Interview preparation

Bain uses a combination of case, written case, and experience interviews in our consultant candidate selection process depending on the local office and the position you're applying for. This page offers some advice to help you prepare for the different scenarios and please also check our #BainVoices blog for some further tips from people who've been through the process.

What is a case interview?

The case interview introduces a real business problem typical of the kind our case teams work to resolve every day: The interviewer will walk you through steps that may range from identifying a critical issue to breaking down a problem into parts, to identifying solutions. These are not brainteasers or theoretical problems designed to stump you but rather are based on real-world cases. There are no right answers, and this is not a test: We're less interested in your knowledge of business terms, current events, and strategic frameworks than in getting a glimpse of how you work. We'll consider how you approach the problem, how critically and creatively you think, how you use data, how well you communicate your ideas, and how you might go about implementing them.

Though generally the most anxiety-provoking part of the recruiting process, a case interview should be fun and stimulating, a chance to stretch your mind and get a taste of the work we do every day. That said, candidates who have not done case interviews in the past are strongly encouraged to prepare.

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What is a written interview?

Most MBA candidates can expect to complete a written case in their final round of interviews.

The goal of the written case is twofold: to provide you an opportunity to further demonstrate your skills in a realistic client situation and to give you greater insight into the day-to-day role of a Bain consultant.

There are no "right" answers, as there are many potential actions a hypothetical client could successfully take. Your goal is to review your client's situation, present a persuasive recommendation and then participate in a rich discussion with your interviewer to determine how your client could best achieve results.

How does it work?

For the written case interview, Bain will provide 20–30 PowerPoint slides describing a client situation. You will then have approximately 55 minutes to review the slides and handwrite a short synopsis of your insights and recommendation(s) before the interview begins. (Note: Bain will provide all the necessary materials.)

You will then have an average of 45 minutes to present and discuss your recommendation(s) with your interviewer, who may challenge your assumptions or interpretation of the facts in order to see how you might handle a real client situation.

You can find information on how to prepare for the written case interview on our interview tips page.

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What is an experience interview?

In addition to the case and written case interviews, you may have an experience interview in which the interviewer will use traditional resume questions, a mini-case based on your experience and/or behavioral questions to gain an understanding of your past experience and your interest in Bain. Behavioral questions might involve asking you to describe your actions in a past experience in the context of a critical consultant skill. Again, there are no right answers here; we encourage you to be open and specific when describing past experience to allow interviewers to learn more about you.

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Interview prep video: Different answers to the same interview question

This video shows examples of 5 case and 2 experience questions, with 3 different answers to each question. Watch each question and set of answers and see if you can figure out which answer is the best and why, then hear a Bain interviewer explain which answer was the strongest.

THE INTERVIEWS IN ACTION – 3 candidates are asked several case and experience questions.
Try to figure out which answer is the best and then see if you're correct.

Tips for the case interview

The four most important things to accomplish during your case interview

  1. Make it a business discussion, not an interview - Rather than approach your interview as a question-and-answer session, engage in a thoughtful and insightful conversation with your interviewer that demonstrates your business judgment.
  2. Drive to the answer - Focus on the question you are trying to answer. Getting the math right is important, but most likely it informs only a portion of the answer.
  3. Be pragmatic - Consider your recommendation and its implementation: Does it make sense in real life? What are the risks? How can they be overcome? Anticipate concerns your recommendation may raise.
  4. Demonstrate your communication and people skills - Project your confidence, energy and interest. The case interview is an opportunity to demonstrate not only your skills, but also how you might interact with future clients and colleagues.

Four tips to help you during the interview

  1. Listen - Your interviewer will give you a lot of important details, both during the setup and throughout the case. Avoid getting caught up in trying to write down every single thing, especially at the beginning. Do take high-level notes, but focus on processing what you are being told so you can be sure you understand the problem and begin forming your own hypotheses. If you get stuck, pay attention to the clues — your interviewer is trying to coach you.
  2. Don't force-fit frameworks - Frameworks incorporate concepts you should know, but they are generic. Show your interviewer you can apply the concepts to the specifics of the business issue and industry.
  3. Tell the interviewer what you are thinking - Explaining provides insight into your business acumen. Rather than simply ask a series of questions, explain your thought process as you ask. This way it will be evident that you have a plan. Interviewers are as interested in your thought process as in the final product.
  4. Expect math - Be prepared to both set up the analytics and do the math. We want to see your comfort with numbers.

Plus, of course, practice - We recommend you spend some time watching the videos above and running through these practice cases prior to your interview...

Practice case one: Personal Care Company
Practice case two: Office Vending Services

Tips for the written case interview

  1. Trust your instincts: There is no one "right" answer. The goal is to present a persuasive recommendation and participate in a rich discussion about how to achieve results for your client.
  2. Prioritize: Prep time goes quickly; put aside case slides that seem less important. There may be several.
  3. Be concise: Have your key messages outlined in your handwritten summary. Save the details for your discussion.
  4. Do the math: Figure out what analytics are necessary for your recommendation and piece together the required data from the slides.
  5. Be pragmatic: Craft a recommendation that can actually be implemented by the client; have a "Monday morning" plan.
  6. Consider both sides: Strengthen the rationale behind your recommendation by working through the strongest arguments against it.

The Written Case Interview - some advice from a recent MBA graduate at Bain