Interviewer: Hello everyone, today we have Aasawari Vaidya who has been placed at Bain. So we are here to interview her regarding her preparations and strategies to crack the interview of this company. So firstly could you explain to us the general interview process for the companies you interviewed?
Aasawari: Hello everyone, So yeah firstly the general process for consulting firms is that they shortlist people based on their CV. So I got shortlisted for the interview for Bain and Company. Post the shortlist release, there was a pre-placement talk, and we were encouraged to get in touch with our buddy. The role of a buddy is to clarify any questions that one might have regarding the company, the profile, career progression, etc, and to help you prepare for the interview by practising cases with you. Buddy cases can be evaluative or non-evaluative. The time duration between shortlisting and interview was roughly around 10 days.
All the interview rounds occur on the same day. The number of rounds ranges between 2–4. The first round usually is a traditional case interview round. If you perform well in the first 2 rounds, you get pushed to round number 3, and then at times round number 4. The typical duration of each round is a maximum of 20–25 minutes.
The first round started with me introducing myself and then solving a traditional case. In the second round, however, I was asked a very non-traditional case question, where the interviewer wanted the candidate to approach the case practically, just like a consultant would. The third round was again a non-traditional case interview and had a few HR questions. All these 3 case rounds look for your approach and how far you can think in the future. And there is no as such HR round instead they asked me some basic HR questions in between these rounds only, questions like introducing yourself, giving an overview of your CV, and al. If you go to the interview prep section on Bain’s website, you can find a set of HR questions that you can expect to be asked by the interviewer.
Interviewer: Okay, that was a great overview Aasawari. Now can you just let us know some of the questions that you were being asked in these different rounds?
Aasawari: Okay so in general, you get a case problem statement, and you need to solve it with the person who is taking your interview. In my first round, I got a normal profitability case, which involved basic profitability calculations, but the focus was on the approach rather than the sub-calculations. The 2nd round didn’t have a traditional case, they put me in the situation of a consultant and asked me how would I approach the case in a practical way from a consultant’s POV (The case seemed to be a guesstimate initially, but turned out to be something very different later on, requiring one to use practical analytical skills). One thing I would like to mention here is that it’s important to keep the conversation flowing. If you happen to finish the case before the 25 min mark and have some time, ask questions to the interviewer- this shows that you are a good conversationalist and hence, it would be easy for you to strike up conversations with clients, which is a quality that consulting firms look for.
In the 3rd round, I was shown an excel sheet and was asked to infer which investment option is the best. One thing to keep in mind is that you must not rush to answer the questions, and take your time, analyse all the possible scenarios at different timestamps- meaning present and future, and then come up with a comprehensive, and practical solution backed up with logic.
What I could infer from the rounds was that the interviewers look for candidates with strong analytical skills, a practical approach, and a good presence of mind.
Interviewer: That would be helpful Aasawari. Yeah so were there any puzzles, technical questions, any other discussion in general that you think will prove to be helpful for students.
Aasawari: For most of the consulting firms, there is just CV shortlisting and not any other sort of test but for McKinsey, post CV shortlisting there was a test as well, but it was a company fit test. So it depends from company to company. During consulting interviews, it is rare for the interviewer to ask puzzles directly, but they might sometimes ask guesstimates directly, and CV based questions and those CV based questions might be technical. One should also be prepared to answer HR questions, and take a look at probable questions beforehand.
Interviewer: Yeah got your point. And now I would like to ask what are some of the FAQs in most companies that you faced and think students must prepare for? More specifically, in the context of HR rounds.
Aasawari: For consulting profile, one should be prepared for HR questions related to the purpose of choosing a consulting profile, or the specific company for which the candidate is sitting. (for instance, Why Consulting or why Bain). The answer to this should not be generic, rather it should be properly structured. It is a good practice to break the answer into 2 parts, the 1st part should be the answer to why you chose the profile, and in the 2nd part, you should mention how your current skill set makes you a great candidate for the profile you are sitting for. So it should be a two-part answer.
Also be prepared for company-specific questions like why this firm, what do you know about this firm, etc. So it’s a good practice to go through the company’s web page thoroughly, read through some of their projects, and then incorporate these points in your answers somewhere. That shows that you have done the groundwork and that you are genuinely interested in the company.
They might also ask you HR questions like what is something that you are most proud of or something related to your past internships. Diplomatic answers don’t work here, it just leads to more questions as the point of the HR questions is to judge if you are a good fit for the company and its culture. So like for Bain and Company, there was a video reference that showed that if they can’t predict what kind of person you are from 5 of their questions so they will just ask more and this goes on (https://youtu.be/Nib4_5_4afA). So it’s better to answer the questions directly in a non-diplomatic and honest way.
Interviewer: Yeah that sounds great. So here I go with my next question, what are things students sitting for placements next year can do from now until December to maximize their chances of getting through a company in this sector?
Aasawari: The main part of the preparation for a consulting firm is the case interview part and the guesstimates. I would suggest that one should practise enough guesstimates before starting with the case interviews. One can find methods and approaches to solve guesstimates in any case prep book like Day1 and CIC. After that, you can begin with Victor Cheng’s playlist on youtube followed by some basic frameworks which are covered in books like CIC and IITM Day 1. Once you get a basic idea of frameworks you should start practising cases. One should have a group of people they are comfortable with, and who would point out your strengths, weaknesses and mistakes honestly. One should practice cases within this group and stick to a time cap of 30–35 minutes. Ideally, the group strength should be 3–4 people. This will maximize your learning and minimise mistakes. Revision of the cases is just as important as solving them. After solving a case, you should go through the case once more, look at the mistakes and make a summary for yourself, and overtime when you have practised many cases, you can look at the summaries, and that will help you identify the patterns in your mistakes, and give you a better idea of what needs to work on, and what needs to be avoided.
You should prepare the answers to the HR questions beforehand. They should not be too scripted, or they will sound too mechanical. In a consulting profile, the ideal time limit for answering an HR question is 60–90 seconds so that should be kept in mind
Interviewer: Yeah okay, so moving on to the next question how did your preparation for case rounds evolve once you were shortlisted?
Aasawari: As I was very sure of going in a consulting profile, I started my preparation quite early around July. It started with Victor Cheng’s playlist and some basic frameworks. So I had a group with 2 others, and we used to practice cases daily, with a day off each week. So, how we used to practise was like this- each day, every one of us would solve at least one case, and make at least one of the other members solve one too. We started with the book CIC(case interviews cracked) and once we covered it we moved on to Day1 IITM. But for those who haven’t had much experience and haven’t practised cases yet, I would recommend them to start with IITM Day1 and then proceed with CIC. While solving cases from CIC, one should start with profitability cases and then move on to the market entry cases.
One thing you should do is try to use the framework that works for you the best. There is no one rigid framework that can be applied to all the cases, and one should not proceed with a case without a framework. One should not overdo the number of cases that they practise, at maximum, practise 60–70 cases, and it’s highly recommended that the number of cases should not exceed 100. I practised around 30–35 cases.
It’s not about the number of cases you have practised but about the feedback that you collect from your previous case and how you apply it in the next case. Apart from this, you can also practice cases with your Alumni once you have done cases from CIC and Day 1.
You should start practising cases somewhat around 2 months before your interview schedule. This gives you ample time to practice and analyse.
Interviewer: Okay Aasawari that was helpful, so anything else that you’d want to share with the students?
Aasawari: A consultant’s work comes with a lot of travel and almost 65+ hrs of work per week. The work is stressful and demanding. So, one should keep all this in mind before going for the profile. If you are interested in this profile and are okay with all these conditions then you should try for this profile.
For the preparation part, as I already mentioned, one should practice some quality cases and prepare a proper summary of every case and figure out what all improvements are required. One should work on honing their analytical skills. One should prepare so that they can tackle case interviews, guesstimates, as well as HR questions.