I found the following case from 'Case-in-Point':

'Estimate the number of travel guides sold each year' (real question from Katzenbach).

How would you approach this?

Where, in the US? Europe? Globally? Let's say the US. 300 million people -> 2/3 take some form of vacation -> 75% of them go somewhere new -> 75% of them buy travel guides -> Assume 2 travel guides per party of 4 on average -> 60 million travel guides. The point is not what your numbers are but what your rationale is. Also, try to keep the numbers easy; at some points I took a shortcut and picked an easier number to work with rather than try to pick a more accurate number.

Also be prepared to discuss your results. For example college students backpacking through Europe are likely to buy more on average while families meeting for reunions at the old lakehouse are likely to buy fewer. Also the interviewer may say, "OK too high" or "too low" and be prepared to explain the most likely weak link in your chain. For my example I would say the first two assumptions are the weakest and explain why.

boozer:

Where, in the US? Europe? Globally? Let's say the US. 300 million people -> 2/3 take some form of vacation -> 75% of them go somewhere new -> 75% of them buy travel guides -> Assume 2 travel guides per party of 4 on average -> 60 million travel guides. The point is not what your numbers are but what your rationale is. Also, try to keep the numbers easy; at some points I took a shortcut and picked an easier number to work with rather than try to pick a more accurate number.

Also be prepared to discuss your results. For example college students backpacking through Europe are likely to buy more on average while families meeting for reunions at the old lakehouse are likely to buy fewer. Also the interviewer may say, "OK too high" or "too low" and be prepared to explain the most likely weak link in your chain. For my example I would say the first two assumptions are the weakest and explain why.

Boozer, thanks for the answer. One worry I have is, how do you back up many of the approximations such as 'why 75% want to go somewhere new?' or 'why 75% would buy travel guide?'. I agree the numbers aren't important, but we still need some rationale behind those numbers right? And I can see how an answer to this case can go on and on because you're trying to back up every number you throw out, most probably with some farfetched rationale.

Care to share where you received offers from?

In consulting? I ended up signing with the place that gave me the offer the earliest. I was in the final round for Bain but I already had an offer that i thought I would have preferred even if I had gotten Bain; it was mainly an issue of office. As a firm I would choose Bain over any other company however. I had a few other interviews lined up, but pretty much it came down to Bain vs. my firm.

boozer:

In consulting? I ended up signing with the place that gave me the offer the earliest. I was in the final round for Bain but I already had an offer that i thought I would have preferred even if I had gotten Bain; it was mainly an issue of office. As a firm I would choose Bain over any other company however. I had a few other interviews lined up, but pretty much it came down to Bain vs. my firm.

Bain over McKinsey? Interesting. Why?

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I would choose Bain because I cannot think of a single opportunity that would be open to you as a BA that you wouldn't have as an AC. Bain is a lot more fun and youth-oriented than any other firm and the culture there is more geared towards ACs and SACS than post-MBA consultants (atleast compared to other firms). There are a few more points but that's the basic idea; Bain is definitely a lot nicer place to be than Mckinsey. Case in point, when interviewing at Bain, beforehand they give you a study guide for the case interview, and someone you can contact if you need any help with your cases. McKinsey (like every other firm) essentially just said "Show up at this time and place, good luck."

boozer:

I would choose Bain because I cannot think of a single opportunity that would be open to you as a BA that you wouldn't have as an AC. Bain is a lot more fun and youth-oriented than any other firm and the culture there is more geared towards ACs and SACS than post-MBA consultants (atleast compared to other firms). There are a few more points but that's the basic idea; Bain is definitely a lot nicer place to be than Mckinsey. Case in point, when interviewing at Bain, beforehand they give you a study guide for the case interview, and someone you can contact if you need any help with your cases. McKinsey (like every other firm) essentially just said "Show up at this time and place, good luck."

Fair enough. That's a good reason.

Hmm... I didn't get a study guide before I interviewed. Also, McKinsey gave me the contact info for a BA who helped me with a case on the phone. BCG did that too. I think Bain had that option, I didn't avail it.

I think McKinsey has begun beefing up their BA program of late, after they've realized how useful and valuable they are.

About Bain's case interview, I'll echo what boozer has said. While McK and BCG may sometimes have esoteric cases that require a theoretical approach, Bain is always a real-world case. I thought that made it somewhat easier, but that's just me. I would get comfortable with numbers and caveats e.g. In this scenario, X will happen if Z happens etc.

My ranking of case interview difficulty:

Mercer Oliver Wyman (very quant, kinda hard)
McKinsey
BCG/Bain
Monitor
Parthenon

Though I would choose Mckinsey over Bain post-MBA.

Boozer,

I have a Bain interview coming up pretty soon. You mentioned that you have gone through the interviewing process with them, can you give me some tips/advice about their case questions? Maybe even an example? Would really appreciate it.

Sure, their cases are rarely brainteasers, none of that "How many mini-golf pencils in the state of New Jersey" bullshit. The consultants interviewing you will say that the cases are drawn from cases they have done for a client so make sure that your answer is more focused on practical solutions and real issues because they will naturally think back to what they themselves did.

The cases were definitely more challenging than the other consulting firms I interviewed it, but certainly not impossible. The main thing is they are much "larger" so you need to be able to organize your thoughts very quickly from the start. One case I had was whether the client should acquire a salsa factory, and where to locate it between two cities, what the advantages/disadvantages would be etc. Less so than all my other case interviews, you didn't really have much of a chance to do 4Ps or SWOT or any of those other frameworks. Bottom line, as soon as they start talking, start taking notes and try and wrap your mind on the most constructive way to approach it.

There are atleast a couple of people on this forum who I know have worked or are working for Bain, so they may have better advice but that was my experience based on first round interviews. Maybe they can PM you....

consultant16180: Thanks for your input. Can you tell us more about your interview experience with McK? An example of the questions you got, if you remember them?

Another question to the rest: How useful do you think frameworks are? I've read about 4Ps, 5Cs, 4Cs, BCG Matrix..... For most cases, fitting those frameworks tend to be difficult. I find it much easier to just go with just thinking how you yourself would solve this problem. What do you guys think?