Conventional People Need Not Apply!
Conventional case study answers are not going to make you stand out of the crowd when completing a case study interview. So how do you develop consultancy impact?
This article was inspired from our most recent MBA Case Study Interview Programme, designed to enhance interpersonal & analytical impact. It highlights some of the most common areas missed by top MBAs in case interviews.
Regardless of industry (management consultancy, finance/insurance, petrochemical) your client facing interaction with the interviewer and case study materials will determine how excited they are to hire you.
Here are eight ways to ignite the interviewers interest in you:
The temptation is to plunge into reading the case materials. Instead stand back and prioritise where you are going to focus your limited time.
Don’t read the pack of materials in the order that it was presented to you. Locate key information such as: What’s the financial story? Who are the protagonists? What are the urgent and important issues facing the business? What are the biggest blocks to success within and outside of the company?
Take a moment to ground yourself in the questions that are going to address the objective set to you by your interviewer before you read anything. Don’t lose sight of why you are reading & processing the case information – take a moment to ground yourself.
Search For Insight Not More Data
It is very easy to latch onto the first solution that presents itself to you but this can lead to superficial or reactive recommendations. You have to manage the anxiety that is created by a lack of familiarity and high levels of ambiguity. Think bigger and at a broader level.
Your role as a consultant is to consider what degree of transformation can be achieved at a systemic level. This requires you to hold a view of the bigger picture and the context that the case is set within to generate non-conventional options.
Frameworks and models are great ways to structure the data, understand where the gaps are and gain insight. They don’t have to be complex they just need to work when you are in the interview hot seat. That means you need to have thoroughly learnt how to apply them!
As you read or collect more data consider how the information fits into PESTLE, SWOT, Five Forces or other frameworks relevant to the type of case you are presented with to help you.
More information is provided on the range of case study interviews in our webinar as well as opportunities to practice in our live case interviews.
Vision & Impact – Hooks For Success
Often MBAs under pressure show a lack of the vision or inability to see the short, medium and long-term results of their proposed changes.
It is helpful to remember you are projecting a story about what you understand has been occurring and where, with your ideas, the organisation will go in the future.
The way you package the data and your recommendations will determine your impact. Your recommendations will be more powerful if you put information together in a concise way that builds and tells a story.
However this is not a fictional story. Impact comes from linking key data points, to your interpretation and how the needs of the business will be addressed. There will always be risks to the implementation of your ideas so how are you going to inoculate against them?
Finally the way you personally deliver the story with conviction, poise and confidence plays a vital role in convincing the interviewer that you should be listened to.
There are plenty of U tube clips on leadership storytelling to help you, here is a useful example.
Keep Your Shape Under Pressure
Will you crack? Under pressure people commonly become rigid or defensive rather than remaining open to new information.
The quality of your questions and general interaction with the interviewer needs to project confidence, poise, curiosity & resilience under their challenging cross-examination.
By explaining what assumptions your ideas are built upon it allows you to change your conclusions if new data contradicts your previous assumptions. Equally, if your assumptions remain sound then you don’t need to change your tune just because they disagree with you!
Global Commercial Awareness
The ability to bridge the case study issues to current global trends affecting customers and market decisions, such as the powerful economic emergence of developing countries, aging European population, Greece’s risk of leaving the EU, etc. is commonly neglected.
Partner level interviews typically involve discussions about what has interested you in the news. This is because they recognize new business is forged from spotting opportunities. So it pays for you to link your business recommendations to the fluctuations of the wider market.
Beware the trap that international MBAs often fall into where they relate the business in the case to their own previous experience or local country culture. Whilst this can be effective IF the business has a solid justification for moving into your familiar market it is often the sign of a student with restricted thinking.
Forget People At Your Peril
Underneath it all people will need to create and sustain any changes you propose. Case studies are not just about financial trend data or operational task lists. They involve uniting people to a common purpose and this requires more than a command and control approach to managing people.
Where is the leadership courage for your change going to come from?
Is there the emotional energy to start and sustain the change?
Will the burning platform and competitor threats drive the business’ most talented people away?
Why would anyone in the company want to stay and go through the tough times that may be necessary to repurpose the organisation?
What would make you want to commit to the project if you were part of the business?
The Triple Bottom Line
Executives look at the bottom line impact not the amount of effort invested. Ensure you quantify and qualify your actual or potential impact in actual financial amounts and specific actions.
Vague recommendations and imprecise impact will not create strong impressions. Saying something like:
“You asked me to review opportunities to increase the profitability of the company. I have three recommendations for you which will generate new profits of £3.5m over 18 months and year on year cost savings of £1.5 million. Let me walk you through my assumptions and suggested options.”
Nothing Beats Live Practice
Job opportunities are wasted if you are under prepared. No amount of book-based practice will help you to cope with the emotional pressure created by a live case interview followed by a Partner level interview.
We provide experienced case study interviewers with MBA and managerial experience to help you project executive impact through demonstrating:
Contact us now to arrange a one-on-one practice interview with our qualified Chartered Occupational Psychologist experts.
For more information about how to break out from mediocrity and revolutionise your job search approach download The Elite MBA CV: Executive Impact free in the Premium Books section of Bookboon.com
Find more tips about CV writing in this blog A New Year, A New Career, A New CV.
About The Author
Peter Fennah is a very approachable Accredited Executive Coach (APECS), Chartered & Registered Occupational Psychologist, and former Careers Director for a top global business school. As a director of an international leadership & career development consultancy (www.careersynergy.com) he provides regular thought leadership webinars on navigating career and leadership transitions.