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Explain scientific theoretical project in an interview

Anonymous A asked on Oct 23, 2018

Hi all,

So I got to the second round at one of the MBB companies. Cases are going quite well I think, and I am focussing my attention a lot on the fit part now. One of the first things I usually get asked after saying that I studied theoretical physics is to explain my research project. It so happens that I have done an extremely theoretical project and most people have never heard about this field at all. I usually get around only giving some vague idea about the field of research, but I am not quite satisfied with that.

I try to answer this question in about 2 minutes but if I have to explain both the field and my specific project I simply need more time. I was wondering what I should focus on here. Giving an idea of the complexety of the field, give some information about my project with little context, or rather focus on methods we used to solve problems? Is it fine to ask if it's all right to take some extra time to explain both the field and my project?

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Elias
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replied on Oct 23, 2018
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Or you could just ask: "Do you want the long version or the short version?"

Or, Sheldon Cooper Style: "I suppose you are familiar, with string theory/ quantum mechanics/ gravitational waves/..."

;-)

Sidi
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replied on Oct 23, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

my simple advice: DON'T take more time. And also don't try to be exhaustive in your explanation - it is simply not needed and not helpful! Just give a very broad outline of the field and possible areas of relevance, and then concentrate on ONE aspect that you can link to the required skillset in consulting (for example, the project structure; or the analytical method (if interesting to an outsider!)).

I understand that you feel the urge to explain the intricacies of what you are doing in your research (was feeling the same when I was doing my PhD), but believe - it will not help you! You have to demonstrate that you can detach from these intricacies and think in broader terms, connecting your research and the skills that you honed by doing it to the tasks and challenges in consulting. Too much detail is just harmful here.

Cheers, Sidi

Alessandro
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replied on Oct 23, 2018
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Hi,

I 100% agree with Sidi. Keep the explanation brief - even 2 minutes sounds too long. Just like consultants do every day, think of the "so what" of your explanation - this should help you summarise and cut down the answer. Of course, if the interviewer shows interest in the topic (e.g. if they also studied Physics) then you can engage and talk in more detail.

Another piece of advice in terms of what to include would be to talk about any kind of collaboration you had to do as part of the project - no consultant can evaluate how smart you are based on your research thesis, but giving some information about other qualities valued for consulting (i.e. interpersonal / team skills) would benefit your story.

Benjamin replied on Oct 31, 2018
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Hi,

As usual in consulting situation you'll deal with complex topic and your personal example is no exception.
So let's start from here : just make it as simple as possible so it will not take more than 2 minutes to explain.
You could open the door to the interviewer for more details "I would be happy to spend more time on this topic if you want, but on the other hand I'd prefer move on other topics)

Best
Benjamin