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Why aren't MBB (and other firms) upfront about the amount and type of of preparation required to be successful at interview?

Anonymous A asked on Sep 12, 2018 - 2 answers

It has occured to me that unless sites like Victor Cheng's and preplounge existed we all (undergraduate candidates) would be woefully unprepared. The company websites mention "practising a few cases" and "thinking about your motivation" a week or so before the interview - yet surely they must know that most candidates spend at least +20h on live practice cases alone. Likewise, it is only from websites like these that I would know that I need to understand how to do DCF, NPV etc in a case. Yet the firms claim that they hire from any discipline (as if knowing what DCF is innate knowledge). Why do firms underplay the extent of business knowledge that is needed?

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replied on Sep 12, 2018
Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT
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A number of comments here:

1) Firms underplay it because they don't want candidates that will be good at interviews as a result of countless hours of practice - they want candidates that demonstrate the key skills/qualities that consulting firms look for. To demonstrate the core of these, 5-10 hours of proper practice was typically seen as enough. Firms don't want to miss out on potential strong candidates just because they were not aware about consulting 6 months before interviewing and could dedicate countless hours to prep - so major firms at target schools often have case-workshops to try and limit this bias.

2) In a way, it is due to sites like Victor Cheng and PrepLounge that has led to the requirement for most people to do many more hours of practice. As everyone has access to more and better material, the average quality of interviews increases - so firms have to be more selective, and the "passing criteria" have become more and more demanding.

3) Finally, on your point about DCF - I think this is a huge misconception. If you are applying from undergrad or from a non-business background, you will not be expected to understand DCF, NPV, etc. Part of the reason people think this is expected is because most case resources come from business school (MBA) case books - where students learn these topics, and see firms might choose to test them on their knowledge. However, I can guarantee that if you are applying to MBB out of undergrad, you will never be expected to know these technical terms/methods, or be penalised for not knowing them. The only exception might be if you are applying to a very specific role within a company (e.g. M&A advisory) where e.g. NPV might be particularly important.

Hope this clarifies some of your questions.

Thank you for clarifying Alessandro! In that case, what exactly is expected of undergraduate (and ug non business) candidates in terms of knowledge concerning economics, business concepts, finance concepts/technical knowledge etc? — Conor on Sep 12, 2018 (edited)

Don't agree. Every candidate is expected to know the basic concepts like NPV. What if the objective of the case is to calculate NPV? — Vlad on Sep 12, 2018

Vlad, I have never seen a case given at undergraduate level that includes this concept. I also attended McKinsey workshops where they explicitly said you don't need to know NPV or DCF. Understanding it would certainly not hurt and could lead to some interesting discussions, but there won't be an undergraduate case to calculate NPV, full stop. — Alessandro on Sep 13, 2018

Vlad and Alessandro, your disagreement strikes at the core of why a lot of undergraduate candidates are confused about what is required...... — Conor on Sep 13, 2018

updated his answer on Sep 12, 2018
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Honest answer: Because if you're not able to find that out on your own, you're probably not cut out to be a successful consultant.

That being said, I don't believe it is necessary to do 20+ hours of live cases to pass such an interview. Even MBB only cook with water, and too much preparation can also lead to "analysis paralysis". There are definitely diminishing returns, maybe even negative returns to prepping too much.

You easily come across as a robot that memorized everything, rather than an authentic, intelligent human being. I personally always prefer a candidate who is able to think on his or her feet, can creatively tackle problems and who has the openness and backbone to admit when they don't have a clue over someone who has memorized 327 frameworks and 713 brain teasers but is about as relaxed and authentic as Cher's face these days...

To me, talent, raw intelligence, creativity, and personality beat preparation 10 times out of 10 (I mean as long as it's not evident that the candidate just is sloppy and doesn't give a f*ck). Facts and methods can be taught, those qualities can't.


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