Congratulations to Ioana on the very well deserved offer from McKinsey!

We are starting a new series “FC Insiders share their thoughts” where you will meet selected FC Insiders, learn from their experiences and what they found works and does not work to ensure they make the most of FC training. The advice will be helpful if you are preparing for consulting jobs, want to succeed as a management consultant or using FC training to succeed outside of consulting. And, it is worth mentioning, while many FC members prepare to interview for consulting jobs, the majority of our members use Firmsconsulting content outside of consulting and/or are not pursuing consulting interviews.

Given that the management consulting recruitment season is just around the corner we are initiating this series with feedback mainly for members who are interviewing for consulting jobs or preparing to interview for consulting jobs and/or are currently developing business foundational skills (using our foundational skills programs like The Consulting Offer).

In other words, this particular update from the “FC Insiders share their thoughts” series is mainly for recent FC members. But the advice you will find will be valuable for all FC members so do not skip it if you are not interviewing for consulting jobs and/or not developing foundational skills.

Many FC members write in about having poor learning techniques and struggling to apply what they learn. So having FC Insiders share their proven tips, tricks and approaches to make the most of FC training will help many members, especially newer members, make the most of Firmsconsulting’s programs. It’s not just about consulting jobs. Its about making an impact everywhere and beyond consulting.

So let’s begin this special series with Ioana’s inspiring story and wise advice.

***

Meet Ioana, an accomplished FC Insider, originally from Romania, who achieved much through hard work and dedication. If you are based in a developing country and feel there are few opportunities for you to succeed in life, or if you are in a developed country but don’t feel you have a good enough profile (in terms of educational background, academic or career record etc.) and/or the network/connections to succeed, read Ioana’s inspiring story and advice.

Ioana was kind enough to share with the Firmsconsulting community not only her story, but also her approach to making the most of Firmsconsulting’s training programs. She offers advice for those interviewing for consulting jobs, or those who are preparing to interview for consulting jobs. Despite being born in a country with fewer academic (or otherwise) advancement opportunities vs. what developed countries generally offer, she has done very well and she has a bright future.

consulting jobs prep

Humble Beginnings

My name is Ioana Moga. I was born and raised in Oradea, a city in the North-West of Romania. I always excelled in school, especially at math. I was good with numbers, I loved solving difficult math problems and I used to participate in Math Olympiads since 5thgrade. Even though I loved math a lot (I still do), I could never make it past the regional competition in Math Olympiads. It was frustrating, and I considered studying more to become better at it, but then in 7thgrade I discovered chemistry and math become my second favorite subject. We start learning chemistry in 7thgrade in Romania, and this subject seemed very logical to me from the beginning. I just got it, it made a lot of sense to me since day one.

I was also lucky to have a chemistry teacher who saw the fact that I was good at it and mentored and supported me until I graduated from middle school. She convinced me to participate in the
Chemistry Olympiads and she would stay with me after school to help me prepare.

In 7thgrade I finally achieved what I never could with math: I qualified to the National Chemistry Olympiad. I still remember how excited I was about that. I did well in the national contest, I finished in top 20%, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result because I knew I could have done so much better.

This experience taught me two things: that I’m good enough to compete with the brightest young minds in my country and that there’s room for improvement.

In 8thgrade things didn’t go as well for me. I failed miserably at the regional phase of the competition and I didn’t qualify to the national competition. It was a tough year for me and I suffered a lot. But I promised myself that I’ll do better next year. However, after my failure in 8thgrade my confidence dropped. I was lucky to have an incredibly supportive mother, who taught me to believe in myself again.

In 9thgrade I qualified again at the National Olympiad, and it’s not just that, I took 2ndplace. This was such a confidence boost. I was very happy, but I also set a goal for myself: next year I would win 1stplace and I would be one of the 20 students who would go to the capital city for a month to be mentored by the best Romanian chemistry professors and who would represent Romania in International Chemistry Olympiads.

And I achieved those goals.

In 10thgrade I won first place in the National Olympiad and I represented my country at an International Olympiad for students under the age of 18 where I got a silver medal. In 11thgrade I won again 1stplace at the National Chemistry Olympiad and I represented my country at 2 International Olympiads, winning a silver and a gold medal. However, even though I competed in 2 International Chemistry Olympiads, I was the first student who didn’t qualify to the main International Chemistry Olympiad, the biggest competition for high school students.interviewing for consulting jobs

I was crushed.

That was something I really wanted, but instead I participated again in the Olympiad for students under 18 again, and this time I won first place and first gold medal. In that moment I realized that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t have achieved this amazing result if I didn’t fail to qualify to the main competition. Next year, in my last year of high school, I managed to participate in the main International Chemistry Olympiad and I won a bronze medal.

I loved these Olympiads! They made my high school experience so great! I got to travel the world and see places like Turkmenistan, Siberia and Japan. I got to meet incredibly smart peers, caring mentors and even Nobel laureates. These competitions also made me realize that I wanted to keep studying chemistry.

Unfortunately, in Romania the chemistry laboratories are not well equipped and there is very little funding for research. I wanted to learn from the best chemists in the world to further develop my skills, so I decided to apply to college in the United States. I had quite a lot of friends who participated in the International Olympiads and were studying in the United States, so I asked them about applications and about their experience in the US. All of them liked the US, so I decided to go for it as well. I applied to 5 top colleges in the US and I only got into Columbia University. They offered me a full scholarship, I accepted the offer and when I was 18 years old I came to the US.

Coming to Study in the US

interviewing for consulting jobsThe first few months were horrible. Everything was different, I didn’t know anybody, and I was forced to speak only English when my entire life I used to speak only Romanian. Sometimes I couldn’t understand what people said to me, so my strategy was to smile and nod when that happened. But things got better with time. My English became better, I made friends and I loved my classes. I pursued the most difficult track for a major in chemistry and, because I love challenges, I enrolled in a graduate level class my second semester of freshman year. I did very well in the class and I built a very strong relationship with the professor teaching it, Ron Breslow, who was one of the biggest names in the field and who supported me unconditionally throughout my entire time at Columbia.

I started doing research in organic chemistry the summer after my freshman year. I loved my laboratory! The people were amazing, the chemistry we were working on was very interesting and Scott, the professor I worked for was a true mentor. I even published a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society when I was a junior. I made the most out of the opportunity I was given to attend Columbia and I took all the graduate level courses that were related to organic chemistry. One of them was taught by one of the most prominent synthetic organic chemists, Sam Danishefsky. It was the last year he offered the class before he retired, and I am so happy I had the opportunity to learn from him. I built a strong relationship with him and he supported me and advised me on what to do after graduating in 2014. I decided, together with my mentors, that the best step for me was to apply to graduate school and get a PhD.

PhD, Harvard and Not Quitting

My undergraduate research was great, and it taught me all the necessary skills to thrive in graduate school, but it had no impact to the real world. We would just synthesize a complex molecule, publish a paper and store that molecule in the freezer. I really wanted my PhD research to have more of a real-world application. That’s why I decided to come to Harvard and join my current laboratory where we design and synthesize new antibiotics to commercialize them in order to help people battling hospital-acquired infections.

My PhD experience was difficult. In my first year and a half, my research was not going anywhere. I wasn’t making any progress and I seriously considered quitting my PhD. I was working hard in the laboratory – long nights, weekends – but I wasn’t getting any promising results. Besides dealing with research failures, I had to take 4 classes in the first year and a half of my PhD, and I had to teach undergraduate students for two semesters.

My first semester of teaching went pretty bad. It was difficult to go from being a student your entire life, to teaching organic chemistry to more than 30 people. I only learned after the mid-semester evaluations that my students wanted me to structure the section differently, so I can spend more time on solving problems with them, rather than explaining new concepts. I made sure to change the way I was teaching and tackle more problems with my students, but half of the semester was already gone by the time I did this.

In hindsight, this could have been prevented if during my first section I had asked my students what they wanted to get out of it. Communication is extremely important no matter what your job is, and this experience taught me that you should talk and set expectations early on, so that nobody’s disappointed at the end.interviewing for consulting jobs

My second semester of teaching went much better because I told my students from day one how I want to structure my section and I asked them to share with me what they prefer, so they could get the most out of the session. The first year and a half of my PhD was one of the most difficult periods of my life. I had a lot on my plate and I was constantly stressed and worried. But I kept going, I kept moving on, and I didn’t quit my PhD.  I’m glad I stayed. Classes and teaching were over after a year and a half and I could focus solely on research after that.

My research started going well once I realized that I had to abandon what I was doing and start from scratch. Sometimes you have to take a step back, re-assess the situation and change the plan accordingly. I synthesized more than 150 new antibiotics that are more potent that what’s clinically available and I hope one day one of the compounds I made will become commercially available and cure patients.

Interviewing for consulting jobs? You and Ioana are in the same boat

I will get my PhD in less than a year and I am currently preparing for consulting job interviews. I am interested in consulting for 2 major reasons: during my PhD I realized that I want my work to have a quicker impact and I want to continue solving problems, but not at the bench. Research tends to be very slow – in order to get a drug on the market you need more than 10 years. I still want to make an impact in the pharmaceutical and healthcare space, but not from an R&D role. In consulting I can solve important problems in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector and see the impact of my work in a few months rather than 10 years.

Getting involved with Firmsconsulting

Last year I attended a Business Development for Life Scientists workshop at Harvard and the guest speaker for that workshop was Jen Nwankwo. When I looked her up before the workshop to read about her background, one of the first links that popped up was that of TCO 3 with Jen. This was a time when I had already decided I wanted to transition into consulting and since I met Jen, who worked with FC and got an MBB offer, I decided to give TCO a try and see if it’s a good fit for me.

Cost-benefits trade-off

For me, quality is always more important than price. While there are a lot of free resources available, they were not a good fit for me because I never understood how they arrived at the structure used to solve cases and they lacked a progressive approach to teach cases.

I found a lot of frameworks online, but no real explanation behind them. I personally hate memorizing concepts, I need to truly understand them in order to be able to apply them, so memorizing frameworks didn’t work for me.

Having no business background, I needed guidance on where to start with my preparation for case interviews. I wanted to start with easy things, understand the basics and then move into solving full cases and that’s exactly what FC offered me.

Experience with FC

interviewing for consulting jobs When I started with FC, I subscribed to just TCO for 2 months to make sure the training offered is a good fit for me. I really liked the approach Michael uses to teach concepts, it makes a lot of sense to me and I got the explanations and progression I was looking for in a training program, so I switched to the Premium subscription to become an FC Insider and take advantage of so many other programs they offer.

Getting a job is just the first step, but I want to do great work, solve important problems and have an impact, so I want to learn as much as possible to be able to do all of that. One thing I like about FC is the fact that they teach you not only techniques to solve problems, but also techniques to improve your communication and soft skills. It’s crucial to know how to communicate effectively and be good at building relationships with people, regardless of the industry you work in and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn about this from ex-partners.

Relationship with FC

I think the word that best describes my relationship with FC is mentorship because even though I’m just a subscriber and not their client, I feel like, through all the amazing programs they offer, they help me become a better person overall.

Changing career goals post-FC

It taught me to always dream big and not let society define my limits. Just because I was born in Eastern Europe and I am a woman doesn’t mean I can’t have a successful career or that I have to settle. I don’t want just a cozy job that pays decent money, I want to be able to help a lot of people and truly make a positive impact in the world through my work.

My advice to everyone is to always dream so big that your dreams scare you. That’s how you know you’re doing it right. One program that reminded me of this and made me believe in myself more is Partnership. Memoir. Michael is doing an amazing job of not just explaining the steps he took to become a interviewing for consulting jobspartner in a top consulting firm before he was 30, but also motivating people throughout the series. He’s always making sure to share the struggles he faced and how he overcame them while encouraging people that they can be successful too. I highly recommend this program to everyone.

I also resonated with the program because, since Michael talks a lot about emerging markets and I grew up in one, I could connect more with Michael and FC. It feels good to use training done by people who understand your background.

Also, seeing so many examples of successful clients with unique backgrounds made me realize that anything is possible if you are willing to work for it and if you have the right mentors. Reading about Irina, the woman who had a vocational degree from Ukraine and made it to McKinsey, or listening to Assel, the woman who got a job at McKinsey after 5 years of maternity leave, motivated me a lot. If they could do this, so can I, and so can you.

Referral?

Yes, I would recommend FC. Anyone could benefit from their programs: people trying to get a job, people struggling with their careers, people trying to become better at their job. It doesn’t matter where you are on your professional journey, everyone can learn something from FC training.

Most memorable part

interviewing for consulting jobsMy mind was blown when I learned that the strategy, should, could, would, how framework can be used to structure so many different type of cases, and also some fit questions. A really nice and useful approach that I haven’t seen anywhere else. I was also surprised to learn that you should network with partners, and not junior people. I was under the impression that they wouldn’t want to talk to me, but it turns out that senior people are extremely nice and friendly.

One thing I noticed shortly after I started using FC training programs is that I became more aware of my surroundings and more interested in how everything works. For example, when I would walk home from the laboratory and see a certain brand of a luxury car, I would start estimating how many cars of the same brand are in Massachusetts. When I’m at the airport, I pay more attention to advertisements to see what destinations are offered by certain airlines. When I hear about a business I know nothing about I ask myself what their business model is.

Feedback from friends/family

My family and best friends know that I’m using FC. They are very supportive, and they all noticed how much I’m learning. At the same time, they benefit from it too because I like to share with them what I learn, especially tips on communication, soft skills and leadership.

For example, I mentioned to my best friend that during your interview you should always stay calm, try to not lean your upper body towards the interviewer as this might be perceived as aggressive, try to keep your back glued to the chair and use your hands a lot when you speak. All these cues will give the impression of confidence. My friend found them very helpful and used them when he interviewed for a job in the pharmaceutical industry.

Big benefits

I feel like I’ve learned so many things from FC, but the three main benefits would be that: 1) I learned the basics terms of finance and business. When I first started working with FC I had no idea what profit margin, ROI, CVP analysis etc. were. 2) I learned how consultants define leadership. I used to think that if you are the president of a club you are a leader. 3) I learned how to think and communicate in a more structured way. Still working on this one, but I’m getting better at it.

Advice to other FC members

TCO is the foundation of all other FC training programs. Even if you are not interviewing for consulting jobs, you can still learn how to structure problems and it will help you no matter the field you work in. What I typically do when I go through the TCO training programs is watch the videos and use them as learning materials. I try to understand how interviewing for consulting jobsMichael approaches a problem, how he drives the case forward, what he focuses on, how he communicates and how he closes the case.

If I need to watch the same episode twice or three times to grasp a concept, I do it. I also don’t like to take more than a week off between episodes because I forget what I previously learned, and I lose momentum. I like to watch both the training videos and the perfect answer videos because it exposes me to the same concepts twice and if I missed something when I was watching the training video, I can pick it up when I watch the perfect answer video.

I also like to watch more than one video for a certain type of case. I usually start with Felix’s videos and then I watch Sanjeev’s videos as well. Being exposed to the same concepts, but applied to slightly different cases helps me understand how to apply the concepts to cases I haven’t seen before. It’s also helpful to see how different the two candidates are and understand that you don’t have to fit into a mold to get a consulting job.

I never pause the videos and try to solve the case myself because I feel like I don’t have the foundation to do so yet. This is the learning phase. Once I finish a season and I feel like I grasped the material, I start doing cases. You can find a lot of case books online for free. I first practice by myself and I focus on one category of cases at a time. For example, I started by tackling profitability cases and I talked them out loud as if I was talking to an interviewer. I think it’s important to always try to mimic the actual interview. If you do cases silently and just write down calculations, you are not working on your communication skills and that’s what you ultimately get an offer for.

I do as many profitability cases as I need to feel like I understand them. I know people who got an MBB offer and practiced hundreds of cases before interviews and I also know people who got an MBB offer and practiced 10 cases. The number doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand how to tackle each type of case, are comfortable with the process and are able to use the core concepts in situations you haven’t seen before.

Once I feel like I can solve a category of cases, then I move on to the next category and I repeat the same process. Once I covered all major categories, I start practicing all types of cases, so the concepts are fresh in my memory for my interviews. I practice with a partner once a week and I make sure to listen to their feedback and incorporate it next time I practice. Of course, closer to the interview dates, I will practice with people more often. This is what works for me. What works for you could be very different. Find out what that is and stick to it.

The advice you would have given yourself

I would tell myself to buy an economics textbook and learn all the basic terms. It would have helped me to understand the vocabulary before diving into TCO. I should have also started practicing cases with people sooner, so I can apply the concepts I learned in TCO and find out what my weak areas are, so I know what I need to work on.f

Other advice

interviewing for consulting jobsThere will be times when you are going through the training and a concept doesn’t make sense. You might get frustrated, start doubting yourself and think that this is not for you. This definitely happened to me so far. While I’m good with numbers, formulas and graphs because of my background, when I first started practicing brainstorming questions, I was pretty bad at it. I found it very difficult to be structured and sometimes I struggled to come up with creative ideas.

What I did to fix this was to read the Wall Street Journal every day, pay a lot of attention to how Michael answers brainstorming questions, and ask myself brainstorming questions during the day. Reading the newspaper every day exposes me to how people or companies deal with certain issues and I can use these solutions when answering brainstorming questions as long as I’m structured.

Listening to Michael answer brainstorming questions helps me understand how an interviewer would want me to speak. Asking myself brainstorming questions helps me practice and improve.

Whenever I’m curious about something I notice when I walk on the street, or whenever I’m wondering how I could do something to improve a situation, I turn it into a brainstorming question and practice. It doesn’t have to be a formal practice session. Work to improve your weaknesses, but don’t give up. No matter how hard things are for you, always remember your goal and do everything you can to achieve it.

How we can improve

I think FC is offering high-quality training programs and I am grateful to have access to all of them. I also like that you are constantly uploading new content and offering new programs. One thing that FC should start doing is offer FC Insiders a platform to get to know each other and communicate with each other. FC Insiders are loyal subscribers and they are serious about our careers and becoming their best selves. It would be nice to have an easy way to get to know each other, find case partners, or just find people with a similar background to talk about careers. Having a list of business terms posted on the website would be extremely useful for me and other PhDs who have no business background and have never taken an economics class. I know we can google all these terms, but it would be helpful to have access to a glossary covering all the basic terms.

***

About “FC Insiders share their thoughts” series

Over the last 8 years, we have noticed a pattern of mistakes newer and sometimes long-term members make, which negatively impact their results and progress. Keep in mind that in addition to patterns we noticed based on members data and performance, we have had >1,000 coaching clients and keep detailed notes on every single interaction.

Some patterns:

1. Not allocating enough attention, time and effort to develop foundational skills

Not allocating enough attention, time and effort to develop foundational skills. For example, we often see members who are current consultants and who used TCO while they were preparing to interview for consulting jobs, to get an offer, but who did not develop sufficient foundational skills (eg they superficially covered TCO 1 with Felix and received an offer). Such members, as soon as they get the offer, completely ignore TCO even though their foundational skills are still quite weak. They usually go for an extended vacation (vacation from developing themselves or a literal vacation) and then shortly after they start in their new role, once they realize the skills gap and limited training opportunities provided by their employer and that since they are competing with their co-workers due to up or out policy / for promotions internal training does not offer them an edge, jump into more advanced FC programs like The Bill Matassoni Show+Matassoni Insights, Corporate Strategy and Transformation study or Partnership. Memoir, without having a strong foundation to build upon. Getting the job is just a first step, as Ioana wisely mentioned. The hardest work begins once you are in your new role.

2. Ignoring FC foundational programs

Completely ignoring FC foundational programs like TCO if a member is not interviewing for consulting jobs or preparing to interview for consulting jobs. On the surface TCO, EMBA Case Interview Preparation Program, McKinsey After Maternity Leave are programs for members who are preparing to interview for consulting jobs. In reality, those are very powerful programs to develop foundational skills which will serve any individual for the rest of their lives. All our other advanced programs assume a member understands the foundational skills covered in foundational programs like TCO. For example, when we brainstorm the revenue generating opportunities or structure the business model in “Building an Electric Car” we assume members can follow the thinking. “The Digital & IT Strategy Study” requires a very advanced understanding of structuring problems that are all taught in TCO.

3. Learning but not applying

We often see members not applying what they learned, which obviously will negatively impact a member’s development and progress. Listening is not sufficient to improve, make an impact and advance. You would need to turn off the App or close down your laptop, sit down with a blank sheet of paper and figure out how to apply the concepts. For example, many FC Insiders who have followed and applied the lessons from Andrew’s ongoing journey to partner in 3 years reached out to us to share the results they achieved. Yet, they had to act on the lessons to achieve those results.

4. Focus on what vs. why/how/why not

Pressed for time, members sometimes do not want to learn how to arrive at an answer. They just want the answer/framework. In the long-term, this makes members dependent on external help since they never learn to develop the answer themselves. Our lessons are different since we do provide answers but the answer is only about 1/20th of our programs. The rest is where we teach you how to think in the same way to develop effective solutions for your unique situations.

5. Coaching clients ignoring online training

We often see coaching clients who are interviewing for consulting jobs not taking advantage of FC online programs despite our advice that coaching is a cherry on top and we just cannot cover what needs to be covered in 12-15 hours of personal training. In fact, we had to introduce a policy where only FC Insiders are eligible to apply for coaching because of this pattern we noticed. This ensures clients now have the foundational skills before joining the programs. Sanda, our most famous client, received an offer after just 4 lessons. This is because she used the online materials so well. And she was in the program when we had far less content. The EMBA program and Maternity Leave programs are key. They cover everything quickly and succinctly. TCO 1, 2 and 3, as well as more advanced programs, are also very powerful ways for coaching clients to prepare to interview for consulting jobs.

6. Short-term focus

A very short-term focus is another common mistake we observed. Many members interviewing for consulting jobs focus on grasping just enough tips and tricks to get the offer (or get the promotion if a member is trying to advance within a current organization) vs. focusing on systematically developing a formidable skill-set. We find many of these clients struggle as they mature in their careers. Many members are managed out or get stuck in their careers outside of consulting. It is common for members to stop using FC programs as soon as they receive an offer and such members usually reach out to us a few months after they start in their new role when they realize that internal training does not give them an edge. They usually ask us to make an exception and give them access to FC Insider immediately. Since FC Insider is a loyalty program obviously it does not work like this. Getting in is hard, but much easier than becoming a successful partner and/or successful executive.

These and many other common issues are something we try to help members avoid. However, we believe it will be helpful for such advice to come from other FC Insiders as well. So this is one of the reasons we are introducing this series – to help newer members or members with poor learning/application techniques to avoid common mistakes.

Another reason we are introducing this series is we hope that every FC member will be able to find an FC Insider showcased in this series who they can particularly relate to and learn from. For many members, it is difficult to emulate a partner because the gap in development (and age difference) is so high. Meeting real FC Insiders who are closer to most members’ age group and career development stage will hopefully help each member to find some practical advice, guidance, and inspiration that will make a material difference.

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Comments

30 responses to Consulting jobs prep – FC Insider shares tips and approaches

  1. Hi Jesse,

    Congrats on getting this far given how little information there is for experienced hires.

    We do have a program, about 100 episodes and counting, just for experienced hires. It is however, currently only available to Insiders. I cannot see your membership level from my current device but if you are not an Insider then you can follow Sasha’s 3 podcasts in the free section as we prepare him for McKinsey final round experienced hire interviews. He joined the Paris office.

    Best of luck! Michael

  2. Hello,
    Apologies if this is the wrong place to ask. If I may, I have a question.
    I have a final round for a senior experienced hire at McKinsey coming up and wanted to know whether I could be directed to relevant content anywhere on the sites at all membership levels that could support my preparation.
    I completed TCO I and IV before my first round. Thanks a lot for the content – helped me enormously. The blogs were also great, on multiple levels. Any further direction for the final round is most welcomed.
    Many thanks.

  3. Hi Esmira,

    Welcome from down South!

    Thank you for the compliment and I really hope we can help you achieve all your goals. TCO IV with Assel and the Experienced Hire Program is best for you to begin.

    Michael

  4. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for clarifying. I just joined FC training and started watching TCO videos first and then moving to EMBA. I must say I have to stop myself from binge watching the training materials but I am so interested in all the topics that you have covered so far! 🙂
    I love the way you think and have no doubts this training will benefit me immensely!
    Thanks Michael for being so inspiring!

  5. Hi Esmira,

    I am referring to the EMBA/Experienced Hire Case Interview program on our website.

    Michael

  6. Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for the positive feedback! I look forward to FC training!
    Yes, the two degrees are from different countries.

    I am so thrilled to know that you have CEO with the same background (my parents are from Baku as well, so that is where the name is coming from 🙂 and I grew up in Moscow.

    Just one more question, is there any specific case-based EMBA program that you would recommend?

    Warmly,
    ET

  7. Hi Esmira (very nice name)

    See my comments in bold.

    I have bachelor in business administration (graduated in 2009) and second bachelor in accounting (graduated in 2012). After graduating in 2009 I have been involved in raising funds for start ups and also built and sold a travel agency at the age of 25. After selling my business I decided to pursue accounting bachelor degree and later career as an accountant in Australia. After 5 years of work as an accountant I joined a young management consulting firm as a management consultant with no prior formal consulting experience and training in the field.

    Sounds very impressive to me. I assume the degrees are from different countries which is why you did them.

    Now I work as a business coach mainly (we guide business owners and hold them accountable to their goals but don’t do any technical work for them) and was able to learn soft skills. However one day I am planning to work as a management consultant who also provides solutions and implements changes within organizations.
    I would like to build up my case study problem-solving and analytical skills the way and hopefully to apply for a management consultant role at McKinsey.

    All good so far. I see no problems.

    I do want to apply for a consultant role at McKinsey but currently I am 31 years old Russian and English speaking female living in Melbourne, so not sure if they hire professionals at my age. Plus I never held a position in public company or large corporation.

    Well, let me say you belong to one of the best performing client groups at FC, and our CEO is also a Russian female living in the west. McKinsey hires at all ages and levels provided you present a good resume and perform well in your case interviews. 31 is older than the average but the oldest associate ever hired by McKinsey was 44 years and he was our client. So age is not your problem. As long as you can clearly show the value you brought as an employee, be it as an entrepreneur or for a smaller consulting firm, that is also fine. McKinsey wants calm leaders who get things done and can influence people. You can gain those skills from anywhere. So just make sure your resume and verbal answers capture this.

    Either way I would like to learn case study skills to apply for an interview at McKinsey. And in case if I don’t get an offer I can still apply the knowledge to my current role as a management consultant.

    This is good. Thinking about using the skills beyond McKinsey is great since it allows you to get he most value from the experience.

    I am also considering doing case based MBA but only once I have at least 3+ years of management consulting experience.
    Would you say my current experience/not high GPA/age would make it impossible to get an offer from McKinsey even if I improve my case study and interview skills?…

    Your current experience seems fine to me provided you present it well. A average GPA (guessing 3.5/4.0) is also not the end of the world. Your experience should show you know more than that which is solely indicated by your GPA. And some parts of McKinsey like Implementation worry much less about grades. So I see no specific red flags that disqualify you. I would say that an MBA will only increase your odds of getting an interview. It does not increase your odds of converting that interview into an offer. So think about that very carefully because it is a very costly mistake many clients make.

    What learning path would you recommend in my case?
    Also would you say I should do any business analyst courses, since I have accounting background?

    Purely from a conflict of interest perspective I cannot recommend any of our programs. But if you see the value in it, start with the EMBA program. Everyone should start with that program and then work your way out. Your accounting background is fine. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, excluding the USA and Canada, an accounting degree is highly regarded so do not assume it places you at a disadvantage.

    ___

    Just remain positive, value your experiences and do not assume you have a disadvantage.

    Hope that helps. Michael

  8. Hi Michael,

    What an interesting story! I have been watching your videos and listening to your podcasts, so was hoping if you could possibly recommend me the best learning approach for my career goals.

    I have bachelor in business administration (graduated in 2009) and second bachelor in accounting (graduated in 2012). After graduating in 2009 I have been involved in raising funds for start ups and also built and sold a travel agency at the age of 25. After selling my business I decided to pursue accounting bachelor degree and later career as an accountant in Australia. After 5 years of work as an accountant I joined a young management consulting firm as a management consultant with no prior formal consulting experience and training in the field.
    Now I work as a business coach mainly (we guide business owners and hold them accountable to their goals but don’t do any technical work for them) and was able to learn soft skills. However one day I am planning to work as a management consultant who also provides solutions and implements changes within organizations.
    I would like to build up my case study problem-solving and analytical skills the way and hopefully to apply for a management consultant role at McKinsey.

    I do want to apply for a consultant role at McKinsey but currently I am 31 years old Russian and English speaking female living in Melbourne, so not sure if they hire professionals at my age. Plus I never held a position in public company or large corporation.

    Either way I would like to learn case study skills to apply for an interview at McKinsey. And in case if I don’t get an offer I can still apply the knowledge to my current role as a management consultant.

    I am also considering doing case based MBA but only once I have at least 3+ years of management consulting experience.
    Would you say my current experience/not high GPA/age would make it impossible to get an offer from McKinsey even if I improve my case study and interview skills?…

    What learning path would you recommend in my case?
    Also would you say I should do any business analyst courses, since I have accounting background?

    I hope these questions won’t overwhelm you, I just really hope to choose the right learning path! 😊
    I look forward to hearing from you anytime soon.
    Thank you,

  9. Hi Ali,

    Thanks for the question. It is great you are so carefully checking everything.

    None of the firms require a GRE or GMAT from an applicant. If you have the score you may submit it. If you have completed an MBA and completed the GMAT, they may ask to see it. If you have a GMAT score and you do not want to submit, and they know you have it, that will be strange and raise some questions.

    If you do not have the score since you never took the test, it is not going to be a problem. And there is no cut-off. On average, you need to do well, but its the entire applicant profile they will consider. Your undergraduate GPA is far more important and that they will scrutinize, most of the time anyway.

    Michael

  10. Dear FC Team,
    I am writing to ask something very important related to consulting firms.

    I have heard that firms such as McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte etc. require GRE scores as part of their hiring process. On the contrary, I have also heard from others that these same firms do not even consider GRE scores in deciding whom to call for interview (perhaps that differs by office).

    Given this confusion, I was wondering if any of you can shed some light on whether these GRE scores are really required by consulting firms. If the answer is yes, is there a specific cutoff score that one must have to apply for these firms? (Keep in mind, this is for business analyst/ entry-level roles).

    I hope my question was clear. Let me know your thoughts.

    Regards,
    Ali

  11. Thanks again Michael.
    I’ll look forward to gain the access to the FC Insider content.
    Take care
    Flavio

  12. Hi Flavio,

    Thanks for your message. While we have the largest library of both case interview podcasts and video training programs, the majority of our podcasts/videos are for corporate managers and experienced consultants. Most case interview coaching clients, over time, become executive coaching clients as they take management roles after they leave consulting. So, over the last 8 years that is now our main focus as our clients have been promoted.

    Most of FC Insider is essentially the more advanced content that is needed after you leaving consulting. Think about this, just one training program (http://www.strategytraining.com/implementation-building-a-new-innovation-division-program?) follows every single step we took with Andrew to move him from senior manager to equity partner within 3 years at one of the world’s largest professional services firms. So, most of our content is already catering for your needs.

    Michael

  13. Hi Michael,

    I really appreciated you found the time to answer my post. I will take your advice to heart .
    In case one day you will create a program that will address not to aspiring consultant but to corporate managers I will be your first client!
    Thanks again
    Take care
    Flavio

  14. Hi Flavio,

    Thanks for this candid post. It takes a lot of confidence to acknowledge when things have not gone as they have. I have a few responses here.

    46-yrs old is not old. You are going to live for at least about 30 to 40 years. So, a better way to think about this is whether or not you want to be where you are for the next 40 years? And it gets harder as you age since you cannot work as much and so on. So if you accept where you are now, just discount it by 30% to 40% and ask yourself if that is what you want. The next 30 years are going to happen. Life will not wait for you to figure it out. Time does not stand still. It’s also a western construct that we study in our 20’s, work and build a foundation until 50’s and then coast. Your life need not be that way. I work all the time and will work until I am 110. I like it that way since there is so much to do.

    If you believe the USA is the place to be then you need to go back. If you believe Germany is better, then stay in Germany. My point is that while it is hard to move around, you need to take short term pain for long term gain.You have to divorce the failed businesses from being in the US. The US is a more forgiving and liberal economy. In the long term it will be the better option. So what if you failed? I am sure you learned things. I am sure you can start over. Be prepared to start over, be prepared to adjust. If you go in with that mindset you will not worry when things get tough.

    Do you know what makes someone elite? Money or the potential to make money. It is not intellect. If you make $1B selling toilet brushes, I can assure you the elite would accept you as their own and if you gave some Ivy school a $350MM donation, you would get an honorary degree. My point is that being elite means little and should not be the goal. Be influential and successful and you will be elite. Divorce cause and effect. Do not assume being part of an elite firm/school makes you smart. By being smart and solving complex problems to make clients successful, you are part of an elite club. That is more important. Being elite with a low profile but having a tremendous impact and being successful. So, I think we have different definitions of elite.

    And maybe rethink being part of the social elite. I think many people want to have sterling credentials and appear on the cover of Fortune Magazine. All you get for that is countless emails from your school asking for donations, and numerous other charities contacting you. People will want things from you. So create your own success versus joining an elite group and benefiting from the success they already created.

    My advice is simple. You have assumed that only if you graduated from X or work at Y, you can have an impact. It appears you want to be part of an elite network, but that is not the same as doing monumental work, which can be done every day and everywhere. Success is a process of accumulation. You do well each day, learn a little, advance and over time you get to where you want to be. You just need to do it. Literally. There is no shortcut. When I was in consulting and even a partner, there was nothing like FC.com and StrategyTraining.com. Where would I be able to follow someone’s journey in building a multi-million dollar consulting practice or electric car startup? Everything I know, and the other partners know, we teach it here. You just need to use it.

    And this is not a trade-off with a family. You should take them along for the journey. You have to work with the opportunities you have and build from there versus searching for some magic role that will quickly give you what you want. Your feelings are not unusual. I think most people feel like you.

    If you follow the Andrew show, both start-ups etc., you can see it is hard but possible. Just do it.

    Michael

  15. Hi there,
    Ioana’s story is inspiring and insightful as most of the things that I find on this website and it is weird to think about that few weeks ago, by chance, I ended up on the podcast Strategy Skills and I immediately got interested in the topics covered so that I subscribed to the Firmsconsulting.com membership. Since there I now wake up every morning at 5am to be able to study your material and I wake up happier than never.
    From the moment I discovered your podcast and your material a new world revealed to me and I realized how many things I ignored, how many things I don’t know and how many things I did wrong.
    I have been living in Germany for many years. I come from a middle-class family, or maybe a little less, my father a government employee, my mother a housewife and I am the second son of 3 children.
    I then resumed my studies at the age of 39 graduating with a part time MBA while working as a junior manager.
    I have never given importance to my grade, what a genius! for me the important thing was to get the degree because I was so confident, or better to say so stupid, to believe that in any job interview I could have demonstrate my skills, and this is actually what has always happened but now I realize I was never facing “elite” jobs. On top of that I never thought about planning my career.
    Actually, my career was pretty good until 2014 when I decided to relocate in USA.
    I thought my MBA and my experience in management were enough to run effectively and efficiently my own business especially in the Country where everything is possible.
    Nothing was more far from the true. The matter of the fact is that I screwed it up strongly. I was not able to turn my business into a decent level of profitability and I was not even able to get accustom to the different culture.
    Well, after 2 years I managed to move back to Germany again with all my family and I was lucky enough that my former company offered me a new job.
    I still think about that experience as a failure and I was always wondering how it was possible. Now I see better; now I am aware I was not as good as I thought, and that is OK so now I know I have to improve.
    I can easily mirror myself in your philosophy and in your values and I believe that part of your audience is made of people like me; people who have realized very late in time how low is their level of knowledge and preparation, but that being now aware of that, they are committed to change and improve.
    I know that I probably will never be able to make part of the “elite” and even if I am working hard to be one day and executive, maybe that will remain just a dream.
    As a senior manager I believe that improving myself with continuing learning from your material, I can improve the quality of my work and doing so I can improve the quality of the work and the quality of the life of our employees and of our clients. Question for Michael:
    What advice would you give to a 46-year-old man in a senior management position who has just realized he has thrown away many precious years but still would like to change the world with the impact of his work?
    Thanks.

  16. Either is fine Argha.

  17. Yes, and this is just the first part of the program. It is split into roughly 3 parts

    Part 1 – Building the practice within the firm
    Part 2 – Selling an innovation program to a client
    Part 3 – Selling the program which is an outcome of the innovation program at the client

    So, it is very sales oriented.

  18. Hi Michael,
    During the interview is it okay to perform the math (multiply, divide, add) on a piece of paper in front of the interviewer or should we do it in our mind?

  19. Hi Michael,

    Thank you. Yes, I am following Andrew’s journey and learning a lot from that. The series is gripping and I find myself rooting for Andrew as he progresses on the Partner track.

  20. Yes, then you definitely should be watching “Implementation. Building an Innovation Practice” because that is all about building a team to sell multi-million dollar engagements and create an innovation consulting practice.

  21. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your guidance. It is helpful and I will keep these points in mind in the subsequent interviews. I realize I have given very little information as the comments are public. Yes, there will be heavy focus on sales targets. However, I find that I am often able to extrapolate and apply skills that I have picked up from FC programs to these specific situations. Thank you.

  22. Hello Anonymous,

    With so little details the best advice I can give you is prove you have the skills for the role you want. That is of course vague but I am unable to be more specific because even India is a huge country with radically different cultures across different cities and even firms. And if you look at how at “Building an Innovation Practice” we had to come up with a pretty customized approach to get Andrew to partnership.

    The one thing I can deduce is that Partner may not be/mean the same thing in your firm. Note, not even McKinsey, Bain and BCG are partnerships at all. They just act that way, but your firm may not even be a partnership in any sense. It is probably a corporation and you need to hit the sales targets for the role you want. Don’t convince, prove you have the skills to sell, if that is indeed the objective of this role. You can bring it, but if you, be sure you can back it.

    I would also hazard a guess that growth is far more important than values and sales vastly exceed the need for any specific skill. So this will likely come down to sales. If you have never sold before it may be hard to show how you will do this, but I would definitely not imagine this would be like a McKinsey partnership discussion, or any partnership discussion for that matter.

    Michael

  23. Hi Michael,

    Thank you. I am adding some more details. The firm is an Indian IT firm. I left a few years ago after a long stint and have kept in touch with many of my previous colleagues there. I left on good terms and was asked to stay back, offered a promotion if I withdrew my resignation. However, at that stage I had already decided to move on. Since then, they have approached me a couple of times but the positions were not suitable and I politely declined. This time there seems to be an appropriate position available.

  24. Hi Anonymous,

    I want to help. I really do. However, to give any useful and insightful feedback I would need to know much more. Things like the firm, country, culture, how you left would all help, among other things. Any advice I offer on such generic information is going to be generic and not very useful. Even at the partner level firms are remarkably different between Bain and McKinsey, and more so across other firms.

    The one thing I can say is that at the equity partner level it is all about a book of business. That assumes of course all the skills are there or enough of the skills.

    Though, I do respect your need for privacy.

    Michael

  25. Hi Kris,

    I am currently interviewing with a firm where I worked before. They have approached me and asked whether I would be interested in coming back. It’s also clear that the role is negotiable and if I negotiate properly, I am likely to be recruited at a position equivalent to Partner in other firms.

    I would appreciate your guidance on how to negotiate in this situation. Should I bring up the role discussion early on or should I wait for them to raise this? What would be the appropriate way to convince them on offering me this position? The interviewers know my background well. So the interviews have been more about they explaining the challenges in the new role, what has changed in the firm since i left etc.

    I have gone through the networking articles, podcasts etc on the FC website. But I am keen to learn how this approach needs to be adapted at Partner level.

  26. Hi Argha,

    Thanks for the email.

    Since recruiting is regional, the partner will assume you are interested in his office, and probably cannot do much to influence another office. So, yes, you can ask him and assuming he is super friendly all would go well. Yet, even at his best, he cannot do much to influence the other office. And I think that is what you are asking.

    So, my advice is to think about whether or not you really want to not consider this office where you have the phone call and, if so, at least use this as a call to practice your networking skills.

    Michael

  27. Hi Michael,

    I wanted your advice on how to ask about a different office from a partner’s current office.

    I was able to get in touch with 2 partners from BCG. One of them forwarded my email ID to the recruiter when the other person agreed to have a 20 minutes phone call. He works in a west coast office whereas I want to get into one of the East coast offices of BCG.

    This will be my first time speaking with a partner. I have come across one page in FC: https://www.firmsconsulting.com/clients/prescription-for-networking-with-bcg/ and found it very helpful. Thank you for summarizing the podcast.

    Look forward to your helpful insight. 🙂

  28. Hi Argha,

    Congrats on being selected.

    Group sessions are fairly typical for PhDs. If you search the site you will find us offering advice to several clients on how to do the group cases. The main thing is to always build on what someone is saying and help the group succeed, versus you looking good at the groups’ expense. And its Bain, so dress well, engage and have fun.

    Michael

  29. I got accepted into their Advance Into Consulting (AIC) event. It will be a half-day workshop at their New York office on coming Monday. A part of the workshop is solving a case in the group.

    I have heard from my seniors that the strong performers get an interview offer after this workshop.

    With that in mind, I was wondering if you have any advice for me on how to approach that case study? Also is there anything specific I should be aware of about Bain or about AIC event?

  30. Let us know what questions you would like to see answers for in this series and if you have any other suggestions on how to create the most value with this series for every member of FC community.

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