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McKinsey first round - Very hostile interviewer

Addressing interviewer BCG Bain McKinsey Interview McKinsey McKinsey first round
New answer on Sep 11, 2023
7 Answers
787 Views
Anonymous A asked on Sep 08, 2023

Hi, I just had my set of first round interviews for Mck yesterday for an Associate position, and the very first interview was nearly a traumatic experience. 

1. The interviewer didn’t comment/ask any questions on my PEI part of the interview.

2. After hearing the case interview prompt, I asked a couple of questions to better understand client situation (e.g. their more specific product portfolio, competitor info, C structure), and he kept saying there’s ZERO background info at all or why would I ask such questions in a particularly aggressive manner.

3. I think it’s some kind of an error, but I kept seeing parts of his marking sheet flicker on the zoom share screen whenever he wrote something down or recorded a score…

So, after all this, I really couldn’t brace myself and ended up really ruining the third and last question, which was the calculation.

I did fine on my second interview, so now I’m just waiting for the result. Has anyone had a similar experience? What happened to you in terms of the result?

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Sidi
Expert
updated an answer on Sep 11, 2023
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

Sorry to hear. It's very hard to judge from what you wrote, so I don't want start speculating. 

However, I want to comment on your point #2, because this is a very common (almost tragical) problem I see with people who have received poor guidance by case solving from books or practice partners:

The clarifying questions are not meant to start the analysis already. It is very alienating for an MBB interviewer to receive analytical questions (such aas “What is the competitor structure?”, “In which markets do they operate?” etc.) before the candidate has even outlined an analytical approach. The answers to these questions have zero significance for your structure, if this structure is logically sound. Such a logically sound structure is filled with the actual contextual information, but it would remain valid whatever this information eventually turns out to be.

The core truth (that most case books ignore) is that you need to understand only four things to create a structure (= a logic! Not a list of buckets!): 

1. The objective which underlies the client question, 

2. How this objective is measured, 

3. Target value of this measure (if any), 

4. How the client caters for the objective (usually this means “hat is the business/operational model?”)

That's it! Nothing else is required to create a structure! Every additional question just shows that you are poking holes into the dark because you don't know how to create a sound logic to address the question, hoping that the answers give you some inspiration.

I know this is not helping with the interview you had - but it might be an explanation of what happened content-wise.

Cheers, Sidi

______________________

Dr. Sidi S. Koné

🚀 Ex BCG & McKinsey Sr. Project Manager, now helping high potential individuals join the world's top Strategy Consulting firms (McKinsey | BCG | Bain)

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Sep 09, 2023

Dear,

I had a similar experience during my final round of interviews years ago. It was the first interview of the three scheduled, and the interviewer, a partner at the Firm, began by asking me in a rather assertive manner, "What are you doing here? What do you want?"

Immediately, I sensed that this was going to be a stress test. Interestingly, it was the same interviewer who called me at the end of the day to deliver the "good news."

There isn't a single right answer to such a question, but what I can share is that it can happen. It's a part of the process designed to assess your ability to handle pressure and navigate complex and sometimes challenging conversations.

It's crucial to remember that interviews are essentially simulations of the situations consultants might encounter in their professional lives. Real-life scenarios aren't always smooth sailing, and a skilled consultant needs to adapt their communication style to steer discussions in the right direction.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, take a deep breath and adjust your approach to the circumstances. Stand your ground when you believe in your position instead of surrendering at the first sign of challenge.

The key is recognizing the situation and finding the appropriate communication strategy to achieve your desired outcome.

Best of luck with your interviews, and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any concerns or questions!

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Sep 10, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there!

Sorry to hear about your experience. 

Even this is more frowned upon these days, some interviewers still do role-play. Basically, they are trying to get into the shoes of an uphappy client to see how you would manage the situation (or maybe they're just having a bad day). Regardless of the situation, it's not like they personally have an issue with you. 

So then the focus should be on what you can do differently and how you choose to react to their behaviour. In short, you should always try to change them from a detractor to a supporter by:

  • Bringing them in to the discussion 
  • Smiling
  • Integrating their comments
  • Staying composed
  • Focusing only on the positives 

I had this experience with both my final round interviews in McKinsey. I passed both of them despite my expectations. 

Best,
Cristian

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Practicing for interviews? Check out my latest case based on a first-round MBB interview >>> SoyTechnologies  

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Sep 09, 2023
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

Please do understand that while 3) is definitely something that should not happen (and you should warn the interviewer about what is happening, as it is distracting indeed), what you mention in 1) and 2)  is quite normal.

An interviewer may or may not ask PEI questions. It may give a “typical” case or not, or not even a case at all, and just something that looks like a normal conversation about career and business topics.

Asking you to explain your logic (and look bothered if not happy with the answer)… will happen frequently. 

While most consulting firms (and consultants) will try to make the interview an enjoyable experience, it is an increadibly challenging exercise, and consultants tend to be quite demanding in what they expect in terms of performance. And, let me add, not all of them have necessarily great social skills and are people that stay in consulting precisely because they would find it hard to deal with the social / interpersonal demands of a corporate role.

Not all interviews are enjoyable, most will actually be a moment of great discomfort - but what you described doesn't sound as something that justifies being labeled as traumatic.

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Sep 09, 2023
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

Most importantly: Everything I say below is to help. It is written in a direct manner, because, honestly, you have to wake up to reality. BUT, you CAN succeed here and you just need to pick yourself back up and learn from this :)

#1 this is not a hostile interviewer

This isn't even close to being traumatic and is, honestly, fairly standard.

#2 You are going to experience this sort of thing (and harder) all the time on the job. 

I'm sorry to be so direct, but you honestly have to toughen up here if you want to succeed in these interviews and in consulting. There is a reason these firms are the top firms. 

1. The interviewer didn’t comment/ask any questions on my PEI part of the interview.

Not that abnormal. He heard what he wanted. As we always say on this forum: Be prepared for anything.

2. After hearing the case interview prompt, I asked a couple of questions to better understand client situation (e.g. their more specific product portfolio, competitor info, C structure), and he kept saying there’s ZERO background info at all or why would I ask such questions in a particularly aggressive manner.

Ok, so he asked why you wanted those questions. You need to be ready to defend your logic!

I do the exact same thing - most of my candidates falter as well because they have no idea why they asked that question! Competitor info, product portfolio, and C structure are NOT good clarifying questions (in general)

Here's how to case effectively

3. I think it’s some kind of an error, but I kept seeing parts of his marking sheet flicker on the zoom share screen whenever he wrote something down or recorded a score…

This is an error.

So, after all this, I really couldn’t brace myself and ended up really ruining the third and last question, which was the calculation.

Well, how are you going to succeed on the job then?

Look, I totally understand that this rattled you, but you HAVE to get used to it. In your case prep you have to train for the unknown, the unexpected, and the toughness of a real interviewer.

This is why coaches are important as opposed to only prepping with peers who will be too nice/leniant/easy when casing.

I did fine on my second interview, so now I’m just waiting for the result. Has anyone had a similar experience? What happened to you in terms of the result?

There are many. Every interview is different. You have to be ready for anything.

(edited)

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Sophia
Expert
replied on Sep 11, 2023
Top-Ranked Coach on PrepLounge for 3 years| 6+ years of coaching

Hello,

I'm sorry to hear about your experience, this definitely sound very stressful!

While it's not a super common experience, you will occasionally get interviewers who are trying to stress-test you, interviewers who prefer to use a more confrontational style, or interviewers who have simply had a bad day. You are absolutely not the only person this has happened to.

You have had the interview already, so there's nothing you can do to change how it went. However, at this stage it's important to remember that their behavior wasn't personal, and it's likely they behaved this way with all their interviewees, not just you. If they stressed you out, they probably stressed out other candidates too. What matters is that you did your best to remain calm and proceed with the interview as normal - and it's ok if it didn't go perfectly, it rarely does.

Fingers crossed for you!

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Sep 09, 2023
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Q: Has anyone had a similar experience? What happened to you in terms of the result?

I did have a “stress interview” in my final at BCG. The first interviewer challenged everything I said and didn’t look satisfied with my answers. I thought I performed very poorly in that interview. Because of that, I went into the second interview feeling quite relaxed, thinking there was no way I would receive an offer. I did quite well in the second part.

It turned out I got an offer at the end. I still don’t know if it was indeed a stress interview or if there was a different reason why the interviewer was so direct/pushy. Regardless, if you did your best in the interview, there might still be chances to move to the next round.

Good luck!

Francesco

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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