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TCO III, Case Interview Training Program – Intro

Welcome to the release of the much anticipated Season III of The Consulting Offer. In this introductory video we talk about what to expect and offer some critical guidance on using The Consulting Offer, the world’s largest and most successful case interview training program. This video offers a glimpse into the very detailed analytics we collect on subscribers and our ability to predict case interview performance based on this real-time data.

For those of you who may be new to The Consulting Offer we will also give you a brief overview of the format and the differences between the seasons. Jennifer Nwankwo was a successful participant in Season III, which is why her photo appears in this introductory video and why we will refer to her throughout.

TCO III with Jennifer Nwankwo will go live on 31 May 2016. We will offer complimentary pricing until that time. Those who sign up after the deadline will miss an opportunity to lock-in complimentary pricing for as long as they remain subscribers.

Below you will find a text summary of selected content in the video. For the full content please watch the video.

How is TCO a superior way to prepare for case interviews?

For those of you who don’t know about The Consulting Offer, we have been running this program now for 5 seasons. It is now in its 5th season.

So now let’s look at some of the differences that make TCO a very successful case interview training program.

Its the largest case interview training program in the world. There is no case interview training program like it in the world where real people are trained for case interviews by former consulting partners and everything is recorded: resume editing, networking, case interview preparation, mastering communication, developing business judgement and more.

It is also the most successful case interview training program in the world. If you think about it, when we take these candidates we are putting our reputations on the line because if we fail to place them, clearly our reputation will take a hit.

And TCO has been the most successful case interview training program because we have a 50% placement rate for the 8 participants in seasons I, II and III. Season IV is beginning right now and season V will start in early 2017. And when we say 50% placement rate, it is the placement rate for just McKinsey, BCG and Bain. We are not counting offers from other consulting firms. The placement rate is even higher if you include non-target firms.

And, of course, what makes our program very unique is all our training is done by ex consulting partners. This is an approach we do not intend to ever change.

At this point across 3 seasons we have close to 350 hours of video coaching, including cases, FIT, communication, resume editing, networking and more. And every day this number goes up as we begin recording more sessions for TCO IV.

Across those 350 hours of recording there is well over 150 cases. That is a minimum number. We have not gone through all of the new cases done and the number is definitely higher than 150 as we work on TCO IV.

How do we add diversity? Wouldn’t the participants have succeeded without TCO?

The other thing that makes this program unique is if you look at people like Alice Qinhua Zhou, who obviously did very well or Felix and Sanjeev from season I, you probably think to yourself, “Well, these guys are good, that is why they got in!” Yet, you should not forget that they have had multiple previous declines under their belt before the show and we brought them into the program to show you how, with the right kind of coaching, even someone who may have been declined, even someone who may have done an internship and never received an offer, like one of the participants, can still be placed successfully with the right coaching and guidance.

In the history of TCO only 1 out of 8 participants had never before been declined by a consulting firm before the program. Most had been declined before. So the program works and is designed for people who may have faced previous rejection.

From TCO III we went on a big diversity push. TCO I, II and III have been dominated by PhDs. From TCO III onwards, and especially from TCO IV, we made a big push to add diversity. There are now Hispanics, African-Americans, French, Chilean, American, Canadian and Chinese candidates in the program. We even have a muslim participant. And this big push for diversity was not at the expense of the quality of candidates. These are all very talented people.

We wanted role models for what is clearly a very diverse US professional population. And this diversity extends to all major regions like the UK, Europe, Australia, Russia, Brazil, China, Germany etc.

TCO IV is the first season where there are no PhDs participating. And it is not because we chose not to bring in PhDs. There were a lot of PhD applicants, but we have a very strict vetting process where applicants have to go through an online submission, they had to write an essay, send a video, and we screen from those submissions. We, thereafter, take applicants through a set of 3 interviews after that initial screening and then there is a final screening as well.

So applicants go through 5 levels of screening. PhDs didn’t make it through all the five levels that is why they did not make it into TCO Season IV. MBA applicants in TCO III did very well to get into final round but none of them made it into the program. In TCO IV there is one MBA in the program, who is a current Booth student. In fact, in TCO IV 7 of the applicants were current students of the Booth MBA program, of which 2 made it to the final round and we only accepted one of them into the program.

By the way, the reason we talk about TCO IV so much here is because TCO IV is now in production.

It is important to note that while we have very careful vetting process, the most important criteria we look for has nothing to do with particular candidate being the easiest person to place at MBB. If we took the easiest candidates, not only would the show be boring, it would not be representative of our subscribers.

We are looking for a combination of things but character and selecting the type of candidates which will help TCO subscribers to learn are dominant criteria.

Character is important because, with limited time to pass down our knowledge, we have to be very selective when it comes to whom we choose to invest our time and effort into. It goes back to Firmsconsulting’s mission, which is to find and nurture the next generation of leaders in business, government and academia so they can solve mankind’s toughest problems. We are looking for people who will make the greatest difference in the world, provided they have the necessary base skill-set and values.

The second criterion is also crucial. TCO is developed for the benefit of our subscribers, not just the participants being trained, and we have to ensure we keep on accepting candidates that will best serve our goal of helping TCO and Premium subscribers to acquire the necessary skills in the most efficient and effective way.

tco case interview training FC mission


Why do we need more seasons of TCO? What differentiates each season?

So we have 3 seasons and we are in 4th season now, with the 5th season taking applications. Why do you need 3 seasons of the show? You need 3 seasons because we are not focusing on the same things in each season. We don’t duplicate content, concepts or participant profiles. So if you look at The Consulting Offer I, II or III the content will be different. If you look at participants within a season you will notice they all are doing different cases and they have different backgrounds.

Crucially, we introduce different techniques and skills across the seasons. The difficulty level rises from season to season.

TCO I: In season I we focused on the basics of case interview training: resumes, estimations, hypotheses, brainstorming, communication and so on. We overinvested in teaching core thinking and logic skills, as well as core concepts. This is where everyone should start. No matter how much you have practiced, we will teach you better ways to handle cases. So if you subscribe and you jump to watching TCO III and TCO II then you are going to miss out because you will not be able to make the most of these two seasons because you haven’t learned the basics.

TCO II: TCO II was shot live. As many of you know, Kevin Coyne, the ex-McKinsey senior partner and co-head of the worldwide strategy practice led that season as a guest coach. He worked with Alice Qinhua Zhou and Michael Klein. Here the focus was on final round PEI and cases, and final round dinners/networking. Basically we mimicked anything that would happen in 4 days leading up to a final round and final round itself, including the breakfast session and dinner session.

You can actually watch a networking breakfast and see the final candidate dinner before an interview. That is the level of realism in our programs!

We focused heavily on inference cases where no frameworks can be used. One cannot solve inference cases with frameworks. You can try and maybe you can get there but I will not recommend any student to do that because it is very complex. These are cases where you have to use a certain kind of technique that is very common for final round cases. And, as mentioned above, you can’t do season II until you have watched season I.

TCO III: Season III with Jennifer Nwankwo obviously assumes you have watched TCO I and TCO II. But what makes TCO II different is we focus on break-even analyses, cost-volume-profit curves and deeper inference-based cases. So the cases in season III require much deeper understanding of cost-volume-profit curves and break-even analysis.

That is one of the difficulties we identified in season II. It was a weakness for both Alice and Michael. It was also a weakness for many subscribers watching TCO II. Close to 100% of subscribers think they understand the lessons from TCO II but almost no one does. The core strategy concepts taught in Season II were missed by almost everyone.

So we realized people weren’t really understanding TCO II and in TCO III we put a bigger focus on explaining those concepts and then building on them.

We teach a very sophisticated and elegant way to solve break-even-curve analyses and apply it to all cases. This is a powerful shortcut which you should know.

TCO IV: The Consulting Offer IV obviously requires a deep understanding of TCO I, II and III. But the big difference for TCO IV is that its going to be real time. We are not waiting years to release it. Its going to come out pretty soon. There are also no PhDs in TCO IV, which is a big thing. PhDs have dominated TCO I, II and III. And it is not because we planned it that way. Its simply a selection process. They did not make the cut.

There is one Booth MBA and there are 3 experienced hires.

And experienced hires are very interesting. Experienced hire preparation is different from students.

There is a consultant from one of the big 4 firms, there is someone who is a national practice leader for one of the big 4 accounting firms. That is really senior. Not some junior accountant, junior auditor, not a team leader but the national practice leader. And then there is a pricing analyst, which may be misleading because this person has a lot of experience in aviation sector and he is now a pricing analyst. And then we have a current Booth student. Someone who is currently completing their MBA at Booth is in this program.

How to make the most of this case interview training program

Knowing these differences, we want to offer some advice for candidates and members who are going to watch TCO I, II, III at some point.

Our advice is not anecdotal. It is data-driven. We know everything that happens on the website. The back-end of our website tracks a lot of information  – in real time – from IP addresses to video usage, # times a video is watched, how it is watched etc. After 5 years of collecting data and working with several thousand members, we can make some predictions based on the data.

Truisms from data:

  • Cramming preparation – watching 12 videos in one sitting over several days – does not work: leads to watching a video once, if at all, and no time to understand the underlying concepts since the sessions are rushed.
  • Starting at TCO II is suicidal: those who watch TCO II before TCO I always do worse since they do not have the skills from TCO I to understand TCO II.
  • Skipping to frameworks and solutions is a recipe for disaster: we teach many communication techniques within the cases which should be adopted and brainstorming is central.
  • Do not ignore Felix’s videos because she is a PhD. TCO I teaches the foundational skills: the skills taught to Felix are universal and apply to MBAs, experienced hire applicants etc.
  • Watching a TCO II video once without deconstructing it probably means you do not understand it. TCO II is hard. It should take a minimum of 4 careful replays to fully understand the concepts taught.
  • Most clients could only watch the videos to prepare, versus preparing with case partners. If you watch the videos carefully and only use them as a preparation tool, without practicing with others, you will still likely receive an offer. Sveta, Sanda and Irina all joined BCG and McKinsey following this process. They did not practice with others and did very well despite very challenging backgrounds.
  • Too many comments from a member typically indicates poorer case performance: implies that the video was not understood and the member had to ask more questions. If you are asking too many questions it is better to slow down and understand the material because you do not know what you do not know.
  • Watching videos for >2 hour blocks at a single sitting does not help: the mind cannot concentrate for such long periods of time. Better to have more sessions of shorter duration.
  • Using the podcasts and videos in combination helps significantly: the podcasts do not duplicate insights in the videos and can be consumed while a subscriber is mobile. Members using both always perform better.
  • Members who stop watching at Session 16 in TCO 1 see a 33% drop in their probability of obtaining an offer: session 16 onward begins the most complex cases.
  • Members who watch TCO II less than 3.34x have a 40% lower probability of success in London, Boston, New York, Chicago, Zurich, Tokyo and Paris: those are large anchor offices with a greater concentration of very senior partners and they are more likely to use the inference style of interviewing which is taught extensively in TCO II and TCO III.

If you want to join McKinsey, BCG or Bain you WILL join McKinsey, BCG or Bain

So that is TCO. We are putting out this video to make sure you don’t make fatal errors in fulfilling your potential.

I want to leave a very important fact with you. You can read this story. It is 18 pages long on our website. The story of Irina who grew up in Ukraine. Until the age of 25 she basically made some bad choices and she eventually turned it around after going through our case interview training program and ended up at McKinsey in one of the Texas offices. You probably also know the story of Sanda. You can listen to Sanda on the website. She grew up in a very underprivileged part of the world with no hope of getting into the elite firms, went thorough our case interview training program, just basically watching the videos, and she got in.

My point is if you want to join McKinsey, BCG or Bain you WILL join McKinsey, BCG or Bain. The question is whether you are willing to not just do the work but do the work smartly, and be strategic and patient.

Strategic patience is an art form. Prepare and interview when you are ready. Delaying an interview by 4 to 12 months may be the best thing for you. Rushing to meet someone else’s deadline does not improve your chances.

And if you quit or if it does not work for you then obviously you have done something wrong, assuming you have the appropriate background. Now, you probably know it took Irina 5 years or something like that to get in because she did not had the right background. She had to get a degree. So even if you don’t have relevant background you can still fix things.

It is a question of time and effort. It is a question of trade-offs. Is the effort I put in now worth the life I could have in 5 years?

You should always remember that if you aspire to more than what society has intended for you then you should go after it. But you need to be more diligent, patient and strategic. Life is not fair. Not all of us have the advantages we see in others. It does not mean you cannot patiently erode your disadvantages.

As always, we hope you like season III of The Consulting Offer. Good luck with your case interview training!


Michael Boricki is a partner at Firmsconsulting. 

case interview training



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