How I Passed All My Consulting and Tech Case Interviews

Interviews were fast approaching and I knew I wasn’t on track. Nothing was working until I finally had three key insights. These insights led to a 100% hit rate at my consulting and tech interviews, which included BCG, Strategy&, AT Kearney, Amazon, Cognizant, and several boutique consultancies.

What I discovered is that the interview outcome, a response of “We’re excited to tell you…” or “We regret to inform you…”, depends on just a few key factors.

Despite this, students are inundated with advice – often contradictory – about what to do and what not to do. Entire books are written about mastering the 30 minute case! Why? Content equals money. If experts were to make the process as simple as possible, they would see their revenue drop. They want to give you more advice, not better advice. That’s not my incentive, so here’s the three key things you need to know.

1. Everything is Behavioral

I used to like the expression “the case is a behavioral and the behavioral is a case,” but I’ve realized over time that everything is a behavioral interview. Yes, you need to have organized thoughts. Yes, you need to solve the problem. Yes, you need to get the math right. But we know this already. Everyone who walks into the interview should get those things right! This does not differentiate you from other candidates.

To get there, many candidates practice into a coffee-induced comatose state and forget the big picture. The interview is about who you are. Can you work on a team with others? Can you be put in front of a client? Is the person interviewing you left curious and wanting to get to know you more, or left gasping for social air?

So, how does this translate into acing a case? Be normal. I don’t mean act stock standard and boring. Instead, be who you would be at work. Ask those tough questions, show curiosity, and don’t be afraid to say you haven’t encountered a problem like this before or to make a light joke (ok, maybe not if it’s McKinsey). Respect the interviewer like you would a manager, but show them you are a person. They don’t need you to know the decision tree of a case (there isn’t one) or to be an expert in the industry in question. They just want a break from the monotonous, banal garble that is most interviewees in a case. Show them who you are so they can see why they want to work with you instead of another candidate.

2. The Case is Real Life

The case wasn’t just picked lackadaisically from the interview tree by major consulting and tech firms. It exists because that’s what you will do on a daily basis at your job, albeit in a less condensed format and for 14 hours a day instead of 30 minutes. At these companies you will be put under both time pressure and pressure from being observed in action (by clients and bosses). You will need to deal with complex problems that lack immediately clear paths or answers. You will need to think critically and be able to articulate these thoughts in a clear, concise, and organized manner. Understanding this is what it takes to get #1 right.

3. You Have to Want It

Notice I didn’t include “banking” in the title of the article? That’s because I interviewed at one bank…and absolutely bombed. They asked me their stock price and how I would go about evaluating a target acquisition. They also talked about growth targets and how imperative it was to meet them. All I could think was “I don’t care.” And, they could tell.

Make sure consulting or tech is right for you. Do you enjoy casing (at least did you enjoy it before you reached your 50th case)? Do you like dealing with ambiguity, solving problems, and understanding the world? If yes, you’ve got three major benefits:

  1. Interview preparation won’t feel like an uphill battle
  2. The interviewers will be able to sense your interest and excitement and you will be more likely to get an offer
  3. You’ll actually be glad you got an offer once you hit the trenches!

Unfortunately, many people only realize what they truly want during the interview. Try not to be one of them!

Summary

I want to re-emphasize that you still need to use the right framework, understand industry dynamics, research your company, solve the problem, be structured, and get your math right; the fundamentals have to be there. However, don’t lose sight of the big picture! If you understand that the case is real life, that the job you are applying for will be an extended case, and that the interviewers want to see that your personality is right for the job, then you’re ahead of the rest. If you recognize this and also confirm that this is what you want and where you know you’ll thrive, then hello MBB and The Four.

Ian Glennon is a strategy consultant at BCG, but not sure how he got there. Having lived in the US, France, Australia, and Colombia, but also having U.S., U.K., and New Zealand citizenships, he’s also not quite sure where he’s from.

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How to Succeed in the New Age of Interviews

The process of securing an internship at an investment bank is both a daunting and strenuous endeavour. Through research and experiences of my own, I have gathered insights into how to prepare for and succeed in the search for an internship. I began by considering what to do to get an initial foot in the door, and how to set oneself apart from other candidates.

The beginning stages of the application process to a top-tier firm are much the same as any other. Provide your grade transcript, CV, and cover letter. You’re going to want to have top grades and a diverse range of life experiences.  The cover letter is the most important of these initial documents. A desired response from a recruitment manager would be “most cover letters I’m falling asleep. Reading your cover letter, I felt like I knew you.” Try to show your personal voice in your cover letter, don’t give some generic spiel about how you’ve graduated from ‘x’ university with ‘y’ degree. Vary your sentence length. Showing that you’re a good, emotive writer is important. Your cover letter should also be clear and easy to understand, as getting your point across is of utmost importance in the business world. In terms of CV specifications, keep your CV to one page. Write only your most impressive achievements. You want every sentence the manager reads to be a “wow” sentence. Start your CV off with a few sentences that set you apart as a candidate, be it your life background or unique experience set. Follow all of this advice and you might just get to stage two.

Stage two of the process may find you in front of your webcam, coming face to face with the recent recruiting tool developed be Hirevue. This involves being asked questions by a virtual man. You get 30 seconds to prepare a response and then two minutes to address the virtual man through the webcam. Be prepared for some difficult questions, an example being “what is a decision that you had to make in a fast-paced environment”, possibly prompting you to make the ironic response of “just now as I am taking part in this Hirevue process”. Almost certainly that is not the desired response. Whilst making realistic responses, you should also look into your webcam as if it is the eyes of a prospective manager. The webcam will record you, analysing your body language, eye contact, vocabulary, and anything else it can quantify. This will provide Hirevue with data that it will analyse to estimate how likely you are to be a successful candidate before a human even looks at your response. This can make for a very inhuman interview experience, but that is what the world is tending towards, so better get yourself acquainted with these technological advances.

If you continued to impress in step two, you’ll secure yourself an interview with a real human! This will likely be a technical phone interview in which you should have studied the potential terminology and conventions relevant to the industry. Your knowledge will be tested. This will be followed by a behavioural interview in which you give STAR (situation, task, action, result) responses to personal and teamwork questions. Just google STAR interview questions to find countless examples. It is good to have a pool of teamwork experiences to apply to the questions, considering both your internal feelings and external interactions. This step is possibly coupled with an aptitude test. These aptitude tests will assess your reading comprehension, numeracy skills, and logic skills in the form of pattern recognition. Succeed at all this and you’ll have made it to the final step!

The last stage involves being transported to the company headquarters to have face to face interviews. You’ll probably have 2 – 6 different interviews, each interview trying to pick your brain about a different aspect of your personality. These can often veer off script and you’ll do well as long as you have good conversational skills. These interviews are really to gauge your social competency. These firms want good all-rounders, and are looking for humble, kind, personable people. Teamwork skills are key. It is also pertinent that you remember all your interviewers’ names, you may be quizzed on them later in the day.

If you manage to jump through all of these hoops, congratulations, you are in! They’ll be in touch within a few hours to lock you in as you have proven that you are one of the most talented individuals around. Beyond step one all else will take place over the course of around a week, these top firms really do not mess around when securing talent. All of this makes for a difficult, stressful process, but that’s what work for a top company involves! Good luck in your endeavours, keep building a diverse range of experiences and keep on top of your studies and you’ll have a great shot.

Dean Franklet is a third year economics and finance student at the University of Canterbury where he is President of the largest commerce society on campus. Spending his life in Texas and then New Zealand with a few other stops along, he gives a unique global viewpoint to portray in his writing.

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