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Are there specific things to look out for as a Ph.D. applicant when applying to MBB as consultant?

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Recent activity on Jun 26, 2018
3 Answers
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Wallie asked on Jun 26, 2018
Actively preparing for MBB interviews, looking for solid case partners for frequent practice! Always doing my best as interviewer

Hi, I'm just wondering if there are certain things Ph.D. applicants must demonstrate (business acumen?) in addition to the standard skills required (structured problem-solving, MECE, excellent communication, good listening skills) that are vital during the interview?

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 26, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Wallie,

theoretically, you will be assessed as any other candidate, thus with the usual fit (motivation and stories) and case (analytical skills, business sense, structuring, communication, etc). From a practical point of view, if you come from a PhD the interviewer will pay particular attention to two specific parts in the fit part:

  • Non-theoretical business sense – the interviewer will check what concrete experience do you have in real business settings. The more you can refer to actual business experience – even just related to extracurricular activities conducted during the PhD – the better.
  • Leadership/teamwork experiences – the interviewer will check which experiences you have in working with others / relate with a boss / relate with direct reports.

Questions related to these topics are asked to non-PhD as well, they are just more frequent with PhDs as they represent common weaknesses in the candidate’s background.



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Anonymous A replied on Jun 26, 2018

Hi Wallie,

I am an MD/PhD and I used to work for one of the big three. When I was interviewing, the cases were pretty much the same as for MBAs, although I think I got away with small mistakes due to my background that they wouldn't have let slide for an MBA. What was different though was the personal fit part of the interviews, as it was considerably longer than for the other candidates. I really had to make the interviewers understand why I chose consulting instead of working as a medical doctor.

So my advice is to really prepare for the fit part of the interviews and to practice answering "Why consulting?" and to convince people with your answer.

Hope that helps!

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replied on Jun 26, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


There are no specific requirements and the recruiting process is the same. However, although officially most of the companies would say that you don't need any specific business knowledge, in reality, it is hard to solve a case purely based on common sense. So the lack of business knowledge becomes a very common problem among the people with PHD.

Business Acumen is actually about building proper industry and functional knowledge.

Focus on the most common industries in the following priority (sorted by probability of geting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

There are several sources of information that will help you develop the business sense:

1) Cases - you simply solve 50-70 cases and get a broad knowledge of different industries, common pitfalls and questions. The key here - find good partners who already had case interviews with MBB companies

2) Company reports, equity reports, IB roadshow docs - usually have a good overview of company and industries.

3) HBS cases - quite useful, but not sure if lot's of them available publically. Probably worth buying

4) Industry Books - one good book about airlines with numbers and industry analysis can give you all needed industry knowledge

5) News, Industry blogs

For each industry, you should understand:

  • Revenue streams
  • Cost structure
  • Margins
  • Key performance indicators
  • Key revenue drivers
  • Industry trends

I strongly recommend drawing the typical structures for each industry - profitability, value chain, etc

Then I will switch to getting functional knowledge:

  • Marketing (Brand and trade marketing tools, etc)
  • Supply chain (Ops metrics like cycle time and throughput time, distribution and delivery specifics, etc)
  • Operations (Process optimization basics)
  • Finance (Very basic Finance and Valuation)

Good Luck

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Francesco gave the best answer


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