Following is a success story I received from a new BCG hire who has some insightful tips for those still recruiting as well as my follow-up where I elaborate on the importance of perseverance and hard work in obtaining a consulting offer.
I am glad that I finally have a reason to write to you!
I have recently received an offer for a Consultant position at BCG in one of the Eastern European offices and have just accepted it.
First of all, thank you for all your great materials. I am sure they were instrumental to my success.
My way to consulting was not an easy one.
I interviewed with six major consulting companies + three others during my MBA program 1.5 years ago and passed to four final rounds but didn’t receive an offer from any of them.
I took another offer in industry in a different country where I am currently working and decided to reapply in one year’s time because I was encouraged to do so by McKinsey partners.
I managed to get the interviews with all three majors with the help of my well established networking connections, but was again dinged by McKinsey and Bain.
I was feeling desperate by that time. However, I successfully passed through three rounds of the BCG interview process (one written case, interviews with Consultants and interviews with Partners) and finally received an offer.
I have now had 39 consulting interviews in total – my friends from consulting even advised me to write a book “How to Bomb a Case”.
Points that I would like to share with others:
– To reiterate your message: try hard to get through the on campus recruiting process. Getting interviews off the cycle is painfully hard and needs very, very good networking.
Going through interviews after being dinged before is twice as hard.
And not least, prepare your questions to interviewers. A part of the feedback that I have received after interviewing with a Bain partner was that my questions to him were way too academical.
– Never give up. Maintain optimism and a positive attitude.
Finally, I would recommend to anyone going to a consulting interview to read these three great books: McKinsey Mind, McKinsey Way, and Pyramid Principle. These resources have substantially improved my problem-solving approach.
[Victor’s Notes: Book links added for your convenience]
Thank you again, Victor for your efforts to keep this website running.
My Response and Follow-Up:
This is wonderful news. Congratulations on both your BCG offer and the incredible level of determination that I find is quite rare these days.
It may seem like the BCG offer will help your career a lot, but I will argue that in the long run, your ridiculously stubborn determination to achieve your goals will help you even more.
By the way, the last half of the last sentence is from me a compliment of the highest order.
I know how to teach people to do well in case interviews, but I have yet to figure out how to teach some the determination that you’ve demonstrated these last few years.
The reason I mention this is because I have been trying to teach my girls this determination since they were about three years old — and it is not entirely clear to me whether I will be successful in this regard.
But this much I am sure, the ability to set a goal and persevere through setbacks is very much an incredibly valuable career and life skill.
It is very easy to lose sight of this. So first off, your efforts are to be commended, and second off, thank you so much for being generous in sharing both your successes and journey with others.
I think many people assume (very incorrectly) that the people who end up at the top firms are just natural geniuses.
Instead, stories like yours show a much more accurate picture. The people who end up at the top firms are certainly very bright people, but they are almost always as much of a determined hard worker as they are gifted.
There were a few points you mention about your preparation process that I wanted to emphasize for the benefit of others.
In particular, I want others to take note of both the breadth and depthof preparation and effort you undertook. All are noteworthy because most people are unwilling to do it.
I have received a surprisingly high number of emails from people who missed a final round interview due to… a math mistake.
Most surprisingly, the people who made these mistakes have master’s degrees and PhD’s in engineering, science, physics, etc…
Here’s what happens.
If you can’t do math at all, you get dinged in first round.
If you can do math, but you have not practiced doing it under pressure while keep tracking of six other things (such as in a case interview), it is quite easy to make a mistake.
I think that is the record so far.
It is just impossible to pick up every subtle technique, practice and habit the first time through.
From time to time, I do get emails from people as to whether Look Over My Shoulder® really works. This is when I usually clarify the misunderstanding.
It is not LOMS that “works,” it is YOU who works.
LOMS is a very time efficient and effective way to practice– especially if you do not have access to qualified practice partners for live practice.
While LOMS IS a very useful preparation tool, if you buy it but do not use it, it does very little good.
In my experience there are two key factors that determine one’s success:
1) your natural talent
2) your willingness to prepare more than someone else.
The first factor you cannot control, but the second you very much can.
Of the success stories I receive from others, approximately one out of ten emails involve someone who used my materials over the span of a few days and got an offer.
The other nine out of ten emails involve someone who used my materials or advice for weeks, months, and years before they got the offer.
By the way, in case you are interested, I put myself in that second category.
I was never the most talented at anything I’ve ever done in my life (though I was often competitive). But I was often hands down the most determined and driven. Talent + Determination is a very effective combination.
Finally, never give up. So true.
I do see emails from people who get very close to getting an offer. They apply to a few firms, get an interview at one firm, and get all the way to final round — but don’t get the offer.
My general rule of thumb is if you can get to final round at a firm (even if you don’t get the offer), you are more than capable of actually doingthe work the job requires.
Often the difference between getting the offer and not in the final round is either:
1) a specific skill area that just wasn’t quite good enough, or
2) you had a bad day (and your natural skill level and preparation wasn’t good enough to compensate on that particular day).
In these situations, the problem area can be fixed, and the bad day effect can be mitigated by having more attempts at success (e.g., interview with more firms so the odds of having a bad day every day is much lower).
What I find a bit disappointing is how many people who get to final round at one firm, but don’t get the offer at the one firm, end up giving up on a career in consulting.
It is one thing if you decided you didn’t like consulting, but often the reaction I hear from them is the more they interview, the more they love the work.
It takes a certain kind of determination to pick yourself up after you got knocked down and try again (preferably learning from your mistakes the next time around).
You cannot prevent some obstacle in life (like an employer) knocking you down. But whether you stay down or get back up is your choice.
Choose wisely and choose without regrets.