Session 1: Calibration Call and Resume
Although we use the name Samantha below, Felix, Sanjeev and Rafik went through the same program.
In her first session, a 60 minute calibration session, Samantha is provided no warning about what to expect. We want to see how she really thinks, especially her response to business problems when she has no time to prepare. We want to see how bad it can be, so we can identify her weaknesses. We typically ask six questions: brainstorming, estimation, a full case, fit, general news and communications questions, before outlining detailed changes we want in the resume.
We want to see just how prepared she is and use this session to do just two things: design Samantha’s training and give her detailed guidance on what she can immediately do outside of the training to fill any knowledge gaps. That said, for now, rewriting her resume and understanding her profile should consume her time for up to 2-3 weeks. It takes time to think about the best words for a resume and candidates sending back edits within 3 hours are sometimes indicative of insufficient rigor in their edits. We expect sufficient effort on the part of the candidate to perfect their resume and cover letter, before the final draft can be considered ready for submission to consulting firms. The perfect cover letter and resume can turn a weak application into a stellar profile.
We have helped candidates with 610 and 630 GMAT scores obtain interviews and offers at both McKinsey and BCG. This is not easy, but a purposely crafted resume and cover letter, coupled with disciplined networking with partners can accomplish this.
The problem is that 99% of applicants either do not have access to high quality guidance on preparing the resume or are unwilling to do the work required to research their resume and make numerous changes. Most applicants are unwilling to change a poor resume, even when they know it is poor, since they feel they would be wasting the effort and time already spent on that resume.
Candidates should always take resume notes on a printed copy. We invariably find that 50% of recommended edits are lost when candidates try to edit electronically and in real-time, as we discuss the edits to be made.
The ground rules for the coaching are also set in this session. It is important the candidate remains relaxed in sessions and does not allow stress to derail performance. Crucially, candidates should inject humour and energy into the session, since this is a skill needed in real case interviews. The interviewer should never be allowed to completely control the mood – though we try as much as possible to keep things easy. We encourage candidates to make mistakes, but listen carefully to the feedback we provide, and immediately act on that feedback.
Moreover, candidates should ask for a “timeout” to discuss their thoughts if they are unsure of an item. Through this process, we can distinguish which part of the dialogue requires feedback, and which are their rough ideas. Ploughing ahead and making a mistake merely “wastes” a case and we would rather see the thinking behind a topic, before a mistake is made.
We also ask candidates not to zoom ahead and watch every video in our library. It is best to be methodical and work with us to understand the underlying principles, versus trying to cram in all information at the start – a strategy which never works. We expect candidate to do their own research on new terminology in videos, or to ask us questions about unresolved questions they may have.
Taking ownership to ask questions, and the right questions, is something we track closely as it is a strong indicator of a candidate’s progress. We also warn candidates up front that we will alter tone and tactics – energetic interviewer, silent interviewer, questioning interviewer, friendly interviewer etc. This ensures the candidate does not learn cases under only one, unrealistic, interview style.
Despite the warning, candidates are always thrown off-balance by this tactic. Candidates are advised to treat cases like math questions – once it is done, the case is of no further use and a candidate must practice application of the technique in new cases. We strongly advise candidates to explain things to their coach as if the coach had never seen them before. This ensures the candidate does not fall into the trap of using familiarity-driven short-cuts. If a candidate is unprepared, it is important they inform us beforehand to postpone the session.
Poor preparation leads to unproductive coaching sessions which will damage confidence levels. Finally, while the structure of the training is prescribed, we may change sessions to emphasize unique development needs of the candidate such as communication issues, confidence issues, difficulty in brainstorming etc.
One of the important decisions we have to make is the type of teaching style we will use: deficit or aspirational style. The deficit style is a “strictly business” style we use with candidates. The aspirational style is a style we use for candidates who lack sufficient confidence or are going through tough personal circumstances but at the same time are internally driven to learn and are going to do everything to get there. In the aspirational model we make candidates perform better by trying to inspire them to perform better. We never tell the candidate the style we have chosen. That is not important and can be distracting.
In the session descriptions which follow, we are using one description for 4 different candidates. Yet candidates do not perform the same, and while the descriptions are mostly accurate, there will be some differences as a few cases are brought forward, others moved back or candidates fail to prepare adequately. While these differences are minor, they sometimes occur.
Cases & Reading Material: Samantha and her peers received a list of books, articles and publications they need to read to sufficiently prepare for consulting interviews. They also received access to the “Succeeding as a Management Consulting” books.