Senior Associate

Senior Associate Interview Questions and Tips

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McKinsey senior associate interview

Amandeep BediExperiencedSelected
I Applied for job through Personal Contacts for Senior Associate role at McKinsey
Interview Process
Case Study Interview Case Study Interview Case Study Interview Other Interview Case Study Interview Case Study Interview Case Study Interview
Round 1

Case Study Interview

Interview Experience
Client is a PSU Bank. Currently the account opening process takes between 60 minutes- starting from the time he comes to clerk counter to the time customer leaves with Passbook, Cheque-book and account number. How will you cut it down to < 10 minutes and still deliver all the 3. Drew a complicated process map.

Basic facts given at start of case:
Current process (60 minutes) : The clerk interacts with customer to provide him the account opening form, does the first round scrutiny, does the KYC, sends form to officer for approval, officer approves, clerk opens account & creates account number & passbook, sends to officer to approval , officer approves, clerk creates the cheque book, sends to officer to approval , officer approves. Clerk hands over the Account Number, Pass book and cheque book to customer.

Facts shared ( shared by Nigel only if you ask)
• Customer is issued form and he submits a filled up form to clerk = 15 minutes
• Scrutiny of form = 10 minutes
• KYC takes 5 minutes
• Each approval loop with officer takes – 10 minutes ( 3 loops=30mins)
• Approval cannot be done by Clerk as per union rules

Key Issues :
Methodologies recommended
a. Break down the process into various smaller steps. Do a time work-motion study to understand the component steps. Then do a Pareto (80/20) and attach the areas which consume the most time.
b. Break down the process into various smaller steps. Classify each step as
1. Adds Value to Customer from a/c opening perspective
2. Non Value Add – can be minimized, not eliminated
3. Non Value Add – can be eliminated.

By experience, 80% of the time is Non Value add ( 2&3). Do a Pareto within that and work out the various ways of reducing time.
1. I had recommended an Internet based system where major customer information and checks would happen online and only a mandatory KYC (Know Your Customer) process would take place onsite.
2. McKinsey had (a) Combined the jobs of the clericals and officers (b) Used Pre-printed blank welcome kits with cheque books, pass books & account numbers. (c) Only KYC was done onsite (RBI regulations)..account names were incorporated subject to KYC confirmation.

1. Banking Unions (PSU): How will they react to job rationalisation/ eliminating clerical roles?
2. If you combine the roles (clerk & officer) and make the officer do it…wont your salary bill increase…since the initial clerk to officer ratio (5:1) is now (0:5). What emerged is that in most PSUs, experienced clerks earn similar or more to officers. Hence not much of wage impact.
Interview Tips
1. Stay Confident & Cool.
2. Take control of the Case discussion. If the interviewer presents information in a user-unfriendly or non standard manner, ask him to do it in the way you want to or ask him to help you out in mapping the information in your framework.
Round 2

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: Why ISB?
  • Question 2: Examples of Leadership experience? Your role in it?
  • Question 3: What is your leadership style?
  • Question 4: What is lean manufacturing ?
Interview Experience
Client is a no 1 boiler manufacturer in India. His profit margins are at 11% while industry expectations are at 15%. Help him out in reaching this target.

Tried to evaluate product mix, profitability etc. – Client makes a wide span of products. But interviewer was not interested in specifics. Wanted me to identify the key cost & revenue drivers.

1. Are we sourcing Raw material effectively & cheaply? Can we go to china etc?
2. Can we re-evaluate Make vs Buy option for all products in the Bill of Material.
3. Are our products over- designed? Do they consume more raw material than competition.
4. Do we have higher fixed costs- new investments, labour<>variable costs?
5. Do we have economies of scale for all products, parts etc?

Was told to identify sources of revenue to increase margins
1. Change product mix
2. Evaluate newer- more profitable markets
3. Brand your own products (the client is a manufacturer for others, not seller) -> refer to brand and market creation
4. Service Business – Repair, Spares & Consumables ( Missed this out completely- was finally hinted by interviewer)

Conclusion: Services were neglected by client. Potential revenue source. Client has a large installed base of customers. So he can do this business better, build service model and capabilities.

1. Sell Maintenance contracts with boilers
2. target installed base of boilers

I had added that he can widen his base by targeting all brands of boilers (assuming differences were not significant). Service is a high margin business since operations at units are hampered leading to production losses in the event of boiler failure.
Interview Tips
1. Stay Confident & Cool even if you miss the above fact. Move on and build on it. Relate the case or elements of it with work and
discuss it.
2. Show Energy during the interview!
Round 3

Case Study Interview

Interview Experience
Case 1
Client is a music company ( RPG-Saregama). It was not making money.

Revenue side- affected by Music piracy and music channels. They affected price and sales negatively

Cost Side – Producers still sold music rights at higher prices. Since music producers are few- their consolidation hurt the music
industry bad.

Additional facts : All big banners like Yashraj films etc end up making losses for the company due to high music right costs.
Typical successes / margins have been in low (B/C segments with films like Murder etc)

Structured case as Customers, Suppliers and Competition.
Option1 – Increase revenues
While analyzing customers- not much information available- no segments -> based on discussion, generated multiple sources of revenues for music industry
a. CD/Cassettes
b. Radio / TV rights – do not provide full song clips to channels. Only teasers. If song is a hit, channels would ask for it and thus can pay for it.
c. Internet- Streaming rights
d. I-pod type devices
e. Ring tones

Told to explore the cost options in details.
Option2 – Decrease costs
Me :Proposed Risk sharing / royalty based mechanisms.
NK : All the big banners do not agree to it
Me : But we can get the smaller producers to agree… (NK agreed that it can be explored)
NK: Why do these companies deal with big producers when they make losses? What is important in the buyer industry structure

After some discussions…arrive at the structure – Big producers (A type) and Small Producers (B&C types)

Possible reasons I could come up with include-
Me: Possible reasons can include
a. Long term relationship in the industry
b. A large number of smaller successes subsidizing the losses from larger ones
c. Association of music companies with big producers offers
them clout in the industry to deal with smaller producers…they can thus negotiate better deals with B&C type producers.
NK : Yes.… the big banners are like loss leaders.... they help music companies in getting better deals from smaller producers. And also, the industry is very relationship driven…some of the deals are purely based on established long working relationships.

Case 2 :
Your client is Tata Motors. The Direct material cost of Tata Indica is ₹150,000. The basic design is same for the 1 lakh car. How can you bring the cost down to ₹75000…outline the basic levers.
Structured it into 4 areas
a. Rationalize the vendor base to get economies of scale and scope.
b. Rationalize parts across platforms of vehicles to get further economies.
c. Rationalize design – Certain parts might be over designed or inefficiently designed leading to increased costs on account of excess materials or additional processing (labour, overhead etc)
d. Evaluate every part from a Make or Buy perspective. This would enable focus on core areas and help gain cost advantage in sourcing items like Tyres, O Rings, Nuts-Bolts etc.

After that he wanted to do a numbers/ quant check on me…so the example was extended to calculate certain % values.
Interview Tips
1. Prioritize issues for discussions with the interviewer.
2. Be prepared for anything!
Round 4

Other Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: Why ISB?
  • Question 2: Examples of Leadership experience? Your role in it?
  • Question 3: What is your leadership style?
  • Question 4: What is lean manufacturing?
  • Question 5: Explain a particular point on the resume? Impact of what I did.
  • Question 6: Grades: Explain them.
  • Question 7: Leadership experience from IIT. Was I proud of my performance at IIT…vis a vis ISB?
Round 5

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: What are your strengths?
  • Question 2: What motivates you?
Interview Experience
Client is a confectionery manufacturer making chocolate bars. In the 1980’s it had a mfg base in UK. However, in early 90s it set up another facility in France. During mid 90’s the business faced decline in revenues and profitability. What could be the reasons / hypothesis and what would you recommend?

Enquired about the basic details
a. Product mix – single chocolate bar
b. Supply- demand check -> Demand has been declining. No problems in supply side.

Discussed the Revenue- Cost equation.

Revenue can go down by the following
a. Competition introducing newer/ better/cheaper products
b. Changing customer behavior- more health conscious people/ availability of substitutes/ imports etc
c. Any changes done to product flavour/ taste etc..which can turn off customers.
Cost :
Discussed the standard Fixed and Variable costs. Was asked to break it down further.
Variable – Raw Materials, Distribution etc
Fixed – Depreciation, Capacity Utilization etc
a. Fixed Costs – New plant – higher depreciation costs. + Degree of capacity utilization ( this was reason 1)
UK – mfg capacity = 15 mn units / year
Actual production = 700,000 units per month approx 55% capacity utilization
France – mfg capacity = 20 mn units / year
Actual production = 650,000 units per month approx 39% capacity utilization.
These numbers were generally thrown around to evaluate my comfort with numbers.
Interviewer himself jumps to part (b)
b.Variable Costs
Fact 1 Raw material costs are 25% of Sale price vs 20% for competition
1/ Asked Oliver on the supplier base (local, import & no of suppliers) and amounts sourced. Decreased revenues could have decreased our sourcing economies. OK with this…wanted more reasons….
2/ Checked if both were importing same quality of material. We could be using better quality products compared to competition.
3/ Checked if we hedged these items while procuring…(Key Point
2) Competition was obviously doing this better and saving costs.
Fact 2 Our Distribution costs are 15% of sale price vs competition 10%

Key differentiators could be…
We have our own trucks ..competition uses 3rd party suppliers
1. More costs on account of people, fixed costs of trucks + empty trucks coming back (Low utilization)
2. We send part loads…competition does not worry since his transporters can optimize on truck load thru other customers.
c. General calculations

Another round of quant check. Thrown some numbers to calculate cost per unit of the 2 factories (UK & France )
Each unit has 200 employees x 40 hrs/week x 50 wks /yr
UK wages = $ 15/ hour
France Wages = $ 20 / hour
After this told to calculate profitability of each unit at both locations given Raw material = 25% of sale price ($ 2/unit).
Total numbers check

1. Rationalize the production quantities at each unit - would depend on the overall inward and outward transportation costs also..apart from capacity utilization. (Excess transport costs in serving new markets would need to be checked for)
2. Use excess capacity for producing 3rd party chocolates. Also evaluate if factory can be re-tooled / flexible to manufacture other products apart from chocolate.
3. Shut down 1 plant. –
a. See how efficient it would be operationally. No backup/excess capacity would then be available as a strategic/contingency resource.
b. Also potential trouble on the political front – example if French unit was shut down, there could be a political fallout as well as French customers might boycott your products. (cited Mittal-Arcelor )
c. Union issues- long term dispute- can dilute brand value of business.
Interview Tips
Be prepared for all sorts of numbers/calculations…take time out in case there are huge calculations…I did that…small calculations
were done verbally.

Interviewer also wanted to check if I could come up with all types of hypothesis on various facts. Be prepared to think creatively and use your common sense to remove non relevant stuff.
Round 6

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: Examples of Leadership.
  • Question 2: What was your contribution? What did you do different?
  • Question 3: Are you happy with your life path? What would you go and change?
  • Question 4: Why ISB? Why ITC? Why not MBA after IIT?
  • Question 5: Biggest achievement! What did you do?
  • Question 6: What other interviews I had and was appearing? Which was the best one till now?
  • Question 7: How was Mckinsey’s interview different from BCG?
Interview Experience
Client manufactures auto forgings @ 200 per day. Increase it to 400 per day… How?

Enquired if market demand was justified to double output…Market would be able to accommodate 200 additional units.

Wanted me to identify key levers. After a lot of round-about and false steps…learnt that current capacity utilization was 33% only!!
Interviewer wanted a list of things to check …this is what I discussed..
a. Maintenance time records– Breakdown & Planned
b. Setup/ Changeover times on a/c of high product variety
c. Non availability of Material
d. Non availability of Labour – absence/ unmanned breaks
e. Shut down due to utility failures (electricity etc)
f. Quality related losses.
Interview Tips
Be prepared to be grilled.
Round 7

Case Study Interview

Interview Experience
This seemed a test of whether I could do hypothesis and do some basic math.
Client is a Financial planning & management software company. 3 product lines + 1 service line.
1. Large enterprises – highly customized, large business customers, direct sales force used, consultants needed, sold at CEO/CIO level.
2. SMEs – industry specific package- sold thru dealers/ distributors etc to anyone who wants to buy
3. Individual customers thru regular retail channels.
4. IT consulting – pre/ post support

Question 1: Revenues are declining. What hypothesis would you generate to identify sources of decline…
g. Along segments mentioned above
h. Geographical segments
i. Industries
j. Existing vs New Customers

Question 2: Assume Enterprise segment is losing revenue. What hypothesis can you generate …(asked to generate 15…came to 11) Just think out aloud and discuss ..some of the hypothesis discussed were
d. Changes in regulations
e. M&A in the industry..customers hesitate to buy.
f. Customers think a better product is in the wings and don’tbuy the existing one.
g. New product is complicated …has greater cost and training needs.
h. Sales force not qualified etc.
Question 3: Suppose you find out that the sales force has been spending more time selling simpler product to SME than attend larger customers…enterprise product needs greater effort. wWat would you do?
1. Track sales and channels actively
2. Change incentive structure…
What actions would you take and implications of those.
Interview Tips
Think out loud with the interviewer.
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BCG senior associate interview

Ankit Garg ExperiencedSelected
I Applied for job through Walk-in for Senior Associate role at BCG
Interview Process
HR Interview Case Study Interview
Round 1

HR Interview

Interview Experience
The interview started with a detailed discussion on various fascets of points on my CV. Neeraj wanted to know about my thought process as I went through the various phases of my life and how I took decisions that I actually took. For example, he was very interested in knowing as to why I chose IIT Bombay for my B.Tech when I could have gone to join IIT-Delhi which was nearer home. The idea was to develop a rapport with the interviewer by being clear, insightful and interesting in your answers. Be very nicely prepared with your CV and think through the various decisions you have taken in life, keep smiling throughout the interview, present a firm hand shake, think before you speak and engage the interviewer in a discussion.
Round 2

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: The year is 2001. There is a global fiber optic manufacturing company. During the past few years the company has built in a huge manufacturing capacity. Now in 2001, the global telephony and internet industry is in a tailspin. Telephony and internet are the 2 primary users of fiber optic cables and as such, future looks bleak for our client. What should the client do with his excess capacity?
Interview Experience
I started off by trying to understand the situation as clearly as possible. The one dictum I stuck to in this and other case interviews was to really get to the crux of the matter and scope down the problem relentlessly to what the top of the line issues were for the client. So trying to be MECE, I told Neeraj that I would look at the following three alternatives: - Not do any thing about the excess capacity and wait for the good times to come back- - Downgrade the capacity by eliminating excess - Find better uses of capacity or sell more to existing customers A free flowing discussion followed on each of the points above and Neeraj very quickly refuted the first two suggestions. We then dived headlong into the third suggestion and it quickly appeared clear that fiber optic cables were commoditized products to a large extent. I asked Neeraj about the specific ways in which we were better than the competition and got to know that our client had better product quality at the same price. I drew a perceptual map of our Vs. the competitors’ positions on these maps and argued that we may want to play upon our better product quality to induce the customers to buy more from us. When prodded further by Neeraj, I used the tried and tested Raju formula: Market Share = (Share of Voice)X(%of acceptability)X(%of availability) Since availability was not an issue and since advertising was not a main concern, he asked me to dive into ways of improving our Client’s share of acceptability. I proposed pricing as a way of doing so. I postulated that we needed to study our client’s fixed costs and those of our competitors’. Based on the fact that our fixed costs were lower than those of our competitors, I argued that we could play the pricing game by bringing our prices down and cornering a bigger share of the market. I further argued that if our competitors tried to imitate us in this price war, they may end up chasing us to the bottom of the barrel and get killed in the process. This would only be good for the industry which badly needs consolidation given the excess capacity. I think Neeraj was visibly impressed by this time by the depth of analysis I had presented and the diverse ideas from marketing, managerial accounting etc that I was able to bring to the table.
Interview Tips
Be yourself.
Be confident.

Skills Tested

  • Case Analysis
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EY senior associate interview

Sumit KumarExperiencedSelected
I Applied for job through Walk-in for Senior Associate role at EY
Interview Process
Case Study Interview
Round 1

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: What do you think is supply chain consulting all about? Should HUL enter the Rural Markets? Do these rural consumers have even the purchasing power? What format HUL should adopt Different Track in same interview. • If ONGC wants to go for an acquisition, what should be its strategy? Which markets/countries, why and how to enter?
Interview Experience
This was an unstructured multiple case/scenario based interview and needed on spot thinking and some knowledge about the retail scenario in Indian Urban/Rural spaces. Interviewer was looking always doubtful about my ideas and was challenging the thoughts in between with some facts from his experience. What helped that I maintained my calm and followed a firm and informed stand on issues and gave relevant examples (like HUL’s Re 1 Shampoo sachet success in low income group people).
I presented my thoughts clearly and convincingly with examples of rural people buying luxury items as well and gave a few statistics about the size of urban vs rural markets in India. I further went on with examples of ITC retail, which was going successfully in integrating its rural retail business with agri-procurement channel (e-chaupal). Gave a few creative ideas about 2-3 possible new formats.

Skills Tested

  • Case Solving Ability
  • Case Analysis
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Virtusa senior associate interview

I was interviewed on-campus for Senior Associate role at Virtusa
Interview Process
Group Discussion Technical Interview Technical Interview HR Interview
Round 1

Group Discussion

Group Discussion Topic
Was president Obama's visit more benefical to India or the USA?
Interview Tips
Be confident and speak relevant points
Round 2

Technical Interview

Interview Experience
It was 2 member panel who conducted the interview. The interview questions were centred around my prior work experience, my specialization and guess estimates about a hypothetical business scenario.
Interview Tips
Have a couple of good questions to ask the panellist when they ask you.
Round 3

Technical Interview

Interview Experience
This interview was conducted by the head of a business unit. The questions was mainly about my prior work experience. This interview more detailed and serious in manner.
Round 4

HR Interview

Interview Experience
This round was conducted by a senior HR manager. This round was more about my fit in the organization.

Skills Tested

  • Business Logic
  • Communication Skills
  • Analytical Skills
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BCG senior associate interview

Mohit AgarwalExperiencedSelected
I Applied for job through Personal Contacts for Senior Associate role at BCG
Interview Process
Case Study Interview Problem Statement Problem Statement
Round 1

Case Study Interview

Interview Questions
  • Question 1: Acquisition strategy of a large Indian conglomerate looking for diversifying into IT services.
Interview Experience
I took a complete background check with regard to the motivation behind diversifying into IT sector. Also, what kind of IT businesses it wanted to diversify. The interviewer suggested that they want to achieve revenue of USD 5Bn from current USD 4Bn. Also, they want a margin of 12-15% from this new business. Also, the major consumer of IT services are Europe and US.So, I divided the problem into two parts –1. Whether IT business would serve them the purpose for achieving desired revenue. 2. If yes, then what would be the strategy for entering into IT services?I started off with the projected revenue estimates for all types of IT services. However, the interviewer changed the problem statement (due to paucity of time I suppose). He asked what would be the basis for selecting companies from an acquisition standpoint from an initial pool of companies across the globe. I came up with two matrix table wherein I stated what the Indian conglomerate wants from the acquisition (ie Need) and what it can offer to the target company (ie want of target) and tried to match it.The interviewer informed that the Indian conglomerate was cash rich company, stands on its values and has strong client relationship with manufacturing sectors / vendors. So I started linking all of them –
•funding –requirement for cash strapped companies
•Reputation –It can offer brand value to companies not well known
•Client relation to leverage –Companies not present in manufacturing IT services.Also, during discussion, I linked the problem practically to how Mahindra went on to acquire Satyam and what factors it looked before bidding. I think the interviewer was impressed with the linking to case to practical situation.
Round 2

Problem Statement

Interview Experience
Me: Define market share?
Interviewer: Market share is defined by quantity and sales value.
Me: There could be 3 possible scenarios: Market stagnant, we are losing out to competitors; Market growing but we are not growing as fast as market; market shrinking but we are losing more than our competitors.
Interviewer: Second scenario
Me: Major customers
Interviewer: Real estate companies.
After a brief background question, I started off with the problem analysis.
I broke the problem into Demand and Supply side. Under demand side, I mapped the consumer behaviour analysis of buyer and brought out several points. However, the interviewer was interested in delving into supply side. Anyway, he told me to analyse demand side.Based on our discussion, we realized that pricing and timely delivery was an issue. Pricing is based on cost plus pricing. Cost includes transportation cost which was significantly higher than industry standards. High transportation cost stems from the fact that the factory was located far away from the market. Also, acquisition of lime stone has been a challenge for the company. I think the interviewer was impressed from the fact that the problem was solved from the demand side. Also, I quickly suggested 2 solutions to the problem:
•Short term –Reduce prices and take a hit on profit to regain market share
•Medium term –Follow hub and spoke model to reduce delay in delivery time
•Long term –Acquire a source (may be mine or long term supplier) for lime stone.
Round 3

Problem Statement

Interview Experience
I took background questions regarding in which circle it operates and its vision in India. I suggested that I would do a Net Present Value analysis and would bench mark against return expected by Norway Head Office. We went into revenue stream like voice and data. Cost included operating, spectrum, license fee etc. He seemed to be satisfied with the response. Also, he asked me why AT&T is not bidding for the spectrum. I explained that Uninor has invested time, effort in understanding Indian market which AT&T has not. I drew learning curve of both Uninor and AT&T. He seemed impressed.
Interview Tips
1.Be calm and composed. Even if one interview does not go well, one would have another chance to perform.
2.Take good background questions to understand the problem. Dissect the problem and then approach.
3.Structured thinking is very important. Also, explain briefly the broad bucket in the structure.
4.All suggestions should have some basis based on the inputs taken during the interview.
5.Thorough CV and HR preparation are hygiene factors.
6.Always smile!

Skills Tested

  • Case Analysis
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Problem Solving Abilties
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