In this article, we will share the key lessons of the top 4 consulting job applicants we trained, as measured purely by their consulting interview skills.
At #1 is Sanda, an undergraduate from one of the poorest countries in South East Asia who barely spoke English. She was the first in her family to attend university, a university without a website, and became the first person in her country, and university, to join McKinsey.
So what distinguished Sanda from other consulting job applicants we trained?
First, she watched the videos so carefully that she could recall and apply all key concepts during her 1-on-1 consulting case interview coaching. Just how efficient was Sanda? We only did 4 hours of case interview coaching before she received her offer! That is just 240 minutes of one on one case interview training or half a season of the Big Bang Theory.
Sanda clearly identified her weaknesses and requested help. For example, one of her consulting job interviews was in a luxurious restaurant, and she never been to such a restaurant, so we had to guide her on sitting, using the utensils, and so on. The thing about Sanda is she told us about this weakness, even though it was hugely embarrassing.
Many people hide their weaknesses because they are ashamed of them. And because they hide them they can never ask for help to fix them.
And finally, Sanda is also a doer who aims high. She immigrated to Singapore after McKinsey and joined a Fortune 500 company. She then returned to her country to join a Fortune 100 Company. She is constantly moving up and did not see getting a consulting job at McKinsey as the pinnacle of her career.
Many clients assume that getting a consulting job at McKinsey or BCG is the best they will ever do. After consulting they tend to move on to smaller companies with an attitude of, “Hey I worked at McKinsey and I am exceptional, so I deserve special treatment”. And Sanda, by comparison, just kept on climbing higher and higher, taking on roles with higher levels of responsibility and impact after consulting.
Sanda was the first recipient of our Emerging Fellows Scholarship program. Her success encouraged us to expand the program.
Ivan is at #2. Ivan is an Eastern European immigrant in North America, just like me. He went to a little known state university in North America and he joined BCG while pursuing a part-time MBA. 99% of you would not recognize the name of his school. What we liked about Ivan is that he just kept on trying. Just like Sanda, he watched every video; he absorbed every piece of information.
And because he was so well prepared we could practice more difficult concepts with him. That is an important distinction with both Ivan & Sanda.
As a side note, the training we have within our Premium membership, let alone within FC Insider, is way more than sufficient to prepare for consulting job interviews with top firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, etc. The reason many consulting job applicants still feel they need to apply for one on one coaching is that they do not make the most of online programs we offer. It is very common for members to apply for our coaching without even first working through our membership content. So we had to introduce a rule of someone having to be at least a Premium member before they can apply for our case interview coaching because it is not productive to use job applicant’s time or partner’s time working through basics when it is in-depth covered in our programs.
Back to our story, he also took feedback very well. We told Ivan that the biggest problem he faced is that he appeared to be a caricature of those nefarious traders you see in a Martin Scorsese movie, with the sleek black hair trying to talk their way into things. He was a hustler and desperation does not work in consulting. When it comes to consulting job applicants firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte expects candidates to have options. They do not want someone who is desperate. Ivan immediately changed his image after we gave him this tough feedback.
Since Ivan grew up so poor and had so few options in life, he took advantage of opportunities and made them count. Once Ivan had access to a partner who could guide him, he made the most of the opportunity and respected the mentor-mentee relationship: he ruthlessly executed every single piece of advice.
At #3 is Peter, an undergraduate from Arizona state university who joined McKinsey. When we asked Peter why he did not apply to Yale or Harvard, Peter said he had never heard of Yale.
It was a fact – he had never heard of Yale when he was applying to schools. Yet, he was not embarrassed about it and he was proud of picking Arizona for its football program. He was a true Sun Devil.
The most important observation about Peter is that he never puts himself down. Most people would demonstrate some discomfort for not attending an Ivy League school. Peter was never like this. He was proud of his alma mater, proud of his 4.0 GPA and proud of his choices. This was not an act. He was genuinely comfortable with his path.
He also worked part-time in a trucking company during his studies. He was a driver. He did so well that he was promoted to COO for that small business.
And at the end of the day, Peter’s track record of success and high GPA is what mattered. With a 4.0 GPA, a stellar leadership record, and solid case interview preparation, obtaining a consulting job at a major firm was not an issue. Every major consulting firm was interested in Peter.
Rounding out the list is Michael at #4: a Harvard business school Baker Scholar and Stanford undergraduate who joined McKinsey. The most outstanding quality about Michael is that he does not seem to have an ego and is very respectful. So much so that we invited him down when we were shooting The Consulting Offer II in Atlanta (led by former McKinsey senior partner and worldwide strategy practice co-leader, Kevin P. Coyne). And this guy with a great background was helping us set up stuff, carry around boxes and bring pizza for the production crew. And he just did it. He is very humble. This may sound like a small thing but genuine respect is rare these days.
Michael did not need to attend Stanford and Harvard to be somebody. He went there because he is somebody. And that is easy to see in his behavior. He does not appear entitled.
He, crucially, followed our advice. We advised against any networking and instead to focus on grades because for the rest of his life he would have “Baker Scholar” behind his name and most senior partners graduate with distinction.
People who graduate with distinction generally end up better off. Focusing on networking is a myopic strategy. It may help you obtain a slightly better consulting job in the short term but at the expense of learning and building a foundation for the long term.
Let’s review some of the main lessons from our top consulting job applicants: Sanda, Ivan, Peter and Michael.
First, you can achieve anything regardless of your background. As you can see, only Michael attended an Ivy League school.
Second, Peter, Ivan, and Sanda all maintained 4.0 GPAs and strong leadership roles. This is the antidote to a weaker school brand.
Third, remember that The Consulting Offer (TCO) is where consulting partners download everything they know about consulting case interview preparation. It is the most important tool you should use to prepare for your consulting job interviews.
And fourth, if you want influential partners to guide you, you must be a good mentee, by executing the advice provided and being very honest about your weaknesses without complaining. If you hide your weaknesses you can’t fix them.
Sanda’s audio interview is on our website in the client’s section. You can listen to her explaining how she became the #1 client in Firmsconsulting history.
Succeeding as a Management Consultant
When people think about the business strategy we often think about the field of strategy consulting/management consulting and firms like McKinsey, BCG, et al. If you are interested in learning how to conduct a management consulting engagement, you will likely enjoy this book. Succeeding as a Management Consultant is a book set in the Brazilian interior. This book follows an engagement team as they assist Goldy, a large Brazilian gold miner, in diagnosing and fixing deep and persistent organizational issues. This book follows an engagement team over an 8-week assignment and explains how they successfully navigate a challenging client environment, develop hypotheses, build the analyses ,and provide the final recommendations. It is written so the reader may understand, follow ,and replicate the process. It is the only book laying out a consulting assignment step-by-step. (Published by FIRMSconsulting.) One of the best business books if you are interested in management consulting and strategy. This book will be very useful as well if you are a small business consultant.
Bill Matassoni’s (Ex-McKinsey and Ex-BCG Senior Partner) Marketing Saves The World is a truly unique book. Never before has a McKinsey partner published his memoir publicly. This book is a rare opportunity – a true exclusive – to see what shapes the thought process of a partner and learn about marketing and strategy. The memoir essentially lays out McKinsey’s competitive advantage and explains how it can be neutralized. (Published by FIRMSconsulting.) One of the best business books if you are interested in marketing, strategy, how McKinsey and BCG operate, and overall in management consulting. This book will be very helpful if you are a small business consultant.
Bill Matassoni speaks highly of Kenichi Ohmae in his memoir Marketing Saves The World. He is one of a few people Bill calls “brilliant.” The Mind of The Strategistremains one of a few strategy books we recommend to understand how to think critically. Now you can read Bill’s memoir, a book about Bill’s mentor (Marvin Bower), and a book by one of Bill’s close colleagues at McKinsey (Kenichi Ohmae). Definitely, one of the best business books, especially if you are interested in management consulting and strategy.
One of the best business books of all time. The Innovator’s Dilemma – “By the nineties, most books on management were just rhetoric, but this book is the real deal. A well-researched classic,” says Bill Matassoni. Named one of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime by Amazon Editors. In his book, Clayton Christensen showcases how even the most outstanding organizations can do everything right and still lose market leadership.
There is no better book than McKinsey’s Marvin Bower to explain the philosophy of strategy and the way in which management consultants develop a strategy. What we do is very different from the way a researcher of strategy would develop a strategy. I highly recommend this book and have read it several times. Bill Matassoni (see Marketing Saves The World) was a mentee of Marvin so reading both books will allow you to see things from both sides.
Get a list of the best strategy books and other business books we recommend …
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