Should I turn down an interview I don't think I'll pass? What do they do if you're really panicking?

anxiety interviews MBB panic
New answer on May 15, 2020
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 10, 2020

Hi everyone, I have an interview with an MBB in two days and I'm honestly feeling so anxious and hopeless about it that I want to turn it down. I've studied a non-business and non-quant undergrad, and although my quant skills and business knowledge are better than this info would suggest, they're still not great -- especially not the latter (business/economics knowledge).

I honestly don't know how the heck I got this interview -- what they've seen of me so far are my grades (college and high school exit grade), my cover letter and CV (high points include long involvement with a not-for-profit startup, whose operations I improved/basically built from the ground up -- but I did nothing really economic), and a cognitive test I did for them.

I'm just so worried that this interview will go so badly that I won't be able to stand it, and will end up crying, running out of the room, vomiting, etc. Obviously I've been 100% truthful about everything on my CV, and you can't fake cognitive test results -- but they must be expecting me to have studied way more business stuff than I have; they must just take for granted that anyone even applying for this position has way more knowledge than I do.

Rationally I know I should not turn down this interview, as

1) It would be rude; by (somehow??!!) getting this far I have deprived someone else of an interview slot.

2) I'm probably not as rubbish as I think I am, since I've gotten this far. Maybe there's something the selection process is seeing that I'm missing?

3) The worst-case scenario is I humiliate myself for 90 minutes (45 minutes if I run away between interviews 1 and 2!!) in front of some people I'll never see again -- why is this so scary? As against the best-case scenario, which is that I get cases I can figure out, my math is solid enough to get me through, I get a second-round interview offer, before the second round I work on the case types that I'm weaker on, I get through the final round, and end up working at an MBB.

3a) I've done other types of scary exams before, including in-person oral foreign language exams at the highest level(s), and managed to keep going without freaking out, even when I thought I was doing terribly.

3b) Maybe I am overestimating how bad things will go, even if I do something early in the interview that makes it clear to both me and the interviewer(s) that they won't be hiring me. Indeed, even if I do something egregiously and unusually terrible that is the most stupid thing they have ever seen, there's probably not any functional difference between that happening, and something happening that is just bad enough for them to be sure of rejection -- and the latter must happen all the time.

So logically, there's no possible reason to suddenly turn down, or not show up for, my interview.

But I am just so terrified of that worst-case scenario. What do they do to you if you're really screwing it up, and just don't know how to proceed at all -- especially given they'll be mad at me for wasting their time? Like what actually happens if you just can't proceed, they know for sure they're not hiring you -- and there's 30 minutes left in the interview time (and potentially another 45 minutes if this is occurring in the first interview)? Are you allowed to leave?

(edited)

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Clara
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replied on Mar 11, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

There are 2 things we should not mislead us here:

  • Interviewing with MBB is intimidating, yes. But it is for everyone and it is a perfectly normal feeling.
  • Once we already disccount those very normal nerves, it could be that still you don´t feel ready. In this case, best is to postpone, since you only have one shot and you must take the best out of it. For this, is important to feel prepared.
  • Cancelling is not an option since, what is there to loose? 2h of your life? Even if you fail you will have huge learnings.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Nathaniel
Expert
replied on Mar 11, 2020
McKinsey | BCG | CERN| University of Cambridge

Hello there,

It is indeed intimidating to have an MBB interview, I can emphatize with that.
One thing you need to remember that if you give it up, you will bound to fail either way, the result is similar to if you perform badly in the interview, even worse overall as you don"t get the learnings.

Failure is an invaluable opportunity, so do not be afraid of it.
Also, there"s a lot of chances that you"ll end up progressing on the interview as well.

Hence, my suggestion is either reschedule the interview (delaying it for a while is fine rather than the alternative of surrendering the opportunity) or get to the interview with "no loss" feelings as you intend to pull away originally anyway, with the aim to experience the interview process, who knows you"ll pass at this stage.

Believe me, it does happens.

Hope it helps and good luck!

Kind regards,
Nathan

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Francesco
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replied on Mar 11, 2020
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.700+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend the following:

  1. Rescheduled the interview if possible – even a couple of days later if there are recruiting constraints
  2. In case you cannot reschedule – I don’t see any downsides in showing up and performing badly compared to withdrawing from the process. Also, candidates often misjudge their performance and think they will pass/not pass when the opposite is true – thus I would not recommend to leave even if you think your performance is poor

Best,

Francesco

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Udayan
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replied on Mar 10, 2020
Top rated MBB coach with many offers /Ex McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience/Real cases

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"...there's no way to know before hand what is going to happen. Whatever it is do your best in the situation

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Anonymous replied on May 15, 2020

Dear A,

I would recommend you to reschedule your interview and work with your fear and anxiety with life coach. In fact you have more resources and knowledge, you just need to focues on them

Best,

André

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Robert
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replied on Mar 11, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Based on your question I assume that you don't feel very comfortable with MBB interviews yet - so the best option to proceed is actually to postpone your interviews.

Actually don't be afraid of postpoing your interviews, even if travel arrangements have been already done. It's daily business for MBB to book and reschedule flights.

At McKinsey sometimes candidates are even sent back home when they are already on-site after flying in, in case we recognize that the candidate is not feeling well because of some sickness (not talking about Corona, in general). If a candidate got invited, McKinsey believes he can be doing well in interviews, but if the current circumstances don't allow that (e.g. sickness) then it's better to postpone and do it on a day on which the candidate can show his best performance (that's what we want to see).

Just in case you don't have a chance of postponing your interviews - maybe it won't be a comfortable experience, but I am sure you will learn a lot from that. So you don't have an offer yet and possibly you won't have an offer afterwards - but that's already the worst case outcome. So you only have an upside, but no real downside in that situation.

Hope that helps - if so, please give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Vlad
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Content Creator
replied on Mar 10, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Why don't you just reschedule your interview? That's totally fine

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Anonymous A on Mar 10, 2020

They only gave us time options within the same day, and it seems like their recruiting timeline is really short: the people who get selected (i.e. offers) will know by the middle of next week, apparently (and decision-round interviews are necessarily between now and then).

Clara gave the best answer

Clara

Content Creator
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut
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