Smart enough?

IQ
New answer on Jun 24, 2022
11 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 22, 2022

Hi, 

I have gotten interviews for an internship at Bain, BCG and a bunch of T2 consultancies in August and September. However, I am questioning my abilities. Specifically, I would have two questions.

1) Is a person with average intelligence, like me, even able to pass the interviews? Or more concrete, is passing the case interview mostly a function of intelligence or can one compensate through hard work? I feel like interviews really aim at testing “raw” intelligence. 

2) Most importantly, if there is an intelligence threshold, which clearly there must be, how do I know whether I meet this threshold?

(Do I just suffer from imposter? There are clear indicators that I am definitely less capable than I appear on paper (e.g. not being good at math, struggling to follow very fast paced discussions). Hard work, determination, and, most of all, profiting from the halo-effect are the only reasons for my grades and good references from past internships. My intelligence is at the very best, average.)

Thank you for your help,


 

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Ian
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I can tell you assuredly that, while being smarter is helpful, it is not the end-all-be-all. I have had candidates that clearly had a “ceiling” and struggled to absorb concepts….but they worked immensely hard and succeeded. I can't tell you how many “limited” candidates I've had that succeeded because they put in the hard work (multiple months, multiple coaching sessions).

Additionally, there are other aspects to case interviews that matter.

Quick note: Math can be learned as can following fast paced discussions.

I'm not saying consulting is right for you; it might not be. But there's no way we can say it's not right for you.

I would highly highly recommend speaking to a coach or two to get a sense of this. Honestly, this is the perfect excuse for a free intro call…I'd be happy to talk to you (free) and give you my honest assessment!

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
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Hi there,

1) Is a person with average intelligence, like me, even able to pass the interviews? Or more concrete, is passing the case interview mostly a function of intelligence or can one compensate through hard work? I feel like interviews really aim at testing “raw” intelligence. 

Interesting question.

My view is: you can’t be totally dumb to pass a case interview. But you definitely don’t need to be a genius.

It is more important that you know how to play the game than how smart you are. 

If you learn how to approach any case (yes, it is possible) and show the right maturity, you can do very well. Because most candidates, regardless of their IQ, don’t approach cases in the right way – they copy-cut the approach from a few books written 10 years ago (I guess you know which they are).

Incidentally, several very smart people would probably be terrible consultants. Several top entrepreneurs fall in this category.

2) Most importantly, if there is an intelligence threshold, which clearly there must be, how do I know whether I meet this threshold?

Even if there was, if you got all the invitations you mentioned, I bet you are above it. Now you just have to learn how to play the game to win.

If you have other questions please feel free to PM me.

Best,

Francesco

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Ashwin
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Jun 22, 2022
Ex Manager Bain and company | INSEAD | Got all Big 3 offers | More than 250 real MBB cases

Your premise that interviews are aimed at testing raw intelligence is not entirely accurate. Intelligence is required as consulting projects are intellectually demanding.

 However, if you consider the universities or programs that consulting firms hire from, you can presume most candidates would meet the threshold of innate intelligence required to join consulting. 

The differentiator is not innate intelligence but more how you approach problems (structured and critical thinking ), perseverance/grit (examples of impact) and how you drive the discussion with the interviewer (emotional intelligence / situational awareness).

 I would not want a consultant on my team who has a 99.9 percentile IQ but does not have the emotional maturity to manage client interactions or gets bored easily and is not prepared to persevere and take accountability.

 Consulting is mostly client-oriented work, it involves a lot of iteration, stakeholder management and consensus building to create impact. Most folks who do well in consulting are conscientious, hard working with above-average people persuasion skills. 

You shouldn't worry about whether you have the abilities to do well in consulting, let the firms assess it, they have been doing this for decades. What you should think about is whether consulting is the right career for you and if it excites you, if the answer is “Yes” you should put your best foot forward to prepare for the interviews. 

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Moritz
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
McKinsey | 100+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Top rated for experienced hires & career transitioners

Hi there,

This is such an interesting question - and good for you for engaging with it (actually indicates that you're quite critical, which is a big plus).

First of all, I struggle to define the term intelligence for myself. Luckily, MBB have very specific evaluation criteria so I never had to worry about that when I interviewed people for McKinsey. Nonetheless, I try to answer your specific questions:

  1. Is a person with average intelligence, like me, even able to pass the interviews? Or more concrete, is passing the case interview mostly a function of intelligence or can one compensate through hard work? I feel like interviews really aim at testing “raw” intelligence. → Interviews do not test raw intelligence - otherwise there would be no point in preparing. What characterizes successful candidates and consultants is a very strong drive, interpersonal skills, and yes, having at least average intelligence (among many other things). In other words, you could absolutely have what it takes!
  2. Most importantly, if there is an intelligence threshold, which clearly there must be, how do I know whether I meet this threshold? → Not really because your intelligence isn't measured as such. That being said, certain firms/offices may filter on basis of GPA or even GMAT (or similar) results, which are used as a proxy. However, it's a multivariant assessment you'll be undergoing as a candidate and not one of those variables says “intelligence”.

Hope this helps a bit! Best of luck!

 

 

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Adi
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

I hope you realise that human intelligence is the peak of evolution on this planet?! Its a blessing and curse at the same time. Its using our intelligence and desire to find happiness that we have ripped the planet. And its using this intelligence we have created all the comforts, conveniences etc today.

You are intelligent in your own ways and its important that you invest your time & effort in a career and job where you can apply your intelligence to the fullest. Most people dont do this and follow the crowd or get influenced by peer pressure, lifestyle, $$ etc. Inspite of so many comforts and conveniences, most people dont wake up happy & joyful!

Consulting is not necessarily full of very intelligent people. There is whole range of skills required to be a successful consultant- resilience, commitment, relationship building, communication skills etc.

Look at yourself and assess whether consulting is the right FIT for you? If yes, plunge in and give your best to prepare. Stop worrying about the outcome. Take it one step at a time and let things happen. Please have a look at this article for more guidance- https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-do-i-know-which-career-is-right-for-me

All the best.

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Cristian
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
Highest recommendation rate / Top McKinsey coach / 100% success rate at >4 sessions / Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

Your post is the dictionary definition of imposter-syndrome :) 

I really wouldn't worry that much about it. For sure you can compensate with work. 

Management consulting as an industry isn't filled with geniuses. Not even by far. It's filled with people who had a good education and who persevere through challenges. Partners at big firms are rarely geniuses either - they become Partners by being to stick through the difficult times. In fact, sometimes being average is better, because it allow you to control your enthusiasm and not burn yourself out too soon. 

There are differences between people, indeed. Some are born more privileged than others, but we live in times where with enough work and focus you can compensate for these things. So better get to work soon :)

Best,

Cristian

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Kurt
Expert
replied on Jun 23, 2022
Conducted over 100 interviews for grads, interns & experienced hires

It might be helpful to look at it from a different perspective.

There are many very intelligent people who would not make good consultants (for many possible reasons, e.g. they don't have the emotional intelligence, the work ethic, the structure to their thinking, the communication skills etc.)

Then there are many people who have a more well rounded skill set that make great consultants.

Where pure intelligence is required, is you do need to be able to understand new things quickly (e.g. new industries, clients etc.). However, you likely have been practicing this skill for many years at school and university and the fact you have interviews means you have this already.

Learning cases is then about taking that raw intelligence and becoming good at structuring it, developing your instincts about where solutions might be in business problems, and communicating those solutions.

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Lucie
Expert
replied on Jun 22, 2022
10+yrs recruiting & top BCG trainer and coach & BCG Project leader & experienced hire & ICF coach

Hi there, 

It is true, that MBB do hire excellent candidates but many things influence if you crack in or not and it is not only IQ (we dont test your level). Even not good students can get it, as well the other way round. Successful candidates are smart, result-oriented, communicate well, are structured, are natural leaders and much more. It is a combo. 

What is however important is work on your self confidence…. your message transmits low self esteem and this gets very fast noticed and even if you are smartest candidate with the highest IQ, this will jeopardize your recruiting. If you would like to discuss this topic, feel free to reach out directly, I am professional and accredited coach and i specialize on growing self-esteem

Good luck,

Lucie

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Clara
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replied on Jun 24, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Yes, 100% you sound as if you were suffering impostor syndrome… and we have all been there, so don´t worry, it couldn´t be more normal. 

There is not what so ever such thing as a intelligence threshold. Furthermore, Einstein used to say that “hard work substitutes intelligence and creates it”. Nothing else to add… ;)

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Anonymous B replied on Jun 24, 2022

Instead of listening to “coaches” here try to sell you consulting, your best bet would be to try and convert your interviews into offers, take up consulting and try it for a year or two. If you don't like it, or struggle to cope with the intellectual demands of the job, then it would be a good launching pad for either higher education or a different role within the industry-- consulting does open several doors for you. 

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Jun 24, 2022
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

Good answers up there already. Let me reinforce a couple of points. 

You don't need to be brilliant. Most consultants are not. What you need is to be structured, have good judgement (i.e. more important to understand if a number makes sense and its implications than being fast at math), know how to lead a conversation, and have a good dose of resilience.
 

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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