Well, yes… but…

McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Roland Berger etc. use similar but not exactly the same case interview styles. Even within the same firm, and even within the same office, styles may differ. A lot depends on the person interviewing you, e.g. how many years were they with the firm. For example, did a partner interviewing you “grow up” at McKinsey or did she join recently as hire from a competing firm?

So what are some differences you may anticipate between consulting firms when it comes to the way they conduct case interviews?

  • Cases can be interviewer-led or interviewee-led/candidate-led.
  • Cases can be answer-first or not answer first.
  • Cases can have the objective function to solve or lack an objective function.
  • Cases may require a framework or not require a framework.
  • Different firms or interviewers can pull cases together with different components above since these are all mutually exclusive.



There are four main ways in which consulting firms conduct case interviews.

Interviewer-Led: In this scenario, the case is usually structured into a few sections. The first section usually includes the interviewer describing the case and asking an interviewee such questions as “What are the important questions?” or “How would you structure your analysis?” At this stage, they will be looking to see a candidate develop a structure/framework to solve the case but not to go deep into solving the case. If the interviewer is happy with your initial structure/framework they will likely point you in the direction they want you to analyze the case. Once you master interviewee-led cases, interviewer-led cases become much easier to manage.

Interviewee-Led/Candidate-Led case interview: In this type of scenario the interviewer presents a short problem, often a business problem, and then expects an interviewee to lead the case to get to an answer, sparingly giving up any additional information. An example of a business problem can be, “Our client is a multinational electronics manufacturer. They have seen a decrease in profits of 10% over the last year and the CEO wants to know how to proceed.” Interviewee-led cases are generally much harder than interviewer-led cases because the interviewer is offering far fewer prompts.

Group Interview: You probably heard that some consulting firms conduct a group case interview. The way it usually works is a few candidates are selected from the first round and moved to the final or next round which includes a combination of interviews, including a group case interview.

Before I took my corporate banking job during my MBA, I went through a case interview process with Monitor (that was before they became Monitor Deloitte). Once I passed the first round all final-round candidates had a combination of interviews in the firm’s offices in Toronto, which included a group case interview, a one-on-one interview with an associate, and a partner interview. Interestingly, after going through the process through the grapevine we found out they have not hired anyone during that recruitment period, probably because the acquisition was in the cards already.

But, anyway, the most important thing you need to remember about group case interviews is that small groups of candidates are given a case. They must solve the case together while the interviewer silently observes.

Written/Presentation Interview: In this scenario, you are given all the data upfront. The challenging part is to work through the unimportant data and get to the core of the issue. You usually have very little time to analyze the problem and develop a recommendation. At the end of the written / presentation interview you are expected to present your analyses and recommendation.

Remember to always expect variations of the above.


Yes, there are a few good business case examples you can use. Here is a summary list:


Now let’s dive deeper.



This case is a McKinsey style case, of medium-level difficulty. It should take you 15-20 minutes to solve this case.

The question is given upfront, at 2:02. The part in black is the part the interviewer would share with you and a part in grey is the part interviewer may share as the case progresses. The interviewer wants to see if the interviewee understands the case and asks the right questions.

The case question is quite explicit but even so we will show you how you can adjust the case and make the case more explicit.

Everything rests on the key question. If anything is not part of the key question, ignore it. Even though lots of information is provided, take time to understand and set up the case.

Always show why information is needed, and show progress so the interviewer is they are willing to provide more information. It is a barter. And always use the case information provided and the appropriate language to push the case forward.



We did this recording a few months after we completed the training with Rafik (TCO I). This is one of the most complex market entry cases we had to put together. It has elements of operations, elements of pricing, elements of costing and, obviously, elements of market entry. And it is probably the most difficult market entry case we can do because most market entry cases that most interviewers focus on have a strong market attractiveness element, market profitability element. But very few people actually look at the operational issues of entering the market. And it does not matter who you are interviewing with: Bain, BCG or McKinsey. The bulk of the focus usually goes towards analyzing the market worthiness but not a lot on the operational issues. So we decided, in this case, to flip it around and give this case a strong operational theme.



Operations cases can be tackled in two ways: strategy and operations and within operations from productivity and the supply chain side. This case uses the supply chain side.

This case is candidate-led. As we mentioned above, candidate-led cases are much harder than interviewer-led cases. That is why we at FIRMSconsutling place so much more emphasis on teaching you how to lead cases vs. relying on the interviewer to lead. This will be considered an operations case. Pay attention to a very insightful brainstorming at 14:50 which includes at least one idea you most likely would not come up with if you were solving this case before watching this video.



Here is a good video from the Yale SOM Consulting Club. This case is realistic in terms of the difficulty you will see in real case interviews with McKinsey, BCG and Bain.



This is an average difficulty profitability case which the author mentioned is basically taken from his final interview with Bain.



The difficulty level is quite high and it is a great opportunity to practice with public sector cases. A big downside of this case is that the exhibit shown at 8:40 is not shared, which makes it impossible to fully practice this case. This is a candidate-led case.





In this complex case we examine declining profits at a Pharma company and explain the importance of portfolios and R&D probability calculations. It is a complex case to master.



Here is a public sector interviewer-led case. The difficulty level is quite advanced.



This is another good case from the Yale SOM consulting club. A market entry case which is good for beginners. It is an interviewer-led case.

This is an easy case to start with. You can find the exhibit here, go to page 9.



This question is most useful because it is an easy question to practice. Think of it as a possible first-round case. The candidate’s performance could be a little better. But it is a good question to practice with on your own.

We hope you found at least one business case example above that helped you strengthen your problem-solving skills. If you know of any other “best business case examples” that should be included in this list let us know in the comments.

FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE


FREE GIFT #2 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – A Comprehensive Estimation Cases Guide: CLICK HERE


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McKinsey Digital, the old BTO along with some new capabilities, is the practice within McKinsey that advises clients on everything related to information technology (the old term for digital) and everything related to the movement of data. Digital is, after all, just the movement of data in 1s and 0s.

Today we will answer a reader question about McKinsey Digital.

“Thank for the great podcasts, Michael. They have definitely piqued my interest in McKinsey outside of the strategy practice. I was always going to consider joining the strategy unit but I am now more interested in McKinsey Digital. Do you any suggestions for someone trying to join McKinsey Digital. I have a Kellogg MBA and joined Amazon as a Product Manager after graduation. The work was interesting but the salary was lower than expected and I am not fully challenged. I have followed the Digital & IT Strategy Program and that is the type of work I want to do. What should be my strategy for McKinsey Digital?”


Mckinsey digital


What is McKinsey Digital?

You cannot join the McKinsey Strategy Practice as an associate. It is not possible. So it’s really a question of joining the McKinsey generalist path to Partner (includes the generalist Digital path as described below and what you refer to as the strategy practice along with operations, org design, marketing etc.) or McKinsey specialist path in Digital on an expert track.

When Dominic Barton headed McKinsey he shepherded the firm into three priorities:

Recovery & Transformation Services



If you want to know McKinsey’s current priorities just look at their website homepage.

McKinsey Digital

McKinsey Digital

It is not possible for a practice to get any more prominent placement than McKinsey Digital. Even Climate Change is not as important as building the next Digital Disrupter.

Digital is defined as the movement of data. That is it.

You may have wanted a more sophisticated definition but if you think about it, an App is just the movement of data between some code on your phone and a server somewhere.

Netflix is just an App pulling in a video feed (data) from an Amazon server somewhere. And Amazon is saying Thank you Netflix! as they analyze the data stream and use the insights for Amazon Prime.

As an aside, Amazon will insist they keep a Chinese wall between everything, but we all know how outsourcing ends. The outsourcer eventually learns all the secrets and builds their own products. That is after all how Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and China developed.

Digital Strategy is figuring how to move data around and manipulate that data while creating a business model that generates profits.

McKinsey Digital is a new initiative because the whole concept of a digital strategy is new. Neither McKinsey nor anyone else knows exactly what goes into Digital and how it will evolve.

When a field is new and still evolving everyone has to take bets on where to invest. McKinsey Digital is no different.

McKinsey first had McKinsey Analytics as a standalone support function. McKinsey Solutions was also a support function. Both have been folded into McKinsey Digital in an informal alliance versus a formal reporting structure.

McKinsey Digital is both function and the loose collective

There is a formal McKinsey Digital practice and a grouping of similar skills, belonging to different parts of McKinsey that all do digital work. That latter part is the loose collective. So if you want to join McKinsey Digital, you can join McKinsey Solutions and do some digital work even though you may not formally be part of the McKinsey Digital practice where you are on a formal partner track.

You could, for example, join one of the design firms McKinsey recently acquired. And thereafter work on a digital project to redesign the digital interface for the Norwegian Tax Agency. You would be doing digital work but you are not part of the McKinsey Digital Practice.

McKinsey Digital could be reorganized tomorrow and the design teams could be placed in digital. Yet, they are part of the loose collective right now and not the formal practice. And it is fair to say there will be a few more reorganizations of McKinsey Digital until the next big theme comes alone.

We define formal practice as that part of McKinsey Digital that leads one to the formal McKinsey partner track.

I am going to assume this is the part everyone wants to join. The formal McKinsey Digital practice with the path to the formal partnership.

McKinsey is not a partnership and this helps

McKinsey, like Bain and BCG, stopped being partnerships a long time ago. If a firm is a partnership it would have an LLP at the end of its name. Like law firms.

McKinsey is an incorporated entity where the partners are directors with shares in a private company.

They have to take out a low-interest loan to buy into the shares and they receive dividends from the shares in the form of profit sharing at the end of the year.

Your power in the firm is correlated to the number of shares you own. And the amount of shares you own is largely determined by the amount of revenue you generate. Seriously smart people who join McKinsey and generate mind-blowing insights, yet cannot sell end up as Principals who do not share in the profits of the firm.

This structure is important because McKinsey can create risky practices like Recovery & Transformation Services (RTS) and ring-fence those assets and liabilities in a separate company which is wholly owned by McKinsey or a trust that manages the partners’ assets on behalf of McKinsey.

So a McKinsey Partner on the McKinsey website who indicates he/she is in RTS may be a McKinsey partner of the main firm or just a partner in the ring-fenced entity. Most clients do not know there is a difference and that is deliberate. If McKinsey brought in the RTS partners into the main share structure they would likely not make them formal partners and the RTS partner titles would reflect this lower standing.

By doing this McKinsey both ring-fences the risk and gives the RTS leaders the title of Partner, which sounds a lot better to clients than the non-partners title they would have in the formal partnership.

McKinsey Digital is the same. Some of the pieces that McKinsey assembled to build its skill in digital, apps, analytics and design are kept in these ring-fenced entities. If you join the ring-fenced entity, you are joining McKinsey but not the part you really want to join.

In other words, many of the leaders in McKinsey Digital are leaders only within their ring-fenced entity. They are not formal partners of McKinsey though they may share very similar titles.

McKinsey Digital Analogy

There was a time when Goldman Sachs had an onsite staff of caterers and cooks on their payroll. They may even have had cleaners, couriers, assistants, researchers etc on their payroll.

Let’s take an extreme example to make a very important point about how to prepare for McKinsey Digital.

Let’s assume there was a department called Goldman Sachs Catering. If Goldman Sachs Catering placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal asking for a Michelin Starred Chef to lead their kitchen, whom do you think would apply? It may seem obvious in this example because chefs would apply.

Would a Morgan Stanley banker apply for the role because it was at Goldman Sachs?

We can clearly see that the skills to succeed in Goldman Sachs catering as the head chef are different from the skills needed to join Goldman Sachs Investment Banking.

The name at the front of the title tells you little. It’s the name at the back of the title that tells you the most.

Bringing that back to McKinsey Digital, forget about the name at the front.

Ask yourself if you are applying for the formal Digital practice.

Ask yourself if you are applying to one of the loose collectives within the digital skills area.

So just because you see the name McKinsey in front of McKinsey Digital does not mean you always need to prepare like this is a McKinsey interview. That would be the equivalent of a chef applicant learning how to build financial models because the name Goldman Sachs appears in front of Goldman Sachs Catering.

Applying to McKinsey Digital

It goes without saying that a chef who has a Michelin star is extremely talented and quite likely wealthy. He probably owns more than one restaurant, hosts a television show, publishes books and owns a culinary empire. The point is that not being a banker at Goldman Sachs does not mean you are not successful if you are a talented person in a non-core part of that company.

But you have to be talented.

When people apply to McKinsey Digital all they see is the word McKinsey and assume there is a uniform application process, uniform interview process and uniform set of skills sought.

They assume they must be joining the McKinsey on which the brand is built.

It is far from it.

McKinsey Digital Generalist

McKinsey Digital which tends to hire MBAs from universities and is led by partners who came through the formal McKinsey path – from associate to engagement manager to associate principal to principal to director – is the part of McKinsey which follows the formal case interview process.

If this is the part you are joining then you can apply on the McKinsey website or contact the McKinsey recruiters online. It is the standard process for the generalist part of McKinsey.

And you have to be good at all types of cases since this part of McKinsey advises on the business models and efficiency. They do not build Apps, work with big data etc. If an engagement requires this work to be done, they will bring in specialists from McKinsey Digital to do the work.

You can join the generalist McKinsey Digital practice at any level but the associate level is easiest. We once had an assistant to the CEO of a Big 5 Technology Company join McKinsey Digital as an engagement manager. It is very hard to join this practice at the Director level since that requires an ability to bring in a book of business.

Unlike the generalist strategy, operations etc., practices joining at the McKinsey Digital Principal level is a little easier since there is more emphasis on technical skills versus client relationships at McKinsey Digital. That gap will close as the practice matures.

McKinsey Digital Specialist

If you are joining McKinsey Solutions or McKinsey Analytics or one of the numerous specialist firms McKinsey is acquiring and if you are working on digital issues then you are a specialist.

You may be assigned to work within or alongside a generalist team at an insurance client working on a new app for a health insurance product, but you are still a specialist. You could be helping with slides, meeting clients and even generating storyboards but you are a specialist.

How do you know you are a specialist? A specialist is someone who does approximately the same work across clients and/or sectors, and is not part of the generalist career path.

So a specialist need not just do technical work. You could be doing market surveys for digital consumers or even building specialist models to track election data. If you do approximately the same work all the time you are a specialist.

Finding opening roles for specialist roles is not easy. Each part of the McKinsey Digital loose collective will have their own recruitment pages, processes and it is not aggregated in one place. Some will test applicants with case interviews and others will ask you to code.

The offices, culture, remuneration and everything else are quite different from McKinsey even though it is all collectively called McKinsey Digital.

It’s like living in the Beverly Hills 90210 Post Office code of Beverly Hills. It has the name Beverly Hills, the TV show made it famous, you paid millions for the location and all your friends are impressed. You think you will get the Beverly Hills City treatment and services.

But it is not part of the city of Beverly Hills.

It is part of West Los Angeles and when you have a problem the LAPD arrives, usually 7 hours late and not the BHPD.

This may sound funny and irrelevant but Demi Moore almost died because of this misunderstanding.

What does this mean? Just because it has the name McKinsey in front does not mean you are joining McKinsey nor even receiving the full McKinsey experience. Some parts are part of the formal McKinsey and will receive the same experience but many are not.

Expecting the full McKinsey experience is like buying a very expensive home outside the city of Beverly Hills, but within the Beverly Hills 90210 zip code, and expecting the service offered by the city of Beverly Hills. The names may look the same but the experience is different. Can you imagine how many people have made this mistake?

When it comes to McKinsey Digital Specialists, don’t worry about what McKinsey does or wants. Focus on the firm that McKinsey acquired to build that skill and apply, and prepare to interview in the way that the acquiree used to operate. The McKinsey name means little here.

McKinsey Digital Generalist vs McKinsey Digital Specialist?

The likely next question is where should you apply and/or which is better?

The answers are surprisingly easy.

You should apply to that part of McKinsey Digital where you have both the skills to apply and the interest.

A Kellogg MBA who works as a Product Manager at Amazon is probably not going to have the skills to pass the interview let alone work with the code for cryptocurrency specialist work done by that team within McKinsey Digital. Even if the MBA had the interest, the skill is just not there.

An associate professor from Carnegie Mellon who specialize in large datasets and spacial geometry could apply to the generalist path and/or the specialist path. They have more options. What matters here is their interests and preparation to pass both the generalist case interview and specialist interview.

My view is the associate professor should bypass McKinsey completely and go work at someplace like Uber and earn 3 to 4 times anything McKinsey could offer while solving incredibly important problems to mankind like how a retro-fitted Volvo could pick up a to-go coffee order at Starbucks and deliver it before the temperature drops by more than 5%.

In terms of prestige of the McKinsey Digital name on your resume, it matters where you want to work.

In the business world, the McKinsey name will carry more weight all things being equal. But all other things are not equal

Even in the business world, there are limits. Does the Chief Engineer at Spotify think working at McKinsey Digital will make you a better full stack engineer? Or does he think someone working at Disney+ in their new App rollout will be a better full stack engineer? He will probably go with the Disney+ guy.

Yet within Spotify, another part of the business may find the McKinsey experience very valuable.

The McKinsey name is only valuable to people who find it valuable. There are large parts of the business world where it is not helpful

Yet, the difference is that when it comes to a technical skill like coding we can check your skills in real time to know if you are good. Either you can solve the problem or not? Either you can code or not?

It will take us years to know if the advice you gave a client as a McKinsey Digital generalist was any good.

So a specialist will find it easier to prove their skill. Therefore, where you worked matters slightly less.

The McKinsey Digital generalist will get away with more since it is harder to prove if a strategy worked or why it failed. They often just blame the implementation.

Rules for navigating McKinsey Digital

Here are some simple guidelines to help you.

Do you have the base skills and resume to join McKinsey Digital Specialist or McKinsey Digital Generalist? If not, either do not apply or take the time to build your resume like completing an MBA or specialist coding program.

Do you have an interest in this type of work? If not, either do not apply or see it as a temporary career point.

Do you like being a specialist at general problem solving or being a specialist at one thing and doing it all the time? If not, do not do it or see it as a staging point for more interesting work.

All that said, I can short-circuit the answer for you.

If you are on this site you are probably interested in the generalist side of McKinsey Digital and want to learn about the business side. In that case, join McKinsey Digital Generalist.

Too many people join the specialist side hoping to impress the generalists and be invited across. That is most likely never going to happen mostly because you will rarely get opportunities to do the generalist work and prove you can be a generalist.

One of our best performing coaching clients worked in an administrative support function at BCG and transitioned to a consultant role. He is the rare exception that proves the rule.

Case interview examples – McKinsey, BCG, Bain (MBB), Deloitte etc.

Consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain (MBB), Deloitte etc. use the case interview process to assess candidates. It is very difficult to be invited to a consulting case interview, especially with McKinsey, BCG, Bain and Deloitte. And it is even more difficult to do well at case interviews without preparing for them properly. And there are a lot of free case interview examples out there, but it’s difficult to know where to start. So in this article we have listed some of the best free consulting case interview examples available, in one place.

We will cover interactive case interview samples provided by consulting firms, video case interview examples, case books, and materials developed by the team here at FIRMSconsulting.

Before we dive into business case examples, we would like to share with you 2 free resources we prepared for you as a gift, based on FIRMSconsulting book on brain teasers and another FIRMSconsulting book on solving business cases and overall consulting case interview preparation. These downloads include 20 brain teasers including explanations on how to approach solving each of those brain teasers. It also includes a comprehensive estimation cases guide. Estimation cases are very often used in consulting, either as a separate case or as part of a larger case. As part of your preparaton for consulting case interviews, you will certainly come across various estimation cases. It is crucial for you to learn how to solve them. You can get links to download copies of both resources below. It is completely free. Get it now and thank us later. Enjoy!

FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE

FREE GIFT #2 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – A Comprehensive Estimation Cases Guide: CLICK HERE

1. McKinsey case interview examples

2. BCG case interview examples

3. Bain case interview examples

4. Deloitte case interview examples

5. Accenture case interview examples

6. Strategy& / PWC case interview examples

7. A.T. Kearney case interview example

8. Oliver Wyman case interview examples

9. OC&C strategy consultants case interview examples

10. Capital One case interview examples

11. General case interview examples

  • Comprehensive McKinsey, BCG, Bain operations case approach (by FIRMScnsulting.com) – See below

12. Consulting clubs case interview examples

Structured case interview preparation approach is needed

If you haven’t done so already, remember to get your copies of 2 free resources we prepared for you that will help you in your consulting case interview preparation. Free gift #2 also includes another free case interview example, an estimation case example with a detailed answer. Please see links below:

FREE GIFT #1 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – 20 Brain Teasers With Answers And Explanations: CLICK HERE

FREE GIFT #2 BONUS TUTORIAL DOWNLOAD – A Comprehensive Estimation Cases Guide: CLICK HERE

If you would like to fast track your case interview preparation and maximize your chances of getting an offer from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte etc, we welcome you to train with us. The Consulting Offer program, which is a part of Premium membership, was designed specifically for this purpose.

There is nowhere else in the world where you can see real candidates trained by former partners from major consulting firms. You will see the candidate’s progression through each step of the case interview preparation process. And you will see candidates receiving real offers from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte etc.


TCO Solution Videos
TCO I, Felix, McKinsey Offer
TCO I, Sanjeev, joins BCG
TCO I, Rafik
TCO I, Samantha
TCO II, Alice Qinhua Zhou joins McKinsey NYC, trained by Kevin P. Coyne
TCO II, Michael Klein
TCO III, Jennifer Nwankwo joins Bain
TCO III, Zach Steinfeld joins Deloitte S&O
TCO IV, Assel joins McKinsey
TCO IV, Tom & The Experienced Hire Program
TCO IV, Sizan & Prepares for McKinsey & BCG
TCO V, Ritika Mohan joins McKinsey
Insights from Coaching & TCO

DETAILED: How McKinsey, BCG et al. Runs an Engagement (275 videos)
First 90 Days in Consulting
Business Case Analysis

All conveniently available as:
900+ hours of partner-led training
No Internet required. Sync videos to watch offline, or connect with Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G
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Automatically beam videos from your phone to your Chromecast or AirPlay-enabled devices
Create playlists
Pick up where you left off

It’s all included, every month that you choose to be a member.

Any other case interview examples to include?

If there are any other case interview examples that you think are worthwhile to be included on this page, please let us know.

Our contact details: [email protected]

Consulting vs Banking: 4 Key Differences

Many FC members, especially those currently completing an MBA, are considering consulting vs banking. I had a privilege to work in both fields so I can compare the pros and cons of both based on my own experience. Below are some key differences I noticed in being exposed to both environments.

Four key differences when comparing consulting vs banking

Asset vs resource:

The number one difference for me when comparing consulting vs banking is what I call asset vs resource. In consulting a lot is invested in your development and you are treated as a valuable asset to the company. People are the most important asset for consulting firms and while there is the up or out policy pressure, you do have to compete with only top performers on a daily basis, you do feel very clearly that YOU are important and your development as a professional is important for the firm.

In banking, you are a resource. Your development is, to a large degree, not important. If you deliver results they will promote you. If you don’t they will push you out, or to the side. I have seen VPs being demoted, senior business development person pushed to a lateral but less important role or made feel so uncomfortable they leave to join a competitor.

People are escorted out of the building the moment they say they are joining another bank. My friend went through this. He had to leave all his belongings, including his jacket and photos of his baby daughter as security walked him out of the building, the moment he said he was leaving to join another bank.

The culture shock for someone from consulting was huge, at least in my case. You get this clear feeling that you are just NOT valued, you are used. This contrast was shocking to me and I hated this about banking.

Cream of the crop vs politically savvy long-timers:

The next thing that was very different when comparing consulting vs banking is the type of people you get to work with. While you will be working with competent people in consulting and in banking, in consulting the caliber of your colleagues will generally be much higher.

In banking, most bosses are in their high seats because they served the bank for decades and know how to navigate the political landscape and be in good graces with important decision-makers. In consulting people at the top are generally more than politically savvy long-timers.

They are highly competent people who made tremendous sacrifices in serving their clients.

Tiring but exciting travel vs. missing out on seeing new places but sleeping in your own bed:

And the last biggest difference I noticed when comparing consulting vs banking is, of course, the travel schedule. During my years in banking, I only had to travel out of city one time on business and several times for training. While I missed not visiting amazing cities that I otherwise may never get a chance to visit, I also really enjoyed being able to plan my weekly meals, not having to pack all the time and live out of a suitcase and sleep in my own bed.

And nothing is really worth to be away from those you love.

Life is too short for this. I would say that overall, not traveling for work turned out to be a benefit, even taking into account the downsides of not seeing amazing parts of the world. So I would say this point is a pro for banking and con against consulting.           

Clear and guided career path vs confusing maze with mostly lateral moves:

And the last key difference I found when comparing consulting vs banking is in navigating and figuring out a career path. In consulting the career path forward is crystal clear. You join as an analyst, you move to associate, you become engagement manager, junior partner and then senior partner.

In banking, my experience was a complete opposite. No coaching or guidance. It was not clear what was the career path. There is a maze and you can take various turns and hope to get somewhere at the end of the road.

The bank is huge. There are plenty of options available for your next role, but most of them are lateral. You could stay in investment banking and follow a set path, or do a lateral move to fixed income. Or you could go into wealth management. While all have their own set promotion path it is not clear where to do and what they really do.

My verdict when comparing consulting vs banking

So what is my verdict when comparing consulting vs banking? I would say, by far, consulting was, and is, a much better fit for me. I love learning. I put a lot into my work and I expect to be viewed as an asset to be invested in vs. a resource to be used and squeezed.

Also, during my years in banking, I met maybe a maximum of 4 people who were somewhat happy. All of them NEVER worked outside of financial services so I think they were happy because they never seen the world outside of financial services. Everyone else was at various levels of misery. In consulting most people I worked with were happy or at least content with their jobs, careers and future prospects.

So based on my experience, if you are anything like me, my advice is to choose consulting or something else, but don’t go into banking.

This is, of course, based on my experience only. I am sure there are a lot of very happy bankers and maybe the issue was the organization I worked in vs the entire banking industry. But I thought to share this so you can avoid some disappointments that I experienced when I picked banking over consulting after MBA.

Looking at FC clients, there has also been a big shift away from banking. Ten years ago banking and consulting dominated our client choices. Today, even when clients receive McKinsey offers, most end up at tech firms, consulting is second, PE/VC is third and investment banking and wealth management are in the lower top ten list.

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Defensive case study interview techniques – McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc.

As our clients prepare for the case study interview I wanted to offer some perspective. 

It is not what the consultant wants to do

Let’s begin by acknowledging that conducting a case study interview is not a pleasant experience for an interviewer. It is not why people become strategy consultants. The greatest case interviewer does not necessarily become an EM, let alone a partner. When a consultant is being assessed every few months, their phenomenal case study interview skills will not save them from mediocre engagement feedback. 

Running a case study interview is not what the consultant wants to do. It is not why a consultant is primarily rewarded and promoted. The very best consultants are unlikely to be conducting interviews. They would be with clients.

Case study interviews take consultants away from engagement teams and away from clients. No client ever uttered the words, “I respect Amy as a consultant because she took 2 days away from my study to fly to Boston to conduct MBA interviews.” To a client, having their consultant engaged in case study interviews is a distraction and cost they do not want to bear. 

Want to create a case study interview based on what they know 

Consultants are tired. Consultants are behind schedule. Consultants are overworked. They are overwhelmed. Consultants do not have sufficient time to prepare. If a consultant could do it, they would spend all their time working on client work and never prepare for a case study interview. They would simply create a case study interview based on what they know. 

A failed case study interview may not be your fault 

Companies expect responses immediately. An interviewer is not supposed to read and respond to emails, but it is bound to happen. An interviewer should be able to multitask if they choose to read and respond to emails. But interviewers are tired and sleep deprived. They often may miss things or not hear something you say in an interview. 

Interviewers would rather fail you than admit they made a mistake. Can you think of any situation where a firm/interviewer admitted a case study interview mistake? 

Interviewers should take the time to help you. They should give you the benefit of the doubt. They should have no prejudices. They should not discriminate against gender, race, schools and other forms of pedigree. But interviewers are human. They do and will. 

I mention this because too many clients only focus on themselves in a case study interview and assume the interviewer is a perfect person who is totally focused on them, and with a razor sharp intellect. They are not. They are only human and even if the day they meet you is their best day, they will have quirks. 

Defensive case study interview techniques

Knowing all of the above, you need to practice defensive case study interview techniques. Like defensive driving, in this approach you expect the worse and run the case interview by taking charge to help the interviewer help you. 

If the interviewer is in a bad mood, take charge of the energy in the room and keep things pleasant, conversational and moving along. Listen to how Assel managed a tough McKinsey interivewer in the final session with Assel which we made available, at least temporarily, on our youtube channel to help you with your case study interview preparation. 

Knowing how busy and unprepared most interviewers are, take the time to speak clearly and offer your assumptions and inferences versus waiting for the interviewer to guide you. 

Do not be thrown off by an interviewer who is checking emails, typing emails or even eating lunch. They are human. They should not but it is far worse to have a consultant suffering from low blood sugar in an interview. 

Make it pleasant for the interviewer. Make sure they can read your exhibits or any diagrams you draw. Help them understand your thinking by offering succinct explanations and offering them options. 

Answer their questions. Don’t give them what a case book told you to give them if it does not answer their question. 

I can sum this up by saying treat interviewers as if they are human. Which they are. They are not perfectly programmed robots who do everything correctly. 

And the same advice applies to you. Every client tries to avoid a mistake. And should clients make a mistake they act like the case study interview is over and they have failed, and therefore there is no point in trying any further. 

Try this approach. Rather than practicing to avoid a mistake, practice what you will do when you will make a mistake. You should not apologize and offer to fall on a sword, since that means nothing at all and is not helpful, but rather focus on immediately and cheerily fixing it and moving on. 

Assume you will make a mistake. Accept this and have a plan. You will rarely be failed for a mistake unless the mistake is truly obvious, you did not spot it yourself and/or you failed to correct the mistake after it was pointed out to you. 

3 minutes spent apologizing is 3 wasted minutes to solve a case. 3 minutes berating yourself up simply lowers your standing in the eyes of the interviewer. Leaders don’t take the time to belittle themselves. They act. 

Don’t worry so much about math mistakes. While consutling firms usually point them out when offering feedback, far more clients fail due to lack of proper structures, critical thinking, judgement and fit. 

Your job is not to pass the case study interview. Your job is not to solve the case. Many interviewees will achieve this goal and fail to get an offer. Your task is to make this such a pleasant experience for the interviewer that you will leave them no doubt you are fit to be in front of any client and they will want enjoy working with you.

You can only do this if you take the time to think about the interviewer as a person. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Most clients never think about the interviewer. You may not be able to solve a case. You may not even complete the case. Yet, you could still easily obtain an offer if you prove you have the skills to think critically. 

Communication, MECE, 80/20, hypotheses, prioritized branches are like ingredients. If you have the perfect ingredients but assemble them in the wrong way you will have a bad dish. So take the time to learn how to use them conversationally versus just ticking the boxes off as you use them. 

Always remember that many things lie outside your control. Firms and offices are driven by economics. If an office can only afford to hire 3 people and 6 people were exceptional, unless the firm found a way to defy the laws of economics, only 3 people will be hired. 

Overall hiring numbers are driven less by case performance and more by the general economic environment. There is a reason consulting firms hire more in strong economic environments, and hire less and fire more during weaker economic growth. 

So you can be phenomenal but there could have been someone better. These things happen. 

Everyone will learn at their own pace with their own level of commitment. Some clients do well with little preparation. This is because they already think in this critical reasoning format and generally speak well. Others need more time. And that is fine. 

Some clients are very good, but lack confidence and need the interviewer to constantly affirm they are going in the right direction. This is what hurts their chances. 

I know many McKinsey partners who did not get in on their first chance. I know many people who chose not to join the firm after obtaining an offer. And I know many whose lives did not materially change after they joined. 

Good, talented people will always excel. They may end up on a different path, but they will get there. 

Solving cases requires critical reasoning skills. The same way you only need to solve a few math problems to understand a concept, you don’t necessarily need to practice +100 cases. If you are doing that, you are probably memorizing frameworks. It’s far more efficient to learn how to build frameworks from first principles. 

If this were not true every great mathematician and scientists would be memorizing the answers to every type of question. They don’t, and neither should you. 

If you find this message useful as part of case study interview preparation, please share it with those who need it. 

Best. Kris 

How to design a consulting career around immigration needs

Immigration has always been a big topic for our clients. It determines what clients will study, when they can apply for consulting firms and where they will apply. Today, I will offer some perspective based on some of the issues our clients raise. I will focus on the US since that is the most popular destination.

Hopefully, this email can spark your creativity based on the ways we have helped clients.

Immigration at a consulting partner level

For foreign executives who are trying to join McKinsey USA as a principal/partner we advise them against it. At the partner level one needs to have a network of clients in the US and understand US culture.

That is hard to do for a McKinsey Australia partner transferring to McKinsey NYC, and almost impossible for an executive from Sony Japan, for example. This is because the partnership is a lot more about sales than it is about the problem-solving process.

It is better to take the steps to build a client network before trying to join McKinsey in the USA as a direct-hire partner. In this situation, clients often have an option to consider transferring with their companies.

It is usually a non-immigrant visa, and if the clients end up liking the US, and find it easy to work in the US, we then guide those clients to focus their activities on just 4 areas which will allow them to meet the criteria to self-sponsor their applications on the EB1 path. And I am sure you know this, but just as a reminder, please remember that you must clearly state your intentions when applying for the original visa.

Want to run your own consulting firm in the US?

One FC Insider, from Germany I believe, emailed us about his experiences coming to the US on an E2 visa, having to leave when his plans failed, and then considering a return to the US. He tried to launch a small consulting firm.

What makes this visa useful to those who run their own consulting boutique firms is that if you can show you have made a commitment financially to move your business to the USA, and your business has been viable, in Germany for example, or could be viable, and you meet all the criteria, you may be granted a non-immigrant visa to work in the US and set up your business. For experienced-hire clients who run their own firms in Europe etc. this may not be a bad idea.

The US is a much larger but very competitive market but this may be a better path. Although there may be some common-sense exceptions, the investment visa applies for almost any business. Again, if the client ends up liking the US, and find it easy to work in the US, we then guide them to focus their activities on a narrow set of activities which will allow them to meet the criteria to self-sponsor their applications on the EB1 path.

Common immigration path

Most clients assume the best path into the US is via a degree, H1B application and finally a sponsored green card application. It may be, but it is also a long and arduous path with no guarantee of sponsorship. Very few firms sponsor green cards and the H1B process is a very long wait for clients from some countries like India and China.

EB1 path to immigration

For Lisa, a Chinese national completing her MBA in the USA, we followed a very different strategy. And we did it because her lawyer was taking her down the H1B path. And this is a strategy we have used for other PE and McKinsey, BCG etc. clients.

The strategy is to go down the EB1 path, provided they have an MBA, Masters in Business Science and/or any business degree and are working in management consulting since this visa has very specific requirements. It could also work for a PhD running a small consulting firm in his/her field, or even working within a consulting firm in his/her field. It also works in many other situations but we will keep it focused on consultants here.

We guide our foreign PE clients already working within the USA to undertake strategy related work within PE firms, and where possible within the strategy units within those firms. The goal is to show that the client has an MBA and is working in the field of their study. With MBA clients who join consulting firms this is not even an issue because they will be working in consulting.

And it need not be a consulting firm in the USA. You can self-sponsor from outside the USA. This has worked with clients in other countries. With Lisa and similar clients we guide them to focus on a very narrow set of activities to meet the criteria for self-sponsorship. The key here is the client can self-sponsor with this path.

Clients looking outside-in to our PE programs are often confused why all the non-Americans were guided into strategy-type roles in PE firms. This was not a sign of them not having the ability to land pure PE roles, but a career strategy decision that worked. The same reasoning applies for us guiding many foreign clients to take internal strategy roles in banks versus trying for years to join McKinsey.

Consulting career designed around immigration needs

For US clients we develop career strategies to have the best career. For foreign clients we focus also on their best career strategy, but we often have to design a career strategy around their immigration needs and that may, based on their choice, take precedence. Other foreign clients simply want to join McKinsey and are not worried about the certainty around their visas.

Our objective is to allow clients to self-sponsor relatively faster versus staying in the H1B path for years while trying to join McKinsey. And the broader lesson here is as you design your career and career strategy you have to do things that work for you, even if it may not be what others are doing.

You have to sometimes take two-steps back in a year to move 10 steps forward over 2 to 4 years. And you certainly should not simply be following the path everyone is taking.

As you can see there are many options here. If you are a foreign MBA either working inside or outside the USA and joining consulting, internal strategy and the like, you have to do some disciplined work over 2 to 3 years, but self-petitioning can be an option. In fact, working in any consulting role, scientific or management focused, can be a viable path provided it matches your education.

Go to the source: USCIS site

If you are exploring moving to the US, I would urge you to read the USCIS site for very clear instructions. This was our broad advice to clients like Lisa. We have seen extremely talented clients have their EB1, and other petitions, rejected because they did not follow the rules laid out for each visa type. The site is very clear and lawyers are typically overworked to offer bespoke advice or careful attention to your file. In fact, use your lawyer to manage the paperwork process but make sure you check every document and understand the requirements. Do not outsource that part. It can hurt you.

Think long-term

As you plan your studies and life, I would recommend making strategic decisions about where you want to go in 5 to 10 years. The MasterPlan program lays out this approach to thinking for the long term.

You have to distinguish between short-term wins and long-term strategic wins. You have to plan now as you shape out your career and path.

That is one reason we always hesitate when a non-resident science PhD wants to transition into McKinsey. Do they understand they most likely will lose the right to self-petition for their green card? Do they understand and appreciate the turmoil and uncertainty it can create? Would it not be better to stay in their field for 2 to 3 years, self-petition and then join McKinsey as a resident?

A 2-3 year delay is not much and will not be a waste of your time. Your professional development will suffer only if you fail to develop yourself in that time. In three years if you use our Insider content carefully you would have mastered strategy better than most McKinsey associates and engagement managers. The delay only leads to no self-development if you do not use it wisely.

Finally, while this may have sparked some ideas, please use a licensed immigration lawyer to help you determine the best path forward and execute any strategy you feel is best for your unique situation.

Best. Kris 

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