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I had a brilliant student from the Caribbean who had no business experience but plenty of great leadership experience. He received four first round summer internship interviews. He spent the summer working for a large international financial agency in Washington, DC, where he wanted to settle.

He spent the summer contacting alumni who worked in the DC offices of the two major consulting firms and invited them out for lunch, coffee and beer. He learned about their firms, and he made great connections within those offices.

Every time he sipped a coffee or drank a beer with them, he asked them to give him a case question. This went on all summer long. When he returned to campus in September, he was in case-fighting form and had many supporters within each firm. To summarize: Strengthen your communication skills. Come back to campus in fighting form. The firms are worried that if you see a problem with a client, you are going to solve it the same way you solved it when you worked in health-care.

They like people who can look at a problem objectively, with no preconceived notions. They will, however, draw on your industry knowledge when building industry files.

The interview process is somewhat the same. The first round might consist of three one-hour interviews, which will have both a personal experience component to it as well as a case.

They want to test your thought structure, not your industry knowledge. They will expect you to be more confident than a university candidate, more professional in your demeanor. Another thing to remember is that you will enter the firm at the same level as a newly minted MBA unless you bring a host of clients with you. You may be reporting to someone years younger. Keep in mind that these firms are meritocracies and you can move up as quickly as your talents allow.

In fact, you want to enter at that level; it will give you time to get your sea legs and establish yourself. One last note on preparation: Be familiar with business terms and trends. Please refer to the Consulting Buzzwords section, p. You should also read The Wall Street Journal every day to keep abreast of national and world news. In other words, climb out of that academic shell and join the rest of the world.

Your familiarity with business terms and trends will make it easier for you to communicate with the interviewer and demonstrate your interest in business and consulting. Case Questions A case question is a fun, intriguing and active interviewing tool used to evaluate the multi-dimensional aspects of a candidate.

They do ask case questions Case questions are the same way. Some of my students, even after they got the job, would come into my office and ask me to give them a case. They loved doing cases.

To them it was no different than working a crossword puzzle. They loved the intellectual challenge, and they learned something new every time they did one. Often, consultants work under great pressure in turbulent environments while dealing with seemingly unmanageable problems. It takes a certain type of personality to remain cool under pressure, to influence the client without being condescending and to be both articulate and analytical at the same time. As we said earlier, the business of consulting is really the renting of brains, packaged and delivered with an engaging and confident personality.

So as you work through the case, the interviewer is asking herself: Is the candidate Before we look at some cases, it is best to understand The Case Commandments. Follow these rules and your case interviewing life will become much easier.

Listen to the Question ] Listening is the most important skill a consultant has. What are they really asking for? Pay particular attention to the last sentence — one word can change the entire case. Take Notes ] Taking notes during the case interview allows you to check back with the facts of the case. Summarize the Question ] After you are given the question, take a moment to summarize the highlights out loud: It shows the interviewer that you listened.

It allows you to hear the information a second time. It keeps you from answering the wrong question. Verify the Objectives ] Professional consultants always ask their clients to verify their objectives.

Even if the objective seems obvious, there could be an additional, underlying objective. When the objective seems apparent, phrase the question differently: Are there any other objectives I should know about?

Ask Clarifying Questions ] You ask questions for three main reasons: You should ask basic questions about the company, the industry, the competition, external market factors and the product. The further you get into the case, the more your questions should switch from open-ended questions to closed- ended questions.

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You start to get into trouble when you ask broad, sweeping questions that are hard for the interviewer to answer. Organize Your Answer ] Identify and label your case, then lay out your structure. This is the hardest part of a case, and the most crucial. It drives your case and is often the major reason behind whether you get called back.

We will spend more time on this in Chapter Four. If you make a statement that is way off base in an interview, the recruiter will wonder if he can trust you in front of a client. Manage Your Time ] Your answer should be as linear as possible. Answer from a macro level and move the answer forward.

Stay focused on the original question asked. Work the Numbers ] If possible, try to work numbers into the problem. Demonstrate that you think quantitatively and that you are comfortable with numbers. When doing calculations, explain what you are thinking and how you are going to do it.

Take your time. Is she trying to guide you back on track? Pay attention to her body language. Are you boring her? Is she about to nod off? Is she enthralled? Being coachable also means asking for help when you need it. If you run into a wall, lose your train of thought or are just in over your head, ask for help. If you were working on an actual project and got stuck, she would much rather that you ask for help than waste time spinning your wheels.

Brainstorming without commitment, as consultants call it, allows you to toss out uninhibited suggestions without being married to them. It gives you the opportunity to review all the options and eliminate the inappropriate ones.

Recruiters want people who are excited by problem-solving and can carry that enthusiasm throughout the entire interview. Review your findings, restate your suggestions and make a recommendation.

Students are often afraid to make a recommendation, thinking that their analysis was faulty, so therefore their answers will be wrong. There are no wrong answers. Just make sure your answer makes good business sense and common sense. Whether fun or frustrating, all case questions are valuable learning experiences. Some brainteasers have a definite answer; others are more flexible in their solutions. Interviewers are looking to see not only if you can come up with a good answer, but also whether you can handle the pressure.

Do you get frustrated, stressed and upset? The key is to keep your cool and try to break the problem down logically. It makes you human and more fun to be with. Below is an example of a brainteaser with a definite answer.

The Bags of Gold There are three bags of gold. One of the bags contains fake gold. All the bags and all the coins look exactly alike. There is the same number of coins in each bag. The real gold coins weigh one ounce each, the fake coins weigh 1. You have a one-pan penny scale and one penny, which means you can weigh something just once.

You load the scale, put the penny in, and the scale spits out a piece of paper with the weight. How can you tell which bag has the fake gold? You take one coin from the first bag of gold, two coins from the second bag and three coins from the third bag. Place them all on the scale.

If the coins weigh 6. If they weigh 6. There are numerous puzzle and brainteaser books to be found in your local bookstore. If you are worried about these types of questions, you may want to pick up one of these books. Market-sizing Questions Market-sizing questions surface all the time and can be found during any round of interviews and within many larger business case questions. On the back of an envelope, figure out Oftentimes during market-sizing questions, all you have to work with are logic and assumptions.

There are going to be instances when your assumptions are wrong. Sometimes the interviewer will correct you; other times he will let it go. The interviewer is more interested in your logic and thought process than whether your answer is correct. Everything you say has the potential to be questioned — be ready to stand behind your assumptions. Your assumptions should be based in some sort of logic.

Structure Listen to the question, then determine the type of case, population based, household, general population or preposterous. Base your assumptions on some sort of logic; otherwise the interviewer might press you on how you drew that conclusion.

You can group several assumptions into one number i. Math Estimate or round off numbers to make calculation easier. Write all numbers down.

Examples are: How many gas stations are there in the US? How many garden hoses were sold in the US last year? How many pairs of boxers are sold in the US each year? How much does a weigh? Although they seem similar, these are four very different questions. Here are some hints: They want to see how logically you answer the question. If your assumptions are too far off, the interviewer will tell you; otherwise, guesstimate.

Write the numbers down. Half of your brain is trying to figure out how best to answer this question and the other half is trying to remember the sum you just figured. Write the numbers down so you can focus on the process, not the numbers.

Population question I live in a town with a population of 30, There are six gas stations serving our town not really, but six divides nicely into If you tried to answer this question based on households or individuals you would quickly find yourself mired in numerous and unnecessary calculations. Household question The population of the US is million people.

The average US household is made up of 3 people, so we are talking about million households. You always want to work with million households in the US and million in Europe. That makes 50 million households. That narrows us down to 40 million houses that most likely use a garden hose. Garden hoses are relatively inexpensive, so people are likely to have a hose in the front and a hose in the backyard.

That makes 80 million hoses. I want to add in another 10 million hoses, which can be found in nurseries, zoos, and other outdoor facilities. Most of those businesses have at least two hoses. We are now up to 90 million garden hoses. So we take 90 million hoses, divide that number by 3 and come up with 30 million garden hoses sold each year.

So, if you divide million by 80, you get 4 million people per age group. Children ages 0 - 3 mostly wear diapers, and kids ages 4 - 9 mainly wear jockey style. Add them all together: Ask questions, then break down the elements and make assumptions. Are there passengers on board?

Any baggage? Are the fuel tanks full or empty? Any food or beverages on board? Now, just go ahead and calculate the weight of each part of the plane. Add on the cockpit, bathrooms, etc.

I assume that the average weight per foot is 10 pounds, which equals 4, pounds. If the plane is feet long by 25 feet high, then about 10, exterior square feet at 1 pound per foot equals 10, pounds.

The tail, overhead bins, carpet, stairs, wiring, and bathroom fixtures add on, say, another 2, pounds. Now you add up the pieces: They may also pop up in place of stand-alone market-sizing questions during the first round interviews. Think in broad terms; try not to get too detailed. What factors would you consider when marketing a theatrical film?

You would have a different marketing strategy for a Baby Boomer film then you would for a Millennial film. Millennials spend a lot of time online. There are digital marketing agencies that develop social media Is it a branded title, like American Pie, or a new indie film without any brand recognition? This is going to determine the number of screens on which it is shown. Ads will be placed on network TV during shows like American Idol.

Billboards will be displayed as well as signs on the side of a bus — the more traditional movie marketing efforts. If it is an indie film being shown on 50 screens, then the limited budget has to be allocated toward the more viral online environment. And because technology is changing so quickly, you need to constantly research new ways to get the word out. Business Case Questions Business case questions come in all shapes and sizes, but they usually fall into two categories: Number Cases: There are pure number cases that are really just math problems you are expected to do in your head.

Case-like number cases are about numbers. What percentage of the market share do we hold? With that we can make 39, units. What is our approximate cost per unit? How much are our labor costs? How much is your stock worth? Your commission is 2. Institutional investors hold 25,, shares.

What is the approximate percentage of shares held by institutions? By , the European Union population is expected to drop to million. What percentage change is that? Go figure: Try to estimate some of the percentages in your head, and then work out the others without a calculator.

Round off the answers as you would during a case question. Worth noting, These are from a fifth-grade math test. Every three minutes an American woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

How many American women will be diagnosed this year?

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One woman every three minutes equals 20 women an hour. Twenty women diagnosed an hour times 24 hours in a day equals woman a day. In Brazil, each airline is allocated a certain number of landing spots: Airline C goes out of business and its landing spots are distributed proportionally to the other airlines. How many spots does each airline get? You find the percentage of landing spots each airline has without C. Next you figure out what percentage of the spots C used to have.

Add them up and they total This is a popular case and one that has repeatedly turned up in interviews.

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Nine out of 10 students think this case is about competition. They focus their answer on strategy and alternatives to dropping the fee. The first part of this question is not relevant. How many card members does Amex have? What is the average amount that each card member spends annually?

Amex has 10 million card members. Amex Revenues: Amex card members would have to more than double their purchases to make up for the loss in fee revenues. Amex would have to more than double its card members from 10 million to about 25 million in a short period — say, two years.

Is that feasible? It took Amex 25 years to reach the 10 million customer base it currently has. So doubling it in two years seems unrealistic. My advice to Amex is to keep its fee in place. This is a straightforward question.

Listen to the question. Business Strategy and Operations Cases: Some business strategy and operations cases should be answered in less than 15 minutes. These are referred to as mini-cases. An example: GE has invented a newlight bulb that never burns out. It could burn for more than years and never blink. See answer on page A regular case question, like the DuPont case below, could take anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes to answer.

It could be a market-sizing question and a strategy question all rolled into one, such as: DuPont has just invented a lightweight, super-absorbent, biodegradable material that would be perfect for disposable diapers. Estimate the size of the diaper market and tell me if Dupont should enter this market and if so, how? Monitor was the first to pioneer the written case. Since then they have added a few new twists to the process. The interview can go something like this: You arrive for the interview and are handed a written case usually about five pages: You are given 20 to 30 minutes to read and take notes.

More often than not a discussion ensues. Chances are you will be touching on the same points you would if given a verbal case. The consultants watch closely to see how you interact with the other candidates.

Are you dominating the discussion? Are you sitting back and being dominated by others? Or are you building on what the other candidates say, in a positive and civil manner? Besides, the recruiters don't know about the time you So head into your interview with a clean slate.

This chapter will walk you through a first-round interview and show you how to prepare properly for each step. Some firms set up two back-to-back minute interviews for the first round. In these interviews, one interviewer spends more time questioning you about yourself and then gives a short case question, while the other interviewer spends less time on you and more time on the case.

Next, a small case, either a market-sizing or factor case, or more likely small-business problem. She then ends with your questions for the company. The second person spends ten minutes breaking the ice and then gives you a full case, taking up 25 to 30 minutes and often including charts for analysis.

The last few minutes are taken up with your questions. Let's hope this goes a little better. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Eye contact, a pleasant smile, and a firm handshake are paramount. They will ask you to come up with several examples of times when you influenced or persuaded a group, about your relationship-building style, and about goals that you set for yourself and achievd.

They may even ask, "Your life is a newspaper article. What's the headline? In this part of the interview you should be responding, not thinking.

During the case questions you're going to do enough thinking to last you for a week. You need to research yourself beforehand. Look at the list of the most commonly asked questions in a consulting interview. You may not be asked any of these questions, but if you take the time to write out the answers — or better yet, bullet-point the answers — you will be forced to think about things you haven't thought about in years or ever.

When thinking through your answers, go three stories deep. Remember to bullet- point your answers instead of writing passages. People try to memorize passages, but unless you're Gwyneth Paltrow, there is no way you're going to deliver your answer and make it seem real. Interviewers remember stories and accomplishments better than they do common answers.

You want to get labeled. If you tell the interviewer your captivating tale about windsurfing across the English Channel, then at the end of the day when the interviewer sees your name on her list, she'll remember you as "the windsurfer.

If she sees your name and thinks "Which one was he? So dig into the old treasure chest and come up with memorable stories and accomplishments that substantiate the skills needed to make you a strong candidate.

How do I answer? Three of the most problematic interview questions are: How do you answer these truthfully? You'll work and learn from very intelligent and articulate people. You'll develop a vast array of marketable skills in a prestigious environment.

The learning curve never ends. You'll receive exposure to the corporate elite: You'll be exposed to many industries. You'll work as part of a team. You'll solve problems. You'll make organizations more efficient. You'll work on multiple projects.

Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation

You'll travel. You'll improve your chances of being accepted into a top business school. The money's good. Q1 Have you ever failed at anything? Say yes! Everybody has failed at something. People fail all the time. That's how you learn. Do talk about a failure and what you learned from that failure. Better yet, talk about how you failed, what you learned from that mistake, then how you turned it into a success.

A perfect example comes from Michael Jordan. He failed to make his high school basketball team his freshman year, persevered, and later became a basketball legend. Have a story to tell; make it memorable. Don't talk about a personal failure. Stay away from anything that is going to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable "I never got to straighten things out with my dad before he passed away" or "My girlfriend dumped me" or "I couldn't outrun that police car when I was seventeen".

Interviewers don't want to hear it. The other thing they don't want to hear about is an academic failure. I can't tell you how many Harvard students have told me in mock interviews, "I took an upper-level science class and worked like a dog, but I failed. If you really did fail a course, they would already know about it and ask why it happened. Q2 With which other firms are you interviewing? It's okay to tell them that you're interviewing with other consulting firms.

Competition's tough; you'd be foolish to put all your energy into just one firm. However, you must be able to tell them why they are your first choice and what makes them better in your mind than the other firms. Q3 With which other industries are you interviewing?

Consulting goes hand-in-hand with two other industries. These positions look for the same qualities in a candidate and require similar job skills. You know the interviewer is going to ask you why you want to be a consultant. Now this is important: If you look away, it indicates that you are thinking about the question and that's enough to end the interview right then and there.

You should have given this answer a great deal of thought long before you walk in for the interview. While I don't want you to memorize your answer, I do want you to memorize bullet points. This makes your answer focused, linear, and of an appropriate length. Avoid talking aimlessly. Having several good reasons why you want to be a consultant isn't enough.

It's not always what you say but how you say it and, most important, what they hear. Your voice should carry sincerity and enthusiasm. It may be time to break out the flash cards. During the first part of the interview, you're being judged.

The interviewer is asking herself whether or not she'd like to work with and travel with you. Are you interesting? Do you have a sense of humor and like to have fun? This is better known as the "airport test. Would we have a lot to talk about, or would I have to pretend that I was in a coma so I wouldn't have to talk?

I had a Harvard student who, when asked what percentage 3 of 17 is, blurted out "80 percent. For him that interview was over. He might as well have gotten up and walked out, because nothing was going to save him. Not because he got the wrong answer, but because it was clear that he didn't think before he spoke. If he does something like that in an interview, what is he going to do in front of a client? I couldn't trust him, and if I can't trust him, I am not going to hire him.

These questions carry tremendous weight. You can pass the airport test and be as poised and articulate as John F. Kennedy, but if you fumble the case, that's it. Alternatively, if you hit a home run on the case but have the social skills of Napoleon Dynamite, then you have bigger problems than getting a job.

We'll cover the case questions in depth in Chapter 3. In addition, if you can find out who will be interviewing you, you should be googling them to see what articles they have written or issues they are involved with.

You can bet that they will be googling you — more than 90 percent of job recruiters and hiring managers use social recruiting, according to a survey by Jobvite, and 73 percent review job candidates' social media profiles. In your research, you should be looking for answers to the pre-interview questions. Questions for which you can't locate answers are excellent questions for you to pose to your interviewer.

What type of consulting does the firm do? In what industries does the firm specialize? How big is the firm? What training programs does the firm offer? What type of work does an entry-level consultant do? How much client contact does an entry-level consultant have the first year? Does the firm have a mentor program? How often do first-years sleep in their own beds? What's their travel schedule like? How many hours in a typical work day?

How is a case team picked? How often are consultants reviewed? How many consultants does the firm expect to hire this year? How does that compare with last year? Where do consultants go when they leave the firm? Is it possible to transfer to other offices, even international offices? However, before you ask your first question, if there is anything critical that you didn't get a chance to bring up in the interview, now is the time. Simply say, "Before I ask my first question, I just want to make sure you understand If you don't, you're going to kick yourself all the way home, and even worse, you'll never know whether that statement could have turned the tide.

The best ways to collect these answers: Pull out your list of questions and ask three or four. Make sure you try to turn this meeting into a conversation.

At the end, thank the reps for their time, ask them for their business cards, and inquire whether it would be okay if you call or email them with further questions. At this point, no one is going to judge you on your level of company knowledge. They are there to provide information and hype the firm. This will let you know how the firm sees itself and the image that it's trying to project.

Often, career services offices will be able to match you up with alumni working in a specific industry. Interviewing past employees can be very enlightening. They will tell you more about their old firm in half an hour than you'll learn by spending two hours on the Internet. Plus, they'll tell you things that you'll never find on the Internet.

They can be completely objective; they don't have to try to sell the firm. While these people don't have the power to hire you, they do have the power to get you on the interview list. Snag that interview slot by networking and schmoozing with firm representatives every chance you get.

One of the best-kept secrets of company presentations is to go early. If a company presentation is scheduled to start at 6 p. Most students won't arrive until 6 p. They are more likely to remember you if you talk for five minutes at the beginning of the night than if you hang around until the end hoping for 45 seconds of their time.

They are also more likely to have their business cards with them. Remember to ask for those business cards and send a follow-up email. This allows you to be current on the firm's news. Have your list of questions with any specific facts or figures you've dug up written out when you walk in for the interview. This shows that you have done your homework and have given this interview a great deal of thought.

Besides, if you freeze up, it's all right there in front of you. This is your opportunity to shine and to market yourself. But before you launch into a laundry list of skills and attributes, you may want to simply say that they should hire you because you want to be a consultant. Then reiterate all the reasons that you brought up earlier when they asked you "Why consulting? You're a low-risk hire if you've worked in consulting, liked it, and want to return, or have at least done your homework.

Consulting firms' biggest fear is that they will spend a lot of time and money recruiting, hiring, and training you, only to have you bail out after six months because consulting isn't what you expected it to be. If they aren't convinced that this is what you want to do, then it doesn't matter how talented you are; it's not worth it for them to extend you an offer. Think of it this way: How would you feel if someone accepted your dinner invitation because his first choice fell through?

If your heart's not in it, they don't want you. Students who receive job offers in consulting receive them for four reasons: They are able to convince the interviewer that they are committed to consulting and know what they're getting into regarding the type of work, the lifestyle, the travel. They can demonstrate success-oriented behavior. They exhibit good analytical skills when answering case questions. That's where we come in. They can articulate their thoughts, create a positive presence, and defend themselves without being defensive.

Now that you understand the structure of the interview for the first round, the subsequent rounds are not all that different. The second round is often held at a nearby hotel and usually consists of two interviews, each 60 minutes in length, each with a heavy focus on case questions.

The third round is typically held in the firm's offices where there are five interviews, 60 minutes each, again with a heavy emphasis on case questions. During all the final rounds you can expect to analyze many charts. In addition, some firms give written cases requiring you not only to analyze the information but also to design charts to back up your recommendations. There are other kinds of first-round interviews. Some firms conduct phone interviews while others conduct group case interviews.

First-Round Telephone Interviews Sometimes your first-round interview will be conducted over the phone. Sometimes this is a screening interview; other times you'll get a case question as well.

There are several things to remember: Turn off the television and lock the door so your roommate doesn't barge in and interrupt you. Most important, you are your voice. That is the only thing the person on the other end of the line has to go on — even if it's a Skype interview, and though your appearance counts, your voice is still Number One. Your voice should be upbeat and enthusiastic; speak clearly and with confidence, but without arrogance. Finally, lose the calculator.

I know it is tempting to have it right there, but if you get the answer too quickly, or the interviewer can hear buttons being pushed, you're sunk.

First-Round Telephone and Skype Interviews In addition to all that, for a Skype interview you will need to dress up as you would for a regular interview. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that grooming alone influences employers 73 percent of the time, and 49 percent of them said that nontraditional interview attire will negatively influence the hiring decision.

I've heard stories about the interviewee who was dressed up above the waist, but had on pajama bottoms or shorts or sweat pants. Normally this wouldn't be a problem during a Skype interview, but the interviewee had to stand up to retrieve something. Also, be aware of your background. What can the person on the other side of the computer see? If you have a poster of a bikini-clad Sports Illustrated swimsuit model hanging on your wall, you might want to remove it or angle the camera away from the poster.

I Skype with students from around the world, and I'm always interested in the background — what their apartment or dorm room looks like. It gives me additional information on their personalities and organizational skills. During a group interview, consultants look more at the group dynamics than how the group answers the question. Does this candidate have the ability to build relationships, empathy, and teamwork?

On one hand, you are a competitor to the other people in the group, but on the other hand, for this moment in time you are teammates. People who are aggressive and try to dominate the conversation are people who don't get called back. Remember, consultants work in teams, and if you're not willing to be a team player, then you're out.

In my Harvard Business School classes, the professors rarely called on anyone with his hand raised while someone else was speaking.

This indicated that the hand-raising student wasn't listening to his classmate; he had his own agenda. Like a business school case class, you are expected to build on what others have said and move the discussion forward, not take it off on a tangent or move the discussion back because you had a point you wanted to make.

Stress interviews. They usually come in one of two forms; the first is the two-on- one you're the one. The interviewers ask you question after question without giving you much of a chance to answer. They'll make unfavorable comments to each other about your answers, dismissing your answers as amateurish or ridiculous.

They may even turn rude and snappish. Why do interviewers do this? They put you through this to see how you react. Can you defend yourself and your answers without getting defensive? Can you maintain your cool and your professionalism?

Can you handle it if someone snaps at you, or will you crumble and cry? The second type is the silent treatment. The interviewer doesn't smile; he usually sits in silence waiting to see whether you start talking.

If you ask the interviewer a question, he'll usually shoot back a one-word answer. He might question many of your statements, making you explain even the simplest of answers. Why do they do this? They'll tell you that silence leads to stupid statements, where interviewees blurt out irrelevant conversation just to fill the silence, and it's important to know how you would react in a situation like this with a client. Sometimes during a case you'll be asked to make a decision.

You will be forced to choose between A and B. If you choose A, the interviewer will look you right in the eye and say, "Let me tell you why you are wrong. Again, he does this to see how you react. Do you turn red? Does your jaw tighten or do your eyebrows shoot up? Clients are going to challenge your findings and ideas all the time. The interviewer wants to make sure you can handle criticism when someone gets in your face. While he is telling you why you are wrong, if you don't find his answer very persuasive, then simply say, "That was an interesting argument, but I didn't find it compelling enough.

I'm sticking with answer A. Stick with your answer if you think you are right. Defend your answer without getting defensive. If in his argument he brings up something you didn't think about, and now that you're thinking about it, it changes everything, admit that you were wrong. Simply say, "That was a very persuasive argument, and to be honest, I didn't think about the inventory issue.

I think you're right; I think B is the right answer. It shows that you are still objective and open to reason. Remember, one of the main reasons corporations hire consulting firms is for their objectivity. If you can remain objective about your answer, then you are one step closer to being a consultant. Rules for stress interviews: If your confidence level is too low, they're going to question everything you say.

There is an old saying about Harvard professors: You need to carry that same mindset into your interview. Even if you are uncertain, you need to remain confident.

Most of these students wanted to work first in the United States before returning to their home countries. While many were successful, like their American classmates, most were not.

Consulting jobs are very competitive and highly sought after. I offer three additional pieces of advice for international students: Be honest about your communication skills. Much of the interview process is driven by communication skills. Are you truly fluent in English? Do you have an accent? How pronounced is it? A couple of years ago, I worked with a brilliant Chinese student at Harvard. He did very well in the mock case interviews I gave him; however, his language skills, particularly his presentation skills, were poor.

While his understanding of English was excellent, his verbal and written skills left much to be desired. Against my advice he applied to the Boston offices of all the top firms.

While he received a number of first-round interviews, he didn't get a single second-round interview. He found himself competing against American Harvard students and he didn't stand a chance. Think long-term and play to your strengths. I met several times with a Russian student. Her English was excellent, she could articulate her thoughts, and she even had a good command of business English. While she had an Eastern European accent, she was easy to understand. Her grades, work experience, and extracurricular activities were just okay, but nothing great, so she faced some pretty stiff competition from her American classmates.

She wanted to work in New York. Her problem was getting the first-round interview. We talked about thinking long-term. If she applied to the Moscow offices of these firms, she would have a significantly better chance of getting hired than if she focused on New York. She knew the language, the culture, and the economics of the region, and she had a degree from a prestigious American university.

Come back to campus in case-fighting form. Summer internships are tough to get, so don't get discouraged if you don't land one. I have pocketfuls of stories about students who didn't get summer internships but landed full-time consulting jobs upon graduation. There are many more full-time opportunities than summer positions, but they are still very competitive.

Don't waste your summer; use it to become a better candidate in the autumn. The first step is to secure a summer job where you will be developing some of the same skills you'd acquire if you worked in a consulting firm. The second is to practice your cases over the summer. I had a brilliant student from the Caribbean who had no business experience but plenty of great leadership experience. He received four first-round summer internship interviews. He made it to the second round with two firms but didn't get an offer.

He spent the summer working for a large international financial agency in Washington, DC, where he wanted to settle. He spent the summer contacting alumni who worked in the DC offices of the two major consulting firms and invited them out for lunch, coffee, or a beer.

He learned about their firms, and he made great connections within those offices. Every time he sipped a coffee or drank a beer with them, he asked them to give him a case question.

This went on all summer long. When he returned to campus in September, he was in case-fighting form and had many supporters within each firm. To summarize: Having years of experience in a particular industry isn't always a good thing. For example, if you have ten years' experience in the health-care industry, some firms might be reluctant to hire you for your industry experience because you come with certain prejudices or beliefs about an industry.

The firms worry that if you see a problem with a client, you are going to solve it the same way you solved it when you worked in health care. They like people who can look at a problem objectively, with no preconceived notions. They will, however, draw on your industry knowledge when building industry files. So don't be surprised if you are assigned to new industries at first. The interview process is somewhat the same.

If you are applying to McKinsey, you'll probably be asked to take the written exercise that most non-MBAs have to take. The first round might consist of three one-hour interviews, which will have both a personal experience component as well as a case. I'd be surprised if the cases you get touch on your old industry. They want to test your thought structure, not your industry knowledge. They will expect you to be more confident than a university candidate, and more professional in your demeanor.

Another thing to remember is that you will enter the firm at the same level as a newly minted MBA unless you bring a host of clients with you.

You may be reporting to someone who is years younger than you.

Keep in mind that these firms are meritocracies and you can move up as quickly as your talents allow. In fact, you do want to enter at that level; it will give you time to get your sea legs and establish yourself. They don't ask case questions to see you sweat and squirm although some might consider it a side perk. They do ask case questions They work in small teams and are sometimes in charge of groups of the client's employees.

Often, consultants work under great pressure in turbulent environments while dealing with seemingly unmanageable problems. It takes a certain type of personality to remain cool under pressure, to influence the client without being condescending, and to be both articulate and analytical at the same time.

The business of consulting is really the renting of brains, packaged and delivered with an engaging and confident personality. So as you work through the case, the interviewer is asking whether you are: I never like to equate an interview with a test, but they are similar in that the more you prepare, the better you'll do.

Maybe you've experienced the feeling of being so prepared for an exam that you can't wait for the professor to hand it out so you can rip right through it. Case questions are the same way. Firms look to see if you have that "rip right through it" look in your eyes. It's confidence. Some of my students, even after they got the job, would come into my office and ask me to give them a case.

They loved doing cases. To them it was no different from working a crossword puzzle. They loved the intellectual challenge, and they learned something new every time they did one. Before we look at some cases, it is best to understand The Case Commandments. Follow these rules and your case interviewing life will become much easier. Listen to the Question. The case isn't about you or the consultant; it's about the client.

What are they really asking for? Pay particular attention to the last sentence — one word can change the entire case. Take Notes. As someone once said, "The palest ink is stronger than the best memory.

Summarize the Question. Verify the Objectives. Even if the objective seems starkly obvious, there could be an additional underlying objective. When the objective seems apparent, phrase the question differently: Are there any other objectives I should know about? Ask Clarifying Questions. In the beginning of the case, you have more latitude in your questioning. You should ask basic questions about the company, the industry, the competition, external market factors, and the product.

The further you get into the case, the more your questions should switch from open-ended questions to closed-ended questions. You start to get into trouble when you ask broad, sweeping questions that are hard for the interviewer to answer. This kind of question gives the impression that you're trying to get the interviewer to answer the case for you. You'll know that you crossed that line when the interviewer says to you, "What do you think? Organize Your Answer. This is the hardest part of a case, and it's the most crucial.

It drives your case and is often the major reason behind whether you are called back. We will spend more time on this in Chapter 4. Hold That Thought for "One Alligator. If you make a statement that is way off base in an interview, the recruiter will wonder if he can trust you in front of a client. If he thinks he can't trust you, the interview is over. Manage Your Time. Don't get bogged down in the details. Answer from a macro level and move the answer forward.

It's easy to lose your way by going off on a tangent. However, there are no labels only the title "Number Table" and only one axis of the chart is made obvious by a gray coloring. The only way the reader could possibly figure out what the chart is telling them is to all ready know how to fill it in in its entirety. The only reason this book does not get the lowest possible rating is the long set of example cases at the back of the book.

For those of us in technical fields rather than business, it is good to see the types of problems that are to be expected. Even this section is flawed. The comments at the end of each case are too short and too vague. Don't expect much help beyond that.Price and volume are interdependent. Sales are up but profits are down in the U. The further you get into the case, the more your questions should switch from open-ended questions to closed-ended questions.

Other information will become relevant as you move through the case. It's not like a GRE quant test. Steps 3 through 5 can be flipped around. Case-like number cases are about numbers.