Discovery Meeting with CEO & CSO

Recent activity on Nov 14, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 13, 2018

Hi, community,

For those who had the opportunity to be in a discovery meeting with CEO / CSO, is there any approach you particularly recommend? Any suggestion, tips or advice?

What has your experience taught you about how to run these meetings?

How do you prepare it?

Any other thing you may think could be relevant to take into account, I'll be more than glad to hear it :)

Have a good day

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replied on Nov 13, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Discovery.... as part of your application or interviews?

Not sure if widely applicable, but here's my personal experience. I'll try to extend it after.

Setting: lunch w/ CFO of multi-$billion company during my 2nd round interview; non-consulting

What happened: I ordered the dish of the day, without realizing is was quite pricey (or what I felt was pricey - should have remember the guy was paid millions). Upon realizing this, I figured my application was shot anyway so started asking hard-hitting questions about the financials (I had read the latest 10Q the night before) and questioning various elements of the strategy.

Outcome: CFO loved the interaction since it showed I had done my homework and wasn't afraid of asking the tough questions, came back to the office and told HR he wanted me. Of course it would have been nice if I had realized that (I had clear leverage but didn't know it, silly me). Still, I ended up joining that company and spend 6 years there until I eventually joined BCG

How can you apply this to your own experience?:

- First obviously, be prepared to talk about the big issues a CEO or CSO would be faced with. Me reading a 10Q before meeting with a CFO wasn't random even if good practice for anyone

- Second, understand these guys have been removed from the front line for a while, and may also be surrounded by yes people. A cocky young graduate asking the tough questions might be a bit of fresh air

- Third, try to be a little less naive than I was. ha!

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Anonymous updated the answer on Nov 14, 2018


as Vlad said, a bit of context might be helpful.

In my business, I have relatively frequent interaction with top management and CXO level of large companies and enterprises, so I may be able to give you a few pointers.

First of all, and most importantly: These people are humans, too. They have good and bad days, they look forward to their holidays and they sometimes worry about their kids. So don't expect a robot, and don't be one.

Secondly: Most of these people are both very smart and very experienced. They know most tricks in the book, so bullshitting them is very risky business. So know your stuff! Also, if you don't know something, it's better to make that clear rather than making something up. depending on how confident you are you can either go the: "I definitely don't know this for certain, but my hypothesis / educated guess / gut feeling would be..." of the "I am absolutely not sure about this, please give me a few minutes / a day / a week after our meeting and I'll get you the correct answer rather than telling you something inaccurate." Obviously, you really should know your stuff, so this should not happen in territory you're supposed to be familiar with!

Thirdly: Context matters. If you're in a formal meeting with a set agenda, you'll be more to the point, than when you're winding down at a hotel ar at 11 pm. You mentioned that this was a "discovery meeting", so I assume it's a semi-formal setting: This is an official, scheduled meeting, but no set agenda. The best way to get the most out of these meetings is to get the other person to talk - ideally, you talk 20% of the time, the other person 80%

Fourth: Personality matters. Just because they have a C in front of their title, does not mean they are all the same. You'll have introverts and extroverts, analysts and creatives. Try to be empathetic and get a feel for what makes the other person tick. Guennael's story is certainly a good example of how he hit the right nerve with that CFO - it might have totally backfired with a different executive. Try to see whether you can find interviews, ideally longer, "off the cuff", interviews of the person you're meeting. Or talks they've given, ideally something like TED talks. You may spot patterns, like them diving into details or not answering certain questions straight, or using a lot of "storytelling", maybe from personal experience. That can give you an initial feel for the person.

Five: These are extremely busy people, so be mindful of their time. Make it clear that you value their time and don't take it for granted.

Six: As always, try to be relaxed, friendly and open.

Hope this helps,



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Content Creator
replied on Nov 14, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


What's the context? Are you interviewing for a job in this company? Are you a consultant? Are you a sales person?

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Ramon on Nov 14, 2018



Ramon on Nov 14, 2018

Hi @Vlad @Elias and @Guennael, thank you very much for your answers! I did not mention the context, my fault. It is a selection process (consulting) in which I am involved and I’ve been informed that I will be presented with a set of slides in the next round and part of the round will be to draw a slide with the best questions to ask in a CEO/CSO discovery meeting (first contact) given a provided context. I guess the purpose will be to evaluate how good and insightful I can articulate a message to top management without rambling and the ability to uncover hidden key points.

Guennael gave the best answer


Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews
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