For our first Bonus episode of Season 1, we will be interviewing the “godfather of case interviews”. Marc Cosentino, CEO of Casequestions.com and author of Case in Point, is the foremost speaker & trainer on case interviews for undergrads, MBAs & industry hires.
Marc is a former Associate Director of Career Services at Harvard for 18 years and a graduate of Harvard. He has 25 years of experience with case questions, has trained over 100,000 people to find their perfect job fit, written over 100 cases, published 4 bestselling books, and delivered workshops to almost every single top 50 MBA program and college. And to top it off, he consults top companies on how to use case interviews and case competitions to their greatest advantage.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– Story behind writing the book, Case in Point?
– Everything there is to know about a case interview (what it is, types, purpose, preparation, math questions, etc.)
– What do companies look for in candidates during a case interview?
– What are some key qualities that make a candidate a top-performer versus a candidate that gets rejected?
– How to ace the behavioral interview?
Connect with Marc: www.linkedin.com/in/marc-cosentino/
Check out Marc’s Website and Case In Point: www.casequestions.com/
Practice Case Interviews: Link here
Follow our Host on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“Walking into a case interview is like walking into a buzz saw, but with a buzz saw, you can only die once. In case interviews, you can die many times and it’s not pretty. So, you want to be prepared and do the best you can.” – Marc Cosentino
Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company.
Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round.
The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
For our first bonus episode of season one, we will be interviewing whom McKinsey & Company calls the Dean of Case Interviews, Marc Cosentino. He is the CEO of casequestions.com, the author of Case in Point, is the foremost speaker and trainer on case interviews. Marc is also a former Associate Director of Career Services at Harvard for over 15 years and a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School. He has 25 years of experience with case questions, has trained over 100,000 people to find their perfect job, written over 100 cases, published four bestselling books and delivered workshops to almost every single top 50 MBA program in the world. And to top it off, he consults top companies on how to use case interviews to their greatest advantage. This episode is going to be a fun one. So, let’s welcome Marc. Well, hello Marc, thank you so much for being on the Final Round podcast today.
Marc: I’m glad to be here, AJ.
Marc, I was someone who was pursuing consulting. I’m in consulting right now and the first time that I asked someone what is the first piece of advice or first step that you need to take to break into consulting, I would say 9 times out of the 10 times that I asked friends, maybe seniors in college people who were in the industry, they all said to start with reading the book, Case in Point, which is obviously your book. So, it’s such an honor to be speaking with you today and to really pick your brain about what is a case interview, how to break into consulting and just how to be a more competitive candidate. So, I have to ask you and say, how did you get the idea to write Case in Point, which has also been known as the MBA bible?
Marc: Well, I was working at Fidelity Investments and I got laid off one day with 1400 other people, and I landed at Harvard College in their career office and I was a business counselor. Back then, all the consulting firms came and recruited the Harvard undergrads. And back then, not a lot of people knew what a case interview was or what they were looking for, so I jumped in with both feet. I interviewed the consultants and interviewers, I debriefed the students after their interviews, I sat in it on some interviews and I started writing things down.
I came out with a couple of books, The Harvard College Guide to Consulting and Harvard College Guide to Case Interviewing. I got a call from the Harvard Kennedy School, they asked me to come over and be the keeper of the dark side of consulting or the business counselor over there. I said, “I’ll come over if I can write a book and do workshops,” and they said, “We don’t care what you do.” So, I went over and I wrote Case in Point within five weeks while working full-time because this is all I talked about was case interviewing. I was the only person on all of Harvard’s campuses that knew anything at all about case interviews. So, I saw people from the business school, I saw PhDs, MDs, masters of other disciplines, undergrads and so they all somehow found their way on my schedule. I started writing things down and came out with the book and seemed to work out pretty well.
Well, that’s such a remarkable story, especially for any aspiring authors out there. Don’t be fooled but it usually doesn’t take, and I think you said five weeks, to write a book. I mean, that is extremely fast. But obviously it seems like you saw there was a need for it and you are more inclined to write that book going through all these different interviews. So, what were some key takeaways after interviewing recruiters at consulting companies, after interviewing candidates, and people in the career center? What was it that was missing in the market when you were writing this book?
Marc: Well, the book itself. At that point, there was only one other book and it’s called Ace Your Case! by WetFeet Press. Actually, the people from WetFeet Press came and asked me to help them write the book. So, I gave them some information and then that’s when it dawned on me, ‘Yeah, I should be writing down a book,’ which I did. But I waited until I moved over to the Kennedy School to do that.
We’ll obviously get into the very detailed aspects of a case interview, but before we specifically dive in, I understand that every so often, maybe every few months or a few years, there’s a new version of Case in Point. I’m assuming that’s because there are updates to the case interview process. I mean, for instance, and everyone else listening out there, what most consulting companies have been doing during Covid is they actually have a case where you’re not getting a case by a live interviewer, but it’s actually through artificial intelligence. So, would you say every new version is talking about the updates in the industry through the case interview process?
Marc: I do. So, I come out with a new book probably every three years or so because things change. There’s a lot of prep material out there and the interviewers want to challenge and come up with new ways to test how you think. I don’t want to throw any shade on a competitor but Victor Cheng’s book is 10 years old and a lot has changed in 10 years and I want relevant cases. When I write the case, I try to not only write it or try to craft the case and have lessons built in. In a way, the case used to be harder than they used to be. One example of that is that they constantly used to say, “Let me tell you why you’re wrong.” So, when you give an answer, they look you in the eye and say, “Let me tell you why you’re wrong.”
And what they’re looking to do is to see if you can defend your answer without getting defensive and make a persuasive argument while keeping your confidence level high because as a consultant, you know when you talk to clients, they’re not always happy with the message you’re delivering and sometimes they’re in your face and down your throat and we want to make sure that you can defend your answer and persuade them over to your side and that’s a very important part of consulting and persuasion. So, I’d like to keep things up to date.
Breaking into Competitive Industries
And I think those changes are the main reason why people talk about your book being the first stepping stone to break into consulting and it’s because of those updated versions and talking about the new changes in the industry. I think you said earlier, going to ask you about your story about writing this book, you didn’t just write Case in Point during your time at Harvard. Right? I think you wrote the Harvard College Guide to Case Questions, The Harvard College Guide to Investment Banking and the Harvard College Guide to Consulting. So obviously, you know how to break into these competitive industries, what would you say is the biggest takeaway that you can share with our audience to help them break into competitive industries, like consulting or even investment banking?
Marc: Okay. So, there’s a number of things. In the end, it’s all about storytelling. On the personal side, you need to let them know who you are and what makes you tick. And in a case, it’s all data driven storytelling. So, I would do a couple of things. I would want to make sure that they know who you are and why you want to get in. Both those industries are highly competitive industries. When I was at Harvard working in career services, everyone wanted to go into investment banking or consulting. You’re going to be surrounded by brilliant people, the learning curve never ends. Also, they’re looking for you to be able to articulate why their firm is better than other firms, understand their firm values and make sure that they are aligned with your own values.
We’re going to be working together, we’re going to be traveling together, we’re going to be eating all our meals together and we want to make sure that we get along and we like each other’s company, so that’s important. And then networking your way in. When I was at Harvard, there used to be 600 students going for 75 1st interview slots. Oftentimes, it was harder to get the first-round interview than it was to get the job. So, networking your way in, looking at people who may have graduated before you did and are now working in those firms. They can’t get you the job but they can speak up for you and get you on that interview list. And then finally, preparing for the case interview. Walking into a case interview is like walking into a buzz saw, but with a buzz saw, you can only die once. In case interviews, you can die many times and it’s not pretty. So, you want to be prepared and do the best you can.
I think the first point that you said about storytelling is a big theme that has risen from a lot of the guests that we’ve had, a lot of the recruiters that we’ve had on the podcast because storytelling is the main way to articulate why your story fits in with the firm. But I wanted to ask you because from afar I think a lot of the consulting firms look very similar. So, how do you answer why a blank firm is different for each company that you interview for? I mean, are there really that many differences to what these companies are doing?
Marc: You’re going to get me in trouble here. In my mind, no, they’re not. They all go after the same people. It really breaks down to the people that you’re going to be working with. I don’t care how prestigious the name of the firm is, if you don’t like the people you’re working with then life’s going to be miserable. So, when you’re making your decisions at the end, it’s really about the people that you can be spending every day with.
Qualities of Ideal Candidates
You said that investment banking, consulting firms are looking for the same candidate. So, what would you say are some key traits or some qualities of the ideal candidate that they are looking for?
Marc: I saw that they all went after smart, articulate people who have a good sense of humor, good sense of value, fun to be around but can get serious when needed, good quantitative skills, good interpersonal skills, done well in school, had leadership positions and particularly leadership positions on campus because when you’re running an organization on campus, you can’t fire someone, you can’t dock them pay, you have to persuade them to follow you, you can’t use the carrot and stick and that’s hard to do, particularly with college age students and MBA students. They give a lot of way to people who are in leadership positions within student organizations.
And I’m so glad you brought up involvement and it’s not just about being a member in multiple organizations and being “involved,” but it’s about being a leader in a few organizations and really rising to the top and leading others and making a change and positively impacting people on campus because that’s a big thing that we talked about on the podcast and that those are the things that resonate with recruiters, with hiring managers, those are the things that get you jobs. I want to shift gears and I think everyone wants to learn more about case interviews and your interpretation of the case interview. I’ve read somewhere that you were the godfather of the case interview because you were almost the first one that really pioneered what it is and how to actually beat the case interview. So, in your own words, what is the case interview?
Marc: So, basically, a case interview is a business problem. There’s no right or wrong answer. We just want to see how you think, what goes through your mind. We want to look at your confidence level, your communication skills and also your creativity. Now, structured thought is the most important one. It’s the last one. It’s creativity that’s going to separate you from everyone else. So, if I give five people the same case and they all give me the same answer, how am I supposed to pick one over the other? But if someone comes up with a creative solution, then that’s going to catch my attention. So, creativity is very important. I get a lot of students that say, “I’m not very creative. What should I do?” It’s a hard thing to teach. There are a couple things you can do. One is you can read the McKinsey Quarterly. It’s cunning edge stuff written by practitioners.
There’s a lot of great creative ideas there. When you read through that and you say to yourself, “I would have never thought of that,” write it down and that will become your idea and not McKenzie’s idea. Also, you can borrow from one case and apply it to another case. I would read as many cases as you can and then write down some thoughts, turns into an archive in the back of your mind and then you can often draw from one case and apply to another case. For MBAs, you can borrow from one industry and apply it to another industry, not so much at the undergraduate level. Maybe if it’s an internship but you’re going to often borrow from one industry the things that they do and apply it to another.
So, if you want to strive to be a more creative case interview and you take your advice and read the McKinsey Quarterly, maybe read the Wall Street Journal, you just get more well read on your business acumen. How do you really differentiate your response in a case interview if it’s a pretty structured case like a profitability, profit and loss case? Because I know that case interviews teach you these frameworks. Obviously, frameworks are important to this structure, but how do you walk that fine line between being structured but not being over structured and still being creative?
Marc: You’re going to get a lot of cases that are profit and loss. By far that’s the most common case that you’ll get but you’ll also get entering new market, you’ll get pricing, you’ll get growth but you’ll also get a lot of cases that don’t fit into any of those categories. This is where you’re going to have to handcraft the structure. There are one or two structures that I want to say a car have been sand, but for the rest of the cases, you really have to handcraft those structures. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is that they use these prefabricated structures to answer all cases.
They try to jam them into every case. To me, that’s the kiss of death when people do that and it really doesn’t make any sense at all for them to do it. Another major mistake that people make is that they hedge their answer because they’re afraid if they come up with wrong answers, they’re not going to get the job. One of the worst things you can do is hedge your answer. Again, in most of these cases there is no right answer. They just want to know what you’re thinking. So, you need to pick one and be able to defend it. The other thing to keep in mind with the consulting interviews, you don’t know the industry, you don’t know the company and you don’t know the problem. You need to be ready for just about anything going in. And it’s not just consulting firms that give these cases. If you’re interested in marketing, strategic planning operations, logistics, finance, private equity, investment banking, even nonprofits and government agencies are starting to give cases now. So, it’s a good skill to have. You never know when you’re going to get one. One of the things that you want to develop and I can tell you that the best-case interviewers develop this, it’s what we call field presence. It’s being able to look at the big picture, and I can give you a perfect example.
So, I gave this case and the case was that your client has an online toy store. They have one warehouse outside of Boston and they’ve hired us to determine whether or not they should close that warehouse and have a third party distribute their toys. Simple, straightforward case. Over the years, I must have given that case a hundred times. Only one person said to me after hearing that initial prompt, he said, “We’re talking about a toy store. They do? 75% of their business in the last three months of the year. That means for nine months out of the year, that warehouse is going to be 3/4 empty. They either need to bring seasonal balance to that warehouse or shut it down.”
Boom! Exactly what I was looking for. That separated him from a hundred other people that did that case because he took the time and it only took two or three seconds to kind of stop, look at the big picture. Most people have tunnel vision, they go right into the case without stopping and thinking. He did a lot of cases. He saw a lot of different variations of cases about different industries and problems. So, he had a lot of confidence going in and building that confidence and being able to see all those different things is a real plus.
Key Things Companies Look For
I think that’s such a good point because a lot of people go into the case interview trying to be so structured and so formulated with these frameworks and they don’t realize that take a step back, use the knowledge that you already have in business and actually say something like, “Well, most toy stores only sell toys during the holiday season.” Right? And I think that’s just one example because there are so many industries and there’s little things to note. And I was reading this case book and they’re called Cookies and there are little things to add in the case interview that might seem minor, but when you’re on the hiring side and you’re between a few candidates and one candidate mentioned something like the seasonality of a toy store and the other one was just very structured, you will probably go with that first candidate because they’re thinking outside the box.
So, I think bringing that creative side, having that confidence like you said and not being afraid to actually speak your mind about what you read about in that specific industry or similar companies. I know that you’ve partnered with different companies, both for profit and nonprofit companies, to teach them how to actually deliver case interviews, how to go about case competitions. What would you say are the key things that companies actually look for when reviewing candidates and seeing who actually gets past this interview around and who gets rejected?
Marc: So, I don’t care who’s given the case, whether it’s Pepsi, Amazon, McKinsey, Deloitte, DoorDash. They all basically look for the same forte, and that is structure of thought, what goes through your mind and in what order when you hear a problem, confidence level, communication skills, also teamwork and the last one again is creativity. So, coming up with those unique solutions, bringing your own experiences into the case. But as far as markets go, I get this question a lot, should I be looking at all these different industries? And the answer is no. Don’t spend your time trying to research every industry because you’re not going to do a good job and time could be spent better doing other things. If you know what questions to ask when you hear about an industry then you should be able to pull out the information you’re going to need in order to do your analysis. Now, having said that, if you’re going to be the interviewing with BCG Dallas, and they do a lot of oil and gas down there, then yeah, I would read up on the oil and gas industry but it’s a double-edged sword because if you throw out some industry jargon and you get it wrong then that’s pretty much the end of the interview. They would rather have you explain things in your own terms than trying to use industry jargon and get it wrong.
Preparing for Case Interviews
Those are all such great points. And I do think like you said looking at the office location. You know Texas will most likely be oil and gas, New York could be marketing, could be finance. If you’re looking at San Francisco, more tech, L. A. media entertainment, banking. So, I think those are really important. I think also that fits into why X company but also why X company in X location. I think those are such good points. We spoke about case interviews, what companies look for. And now what’s the best way to prepare for a case interview? So, let’s say after you go about of course reading Case in Point. I think the next question is would you say there’s a magic number in terms of if I practice 50, 100 cases and I’m going to get that offer or is it more so how you feel as a candidate going through the number of cases that you specifically do?
Marc: If you’re looking for a magic number, I would do 30 live cases but I would also probably read 30 cases. But again, it depends on you and your experience and your background and how quickly you pick this up. There’s a lot of other types of case prep out there besides just the book. I have a thing called CQI which has a lot of math problems on it, a lot of case drills, market sizing case starts videos, a lot of material on there and those are all things you can do on your own to get a good understanding and also practice your case starts. But nothing beats live practice. It’s very different reading a case in a book and then going live. Think of it as reading a book to learn to play golf.
You can read about it but until you’re out there swinging away, that’s a whole different story. So, you want to start doing some practice cases, but you want to practice with people who know what you’re doing because you don’t want to develop bad habits right off the bat and you want to be able to have them correct you and give you hints. I’m a big fan of either videotaping or videotaping yourself when you do cases. You can go back and listen to it. No one else is going to hear it, but you can pick up a lot just by listening to yourself and making adjustments.
I think you touched on two such important points there. The first one being that live case interviews beat everything else. You can read as much as you want, you could be so well read about every single business challenge, business industry, you can listen to the Final Round podcast and hear Marc talk about case interviews, you can watch YouTube videos of people casing, but there is no better practice than live case interviews. I think the reason for that is because in every other situation, you don’t have that uncertainty of what’s next. So, I totally agree that live case interview practice really trumps every other type of preparation on top of understanding what foundation and what is the case after reading Case in Point.
Marc: When you do live cases, do it with different people. Don’t do it with the same person over and over again. Do cases with strangers because one, your friends are going to be too nice to you. Right? You want someone who’s going to be brutally honest and tell you where you’re having trouble. You’re not going to be interviewing with your classmates, you’re going to be interviewing with strangers so you better get used to different personality styles, types of questions and that’s the best way to do it is to get a real mix and not just working with the same group of people.
And I think when you feel too comfortable with someone then you feel comfortable and that’s not the best practice because you’re not going to know your interviewer, you’re going to have multiple interviewers throughout the process. Like you said, trying to mix it up, going with random people you’ve never met is super important. I want to go back to the second point that you said and that if you enjoy the case interview process, that usually means you’re going into the right field. So, for everyone out there listening, it’s not going to be the most exciting and fun thing for everyone, but if you somewhat enjoy it and like to solve problems, like to crack cases, like to learn about new challenges, new solutions in industries, I think it’s a good indicator that you are pursuing the right field because a lot of people are unsure.
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Preparing for Math in Case Interviews
And with these case interviews, I know for me specifically one of the hardest parts about it was the math. And I think very few people talk about really how different case math is than just general arithmetic because of course, as Marc, you and I both know you can’t use a calculator. If you add a zero or take out a zero, it could be the difference of 100 million versus 10 million and delivering that to a client could literally be game over. It could look really bad on yourself and the firm. So, going about case math, what do you think is the best way to prepare for it? Do you think there’s a good approach to math?
Marc: So, they make you do math without a calculator for two reasons. One, to see how you think and two, to see if you think. And as you pointed out, zeros are a lot of trouble. So, if you multiply two numbers together and the answer is supposed to be 320 million, but you tell me it was 3.2 billion and 3.2 billion doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s going to raise some eyebrows because it’s showing me that you’re not thinking before you speak. If you do that in something that’s as important as an interview, what are you going to do in front of a client? I can’t trust you. They can’t trust you. I’m not going to hire you. So, a good rule of thumb is whenever you get a math problem, take an extra second and ask yourself, does this number make sense?
If it makes sense then say it, if it doesn’t, go back and recalculate it because they’re going to make you recalculate it anyway. And once you say it, you can’t unring the bell. So, the math that you’re most likely to see are going to be percentages and sometimes the percentages you’re going to have to do on the fly, particularly in the opening prompt. If there are numbers that are related to each other, you want to quantify them as a percentage. So, consultants and senior managers like to put things into perspective, which is why they always quantify related numbers as percentages and they always ask for trends. They’re looking for you to quantify related numbers as a percentage. So, you should be doing that anyway but if you’re not, you should start from this day on. They want to see how you think. You’re also going to use weighted averages, your net present values.
There’s going to be multiplication and division with lots and lots and lots of zeros, return on investment, break even, those sorts of things you should feel comfortable with. I’ve known a lot of people that have lost great opportunities because of math and they get upset with themselves when they get the math wrong and then the whole interview kind of spirals down. If you make a mistake in math, fix it and move on. It’s no big deal. When you get a math problem, you want to lay out what your formula is going to be then go back in and fill in the numbers and then you’re going to want to make the calculations. If you make a mistake in the calculation, the interviewer might say, “That number seems a bit high to me or you may want to revisit that calculation.” You fix it and then you move on, no big deal. But if you sit there and do all the calculations first and come back to me and say, “Well, the answer is 600 million,” and I say, “No, it’s not.” We don’t know where you made the mistake. So, now you have to go all the way back to the beginning of the math section and work through it again and nobody wants to do that. So, lay it out, fill in the numbers, make the calculations. If you make a mistake, it’s no big deal. But again, think about whether the number makes sense before you say it.
Key Qualities of Top Performers
And I think that’s one of the hardest parts and that it’s very easy to just put your head down and do the math by yourself and then just blurt out an answer. If it’s correct, that’s awesome. But if it’s wrong, the interviewer doesn’t know where you made the mistake. So, one of the best pieces of advice that I received when I was casing is talk through every part of the math and explain your approach before diving into it. So, they could say, “Wait, there’s a better approach or that’s the wrong approach to save you from that mistake.” So, I think being vocal during that math section where usually you’re not trained to be vocal, but in case interviews you don’t want to have five minutes of silence with an actual client, same thing with an interviewer.
So, I think those are such important parts of math. And obviously Marc, you have worked with different companies on what they’re looking for with case interviews. I think the number was you trained over 100,000 people, both in undergrad, in MBA and in the industry. On top of what the general consensus is of what companies look for with these candidates, in your own words, what would you say are some key qualities that make a candidate a top performer versus a candidate that gets rejected, whether it’s in the case interview or just the overall interview?
Marc: There’s a couple of things. One, the Pittsburgh Airport test, you could hit a home run on the case, but if you have the social skills of Homer Simpson, then you have bigger problems than finding a job. You’re not going to get the job. The Pittsburgh Airport test carries a lot of weight because we’re going to be spending so much time together and I want to make sure that we get along and there’s some chemistry here. Also, I need to know that you have the confidence and the communication skills because I’m going to put you in front of a client and you’re representing the firm and you’re going to get challenged and you need to be able to defend your answer.
I think one of the most important skills a consultant has is listening to the client and really kind of finding out what’s important to them. In the book, in the first five steps, one of the things I tell people to do is ask, “Besides increasing sales or whatever the case is about, ask, are there any other objectives or goals I should be concerned with?” You also want to know what constitutes success for the client. How do they measure success? You need to know that. If they say they want to increase their profits by 8%, you need to know that and you need to figure out what 8% represents and how you’re going to get there.
A mistake that a lot of students make, they think the cases are about them. They’re not about you. Cases are about the client. So, everything you say, everything you do needs to move the case forward in the name of the client. They’re also going to look to see your ability to collect and understand data. What kind of questions are you asking? Are you asking the right questions? Are you looking at data? They’re going to slide you a lot of graphs that you’re going to have to look at and analyze in a short period of time. Again, creativity, I can’t stress this enough. And the other thing, a recommendation at the end can make a difference, one way or the other. If the interviewer is sitting on the fence about you, a strong recommendation can push you over into the yes category.
A pedestrian recommendation can fall backwards. It’s a great opportunity to close the deal on whether or not you get hired. Because when you’re working on a project, you need to close the deal with the client. They need to be happy, they need to be satisfied and you have to have a good game plan. So, your recommendation has to be strong. You have to be prepared to defend it and it’s the same thing with the interview overall. You need to sell yourself, you need to close the deal
So, many great points in your response, Marc in that the recommendation oftentimes is the kicker, right? It’s what either gets you to the next stage of the interview, maybe the offer or it gets you rejected, right? Even if you mess up on the case or make a math mistake or even just don’t feel like you knocked it out of the park, if you can wrap it up very well it’s a lot of extra points that can really help you when you’re on the fence.
One of the last questions today Marc is obviously we’ve been talking about case interviews for a majority of our conversation today but we don’t want to forget about the case interviews cousin the behavioral interview. Behavioral interviews can be anything from consulting. It could be, “Marc, tell me about yourself, tell me about your story and maybe why X company?” What would you say is a good weight to put on the behavioral interview versus the case interview because they’re both extremely important?
Marc: Weight wise, I’d say 85% goes to the case interview, 15% goes to the behavioral interview. You want to have stories to drive your point home and tie it all into why you want to be a consultant, what skills you have? We talked about stories earlier. If I go down that list and say, ‘Which one was he? This is somebody I spent 45 minutes to an hour with and I can’t remember who they are or what they said.’ So, the power of the story is so strong. The things that you think that the recruiters are looking for, you want to have examples of those to substantiate your skill base.
And then you need to close the deal. Just like at the end of the case, you need to close the deal with the recommendation and you need to close the deal here. If they say, do you have any questions? One of the things that I always like to ask is, “Do you have any concerns about me and why I wouldn’t be able to do this job?” If they do have concerns, they may say, “I have a concern that your math isn’t strong enough or I have a concern that your analytical skills,” and then you can come up with the defense and you can end it on a real positive note where you’re defending any concerns that they may have. Because if you don’t ask them, they’re going to walk away and you’re not going to know what those concerns are because if you do get rejected and we all get rejected and you’re thinking, ‘Well, I thought it went pretty well,’ and you email the interviewer and say, ‘What did I do wrong?’
They’re not going to tell you. What they’re going to say, ‘We had so many good people that day. There were just a few more that did better than you,’ because they’re afraid of getting sued. They’re not going to be brutally honest. But if you ask them that question at the end of the interview, they’ll answer it more honestly and more importantly you can address it right there. And that’s part of closing the deal.
I feel like asking that specific question of throwing it back at the interviewer is a pretty unorthodox question. In your experience, has it been pretty successful? I personally never heard it. I think it’s super interesting and I agree that it’s hard to receive feedback if you do get rejected. Do you think that it’s a good practice to throw back at them, have them point out any weaknesses and then explain how maybe you can strengthen those aspects of your overall application?
Marc: I do. Not a lot of people do it. I think it shows them that you’re not afraid of them and you won’t be afraid of a client. If a client pushes back, you’re going to be able to defend those answers which is the same thing that’s going on here. It allows you to take control of the interview because most of the time the interview is out of our control. But here you end by taking control and laying it all out. Sometimes they’ll be honest with you and sometimes they won’t. But this is your best shot, particularly if you think you messed up and you’re not going to get the case and you’re not going to get the job anyway, it’s a good thing to ask. I think it shows that you have confidence and that you’re not afraid to talk to power.
Awesome! Well, the last question today, Marc, we always ask the guest one final question and what is the best piece of advice that you can give to our audience to help them get past the final round interview and land their dream job?
Marc: All right. So, the final piece of advice students receive offers in consulting because of four things. One, they’re able to convince the interviewer that they’re committed to the consulting. They know exactly what they’re getting into, they’re prepared. Second is that they can demonstrate success- oriented behavior. Third, they exhibit good analytical skills. Fourth, they’re able to articulate their thoughts, create a positive presence, defend or answer without being defensive, coming up with creative answers. But the last one, the most important one is be yourself, have confidence in yourself, you don’t want to go in there and try to be someone you’re not. They know you can do the job. They wouldn’t be bringing you into the final round if they didn’t think you could do the job. It’s your job to convince them that they’re right, that you can do the job, that you have all the skills needed and that you can close the deal and have fun while doing it.
I’ve learned so much today, kind of picking the author right yourselves brain and I know our audience is going to benefit so much from your advice. So, again, thank you so much for being in the Final Round. It was an absolute pleasure, Marc.
Marc: It’s my pleasure, AJ. Thank you.
I personally have read the book Case in Point when I was preparing for my consulting case interviews, but I find it fascinating to hear expert case interview advice from the author himself. If you took one thing away from this episode, we would love your support by subscribing to the show and leaving a rating and review. Until the next episode of the Final Round podcast, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.