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Reveal or conceal existing offer from MBB competitor?

Anonymous C asked on Jun 20, 2018 - 15 answers

Hi all,

I have received an offer from BCG to join as Consultant in one of their German offices. I also have interviews scheduled with Bain and Strategy&. I wonder how I should position myself in case that they ask if I have an offer already, and why I would want to work for them instead of just taking the BCG offer? What are credible reasons to give here? Should I even reveal the BCG offer or would this diminish the probability of getting also an offer from Bain and S&?

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Sidi
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updated his answer on Mar 12, 2018
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Just be open and honest! I do not believe in canned answers here.

For example, if you are also interviewing with a much larger firm, be open about it if asked. And if they ask why you would choose them over the competitor, there is no problem with stating something like:

"I am not entirely sure yet, but I know that I thrive in settings that are highly professional and collaborative, but also small enough to carve out an individualized development path for myself and to potentially enable close mentorship. This is where I have some doubts with [LARGER FIRM] and where I hope that you can help me understand how working for [THIS FIRM] would look like."

Such an answer has the nice side effect that the interviewer usually switches into "sales man mode" and tells you about the advantages of his firm, rather than grilling you.

(edited)

Nice swticharoo effect there putting the interviewer in the hot seat — Ibrahim on Mar 12, 2018 (edited)

Dorothea
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replied on Jun 20, 2018
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Hi,

I have a slightly different view here:

  • An essential part of your job choice should be whether you feel that a firm is the right fit for you - which you will try to figure out during your interviews or on a separate day after you got the offer where you will meet a few consultants and get the chance to ask questions (Yes, I have done this with different firms incl. MBB on several occasions - just ask for it).
  • In my experience, the only way to get this feeling is to talk to people working for the firm (does it feel right? Do I really want to spend days and weeks with these guys?). And most importantly: Your interviewers also want to make sure that you fit in and are likely to stay for a while (hiring somebody who is going to leave after a few weeks is a great waste of ressources).
  • Very often, your interviewer will ask whether you are interviewing somewhere else / already received some offers. In this case, as my colleagues here said: Be open and honest about it. Besides switching into „sales man mode“ your interviewer may disclose where he interviewed before he decided to start with a particular firm and will state his or her reasons. Your interviewer has once been in the same situation as you are in right now. Of course you can also simply ask „why did you decide to start at this firm?“ - however, it becomes a lot less abstract, once you start discussing differences between real firms.
  • Don't not start the conversation with "I got an offer from BCG - tell me why I should reject it and start with you instead" - your interviewer will realise that you are a strong candidate who will probably receive offers from competitors as well, which will then lead to the discussion described above.

Using your offer as a leverage in order to expedite the process may work, however, from my experience recruiting reality is very often faced with too few interviewers on interview days and a corresponding low number of interview slots, so putting more pressure on recruiting may not be the best idea.

Hope this helps.

Alessandro
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replied on Jun 20, 2018
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Only use your BCG offer as leverage if you need to fulfil a special request - e.g. expedite the interview process.

Once/if you get an offer from Bain or S&, you could use the other offer as further leverage - for example, I know someone who used an offer at another MBB to get his offer at bain transferred to a different office without going through any additional interviews.

Finally, if you are asked about competing offers during your interview (can happen), definitely be honest and candid (as Sidi said).

Vlad
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replied on Mar 12, 2018
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Hi,

“Why consulting?”, “Why McKinsey” or “Why BCG” questions are used to assess your motivation to be a consultant in general and to work in that particular firm. They will check how you have done your homework and what you’ve learned about them. They also want to make sure that you have a clear intention to work in consulting.

  • The answers to these questions are supposed to be short and take no more than a minute.
  • For each question, you should provide three bullets points with different reasons.
  • Make sure that you guide the interviewer through your reasoning. Words like “The first reason”, “Moreover”, “Finally” will help you.

Here are some ideas of what you can use to structure your thoughts around "Why Company" question:

  • You can start with general facts about the local office. Something like “Sidney office is the fastest growing McKinsey office worldwide.”
  • If you have an interest in a particular industry or client this may also be a great reason. For example, Bain can be the only consulting firm working with airlines in your region.
  • You may address to different Global opportunities and office initiatives. Using 1-year relocation as an opportunity to learn about business in a particular country can be a valid reason
  • Try to combine professional and Non-business rational. If you have friends working in that company, don’t forget to mention them and what you’ve learned from their experience.
  • You may use your other personal experiences like working with this company on a client side.

Here are the typical "Why our company" mistakes

  • The most common mistake here is to use the Facts applicable to any company like "BCG serves the largest Fortune 500 companies". All big 3 companies work with top companies in all industries.
  • Candidates also tend to use outdated facts or historical misconceptions like "BCG is the best in strategy." Try to use only up to date facts
  • Finally, stop blindly Repeating company marketing materials

Good luck!

Hemant
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replied on Jul 30, 2016
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Everyone wants the one person that everyone else wants. It's as true for business as it's for things like dating - and for good reason too: there is wisdom in the masses! :-)

1. Tell them which ones you are interested in (stick to top2-3)

2. Tell them how far you are in each (skip the ones you've been rejected for from #1, or just leave it at "finished R2 interviews with X").

If you have only got rejections so far, be up-front about it - tell them you were under-prepared and have now put in the time and effort to put your best foot forward, and that you have interviews lined up with X or Y in the coming days (unless you don't, in which case, tell them you plan to apply to X or Y as well but want to focus your energies on this current one for now).

Good luck!

Achyut replied on Jul 17, 2016

The first rule of thumb is - don't lie, especially about things that can be easily verified. Consulting is a close-knit industry and people at different firms are often friends who talk frequently to each other. Getting caught in a lie is THE surefire way to ruin your chances with a firm.

On to the possible responses, my advice is

1. Be professional and give as much information is needed: You could say something like, I have applied to "Firm X, Y etc., and I am currently between rounds at each of them". This answers the question while not divulging too many details.

2. If you're probed further (which is unlikely) and diplomatic equivocacy is not working, I would still stick to honest responses instead of telling a lie. However, such pointed questions are not very common, in my experience.

3. The interviewers are human and will of course understand your desire to apply to have backups. You should definitely have a prepared answer for why you would choose their firm over the others.

All the best!

Francesco
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replied on Jun 21, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with the previous answers, I provided mine below:

I wonder how I should position myself in case that they ask if I have an offer already, and why I would want to work for them instead of just taking the BCG offer? What are credible reasons to give here?

As Vlad said, why are you interviewing with them since you have the BCG offer? Answering to such question will help to identify some relevant reasons. Potential elements to mention include:

  • Company potential: how much the company grew in the last year, which is a good guarantee for your future career as well
  • Sectors of interest: specific focus of the company in areas interesting for you
  • People you met and culture: specific people of the company you discussed with, and the things they shared on the company
  • Your growth opportunities: specific programs of the company you heard about to enhance your growth
  • Size/reputation of the firm: smaller companies usually offer a more entrepreneurial culture, with higher growth potential internally. Bigger companies have more resources and support staff, and more prestige in terms of exit.

Sidi provided a great answer to move then the interviewer to answer you rather than the other way round.

Should I even reveal the BCG offer or would this diminish the probability of getting also an offer from Bain and S&?

It's totally fine to answer the true if they ask (don’t volunteer the information unless you want to speed up the process as mentioned, otherwise you may give the negative impression that you want to impress), it can actually improve your perception as BCG is an equivalent (Bain)/stronger (S&) competitor for them as for the brand name. Of course it will lead to the previous question.

Best,

Francesco

Anonymous replied on Mar 12, 2018

Hey anonymous,

You didn't mention which company you were interviewing when you got such question, but from my discussions with my Bain and BCG friends, I would be tempted to bet it was for one of these two rather than McKinsey (I would be really surprised to see someone asking such question, especially the second part which seems almost stupid to me!).

If this was the case, you do really need to come up with compelling arguments about why you are super hyper mega motivated to work with them and why they are so different from competition (but beware that saying bad things about competitors is not positively seen, quite the opposite actually; at least in McK), because they do really care about hiring people that "already born with the will to work for them" (I'm exaggerating obviously, but there's a huge difference vs. McK, where what matters the most is the fit to be a consultant, not the "why mck? view")

Best

Bruno

Anonymous E replied on Sep 24, 2018

Congrats on the BCG Germany offer!! Any tips by any chance on the process?

Anonymous D replied on Jun 21, 2018

Hello,

Just another option here -

The fact that you already have a BCG offer shows that you are generally interested in Bain and Strategy&, or you wouldn't be going to the interviews. Therefore, you may get the chance to flip this and build on it.

Should the conversation come up naturally...maybe in 'Why Bain?'

"I already have a confirmed offer for one of your competitors - however, i have read/spoken/researched a lot about Bain and i actually feel as though its better suited to be - the work you do in X,Y,Z is more aligned to my goals and i think this would be a perfect flit. Hence, I've come along today as i do believe Bain would be my first preference of role but of course, i am here to learn more about what you guys do and if my gut feel is right that Bain would be the best fit should i receive an offer"

This 1- displays subtly you already have an offer and 2- gives your answer even more merit, showing YOU choose THEM, not just the other way like for 99% of canididates who apply for every company and hope to hear from ANYONE. This helps making them think you're generally super excited and keen to work there and 3- like Sidi says, actually gives them a way to sell you the firm.

Good luck

Andrea
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replied on Mar 13, 2018
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I vote for honesty too here. And to the specific question would reply that you are there to interview, therefore means that you are serious about your intentions with them.

Hope it helps,

Andrea

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