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Telephone Interview at McKinsey from Germany to Sout America

Someone asked on Nov 02, 2017 - 2 answers

Hey everyone,

Next week, I have a phone interview with McKinsey about my experiences. It will be my first interview where I cannot see my interview partner. One of my strengths usually is to read the reactions of my oppontents. Now this is not possible. Are there any tips for phone interviews that are different than for normal expierence interviews?

Thank you very much!



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Francesco updated his answer on Nov 03, 2017
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (2.100+) | Ex BCG | 1.000+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Julian

phone interviews indeed are a bit different from face-to-face ones on the communication side; below you can find some tips that may be useful for them:

# 1. Put all the material that may be interesting for you to look during the interview (structures, tips for fit part, etc) attached to the wall in front of you – in this way you do not have to look for information on the go

# 2. Go the extra mile in the case when presenting what you think. This is important in face-to-face interview, but even more in phone interviews where the interviewer cannot see you or your notes. In short, this implies:

  1. Explain clearly upfront why you need some information. Eg don’t say “do we have information on price?”. Rather “In order to understand where the problem is on revenues, I would need to analyse price and volume for this segment. Do we have any information on how price and volume changed in the last year?”
  2. Present with numbers in a structured way each area you want to introduce. I would suggest to do that in two steps:
  • STEP 1: mention first the macro areas of your framework. “In order to help our client, I would like to focus on three main areas. Number 1 we may work on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]. If this is fine for you, let me go deeper in each of them”
  • STEP 2: provide details for each macro point. “In area Number 1, this is what I would analyse. First, I would like to cover [FIRST STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; second, I would like to focus on [SECOND STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; next, I would like to work on [THIRD STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]. In area Number 2, this is what I would analyse. First,(…)”

# 3. Smile – although you are over the phone, it is shown that smiles are perceived by people also in this way, and show positive attitude

Fit part and cases are similar to the standard ones. For the case, it may be slightly easier to get a market sizing, as this is simpler to deliver and follow over the phone.




Someone replied on Nov 03, 2017

Phone interviews can be both easier and tougher than in-person interviews. As you point out, you don’t have the opportunity to read the body language or watch what the interviewer is doing (e.g., taking notes). From the interviewer standpoint, I find it much harder to do phone interviews because I can’t:

  • Read your body language: Just as you can’t read the interviewers body language, the interviewer likes to read your body language and can’t do that over the phone
  • Watch your note taking / quant solving approach: It’s one thing to listen to a candidate talk through a structure or solve a quant exercise, but being able to see how organized they are or the actual equations they write down is very helpful
  • Judge your overall confidence / demeanor: This is slightly different than body language. On the phone, I can judge the overall confidence that a candidate projects and can often times get a “false positive” read

I give you the interviewer point-of-view so that you can try to work backwards on what you should and should not do on the phone interview. Here are a few tipos:

  • Don’t interrupt: Shows impatience and anxiousness
  • Don’t be nervous about pauses from the interviewer: The interviewer needs to take notes and is often taking notes after you finish speaking. Finish your conclusion / statement confidently and then wait for the interviewer to speak
  • Don’t have a bad connection / noisy background: Calls from airports / mobile phones with bad connections are not acceptable. I want to really stress this point. A lot of candidates make calls from the airport explaining they are waiting for a flight. This is NOT acceptable under almost any circumstance (except for something like traveling to a funeral). Just because you are not in the firm’s office for an interview does not give you an excuse to not be in a dedicated quiet place with a quality phone connection
  • Do give short answers: Long answers do not work as well over the phone
  • Do talk at a deliberate pace: Confidence is exuded this way
  • Do ask questions: Words get lost over the phone. Know exactly what was said
  • Do talk out loud: The interviewer can’t see your notes. Over communicate

Hope that helps!