I recently received this field report from an actress (now a BCG consultant), and thought you would find her suggestions useful.
I would like to update you on the seven-month journey I have recently taken, throughout which you have played an enormous role. Until 3 weeks ago, I was an actress. I'm now a Junior Consultant at BCG, and finally feel like I'm on track to one day found the Arts Company I've always wanted to lead. You've had such an impact on my life and I want to thank you.
Now, I was tempted to lay out my conclusion, follow up with 3 pieces of key-evidence of your immense help and then restate my conclusion. However, I don't know where to begin thank you, or where to begin in recommending your advice to others. So, I decided stick with old habits, and act as more of a 'storyteller' in this email: after all, my start-date yet hasn't come round quite yet!
Last year, I was working as an actress and running a small tutoring agency. I was fed up and disheartened with the politics in my industry, and acutely aware that I wasn't working to the best of my ability, wasn't using my skills in a way that felt natural, and - sadly - wasn't putting my [Ivy League university] degree to any real use. Your blog post about how Steve Jobs would make a terrible consultant was really enlightening to me: when I sat in the offices of my producer/writer friends, I felt like Steve Jobs might feel in a consultant's office. Something needed to change!
I stumbled across your site by chance, but the newsletter has made all the difference to my experience of this year. I would wake up to a new newsletter every morning. My alarm would go off, I'd grab my phone and read the newsletter before getting out of bed or reading other emails. It was a ritual that was always extremely motivational, and also just really interesting. Your optimism and honesty made for a brilliant way to start the day and - whether or not the day heralded case-practice, rehearsal, or teaching - it kept me focused on my end goal. I'd at least done something towards being a consultant that day.
In fact, when I couldn't sleep the night before final rounds at BCG, and couldn't face doing any more case practice, I decided to read your archives in order to relax and ended up watching this: http://www.caseinterview.com/key-to-success
Your advice in your newsletter and on your website embodies the ideas in your friend's videos. Work harder and longer and you'll do better. Treat it like a marathon, and not a sprint. If it doesn't work, work harder...
It was such a nice final-read, and I really think that for me it held the key to your approach. To paraphrase the video "It's a marathon, and not a sprint." You expect much more of us than the interviewers do, but then - unlike the recruitment pages of the consultancies - you actually provide us with the tools that allow us to meet those expectations.
I did your maths drills daily, and can practically recite the fashion case-study - I listened to LOMS on the tube, while cleaning, on my morning jogs. Without those tools, I would have been lost. And without your newsletter, I really wouldn't have thought it was possible to make this transition. I don't know that I would have even tried. The evidence of other interviewees working harder, practicing more, and being more dedicated meant I raised my game far more than I would have done otherwise, and far more than I would have realised was necessary.
The So What? at the end of it all: At BCG, I'll be earning almost 250% of what I was earning before. (I'm from a single-parent family, and that money will mean such a difference to both my mum and me.) I'll be traveling, learning, and most importantly I've finally found a way to work towards running a company that employs artists. You really do make such a difference in people's lives.
This email is already far too long to be coming form a consultant, but here would be my key recommendations for other prospective applicants:
1) Talk to people:
I had two internal recommendations at BCG by the time I interviewed, and had spent hours talking with BCG alum and employees. It really made me feel calmer and more at home in the interview, and I'm sure it was why I got in the room in the first place.
(By contrast, at Bain I'd only spoken to alums who hadn't contacted anyone in the current office -they didn't interview me. At McKinsey, an internal rec from an Managing Director got me straight into the room (unsuccessfully, but that was one month in!))
I also talked with the interviewers - perhaps more honestly than I should. I thought it was a longshot to be hired, and so at the end of the interview, I'd ask what they'd recommend I should do if they said no in order to be better prepared next time.
I asked about them because I wanted to know what they'd done to get the job. With one interviewer, it even turned out that we knew people in common. I asked about the case and whether it was real. I guess auditioning day-after-day helps with nerves, but it made the interview feel much more like a coffee or a conversation - which I liked better than the alternative!
2) Do Live Case Interviews:
I was pretty shy about this, as I knew my business background was limited, but I also did about 40 live-case interviews. That made such a difference to my performance, as it's so very different when you're sitting in front of someone!
3) Do Math Drills and GMAT practice
I teach maths for hours every day, but I still found your math drills really helpful. I also studied for and took the GMAT as preparation, and found their maths and data interpretation really helpful.
4) Play along with the audio tapes.
So many emails say how helpful LOMS is, and they're right. But one technique for using LOMS that I personally found helpful, was a twist on the usual pause-the-tape-and-pretend-to-answer technique. I did that too, but I would also just 'play the role' of the interviewee in the best-case tracks.
Once I knew the tapes well enough to know what the interviewee would say, I'd either speak along with them or pause the tape and try and 'play that role,' as if I was the person on the tape and not myself. It sounds mad, but I got lots of feedback from live interviews to say that my confidence was shaky, and this tactic made all the difference because I imitated their (sometimes your) confidence in my answers.
Thank you again. I'm so grateful to you. I did read your letter about how you questioned your own success compared to your friends, and I don't know how you can do given the difference that you make in people's lives. I look forward to your new-hires newsletter.