The ANALyst

Leverage, optimise, synergise

Do you belong here?

The situation described by Considering Consulting in this blog reminded me of a very similar situation faced by a close friend recently. So this friend F (who shall remain unnamed), applied to Toilette Consluting in the not too distant past. F is in the process of acquiring an advanced degree from one of the top 5 universities in the New World with grades and extra-curricular activities that are the envy of any potential consulting applicant (including the proverbial “helping poor kids in sub-Saharan Africa”). Given her impressive CV, she was granted an interview. As with most consulting companies, interviews consist of case studies, group activities and the personal/fit interviews.

Given her intellect and analytical abilities, she breezed through the case studies. Her charm and poise carried her through the first couple of rounds of personality interviews. She, then, got the call for the final partner interview. Although it differs between firms, if you make it to the partner interview,  you have more chance of getting an offer than not. As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, partner interview is more of a seal of approval from the person paying your salary than a test of ability. In fact, I even congratulated F and assured her that a final partner interview would ultimately result in an offer.

Only, it didn’t! The partner deemed her overqualified to receive a business analyst offer. In fact, the partner mentioned to her that while she was analytically and intellectually amongst the best they had interviewed this year, the nature of her academic work seemed to suggest that she would be unhappy in a consulting type of role.

Now, I am not suggesting that the partner was completely wrong. In fact she might be a hundred percent correct. F also told me later that she is happier immersed in the world of academia than corporate life. Yet, is it fair to make such a decision on one question, that probably lasted all of thirty seconds? When the person is intellectually and analytically perfect, along with grace and poise, is it not worthy of an offer in consulting? Do they not deserve the right to judge whether it is fit  for them or not after they have been given a chance? 30 – 40% of any batch recruited from campuses do not make it past the second year in the firm they were hired. This means that in spite of all the fit questions, interviewers, including partners, make mistakes. Why then not allow capable people the benefit of doubt?

I close this post by making an observation – Rajat Gupta, the former Managing Director of McKinsey from early ’90s to 2003, was initially rejected by McKinsey after his campus interview at HBS until his professors intervened on his behalf.

December 4, 2009 - Posted by | Consulting, Interviewing


  1. As someone who entered the Big4 with an advanced degree I can sympathise. And sure, interviewers make mistakes all the time and end up hiring people they feel are like them etc. rather than based on whether that person will be a strong performer.

    In the case of people with advanced degrees, tho, it isn’t unreasonable to be wary. A lot of people will not transition well from being a respected expert with freedom to do as they please, working on intellectually challenging topics, to what an analyst is most likely to do: boring spreadsheets, bottom of the pile, no intellectual stimulation or responsibility.

    Giving people ‘a chance’ at a company costs a lot of money – the training for graduate programs isn’t cheap, you’re paying them a salary during this time, and if they leave after 6 months you’ve not only wasted this investment but you’ve missed out on having spent this on someone else who would have stuck around.

    Don’t get me wrong, PhD’s etc. fully deserve a chance – I’ve adapted well and am happy in consulting. But your friend herself accepts that she’s happier in academia, which means she wasn’t convinced, and it isn’t surprising she couldn’t convince the partner. The partner got it right.

    Comment by baykus | December 4, 2009 | Reply

  2. Baykus, I agree with you completely. What I was hinting at was, should the partner have based her decision on one question alone, because partners are as likely to get it wrong (when it comes to the fit question) as they are to getting it right.

    Comment by banalyst | December 8, 2009 | Reply

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