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How a McKinsey Consultant prepped for consulting interviews

Mukunth Raghavan, McKinsey & Co., Consultant
Published: May 19, 2023

Background | My prep | Advice

Mukunth Raghvanan is a Management Consultant at McKinsey and Company and an expert coach at RocketBlocks.

Linkedin bio of Mukunth Raghvana, consultant at McKinsey.

In this post, we'll hear about how Mukunth 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?

After my Bachelor’s in Engineering, I joined Goldman Sachs as a Quantitative Strategist specializing in hedge fund clientele.

My role involved building pricing models, trading strategies, predictive liquidity management, and other financial engineering pursuits. After 6 years at Goldman Sachs, I had an urge to explore the world outside of Financial Services and eventually decided that an MBA was the right way to go for a pivot (not to mention a 2 year break from the corporate world).

I quit as a Vice President to pursue my MBA at Chicago Booth, and during my time there I realized that Management Consulting provided me with the ideal opportunity to explore a wide variety of industries and functions in a short period of time - which is exactly what I wanted to do. I ended up interning at McKinsey & Co. in their Chicago office, and joined them back full-time upon graduation.

My interview prep (Top)

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

Consulting interview prep at business school is an arduous multi-month process, and I realized I needed to approach it with a clear, structured plan to ensure I get the best bang-for-the-buck for my effort.

As a first step, I spoke to a few of my friends who went through the interview process recently at the time and learnt about their experiences, specifically what went well and what they wish they did differently.

Secondly, I charted out a game plan for my case, behavioral, and resume prep. A key part of that was to estimate the amount of time I wanted to dedicate to each piece of the preparation, by week (e.g., a lot more focus on casing earlier on and a shift towards behavioral preparation in the second half). I also developed a perspective on the number and kind of cases I needed to practice before the interviews (from talking to people who went through the process).

Finally, I identified and reached out to peers and other experts for practicing live cases and refining my behavioral stories.

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

I did ~30 live mock cases, and invested ~20 hours into dedicated behavioral prep.

I also had the luxury of attending some case workshops and networking sessions through business school.

In between all these, I also read through several cases on my own to familiarize myself with a wide range of topics and did some drill sessions with peers. Overall, I’d say I spent 100-120 hours on my preparation overall.

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

In terms of case prep, I thoughtfully selected people I wanted to do my initial cases with, to ensure I learn from the best. This included some seniors at my business school who were strong in casing, my undergrad friends who were consultants at different firms, and some interview coaches. The feedback I got from those initial cases (e.g., how to structure brainstorms) helped me identify specific areas to focus on.

Once I identified them, I did topic-specific drills (both by myself and with some high-performing peers), and also asked my subsequent mock interviewers to keep an eye out for those areas to ensure I was steadily improving.

On the behavioral side of things, I tested my stories with a few different people (some who were familiar with my background and others who didn’t), to ensure that all of them could relate to my stories. This was helpful for me to refine the language and craft the narrative to be universally compelling.

What was the most impactful part of your prep?

All aspects of interview prep are important to have a successful outcome, but personally for me the quality of people i cased with was probably the most impactful.

I focused on quality over quantity, and seeked out tough interviewers who a lot of my peers shied away from. People with interviewing/coaching experience (and who did rigorous prep themselves) can add tremendous value (e.g., firm-specific nuances, common mistakes), and this certainly helped elevate my prep level rapidly.

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

There’s one thing I spent a lot more time on than I should have.

I asked a good number of people about their experiences interviewing with the various firms. I heard drastically different things from different people (that honestly ended up throwing me off a little), and I realized later that it is better to seek out foundational best practices rather than focus too much on any individual’s experience, to avoid idiosyncratic advice.

How confident were you going into interviews?

I was quite confident, all things considered. I saw a lot of my peers cram in last-minute cases or work on new stories the night before the interviews, and I stayed away from all of these. I knew I invested adequate time in case and behavioral prep, and had a good sense of what to expect at each consulting firm I was interviewing with.

I had created a cheat sheet with things that I tended to forget during my cases (e.g., cannibalization while thinking about new channels/products, company culture aspects while thinking about M&A, geopolitical risk while thinking about outsourcing), and going over this list before my interviews gave me a lot of comfort and confidence.

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

The one thing that affected my mindset ahead of my interviews, was hearing my peers’ accounts of their interviews.

It is natural for people at business school to talk to each other about their interview experiences, but as a candidate with upcoming interviews, this might not be a great idea. Hearing from candidates who were successful in getting offers might put undue pressure on you to succeed, while hearing ‘horror stories’ from unsuccessful candidates can make you anxious.

Either way, there is very little good these last minute “reviews” can really do, so I’d highly recommend avoiding them altogether.

My advice (Top)

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

I’d give myself a little more comfort that it’ll all be fine, and to “trust the process”.

There’s an overwhelming amount of resources, tips, advice and experiences on the internet and otherwise. But it is important to remember that everyone’s journey is different, depending on their strengths, time and effort available to be invested, and so on.

Every candidate should figure out a game plan tailored to them (preferably with the help of a coach), and be disciplined enough to stick with it (of course, with flexibility to adapt to evolving needs). Nailing down the basics and staying authentic are crucial for success in any interview, and these are worth remembering starting Day 1.

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.