I appreciate all of your insight – I’ve subscribed to your updates for about a year, but didn’t start until after B-school. My experiences have been frustrating in the process of trying to gain a foothold in consulting; I’ve had multiple interviews, including two final round on-site sessions, and cannot seem to move past that point to an actual offer.

Based on your years of experience, is there one thing above all else that seems to be the difference in the actual, in-person interviews? And don’t say, “do well in the cases,” because that answer can be too subjective to be useful.

Thanks for your time, and in spite of the somewhat acerbic tone of this email, I do really want to thank you for your thoughts that you’ve shared with all of us.

My Reply:

If you’ve been getting to final round but not passing, most likely you have some bad (less than perfect) habit that you’re not aware of. This is very common, but which bad habit someone has will vary by person.

The laundry list includes:

  • synthesis that just isn’t crisp (a logical flaw, using way too many words, not leading with the conclusion first)
  • drill down analysis with too many unnecessary steps (a.k.a. inefficient problem solving)
  • asking questions whose answers won’t really help test the hypothesis (and thus shouldn’t have been asked to begin with)
  • analyzing without a hypothesis in mind… or deviating from the minimum necessary analysis and computation needed to test the hypothesis (as opposed to being extremely — meaning overly — thorough which wastes time and doesn’t change the conclusion)
  • missing insights that should have been obvious
  • math computation error

Given you’re so close to an offer in terms of your performance, I have two potential solutions.

1) You might consider getting one or more mock interview sessions with one of my coaches. One is an ex-McKinsey interviewer, the other ex-Bain… and we may be adding a BCG person soon too. Generally speaking, if you got a bad habit, it’s going to be a consistent bad habit… and typically for interviewers like me it’s very easy to spot the bad habit because more than likely you’re doing it all the time.

2) If you haven’t already, I would definitely suggest getting my LOMS program. You’ll hear 20 – 30 candidates perform cases, and I break each case down into 3 – 4 minute increments, grade the performance over those 240 seconds, and if it is not perfect, explain and demonstrate what should have been done instead.

Amongst most LOMS members, if they’re not performing well, they almost always know exactly why. Sometimes the practice just isn’t there. Sometimes the raw skill just isn’t there (but those candidates usually don’t make it past 1st round). But the commonality amongst LOMS members is they 1) know what they’re supposed to be doing, and 2) they know precisely where they’re falling short (and can focus their prep areas on the specific weak spots).

If you already have LOMS, I would suggest listening to the case (I forget which case and candidate number), but I think it’s the female candidate and I think she’s from Africa. She kept getting to McKinsey final round, but not passing. I didn’t know this until after I interviewed her, but I too would have passed her in the first few rounds but definitely not the last round. The reason why is from the list above… basically performance that’s 15% worse than the best candidates. Certainly strong enough for the Tier 2 firms, and with practice strong enough for the Tier 1… but she needed to work on specific areas that were a little off.

And if you do have LOMS, please let me know which areas you think you’re struggling with, and I might be able to make more specific suggestions.