The Airplane Test

twitter Facebookgoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Question:

When I interviewed for banking internships in the past I noticed , whenever you don't like the guys (you will feel in the first second) you will not pass the interview even though you are very qualified and answered everything correctly. Perhaps this is called the airport test.

Please could you give advice how you managed to get offers from all firms as these firms have different personalities (e.g. stereotypes nerd, frat boy, arrogant prick, social guy etc). This part was not that much covered in your workshop.

My Response:

I can't speak to the banking culture, so I won't attempt to. In consulting, there is something similar. It comes from two practical reasons:

1) Would you want to work with this guy/gal and be stuck on a plane with them for 7 hours? (Trust me, it happens more than you'd like to think)

2) Would I feel comfortable putting this person in front of a client?

As an interviewer, I tried to distinguish between I like this candidate because he/she seems similar to me... and I like me, so there I like him/her, vs. this person could be very effective, is "client safe" (e.g., I can put the person in front of a client and they won't embarrass me or the firm) but geez, they're really nothing like me at all.

I tried to keep the "similar to me" factor out of it (and in speaking with other McKinsey interviewers they mentioned they did the same thing, but admittedly it's hard to do and you have to consciously work on it). When I interviewed candidates it was mostly about whether they person would be effective and whether or not the person would be annoying to clients.

Keep in mind clients come from all walks of life. Clients are just as likely to be the CEO of a $1 billion division of a Fortune 500 company as they are a high school drop out who is now the customer service manager at such a company. Both are clients. If you piss either one off, it's not good. Granted its worse if you piss off the main client, but a client is still a client.

Later in my career when I was no longer working in consulting, I hired a former consultant (name of firm withheld). The guy was smart, but geez he just pissed off all of my colleagues. I'd get complaints about him constantly - stepping over boundaries, not being respectful of others, being a bit arrogant.

I ultimately had to get rid of him and either fired him or put him in a different role.

With respect to cultures, different industries and different firms have different cultures. Speaking for myself, I definitely fit into the consulting world but could not get a banking job to save my life. Despite the fact that I spent a week on Wall Street as a 13 year old, had been investing my own account since then, followed the markets, I could not get past the first round at ANY investment bank -- not a single one.

Clearly I had "Not a Banker" tatoo'ed on my head, which in the end worked out just fine.

In terms of molding yourself to various firms, I really didn't do anything differently. I was just being myself (it's too hard to do anything else and all you do is get nervous and stop acting like yourself) and tried to stay as relaxed as I can.

I find a lot of very likable people when put under self imposed stress, they tense up and become kind of bland. This is counter productive. Just be yourself and be proud of it... let the interviewers do the rest. Whether the pass you on to the next round or not, fairly or unfairly, on the personality level it's out of your control.

Many of my friends went into banking and I'm pretty sure that I would have hated banking. I was still disappointed that I couldn't get past round 1 at any bank, but in hindsight it was for the best. Now that I'm in business for myself, I have a saying.... When the market "votes", you'd better listen.

As it applies to interviews, in particular my situation, the consulting market voted that I would be a good consultant. The banking market voted that I wouldn't be a good banker. Thankfully I listened and didn't try to fight it. Market demand is market demand.

The one thing I would say however is I would change the pace of my speech depending on the person I was interviewing with. If the person interviewing me was from New York and spoke quickly, I would speak more quickly which is my natural habit anyways. If the person was from the midwest, I would always force myself to slow down. In addition with interviewers from the Midwest and South, I would also engage in a minute or two of small talk (e.g., talk about the weather), before getting down to business. I would never do that with a New Yorker.

Also, this is what I would do with clients from various parts of the country. If you call a New York client, say hi, I want X, Y, and Z, and hang up, they wouldn't think twice. If you did the same to a client in the Midwest, they would think you're a big jerk.

For more tips on preparing for a case interview, review my free video series on Case Interview Secrets .

Additional Resources

If you found this post useful, I suggest becoming a registered member (it's free) to get access to the materials I used to pass 60 out of 61 case interviews, land 7 job offers, and end up working at McKinsey.

Members get access to 6 hours of video tutorials on case interviews, the actual frameworks I used to pass my interviews, and over 500 articles on case interviews.

To get access to these free resources, just fill out the form below:

First Name *
Email *

Note: All registrations require you to confirm your email address.
Please type your email address carefully, entering your email also subscribes you to my Case Secrets Email Newsletter.

Facebookgoogle_pluslinkedinmail twitter

Comments on this entry are closed.