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How a Management Consultant at BCG prepped for interviews

Darren Chin, Consultant at BCG
Published: August 9, 2023

Background | My prep | Advice

Darren Chin is currently a Management Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and a RocketBlocks expert.

Linkedin bio of Darren Chin

In this post, we'll hear about how Darren prepped for his consulting interviews, what worked and what didn't, and the advice he has for candidates who are in the thick of the interview process.

Why I pursued consulting (Top)

What’s your professional background? Why did you decide to pursue Consulting?

I’ve been a management consultant for the past 6 years, having first started at Deloitte Digital after a business undergrad in operations management. Currently, I’m a Senior Design Strategist at BCG X Ventures in NYC, where I play a combined management consultant and tech product role in helping create and incubate digital products and services.

First hearing about consulting during my senior year, I was hooked for three reasons:

  • Solving compelling and complex problems - from tackling cases in the classroom, I genuinely enjoyed breaking down complex problems and ideating solutions. In consulting, I go through this cycle iteratively in every case, collaborating with a team to ‘control the chaos’ and developing a solution we’re confident in!
  • Filling my appetite for learning - having a constant love for learning, I knew consulting provides unparalleled opportunities to develop new skills. Clients often look for perspectives on how they should best respond to emerging trends, which means consultants need to catch up quickly to be fluent in new tech, tools, and ways of working. Initially coming from a quant undergrad, I eventually pivoted towards qualitative research and design because of my learnings and deep experience gained through casework.
  • Exploring a breadth of industries and sectors - as a student, my knowledge of industries was limited to what I knew as a consumer. I knew that from consulting, I could discover different industries, especially B2B. Since then, I’ve discovered so many ‘hidden worlds’, from doing field research in oilfields to creating new ventures for book publishers.
  • My interview prep (Top)

    What were the first steps you took as you began your interview prep?

    Preliminary prep:

    • Contextual research / ‘firm list’ - I first conducted research on the firms I was applying for, outlining role expectations and top candidate qualities; interview format and expectations; and cultural fit. I did this by connecting with associates and leaders alike from each of the firms. Doing this allowed me to understand where to best invest my prep time, which rabbit holes to avoid, and to understand which skills to showcase!
    • Recruiting practice partners - I then found 2-3 peers to practice with, whether classmates or online practice partners (such as on RocketBlocks!) ideally also going through recruitment; I also kept a roster of 2-3 current consultants that were willing to practice cases with me, from an expert’s perspective.

    Live case interview:

    • Contextual resources - there are A TON of resources out there and it initially felt overwhelming. I first started watching online videos and articles in my free time to understand the overall structure/cadence of the case; I especially found The Case Interview: 20 Days to Ace the Case to be a great primer on what to expect when building a prep timeline.
    • Creating a test prep plan - I created a backwards timeline based on my predicted recruitment timing so that I had enough time to properly prepare, practice, and reflect between cases.

    Behavioral interview prep:

    • Identifying hero experiences - I first shortlisted 4-5 ‘hero’ experiences that I was especially excited to share, ranging from internship experiences to student initiatives I led. This allowed me to genuinely reflect and articulate both the achievements and challenges of each experience.
    • Inventory of behavioral questions - from my research, I also accumulated an inventory of behavioral questions that I could refer to and practice with; this ranged from ‘why our firm?’ to ‘what’s an example of a conflict you’ve had?’. I figured I was bound to get at least a variation of one of these questions during the interview!

    How much total time did you spend prepping for interviews? How many mock interviews did you complete?

    I spent around 5-6 weeks formally preparing for interviews. During this time, I likely practiced 15-18 mock interviews with a partner. I found that I started seeing vast improvement within 10 interviews, and diminishing returns for the ones thereafter, which helped for finer points of refinement.

    How did you identify areas to work on during your interview prep? How did you practice?

    I practiced consistently with a partner, even if it’s a friend or family member without any context in consulting.

    I first identified my focus areas for improvement with my partner prior to starting the case.

    We then ran a full mock interview, which includes:

    • 1-2 behavioral questions
    • A case interview
    • Close-out/additional candidate questions

    After the mock interview with my partner, we debriefed through the case’s answer keys and noted any points of improvement based on the qualities outlined in my ‘firm list’ (e.g. “was my problem framing clear and articulate?”).

    What was the most impactful part of your prep?

    For cases:

    Outside of mock interviews, I stayed informed on any emerging business/tech trends, and would read longer-form articles (e.g. from the Financial Times) with charts and graphs to practice interpreting them fluently. I also kept a flashcards of back-of-the-napkin calculations to keep my quant skills sharp!

    When possible, I also practiced as an interviewer as well; practicing being on the other side of the table allowed me to empathize and better understand when and how I should be engaging during my actual interview.

    For behavioral interviews:

    Developing my shortlist of hero experiences using the STAR method was most impactful, but also making sure I would dedicate as much time to behavioral questions as I did to case interviews!

    What was the least impactful part of your prep/the biggest waste of time and energy?

    For both cases and behavioral, it was rote memorizing too much information. In my experience, you only need a profitability framework and a strong internal/external business factors framework for a huge majority of cases. Memorizing 12 different frameworks can only confuse you and, worse of all, confuse your interviewer.

    Instead, focus on 2-3 key frameworks that are structured, clear, and adaptable to a variety of situations or cases. During my prep, I ‘meta-analyzed’ frameworks that I learned from different guides. After practicing with them a few times, I found that certain ones felt more ‘natural’ to use, whereas others had interesting dimensions presented in a clunky way. Over time, I learned to adapt, combine, and build frameworks, which became a handy skill during prep.

    I would instead recommend interviewees recall common business calculations, such as % change or unit cost, which are an expectation for the interview.

    How confident were you going into interviews?

    I was pretty nervous going in, but I felt that being able to have a full conversation with my interviewers during the behavioral portion (which usually happens first), would always warm me up and make me comfortable before the case!

    To manage the jitters before interview day, I would re-read my notes and go for a walk. Something that always helped was reflecting on the progress I made - the skills and fluency I gained by the end of my prep is leaps and bounds compared to who I was at practice case #1, and that I should be celebrating that as its own achievement as well!

    People sometimes get really nervous before an interview. What was the “worst thing” that happened during the cycle?

    When I was first recruiting for consulting in undergrad, I was in the middle of a case and crunching through calculations for a question. During that time, my interviewer went on his phone to check his notifications. Out of nowhere, loud party music blasted out of his phone for a brief second! We both paused and looked at each other in silence. Needless to say, I wasn’t engaging enough for him and I did not get a 2nd round.

    Anything can happen during your interview and you have to trust that you’ve done as much as you can on your side. There are sometimes aspects of the interview (e.g. interviewer fit, fire alarm) that will always be outside your control, so trust yourself!

    My advice (Top)

    Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself at the very beginning of your interview prep?

    Less is more with cases - don’t be over tuned and burnt out by doing hundreds of cases and watching hundreds of videos.

    Most importantly, have fun! It isn’t wrong that you’re actually enjoying cases and the prep process - it just meant you genuinely like the work consultants do!

    P.S. Are you preparing for consulting interviews?

    Real interview drills. Sample answers from ex-McKinsey, BCG and Bain consultants. Plus technique overviews and premium 1-on-1 Expert coaching.