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Part Four: My First Firmsconsulting Coaching

Max is an aspiring consultant who is looking to secure an analyst role with one of the top firms for the upcoming recruitment cycle in September 2011. His interest in management consulting was sparked by a failed McKinsey interview last year. In this series of blogs, he will be sharing his background, case preparation process, useful resources, and any breakthroughs or setbacks that he experiences.

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I recently had the opportunity to start my first Firmsconsulting coaching to prepare for case interviews, and would like to pass along my humble opinions. Overall, I was impressed with the way they handled the training for three reasons:

1) They made you think about the problem at hand, and did not immediately volunteer the solution if you got stuck. This really makes you think things through. Furthermore, they challenged your thinking to see if you can back it up.

2) The feedback was very specific, and clearly identifies which areas need more work. If you are practicing with your friends, other candidates, and even current consultants they may be worried about embarrassing you. Trust me when I say that you would rather get embarrassed during a case practice session with your buddy than with a McKinsey engagement manager during a real interview. For me, the area I need the most work on is communicating with more fluidity.

3) The quality of the interviewer is top notch. I’ve been practicing a lot of cases with other candidates, as well as consultants at BBM. In many cases, I feel that they don’t put enough stress on you during the practice sessions. It may be that they’re trying to be nice, or that’s just their interview style – but I think it is very useful to not only have an interviewer who knows what he’s doing, but also challenges you with every case.

One unexpected benefit of practicing in the Firmsconsulting coaching was that it actually stressed me out a bit! You’re probably pretty comfortable practicing with your friends and colleagues since you know them, but to do cases with former consultants who left the industry at a high level is slightly more intimidating.

During the session we went over both market sizing as well as general case problems. They would let you plug along on a case, but would stop you if you made a big mistake. Since you are on Skype, the Firmsconsulting team was able to share their screens and take you through a proper (or alternative) structuring of the case you just did. This allowed me to see different ways of segmenting a certain problem which is always interesting to see.

One unexpected benefit of practicing with the Firmsconsulting team was that it actually stressed me out a bit! You’re probably pretty comfortable practicing with your friends and colleagues since you know them, but to do cases with former consultants who left the industry at a high level is slightly more intimidating. In addition, you always know that your thinking can be challenged at any time, and that you have to have a good reason for doing something within the case. I think that overall I sounded pretty calm, and you probably wouldn’t notice anything different if you were watching me, but I could definitely feel a bit more adrenaline than my normal practice sessions. If you haven’t had any of these more intimidating practice sessions, I would suggest you try to practice cases with someone new every so often. I find that the “change of scenery” once in a while can really increase your alertness, and help simulate a real interview.

The way they teach you to solve the case is to be MECE. I definitely agree that this is the way to go, but I feel that it may be useful to teach a few frameworks as well to start off. The reason is that for people who don’t come from a business background, there may be things that they won’t know to consider in certain situations. If you are breaking a problem down, it is not too hard to get the top level of the issue tree, but some factors in the subsequent levels may get left out if the individual has never seen them before. I feel that knowing some frameworks will allow people with non-business background (myself included) to have some building blocks to work with during cases so they don’t feel as lost.

Now it is definitely not advisable to spew frameworks during a case interview, but they do give an overview of some common points of consideration in your MECE analysis. That being said, it’s fairly easy to learn frameworks on your own time, and maybe it’s not a good idea to waste valuable case prep time with them. I find that when I do cases now, I rarely use a framework in it’s entirely. Instead, I’ll pick and choose parts of different frameworks that are relevant, ensure that the analysis is MECE, and build a custom issue tree if the situation calls for it – at least that’s what I try to do anyways!

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.

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