What differentiates BCG from other consulting firms? Today, a former BCG summer intern shares her unique perspective on the firm. She talks through her recruiting process, the BCG case interview, and her office experience. If you’ve ever wondered what separates BCG from other consulting firms, you’re in the right place!
What Makes BCG Different?
I came to my first BCG informational session my sophomore year after an internship at a smaller consulting firm. I had never heard of BCG, much less a case interview, and the prep that it would require. This combined with the consulting internship application deadlines that seem to get earlier and earlier every year – was so daunting. While interviewing at the major consulting firms, the interview process alone showed me that BCG was the firm I would accept an offer from if I had the opportunity.
People & Culture
What differentiates BCG from other consulting firms is certainly the people and the culture. My other interviews were clinical. At other firms, I was asked to arrive at 8AM. My interview would take place at some point during the day before 4PM. Groups of students sat for hours in an empty conference room. All the while, anxiously eyeing their perceived competition over mini bags of pretzels and water bottles and heavily annotated copies of Case in Point. I sat from 8AM to 2PM as we were all called out one by one.
In contrast, when I arrived at the BCG office for my interview, my recruiter (who I had met several times throughout the recruiting process) met me downstairs, handed me cards with information about my interviewers, and gave me 10 minutes to get settled. My interviews with the partners at BCG began as casual conversations. From there it spun into fruitful discussions about family, politics, wine, and sports. In both of my interviews we chatted for so long that we ran out of time to do the full case. This was both surprising and so reassuring to me because my recruiter had connected me with other women of color to alleviate my anxieties about this extremely exclusive industry.
However, my interviews with two people who could not have had more different backgrounds from me were so natural and wonderful. I felt my differences were appreciated. Everyone I met at BCG had something a little different about them too, even if their different was different from my different.
The evening before my final interview, a group of BCGers took me out to dinner. The evening of my final interview, the same group called me congratulating me on my offer, which I accepted on the phone before even hearing back from any other firms.
When people ask me for BCG interview advice, aside from the obvious case prep, I tell them these stories and more. I tell them to stop overthinking the behavioral part of the interview and stress to them to be authentic. From my perspective, BCG prided itself on a lack of pretentiousness, strong integrity, and finding value in people who had non-traditional paths and stories more so than some of their counterparts. There were no tricks or riddles like other interviews.
What differentiates BCG from other consulting firms is that they’re looking for candidates who possess a certain je ne sais quoi, well-roundedness, humility, deep interest in something larger than themselves and BCG, and intellectual curiosity about big and important problems. Many other firms were so strict on GPA requirements, undergraduate institutional ranking, and test scores. At BCG, those things matter, but you as a person certainly matter more. They’re not looking for the most book-smart person in the room.
Yes, they’re looking for someone who does great work. But also one who they wouldn’t mind having a glass of wine with after a 10-hour day, because realistically, that’s what happens after a long day in consulting. And in those moments, you’d much rather be with someone who has an interesting story to tell. One that will make clients laugh out loud, rather than the person who went to school in Cambridge and reminds you of it at every given opportunity.
A Difference of Culture
Another high-level consulting firm received bad press a few times for doing business that was unethical. I remember BCG gathering us all to discuss why we didn’t accept work like that, regardless of how much money was left on the table. It was important to me to work for a company that had standards that they adhered to. That mindset is really enforced by the partners as they take a lot of pride in their work and their relationships with clients.
During my short time at BCG, I made friends that I still talk to often, including the recruiter who made the process so wonderful for me. At BCG Atlanta, we had an extremely strong local office culture. I think that’s one thing that sets BCG apart. Everyone was deeply involved in community organizations that meant a lot to them and had time for an interesting niche hobby or interest as well.
The authenticity that BCG looks for in the interview means that my office was an amazingly diverse group. At the same time, I knew that anyone I ran into in the kitchen is someone I could have an interesting conversation with. This was because they were vetted in the same way I was and brought their unique and authentic selves to their work. What differentiates BCG from other consulting firms could be boiled down to authenticity. That authenticity was apparent in the way we interacted with clients and each other, the business strategy and priorities, the feedback we received, and the lasting personal relationships we made.