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.

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December 4, 2009 Posted by | Consulting, Interviewing | 2 Comments

Prologue


It all began about seven hundred moons ago, when college seniors scramble to get through as many applications as possible with the hope of striking it lucky at one of the banking or consulting firms. About a thousand applications per position! Sounds tough right – is not. Here’s a secret, 950 of those 1000 applications are from people with C grades throughout college. So, realistically you are fighting – yes it’s a battle – with just about 50 other people.

At this point, I should clarify that I had decided to ignore banking for the moment and concentrate on consulting. The reason – I didn’t want to suffer myocardial infarction (sophisticated way of saying heart attack) at the age of 29.

The first step to any application for either consulting or banking is…well….the online application form. What can be so hard about that? It’s a monster!!! The five + hours you spend just answering the questions in one application form teaches you more about yourself than the past 20 odd years have. In my case, it was a pretty humbling experience as I realised I hadn’t done much at all. The worst question, however, sounds something like this, “Why do you want a career in consulting?” Huh??? Why on earth would you ask such a daft question??? For the money and the prestige (and of course the airpoints) you retards. Why else would one want to play with powerpoint and excel 70 hours a week, knowing fully well, that apart from making some fat bastard partner richer by a few million, the job makes no tangible positive difference to anyone’s life!

Having filled up the application forms for all the consulting companies known to mankind, from the strategy houses to the IT charlatans, there was nothing left to do except wait. Either for a phone call or the dreaded email. It didn’t turn out too bad as two strat houses, a couple of full service firms and one IT sweatshop decided to ‘take my application further’. They must have fallen for the crap I had spewed on the application form. One fairly famous consulting company specialising in M&As rejected me within an hour of applying. Wow, they must have totally hated me! Or, more realistically, it’s quite possible that the application was screened by a senior from my college who knows what I am really like.

The actual interview process is fairly generic across consulting firms. The firms like to call themselves “different” but really how many different types of horse manure have you ever seen. The process comprises of (in some form or the other) behavioural interviews, case studies and a psychometric test. The first and the most pointless phase is usually the psychometric test. Why they have this bit, I have no idea! And I don’t think they do either. I have never actually seen these get evaluated. Even if they are, if the other parts of the interview are good, the test results are largely ignored. Bottomline, never sweat too much on this bit. Next comes a behavioural interview and a case study with a junior level employee of the firm, usually an Analyst, Associate or a Senior Consultant, depending on the firm. This is the toughest part of the process and the part where you have to impress. Behavioural questions basically ask you to describe how you saved the world by fetching the AIDS vaccine from the moon against all odds. You get the point. Most people falter here for two reasons; a) they are usually dumbstruck and overwhelmed i.e. shit scared or b) they actually try to convince the interviewers that they went to the moon to fetch the AIDS vaccine. The interviewers aren’t dumb – they have ‘been there, done that’. Basically, all they want to see is whether you are a cool dude or not and if they can chill out with you (usually on an airplane).

If, and this is a big big if, the guys above think you fit the bill, you are sent to the partner interview. This is the last and final stage of the long and ardous process. It’s a bit like reaching nirvana really. If you get this far, it means you are ‘good shit’ and the job offer really is yours to lose. Expectations at the partner interview are not much. You are just expected to listen and nod and answer the occasional question asked by the partner. Please, please, please do not say anything stupid and ruin you chances. Ocassionally, the partner can be young and hot (of both sexes), please resist the urge to ask them out in the interview. It’s a definite no – no. Oh and for any females reading this blog, do not wear anything too revealing in a partner interview – that’s another rejection criteria.

The partner interview, assuming you haven’t royally fucked up, is followed by a phone call from the partner with the words, “We are pleased to offer you………we believe you will be a tremendous asset to the firm”. To be interpreted as, “we have found another perfect grunt, keen to impress, shut up and suck it up for the next couple of years.” Anyway, as a college senior I didn’t know that. I was just elated at having entered the hallowed grounds of management consulting. I felt like one in a thousand!!!

March 28, 2009 Posted by | Interviewing | Leave a comment