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20 McKinsey, Econ. Strategy

Session 20: Energy, Conciseness, Brainstorming, Communication & Objective Functions

The five areas highlighted listed above are the most important areas the remaining candidates need to focus on. We find the development areas are split neatly down the middle.

• Felix needs to focus on not withdrawing from an interview if you she perceives her own performance to be weak. It has been a consistent challenge. She also needs to continue developing her body language and working on being very concise, especially when she is struggling to understand a concept.

• Sanjeev is struggling in three clear areas. He is still a little unsure on brainstorming. Unfortunately, this is a key area he needs to master and, especially, understand how to deploy without any prompts from the interviewer. Sanjeev also tends to pause too long when taking time to think things through and this breaks his communication style. He is excellent at solving cases once he has identified the objective function to maximize/reduce etc. However, he does struggle to move the case from objective function to objective function. The issue is that Sanjeev has underestimated the effort to network and to some extent is unwilling to change his habits.

In this session, we will focus on each area and thereafter, in each additional session, focus on one area at a time to pinpoint and fix each problem. Candidates should be practicing at this point. It is dangerous for their own preparation if they are not practicing.

The level of case difficulty ramps up substantially from these sessions. We practice cases which we do not expect candidates to solve at all in these sessions. They are conceptually very difficult to understand. Cases with calculations are generally easy. Cases which lack calculations but require complex strategy concepts to be understood tend to be the most difficult. At this stage we stop scoring candidates. They should be ready and any scoring we use is for our own planning and session design.

Poor Planning & Impact Thereof

What we found is that candidates largely lost track of networking and fell behind this part of their training. Despite the heavy focus on resumes to build LinkedIn profiles and get the networking started, the final two candidates did fall behind.

Session 20 took place around mid-December and both candidates started networking at this point with the intent to interview in January 2013.

Felix was in-cycle so she was simply chasing internal recruiting deadlines. That was manageable, which is why we allowed the delay when she discussed it with us. Even so, this networking started late since the decision to apply was made at the last minute by Felix and not driven by the successes in networking. In other words, Felix decided to apply and then started networking. This is the opposite of what we preach – first network and apply once you believe you have a strong possibility of obtaining an interview. Even so, we felt Felix could pull it off with some effort.

It was more of an uphill climb for Sanjeev given the reduced nature of recruiting in December 2012 and early January 2013, and the fact he was an experienced hire who needed to get a referral: never easy, but harder in the current economic climate with reduced hiring. Moreover, we found that Sanjeev was unwilling to take the time to build relationships. Sanjeev felt the person with whom he was networking should take the first step in this regard, versus Sanjeev slowly building a relationship and over a long period of time. We were more worried with Sanjeev since we felt he was operating largely independently and not keeping us updated in real time. It is difficult for us to advise clients when we do not know what is happening.

To help with this delay, we made a decision to extend the program from 21 sessions to 28 sessions in an effort to help them. This would ensure we could guide their case preparation as we moved into final few weeks before their interviews.

In the session descriptions which follow, we are using one description for 4 different candidates. Yet candidates do not perform the same, and while the descriptions are mostly accurate, there will be some differences as a few cases are brought forward, others moved back or candidates fail to prepare adequately. While these differences are minor, they sometimes occur.

Cases questions taught in the session:

Felix’s cases recorded in the session; How do you manage situations where you fundamentally disagree with people but need to work with them (Fit Question), German productivity article, Brainstorm Angela Merkel’s options to respond to poor integration of East and West Germany which is dragging down productivity, Country competitiveness case & Brainstorm the risks of launching a country competitiveness improvement program?

Sanjeev’s cases recorded in the session; Talk me through a recent failure, at your current role, and how you handled it (Fit Question), Entertainment sector trend hypotheses development, Brainstorm the CEO’s options to respond to this trend, Russian movie studio investment case, Brainstorm the risks of going ahead with the project, McKinsey Media & Entertainment sector data interpretation & one-sentence test.

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