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Clara

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

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?

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)

Thanks Nathaniel, Udayan , Robert, Francesco and Vlad for your kind and helpful words. I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed at the moment for reasons unrelated to the interview (as well as due to the interview) and nearly pulled out today, but then I remembered I have told about 12 of my friends that I have an interview at BCG -- they're very excited for me and of course not expecting it to go any further either, and they're not going to know what went on in the interview room even if I really screw it up. But they'll think I'm a wuss if I wimp out! So I am definitely going to do it. Interestingly, due to coronavirus, it might be replaced with a Skype interview -- which normally I consider more intimidating as I think I do worse on them, but in this case I find the thought more calming (which has also led me to isolate the cause of my anxiety as the actual fact of being in the room). I think there's a close to 100% chance I won't make it past the first round, but it could still be an interesting and even enriching experience. — Anonymous A on Mar 11, 2020

Hi everyone, thought you might be interested to know how it went. Well, as expected, it didn't go well and I got rejected, but it wasn't too excruciating at any point. Both interviewers were very friendly and basically (especially in one case) responded to my getting monumentally stuck and going silent by basically helping me, even though it was obvious to both of us that the amount of prompting/guidance I was getting had already gotten me rejected. I think I was pretty muted in my emotional responses, as yesterday -- Friday the 13th! -- was also the day that my country really started to sink into COVID-19 issues; in the space of 12 hours (during which my interview occurred), all of our state and federal leaders basically declared an emergency, every public event was cancelled, multiple public figures announced that they had tested positive, and right before my interview I was dealing with a family member who became convinced she was going to die due to a preexisting condition (thankfully I was able to use some of my recently-polished math skills to realise that there's no way 100% of people with her condition can be dying, given that 1+% of people have it and the death rate in many age groups, including hers, is 0.2%). So yes, the interview occurred in a basically deserted building during an hour in which the government -- whom I had involuntarily seen on a public TV right before the interview -- said that "things will change rapidly over the next hour". As a result, I kind of didn't care, and responded to getting stuck on cases by essentially going silent; knowing I had already blown it, I didn't even try recovery strategies such as recapping, etc. To other people, this is probably what I'd recommend if you do realise (and you're SURE) you've blown it completely -- at least in preference to other options like crying or leaving the room. However much you might hope for it, there's not an 0% chance that you'll ever see this interviewer in a professional context again. So to recap, interview went badly in basically the way I was expecting, thus ending my 160.5-hour foray into consulting interview prep. I think that the whole experience has made me a) more interested in consulting, b) more interested in business, c) more confident at maths and d) a whole lot more confident about interviews! Going forward, I have two applications progressing for grad programs at places where I successfully interned. Assuming the current economic structure survives until then, next year (or the year after, if I get into a grad program but don't continue with the same company), I'd definitely be keen to prepare properly and apply at other consulting firms. — Anonymous A on Mar 13, 2020 (edited)

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Best Answer
Book a coaching with Clara

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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

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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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

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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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

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

Book a coaching with Udayan

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"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

"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

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

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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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

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

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

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). — Anonymous A on Mar 10, 2020

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