Interviewing as a humanities student

Bain BCG McKinsey
Recent activity on Oct 24, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 23, 2018

For those experts who have interviewed candidates from humanities background, what is the most important and most common thing they get wrong/miss (apart from obvious mental maths mistakes)?

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replied on Oct 23, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Humanity majors tend to focus on the qualitative too much and ignore the quantitative; STEM majors tend to do the opposite. Interviewers will therefore pay special attention to this tendency and be less enclined to forgive a math error as a result.

Also - don't forget to ask "how much"! If you don't have any hard data after a few minutes in the case, you may be going at it the wrong way. Good luck

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replied on Oct 24, 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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Anonymous updated the answer on Oct 24, 2018

Humanities students often times are "underconfident overachievers" with a little inferiority complex. Not as cocky as business students and not as convinced of their own brilliance as engineers and science students (I am stereotyping here, obviously).

So I think most humanities students could benefit from a bit more assertiveness and confidence in themselves.


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Anonymous on Oct 24, 2018

Super helpful, thank you! I’m also in Humanities and often use self-deprecating humor which I am trying to stop doing. Definitely good advice!

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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