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8

How do I get up to speed on specific industry prior to interviews?

So I'm going into a final round in 1 week for a post MBA interview at one of the top firm's offices in Texas. Not surprisingly almost every partner is an expert in Oil and Gas and I have basically no experience there.

I know there's a good chance the partners that interview me will potentially use cases based on their industry (just based on past final round) and while they won't expect me to be an expert on it by any means, it would be really helpful if I could have enough knowledge to at least be speaking the same "language" they use in the industry and might make the case slightly easier to frame out/solve.

So any advice on where to find an industry primer that is deep enough to get slightly more than a surface level understanding, but also won't take weeks to digest?

Thanks for any advice!

So I'm going into a final round in 1 week for a post MBA interview at one of the top firm's offices in Texas. Not surprisingly almost every partner is an expert in Oil and Gas and I have basically no experience there.

I know there's a good chance the partners that interview me will potentially use cases based on their industry (just based on past final round) and while they won't expect me to be an expert on it by any means, it would be really helpful if I could have enough knowledge to at least be speaking the same "language" they use in the industry and might make the case slightly easier to frame out/solve.

So any advice on where to find an industry primer that is deep enough to get slightly more than a surface level understanding, but also won't take weeks to digest?

Thanks for any advice!

8 answers

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Hi!

I wrote this just a couple of hours ago, but let me repeat it, because it is so important (one of the many untrue myths where many people will tell you nonsense!):

Whether the partners are in O&G or not is practically irrelevant for your chances of success! If you are targeting MBB, then please make sure you are not wasting your time on building up a lot of industry knowledge! On the normal consulting track, MBBs are NOT hiring for kowledge! This is one of the most fundamental principles of how McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have built their entire assessment methodology!

The reason is that MBB firms are only interested in your principle skills (such as problem solving skills, communication skills, capacity to influence, maturity etc.). If these principle skills are given, then all relevant sector or functional knowledge will be absorbed on the job and via structured training curriculums at the firms! When I recruitied for McKinsey and BCG, my guiding principle was: "I need to hire the right brains and personalities. I am not interested in their business knowlege, since if they have the right capabilities, they will be able to quickly absorb the relevant knowledge anyway". This is the reason why MBB firms insist on the point that your major doesn't play a role in whether you can get an offer or not.

Again: On the normal consulting track, MBBs are NOT hiring for kowledge! They are hiring for skills!

Cheers, Sidi

Hi!

I wrote this just a couple of hours ago, but let me repeat it, because it is so important (one of the many untrue myths where many people will tell you nonsense!):

Whether the partners are in O&G or not is practically irrelevant for your chances of success! If you are targeting MBB, then please make sure you are not wasting your time on building up a lot of industry knowledge! On the normal consulting track, MBBs are NOT hiring for kowledge! This is one of the most fundamental principles of how McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have built their entire assessment methodology!

The reason is that MBB firms are only interested in your principle skills (such as problem solving skills, communication skills, capacity to influence, maturity etc.). If these principle skills are given, then all relevant sector or functional knowledge will be absorbed on the job and via structured training curriculums at the firms! When I recruitied for McKinsey and BCG, my guiding principle was: "I need to hire the right brains and personalities. I am not interested in their business knowlege, since if they have the right capabilities, they will be able to quickly absorb the relevant knowledge anyway". This is the reason why MBB firms insist on the point that your major doesn't play a role in whether you can get an offer or not.

Again: On the normal consulting track, MBBs are NOT hiring for kowledge! They are hiring for skills!

Cheers, Sidi

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It is true - you do not need to be familiar with an industry to solve a case. But I strongly believe that knowing an industry makes it much easier to familiarize yourself with a case. There is a reason many people perform better in certain industry cases vs others (e.g., consumer vs pharmaceuticals).

I would suggest looking for industry overviews on google, especially something published by a university for one of its classes as these are easy to understand, and reading articles by the Economist and Wall Street Journal that specifically look at the challenges being faced by the O&G industry currently.

The era of only generalist consulting is long over. Even at McKinsey within a couple of years you are expected to specialize in a field and be an expert in some aspect of it in order to progress. Many many articles on the internet talk about these changes within MBB. Companies are no longer willing to pay lots of money just for powerpoint decks, they want to see more value. So to reiterate spend 1-2 hours if you are applying to an office that specializes in one type of industry.

All the best,

Udayan

It is true - you do not need to be familiar with an industry to solve a case. But I strongly believe that knowing an industry makes it much easier to familiarize yourself with a case. There is a reason many people perform better in certain industry cases vs others (e.g., consumer vs pharmaceuticals).

I would suggest looking for industry overviews on google, especially something published by a university for one of its classes as these are easy to understand, and reading articles by the Economist and Wall Street Journal that specifically look at the challenges being faced by the O&G industry currently.

The era of only generalist consulting is long over. Even at McKinsey within a couple of years you are expected to specialize in a field and be an expert in some aspect of it in order to progress. Many many articles on the internet talk about these changes within MBB. Companies are no longer willing to pay lots of money just for powerpoint decks, they want to see more value. So to reiterate spend 1-2 hours if you are applying to an office that specializes in one type of industry.

All the best,

Udayan

(edited)

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Hi Anonymous!

I fully agree with the others, as I have also laid out here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/resources-to-build-industry-specific-knowledge-for-case-solving-8020

Having said that, if you expect a strong focus on specific industries - and you are fully prepared for general case problem solving - it could make sense reading up on the industry to understand a basic principles. For O&G, this would be things like:

  • Traditionally, it's a very Capex heavy industry - massive costs and financial risk for exploration, huge investments for drilling, extraction, refining, etc. make this a pretty consolidated industry
  • It's highly dependent on the oil price - if extraction costs are above the current price, the high-cost sources (Canadian tar, deep sea, etc.) will get pushed out of the merit curve by lower cost sources (Middle East, US shale, etc.) - basically what we are seeing in the market since 2014
  • Recently, shale has been established as a source that can be ramped up relatively quickly if prices are attractive with (relatively) low fixed costs - this is part of the reason why the oil price is kept around or below $60 per barrel for most of the time since the shale revolution

There are certainly lots of other interesting dynamics around this market that could make for a helpful bit during a case. To understand the market better just read carefully - Economist, Financial Times, etc.

But again: This will not be required for your case interview and you should not bet on this. If you're not 100% familiar with solving cases, this will have priority before the interview.

Hi Anonymous!

I fully agree with the others, as I have also laid out here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/resources-to-build-industry-specific-knowledge-for-case-solving-8020

Having said that, if you expect a strong focus on specific industries - and you are fully prepared for general case problem solving - it could make sense reading up on the industry to understand a basic principles. For O&G, this would be things like:

  • Traditionally, it's a very Capex heavy industry - massive costs and financial risk for exploration, huge investments for drilling, extraction, refining, etc. make this a pretty consolidated industry
  • It's highly dependent on the oil price - if extraction costs are above the current price, the high-cost sources (Canadian tar, deep sea, etc.) will get pushed out of the merit curve by lower cost sources (Middle East, US shale, etc.) - basically what we are seeing in the market since 2014
  • Recently, shale has been established as a source that can be ramped up relatively quickly if prices are attractive with (relatively) low fixed costs - this is part of the reason why the oil price is kept around or below $60 per barrel for most of the time since the shale revolution

There are certainly lots of other interesting dynamics around this market that could make for a helpful bit during a case. To understand the market better just read carefully - Economist, Financial Times, etc.

But again: This will not be required for your case interview and you should not bet on this. If you're not 100% familiar with solving cases, this will have priority before the interview.

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Hi,

I would not invest so much of my time to have a deep knowledge on a specific industry. We never actually expect that from a candidate. If you don't know a specific technicality of an industry you could simply ask to the interviewer.

What you absolutely need to have is basic problem solving skill that will allow you to work on a project in whatever industry you will be staffed in. That is the core purpose of consulting firms using case interview in selecting their employee.

I would just continue to practice case, practice math and 2 days before the interview just relax and ensure your mind and body are fresh.

Hi,

I would not invest so much of my time to have a deep knowledge on a specific industry. We never actually expect that from a candidate. If you don't know a specific technicality of an industry you could simply ask to the interviewer.

What you absolutely need to have is basic problem solving skill that will allow you to work on a project in whatever industry you will be staffed in. That is the core purpose of consulting firms using case interview in selecting their employee.

I would just continue to practice case, practice math and 2 days before the interview just relax and ensure your mind and body are fresh.

Hi there,

I agree that you do not need to be an expert on the topic, but I believe you should know some essentials. For example in O&G, you need to know the difference between Upstream and Downstream oil production, and wouldn't be wasting time during the interview to understand roughly what this means.

So again, expertise is not needed, but basic knowldge is and for this there are some industries' drivers that you should know and you can find them in different books. Do not hesitate to get in touch with me, I will be happy to share some documentation.

All the best,
Mehdi

Hi there,

I agree that you do not need to be an expert on the topic, but I believe you should know some essentials. For example in O&G, you need to know the difference between Upstream and Downstream oil production, and wouldn't be wasting time during the interview to understand roughly what this means.

So again, expertise is not needed, but basic knowldge is and for this there are some industries' drivers that you should know and you can find them in different books. Do not hesitate to get in touch with me, I will be happy to share some documentation.

All the best,
Mehdi

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Hello,

I would rather focus on case types than industries, since industry knowledge is not supposed to move the needle here :)

Hello,

I would rather focus on case types than industries, since industry knowledge is not supposed to move the needle here :)

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Hi,

It always comes handy if one has prior knowledge about the industry. But if you are applying for a generalist position and have no prior work experience in Oil & Gas, dont worry much about it. Do the following

1. Always understand the value chain of that industry. Simple but finds application in lot of situations.

2. Within the value chain, try to understand the 2-3 major drivers. What is new, whats changing, Implications, What can be done about it.

So study a few recent articles on the industry from bloomberg, mckinsey energy insights etc. So I believe 1 day of preparation towards this is more than enough if you really want to focus on this.

Thanks

Hi,

It always comes handy if one has prior knowledge about the industry. But if you are applying for a generalist position and have no prior work experience in Oil & Gas, dont worry much about it. Do the following

1. Always understand the value chain of that industry. Simple but finds application in lot of situations.

2. Within the value chain, try to understand the 2-3 major drivers. What is new, whats changing, Implications, What can be done about it.

So study a few recent articles on the industry from bloomberg, mckinsey energy insights etc. So I believe 1 day of preparation towards this is more than enough if you really want to focus on this.

Thanks

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Hi there,

You need to research it yourself

Learning from a sheet/trying to memorize industries won't help.

Rather, create a template for the main things that matter (main competitors, trends, cost drivers, revenue drivers, etc) and fill it out yourself! Doing the research will help you learn.

Feel free to reach out if looking for a tempalte to leverage.

Hi there,

You need to research it yourself

Learning from a sheet/trying to memorize industries won't help.

Rather, create a template for the main things that matter (main competitors, trends, cost drivers, revenue drivers, etc) and fill it out yourself! Doing the research will help you learn.

Feel free to reach out if looking for a tempalte to leverage.

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