Victor Cheng - Look Over My Shoulder - Article

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What’s the Difference Between Almost Getting the Offer vs. Actually Getting the Offer

Hi this is Victor Cheng from in this article I will cover what is the difference between the candidates in case interviews that almost get the offer versus those who actually do get the offer.

I want to share my perspective on this and give you my background and tell you where I’m coming from. When I personally went through the case interview process as a job seeker, I passed 60 out of 61 interviews. I ended up working at McKinsey for several years as a consultant and was a resume screener at McKinsey and also a case interviewer. So I’ve really been on both sides of the table. And certainly over the last few years have been coaching other aspiring management consultants on how to navigate the case interview process.

Probably through my online materials I’ve trained several thousand aspiring management consultants on the whole process. What I’ve come to realize is there is really one simple idea that separates those applicants and candidates who almost get offers from those that actually do get the offers.

Here is what that idea is and it is seems a little nonsensical until I explain it but it’s this idea of knowledge versus habit. You see the applicants and candidates who know what to do in a case interview they get extremely close to getting an offer. Those that know what to do in a case interview and actually do it on a consistent basis day in and day out, interview in and interview out, every single interview no matter what, those are the candidates that actually get the offers.

So knowing what to do is not good enough. You have to actually do what you know. It is not the knowledge that’s important; it is the habit of applying that knowledge in a real world setting. Let me share a simple personal story.

When I went through the case interview process, I didn’t actually get very good at the cases, at least in my opinion, until my 20th case interview or so. In fact, my very first case I did, I frankly totally sucked. I was really, really bad and embarrassingly bad. I didn’t get past 3 minutes in a 45 minute interview. I was stuck and had no idea what to do after about 180 seconds. Now fortunately for me it was only a practice interview.

So what I want to describe to you in this article is the process I used to take what I call “intellectual knowledge” of what you’re supposed to do in a case interview and develop the habit of actually being good in the case interview. There are 3 big ideas I want to share.

Number one is to transition from knowledge to habit it’s useful to practice on your own. The big advantage of practicing on your own is you’re in control of the whole process. The down side is you already know the answers and so it’s not very realistic. There is no pressure or guessing and it’s very hard to simulate the real world environment when you practice on your own.

The second approach, which again is a very good approach, is to find someone who knows case interviews and is willing to interview you for practice. Now either you can pay a case interviewer type coach who will typically charge about $150 to $250 for giving you one practice interview , which can obviously get very expensive if you want to do like 10 or 15 interviews. Or you can happen to know someone who works in consulting and is very familiar with the case interview process and perhaps owes you a favor or you’re willing to owe them a favor to have them interview you.

Again, the challenge there is you’re not going to control the process even if you know a lot of folks. If you can get 1 or 2 people to help you interview 1 or 2 times because it takes like an hour at a time, you should consider yourself pretty lucky if you can get 4 or 5 that’s like extremely good.

The reality is that a lot of people don’t know that many people in consulting or at least not that many people willing to spend hours and hours with you practicing. So there is sort of a real world logistical constraint in having other folks interview you, although it is extremely good practice.

The third option is an option that most people don’t realize is available to them and how useful it actually is. The third option and I’ll elaborate more on this in a second is interviewing other people and learning from their mistakes. It is incredibly useful in accelerating the learning process.

When you first learn about case interviews you kind of don’t know what to do. But once you actually do it a couple of times and stumble through the process yourself and see others stumble through the process, somewhere around practice number 10 or 20 you finally figure this thing out. The challenge is finding someone to interview you that many times. It’s sometimes easier to interview someone else or look over someone’s shoulder as they’re interviewing someone else.

So what is interesting about this and I’ll show you a practical implication of this in a second, is when you see a case interview from the interviewer’s point of view, it makes you a better interviewee and here is why. I find as an interviewer that most big mistakes in cases are caused by little mistakes made earlier in the case.

What happens is as an interviewer you learn to recognize the set of circumstances that lead people to make mistakes early in a case that ultimately causes the big mistake that causes them to fail the interview. It really is a very predictable process. What I find is as an interviewer is the difference between getting an offer versus almost getting an offer is actually quite small.

To get past the first round interview and into the 2nd or final interview and ultimately get an offer, there is not that much difference. The gap is very, very narrow and I would argue in many cases it is about a 10% difference between those who get the offers versus those who come extremely close.

Here is an interesting little observation I’ve made, in the first 5 minutes of a case I can tell whether a candidate will do well even if they haven’t made a mistake yet. It’s the oddest thing but I can totally tell and let me explain why that’s the case. I notice their habits. Within 5 minutes of a case I can tell whether they have good case interviewing habits or not.

What happens is the habits create the circumstances that make little mistakes extremely likely or unlikely. If you’re a little sloppy in your habits, I know from experience that you’re eventually going to screw up because it’s extremely hard to do well on cases when you have sloppy habits.

Now as an interviewer what you realize is that many case interviews are actually extremely predictable. I recently did a first round set of interviews as an interviewer and I interviewed probably 15 different candidates over 2 days, so close to 20 hours of interviews for me which I have to tell you is quite exhausting. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these but I found I was refreshing myself and realizing that these case interviews were actually quite predictable. I know exactly what the candidate is going to do and it’s very predictable what the next steps will be.

I sort of draw the analogy that being a case interviewer is a lot like watching a TV show rerun. You’ve seen it before and you know how it is going to end and therefore it’s entirely predictable. Now to make this point in a slightly different way, I find if you want to experience doing something in life that it is useful to learn from mistakes and you’ve probably heard that before.

Here is a little twist on that though nobody ever said that you have to learn from your own mistakes. In fact, I find it is easier to learn from other people’s mistakes and it is certainly less painful and less costly. So when you interview other people you learn from their case interview mistakes, the kind of mistakes that would cost them their $70,000 to $200,000 job offer in consulting and avoid costing yourself your offer because your job offer isn’t on the line when you interview someone else.

How do you actually get experience interviewing other people? If you don’t happen to know people who are looking to do well on the case interview, which realistically I think a lot of folks don’t then there is an opportunity that you have where you can look over my shoulder as I interview a number of case interview consulting candidates.

I mentioned earlier that I recently conducted what I call a McKinsey style first round of interviews just like I did when I was at McKinsey. I interviewed over a dozen candidates, over a 2 day period. I ended up recording that entire 20 hours of interviews and I didn’t include all 20 hours, I edited it down to about 13 specific case interviews that I think really highlighted good habits, best practices as well as a whole litany of very common mistakes that many candidates make.

What I want to invite you to do is to look over my shoulder as I do these interviews so you can see it from my perspective as the interviewer and learn from the mistakes that other candidates make in real world settings under real world pressures.

To give you some sense of what these cases were like, I gave easy, medium and extremely difficult cases. I had 2 cases in particular that were brutally difficult yet it really flushed out all the good and bad habits that the candidates had and was extremely good at differentiating between those who were extremely good and those who were not.

The range of candidates I interviewed were folks with Bachelor degrees, MBA’s, PhD, industry hires, the full range of the kind of applicants that apply to consulting firms. Also, in these recordings and live interviews I ended up giving each candidate a debrief of what they did right or wrong in their case.

Now there is a limitation to that. When you tell someone at the end of an interview what they did right or wrong, what I find is the candidate completely forgets what they did 26 minutes ago. They’re so into it and kind of stressed out and a little bit nervous, which I definitely did notice, and 40 minutes later they just don’t remember what they did in the beginning and so it’s very hard to coach them.

I find that if you’re listening in and I tell you what the candidate did wrong at the end, you too forgot what they said 26 minutes ago. You kind of remember the gist but the specifics are sort of lost. So what I did is after I made these recordings I went back and analyzed all the hours of raw footage. I relistened to all the interview recordings and provided what I call a voice over commentary. I injected my comments after the fact over the recording of the candidate doing the case interview to point out the little mistakes the candidates made in real time as they were making it.

So the moment they finished the sentence that causes them to make a mistake, I stop the recording and interject and say, listen did you catch the mistake this candidate made? They made a really big mistake just this second. If you didn’t catch it, rewind the recording about 60 seconds and play it again and see if you can catch it.

What I’m doing right now when I do that and allow you to listen in on these recordings is I’m putting you on the spot. Did you catch the mistake? I’m putting you on real life pressure and don’t be surprised that early on you don’t catch the mistake. What happens is when you don’t catch the mistake I explain what the mistake was and then I explain how to do it differently. I point out 148 specific examples within these 13 case interviews of good habits you want to copy or bad habits you want to completely avoid.

I have to be honest that is a lot of commentary. When you look over my shoulder what you realize and this is something I didn’t realize until I did this is that candidates reveal their good and bad habits at least once every 4 minutes. I didn’t realize that until I went through the transcripts and read every word all over again and analyzed what they said and could have done differently point by point. I found myself interjecting about every 4 minutes and that’s how often these habits come into play.

Now what is interesting about this is if you listen to a candidate perform a case interview and you listen to any 4 minute stretch of the interview as an interviewer, if you have some experience with this, you can immediately tell if a candidate is any good. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if it is the first or last 4 minutes or any 4 minutes randomly in the middle of the case interview; if you pull out those 4 minutes you can tell whether the candidate is any good or not.

And as you look over my shoulder as I interview candidates you will figure out and develop the skill to figure out if a candidate is any good because you start noticing whether their habits are any good. And the more you can notice the habits in others the more you will internalize those habits in yourself. I am immersing you in this world of fixing bad mistakes and practicing good habits and you get very good at internalizing that.

Here is the reality, good habits lead to good decisions in case interviews, which ultimately lead to good case interview performance. The reverse is true as well and when you have bad habits or sloppy habits or habits that are incomplete or misunderstood you will eventually make a bad decision. So this is why I can spot these problem candidates a mile away, they have bad habits and I can tell they will screw up. I don’t know when exactly but I can tell they are going to.

So when you master these habits by learning from other people’s mistakes you master the case interview process yourself. What happens is in the recordings in the Look Over My Shoulder program, I point out 148 specific instances of good habits to model and bad habits to avoid. When a candidate demonstrates a good habit I do a couple of things. The first thing I do is I point it out. That candidate did an excellent job and the reason I point it out is I want you to slow down and listen very carefully to how the candidate did it right.

You need to recognize what it sounds like when they do it right so that you can do it right yourself. The second thing I do when I hear a good habit being done is I deconstruct the step by step process that the candidate used. It’s not good enough, in my opinion, to just recognize that they sounded like they did a good job because if you recognize what a good job sounds like and you can’t replicate it then it doesn’t help you much.

So I deconstruct each step leading up to that good habit. What did they do specifically? Why did they do it? How did they know to do it? And I break it down step by step. The reason I do this is it allows you to precisely replicate the good habits in your interviews. So if you know the recipe and can follow it Steps 1, 2, and 3 it’s a lot easier to remember that.

Now at the same time when I see a bad habit in one of these interviews here is what I do. First I point out and explain why this particular habit is a mistake. I give you the full explanation the moment they finish making the mistake and that bad habit.

The second thing I do is I reenact what the candidate should have done instead. What is the alternative? And I do it right after they make a mistake or screw up, I tell you what they should have done instead so that you can hear before and after what it looks like and how it is different. It is very important for you to appreciate and recognize that difference because it helps you internalize that skill and ultimately do better on your own interviews.

The third step I do when I hear a bad habit is I break down the reenactment I made on a step by step basis. So not only do I do what you’re supposed to do but I explain step by step what I actually ended up doing. Again, this gives you the recipe for knowing what to do on a step by step formulaic or recipe type basis. Giving you the procedure on how to replicate a good habit and how to avoid bad habits in your own interviews.

Now the other thing that is a big advantage of this program is when you look over my shoulder you get to replay every single mistake made by every single candidate in slow motion and you get to replay the alternative reenactments that I give. In addition, all my recordings include a word by word transcript so you can study how each mistake was made word by word. What part did they miss? What part did they get confused by? You can see the entire cascading effect of the mistake literally word by word.

I’m going to give you a quick summary of what this Look Over The Shoulder Program includes:

Recordings from 13 McKinsey style case interviews, the same types of interviews that I used to give when I was an interviewer at McKinsey.

Word by word transcripts of those interviews, including my commentary,

And all 148 specific commentaries and coaching points I made on what those candidates did. You get a lot of very specific, very concrete and very real time feedback on whether a case is going well or not and more importantly what you should do differently to do the case as well in your own particular situation.

Now I’ve talked a lot about this program and what I want to do now is step back for a second and have you consider the following. Let’s say for some reason you decided not to invest in this Look Over My Shoulder Program and let’s further say that you ended up doing a case interview where you didn’t do well and you ended up losing out on one of those job offers that are so sought after by people who are interviewing in this field. So it is a fairly substantial financial loss.

Now here is what I think is true, chances are the mistake you made in that interview was already made by someone else in my Look Over My Shoulder Program. In all likelihood you could have avoided that mistake that cost you your $70,000 to $200,000 a year job offer. Here is the reality, there are only so many ways you can screw up a case interview. And there is a handful of them that when you know them you avoid them and do really well.

Frankly, I’ve seen them all and I used to make them all myself until I figured out how to avoid them. So when you can have access to that information it really helps you enormously to avoid mistakes that can cause you to lose job offers.

Let’s say you don’t invest in the program and make a mistake on an interview that you could have avoided, what is the worst that could happen? Well you can obviously try and interview again with that firm. The problem is you can probably do that in like 2 years. Now most firms don’t let you re-interview the next month. They figure that your skills haven’t changed that much so why would you be any better? So most firms have a formal or informal policy to re-interview you and reconsider you 2 years later. Often times after going to a graduate or business school and other times just letting 2 years pass by with work experience and then maybe you can have another shot.

It’s a long time to wait and obviously it’s not something you’re interested in doing. Here is what I suggest, if you’re really serious about case interviews and trying to go for it I think you ought to just go for it. Now if you seriously go for it and you go for it now because frankly 2 years is a long time to wait to get a second shot at it, it’s better to just get it right the first time around and save yourself the hassle and time delay.

I’m going to shift gears a bit and discuss about what is the value of a consulting job offer? I want you to think about this because of some important reasons that I’ll talk about in a second. Sort of jokingly here is an estimation question for you, a little pop quiz. What is the cumulative income you would estimate of a typical consultant in their typical career?

Now that’s a joke and I’m not going to actually ask you to do it. I’ll do a simplified version because I can’t resist. In my experience, consultants usually work for 2 to 4 years and that tends to be the promotion cycle for most firms. So I’ll take the average of 3 years and if you’re coming out of undergrad that is a $75,000 a year job and if you’re coming out of business school or have a PhD program it is potentially up to $200,000 in your first year when you include all the benefits and job relocation and signing bonuses, etc. So over a 3 year span that is easily $250,000 up to close to three quarters of a million dollars and so a very substantial sum of money for what a career in consulting can be worth for the typical consultant.

There are also a lot of non-financial benefits. Being a consultant opens a lot of doors to careers that are really very difficult to access without going through consulting first. I can certainly attest to that and I’ve done a lot of things later in my career that really when I trace it all back it started from having the McKinsey stamp of approval and doing so well at McKinsey that it made it possible for me to get other jobs and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise gotten access to.

What is all that worth? What is a reasonable investment to make in mastering that last 10%, that 10% that differentiates the people that almost get offers versus those who do get offers? What is that worth? Is it worth 2% of the total income you can generate in a career in consulting, which would work out to about $12,000? You can certainly make that argument or is it worth only 1% of your total income over that 3 year span, $2,000 to $6,000?

Now it’s a little hard to say but even at 1% of your total potential income as an investment in your future and your future earnings that is still a 10,000% return on investment. It certainly beats the stock market.

Here is my big point, the last 10% between almost getting an offer and actually getting an offer is frankly worth a lot. I really can’t put a price tag on that for you but I do know what it was worth for me and it was really…frankly it was priceless. My career took a completely different trajectory after those offers versus before and that trajectory continues to this day, it really does.

But only you can decide what the value of this offer would be for you. What is the value of getting into this profession? What does it mean to you, both financially and non-financially?

What I would suggest is that the value of that offer is important. I would strongly suggest you take action right now. Resist the temptation to procrastinate and delay for the very simple reason that when you get interviews in consulting they come on extremely short notice. You don’t get a lot of time to prepare. I cannot tell you how many emails I get from candidates who say I applied to McKinsey and BCG and I got interviews. I wasn’t expecting to and oh my god they’re in 6 days! I just heard about a case only yesterday.

It’s pretty tough to master case interviews in 6 days. It took me when I went through it and I had none of the benefit of the information that I provided to you here, it took me frankly 1 ½ years. I interviewed for internships the year before and I started 6 months before that and so in total it took me 1 ½ years to get good at case interviews without a lot of outside resources.

The reality is when you get interviews they come extremely quickly, you don’t have a lot of time and if you wait until you get the interview often times you don’t have enough time to take this information and put it to good use and internalize your habits. It takes some time for those habits to gel and mature within your brain.

If you’re serious about doing well in case interviews and serious about getting into consulting I really recommend this as a must have resource. This Look Over My Shoulder Program seriously is a must have resource and I even further argue that it is a must have now resource because you just don’t know when, you get those interviews. They happen very, very fast and quickly.

Let me wrap this up. What does this thing cost? I’m sure you’re wondering that and let me talk about what the investment really is.  As I mentioned before, I can very easily make the case that it’s worth $3,000 or more, which is a very small percentage of the total income you can receive by getting an offer in consulting. Quite honestly, I would not feel at all shy about asking for that amount of money and feeling it is indeed worth it.

When I read my emails from folks getting offers from McKinsey, Bain, BCG, boutique firms in 3 or 4 major cities around the world, in South America, Africa, parts of Europe Eastern and Western and certainly in the United States as well as in Asia, clearly my stuff works. People are getting into new careers and the emails I get are extremely grateful and why wouldn’t they be, they’re getting these new job offers that pay up to $200,000. Clearly a small investment like $3,000 is not a big deal to ask for and justify.

But this program doesn’t cost $3,000 and doesn’t even cost $2,000 because I want to make sure this information is as widely accessible as possible while still being fair to myself and to really put a value on the information so that you’ll take it seriously. Which I also think is an important part of this process. It’s not even $1,000 and to really make a long story short, this program, The Look Over My Shoulder Program is not even $500.

It’s only $297, which I think you’ll agree in comparison to the income potential and future earnings is very, very modest. It’s not even a percent of the total income and I doubt it is even 10 bases points and it’s a very small percentage of the overall.

I recognize there are some folks here who are students and I know what it was like to be a student. If $297 for whatever reason is difficult for you to afford right now, you can make 4 payments of $87 a month and I’m happy to spread that out to make it a little easier for you to digest because I do want it to get into the hands of people who are serious about it and don’t want cash flow to be a constraint if it happens to be in your particular situation.

Here is my guarantee on this program. Try my Look Over The Shoulder Program for 30 days with absolutely no risk. If you don’t find at least 5 major mistakes that you would have otherwise made had you not listened to the program and read the notes, had you not found 5 “aha” type moments where you’re like gee I almost screwed that one up or I would have screwed that up had I not learned about this particular problem, then do the following.

Just send the material back or actually just let me know and I’ll refund your entire investment and you can keep the materials for free if it really wasn’t worth your effort, time and money. I’ll do it with no questions asked. I’m very serious about that. My philosophy in business is to deliver phenomenal value and charge what I consider a fair price. If for some reason you and I disagree on the value then let’s make the money go away and you can get an entire refund on your investment.

Obviously, I’m opening myself up to some abuse here but I do generally trust that the folks who go into consulting and some of the folks I’ve met over email are very sincere with very high integrity and that you’ll be fair in this whole deal. I recognize there are some folks who aren’t and I’m willing to take that risk.

So that investment of $297 or 4 payments spread out over 4 months, 30 days to try it out with no risk and if you didn’t get 5 major insights that would have otherwise cost you a job offer, send it back and just let me know. You can keep the whole thing for free and I’ll refund your money with seriously no questions asked. I’m just hoping you’ll be honest and be fair with me back.

I hope you’ll agree that that’s more than reasonable. It is certainly my goal to make it more than reasonable. If you would like to take the next step and you’re very serious about consulting here is what you need to do.

It’s very simple just click here. After you click you’ll see an offer acceptance form that asks for your contact information, your billing information and it takes about a minute to fill that form out. Then you hit Submit and you are instantly able to download the materials in the Look Over My Shoulder Program and use it anywhere in the world.

So there are no shipping delays and if you need it now you get it like literally right now. I do recognize that some people get it last minute and so it is available immediately if you need it that fast. By the way, as a side technical note, the program consists of several MP3 audio files and Adobe Acrobat PDF files and those are the 2 most common file formats for audio information as well as text information. So you can probably listen to and read the transcripts on pretty much any computer anywhere in the world. It is extremely compatible and so no worries for any kind of technical limitations or no worries about firewalls or your governments censoring information, which ironically actually has been a problem for people in certain countries. You get access to everything fairly easily.

Take the next step and all you have to do is click here. I hope you’ll do so and enjoy the materials I’ve prepared for you. Again, I do think sincerely it is a very useful, must have and a must have now resource.

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