So I wanted to ask you – in terms of how one presents oneself and the mental approach to interviews, what is it you looked for in candidates during your time at McKinsey?

My Reply:

Case performance aside, I typically found it reassuring when I found someone who was good at the cases and liked doing them.

I had one candidate who was I think a Physics PhD from IIT, the MIT of India, and he was ranked #1 in the country or something like that.

He was miserable in my interview and clearly not enjoying himself. Now it’s true he wasn’t doing well, but I have seen candidates who were not doing all that well but were still enjoying the process.

They didn’t pass the case interview test so-to-speak, but they did tend to pass the “airplane test” — as in do I want to sit next to this person on an airplane every week for three hours.

A lot of candidates are very stiff and nervous in the interview. Even in the mock interviews I did for Look Over My Shoulder®, I could tell some people were very nervous.

The problem with being overly nervous is its harder to think clearly. A little case of the nerves is fine, but too much impacts performance both analytically and socially.

Now if someone did really well on the case, but the seemed miserable, I would probably notice it, wonder about it, but still pass them to the next round just to make sure it wasn’t just me. So this wasn’t technically a hiring requirement, but more of an observation.

I will say that amongst my colleagues at McKinsey and friends at other firms, those who did well in consulting, progressed in consulting, were often the same people who enjoyed the interview process.

Those who quit consulting after six months (I knew a few who did), were competent at the case interview but did not love it or even like it.

I found myself looking forward to the case interviews because I always learned something new each time.

And just today, I got a note from a new client who spoke to some previous clients of mine, and the remark all the previous clients made about me was that I was very curious… as in very curious why a certain kind of customer exhibited a particular kind of buying behavior, and so on… So I guess that’s just a part of me.

So this was a long winded answer to your question (and a few you didn’t ask), but to make a long story short:  enthusiasm + analytical, was always a great combination to see in a candidate.

For more resources on case interviews, review my free video series on Case Interview Secrets .