First of all, thank you so much for your amazing material.  It’s clearer and certainly more concise than Case in Point, and the fact that I can hear you explain it out loud like a professor is really crucial.

Anyway, I recently won a “case competition” for [MBB firm], in which teams developed growth strategy presentations and defended them in front of consultants.  Well, now I’m apparently invited to a “High Potential Dinner” prior to info sessions for summer associate positions.  I’ve been told by insiders that this is equivalent to a “pre-rush” event like a fraternity, at which I’ll be expected to “perform” to a certain extent.  If they like me, I’ll have a leg up for an easier path to the final round.  Obviously, I’m going to ratchet up my case prep even further, because I want to wow them as much as possible.

My primary question is: do you have any experience with or at least secondhand knowledge of these kinds of “High Potential” invite-only dinners/events at MBB?  What should I expect?  How much of an edge does this give me?

And secondarily: how can I best leverage my success with [this MBB firm] into internship offers at [the other two MBB firms], as well? My networks aren’t as strong with the other two, but I figured there must be some way for them to identify and take into account that I’m already being heavily pursued by [this MBB firm].
Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work!

P.S If possible, I’d prefer if you didn’t send out my question to your email listserv to answer publicly.  Am I too paranoid for thinking that I might come off as unprofessional in some way if a guy [from the MBB firm] happens to read it?  If you think it’s no big deal, I don’t mind you posting it, haha.

My Reply:

These high potential dinners definitely provide you an edge because they provide you an opportunity to make an impression that other candidates do not.

It will be a social occasion — so it will be highly unlikely that you’d do a case or estimation question during the dinner.

The people attending the dinner from [MBB firm] will be consultants and some of them will also be interviewers.

The dinner is a chance for the firm to jump start building a relationship with the people they see as high potential candidates. It is also an opportunity for them to informally evaluate your interpersonal skills.

For this latter part, they will informally be wondering if you are “client safe”. You can refer to my Case Interview Secrets video tutorials that explain this topic in more detail.

In addition, they are looking to see if you are actually interested in the firm, or are just there for the free food.

At the end of the evening, the recruiting coordinator at [this MBB firm] will ask all the people from the firm for any feedback on any specific individuals.

Sometimes all of the invitees already have invitations to first round. Other times that hasn’t yet been decided. In either case, the value of the dinner to you (the candidate) is to establish a positive “reputation” that will help give you the benefit of the doubt in any borderline decision later in the interview process.

So if you and another candidate perform equally well (say a B+ level) on a round 1… and they only want to pass on one person, if you have this early “halo effect” reputation, you’re more likely to move on to the next round than the other person.

In terms of leveraging this early edge with this MBB firm with the other firms, you want to do so very, very delicately. If you rub it in the other two firms’ faces, it will totally backfire.

The way to do it appropriately is during a networking event, information session, or early round interview at one of these firms, when it’s time for casual conversation, you should strategically “mention” or let it be known that you attended the [other firm’s] “high potential dinner.”

You say something like, “Oh that’s good point. That thought crossed my mind at a [other MBB firm] dinner I attended the other night.” (Okay, so that’s a little obvious.. but something along those lines.)

The key is to avoid making [other MBB firm] the object of the conversation, and more as an “adjective” used to elaborate on a different point. I call this “strategic hinting.”

Now they will definitely notice. And they will also suspect you did it on purpose. (Because guess what? They strategically hint to their clients too!) But if you did it smoothly, they will give you points for making a point very diplomatically — a useful skill in consulting.

PS. As to your other concern, you’re not the first person to ask me this question, and I wouldn’t worry about the firm figuring out your identity. With that in mind, I hope you won’t mind if I post my reply on my blog with a more anonymized version of your question.  I keep getting asked about this, and I realize I don’t have anything on my blog that addresses this frequently asked question.

I will end up posting my response in my blog.