Does consulting really give the toughest interviews?

The Street’s Seth Fiegerman had an interesting article today about companies and their tough interview questions. Using Glassdoor’s employee reviews, he ranked the top ten toughest and I have to say, I found the results rather surprising.

Seeing the countless brainteaser and "make a market on" questions asked here has made me assume that Prop Shops and Exotic desks would take the cake in that regard but only one Prop firm made the list and not even a single bank made the top ten. What did make it though are four consulting firms, with McKinsey & Co. snatching the #1 spot.

Consultants, were your interviews really that grueling? I always knew they were tough but I really didn't expect them to beat Jane Street and their Rain Man-esque math questions. Then again, brainteasers aren’t necessarily harder than case studies so there you go.

Also surprised that IB is a no-show, outside of fit questions banking interviews aren't exactly babytown frolics so there's got to be something missing here.

Anyway, here’s the list for you to peruse, thrash, oppose, or throw nanners at.

Enjoy your weekend WSO.

10. BP difficulty rating: 3.5

9. Red ventures difficulty rating: 3.5

8. A.T. Kearney difficulty rating: 3.5

7. Teach for America difficulty rating: 3.5

6. Palantir Technologies difficulty rating: 3.5

5. Boston Consulting Group difficulty rating: 3.6

4. Bain & Co. difficulty rating: 3.6

3. Cree difficulty rating: 3.7

2. Jane Street Capital difficulty rating: 3.7

1. McKinsey & Co. difficulty rating: 3.9

Comments (29)

 
Jul 8, 2011 - 10:04pm

Yes they are the hardest and here's why:

You need a certain "base level" of intelligence, instinct, and wit to be successful at a consulting interview. You may have really good grades and good SAT scores, but those don't mean that you will have the abilities previously listed. Assuming you have these abilities already, you need to layer on strong preparation and discipline. However, even then a case interview may just be immensely difficult for you personally to solve, while being of medium difficulty for another candidate.

With a lot of other industries such as banking, preparation is key. While intelligence is also a factor, you can literally drill in all of the questions on a list and you increase your chances of getting an offer dramatically. Memorization is the key to success here, at least in getting an offer. You can't memorize a case.

 
Jul 8, 2011 - 10:11pm

NOTE: my comments are for entry level jobs

I'm sorry, but I think that this is a selective error in this list. The people who get interviews at say a Jane Street or what have you are already pretty damn smart. MBB, however, interviews a ton of people during the first round -- and many of them aren't prepared / aren't mentally with it / have no idea what's going on. Therefore, you're going to get a ton of people come on places like Glassdoor and complain about how tough the interview with MBB was.

Also, a lot of these interviews are from people trying to get internships. MBB will interview a tooooon of people for internships, but the number of actual slots available is relatively small. Therefore, you get a ton of people rating the interview as "difficult" just because they didn't get an offer (which means it MUST be difficult)

I've had interviews from MBB, Jane Street / a bunch of quant prop shops, exotic trading BBs, and hell, even Teach For America -- and let me tell you, it's not even close in terms of difficulty:

  1. Jane Street / quant shops like it
    .
  2. Trading at BBs (top desks)
    .
    .
    .
    .
    2(a) Trading at BBs in general
  3. MBB
    .
    .
    .
  4. TFA
 
Jul 8, 2011 - 10:57pm

Well I could tell you that Jane Street use to be a client of mine. They are not as bright as you think they are considering I had to bail the same guy out at that firm TWICE from losing more money than you would make in 4 years in ibanking.

The one who does not fall, does not stand up
 
Jul 8, 2011 - 11:19pm

ProdigyOfZen:
Well I could tell you that Jane Street use to be a client of mine. They are not as bright as you think they are considering I had to bail the same guy out at that firm TWICE from losing more money than you would make in 4 years in ibanking.

This may be true, but that doesn't take away from the fact that their interviews are pretty ridiculous and they're pretty selective in who they choose in the first place

 
Jul 8, 2011 - 11:54pm

yourdreamtheater:
ProdigyOfZen:
Well I could tell you that Jane Street use to be a client of mine. They are not as bright as you think they are considering I had to bail the same guy out at that firm TWICE from losing more money than you would make in 4 years in ibanking.

This may be true, but that doesn't take away from the fact that their interviews are pretty ridiculous and they're pretty selective in who they choose in the first place

I am about 90% sure I would have absolutely no problem crushing a Mckinsey interview.

The one who does not fall, does not stand up
 
Jul 8, 2011 - 10:57pm

Consulting in total bullshit. I never understand why people pay scam artists to make power point presentations and tell them what they are supposed to do. (They should already know what they are supposed to do, that's what they get paid for).

Someone said it perfectly: Consultants are hacks who use PP to make the most bleedingly obvious statements and get paid for it. They never create any value.

The interviewers are probably focused on BSing ability and nothing else. They hire Consultants only from elite colleges and Business Schools to hide behind the pedigree, without which they would be useless.

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 12:11pm

JamesHetfield:
Consulting in total bullshit. I never understand why people pay scam artists to make power point presentations and tell them what they are supposed to do. (They should already know what they are supposed to do, that's what they get paid for).

Someone said it perfectly: Consultants are hacks who use PP to make the most bleedingly obvious statements and get paid for it. They never create any value.

The interviewers are probably focused on BSing ability and nothing else. They hire Consultants only from elite colleges and Business Schools to hide behind the pedigree, without which they would be useless.

Anybody can learn models and do math, not everybody can figure out something they've never seen before on the fly- while talking their way into James' girlfriend's pants U MAD?

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 1:30pm

expenseaccounts:
JamesHetfield:
Consulting in total bullshit. I never understand why people pay scam artists to make power point presentations and tell them what they are supposed to do. (They should already know what they are supposed to do, that's what they get paid for).

Someone said it perfectly: Consultants are hacks who use PP to make the most bleedingly obvious statements and get paid for it. They never create any value.

The interviewers are probably focused on BSing ability and nothing else. They hire Consultants only from elite colleges and Business Schools to hide behind the pedigree, without which they would be useless.

Anybody can learn models and do math, not everybody can figure out something they've never seen before on the fly- while talking their way into James' girlfriend's pants U MAD?

Roflcopter

 
Jul 8, 2011 - 11:06pm

Hetfield I can agree with what you wrote above.

I never understood what a 25 year old kid from Harvard can bring to the executives of a company that has been around for 50 years and they have been in that company for at least half the time.

The one who does not fall, does not stand up
 
Jul 8, 2011 - 11:50pm

I would guess that less than 1% of McKinsey consultants could pass Jane Street's interview process. Probably 10% of Jane Streeters would get hired at McKinsey if they interviewed.

The difference is an order of magnitude.

In general glassdoor sucks, its data is pretty unreliable. Also they are not distinguishing between roles: tech vs research vs trading interviews.

 
Jul 8, 2011 - 11:55pm

Jane St is definitely tougher to get into than MBB.
But I don't think this applies to other prop... SIG and a couple others were much easier

I agree with the above about MBB interviewing everyone for first rounds ... I interviewed with all 3 and the first rounds were not too bad

Bain had a tough, structured second round of 3 specific interviews, testing creativity, math skills, and case logical deduction. Only in retrospect did I realize that each one was designed to look for one specific skill.

McKinsey's on the other hand, had one case and one market sizing. The case was straightforward although my interviewer was a douche who kept disagreeing even with my right answer, just to see what I would do (and that eventually screwed me just like he planned)
But if you include the initial problem solving test that weeded out a lot of people, it is definitely really tough (I think I passed with a score of like 17/25 iirc.

 
Best Response
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:28am

MBB tops tough interviews list (Originally Posted: 07/17/2011)

Greetings Monkeys,

I thought some of you would find this article interesting: http://www.fins.com/Finance/Articles/SB130826852769924133/The-Toughest-…

it provides a list of the top 20 toughest places to interview. MBB are all top 5, and Jane Street and Bridgewater are other WSO-related notables on the list... I think most of us have heard stories about Jane Street's interviews, so that adds some credibility to the list in my mind.

Interesting to see the lack of banks and PE firms and the high concentration of consultancies and tech companies. My thoughts would be just that MBB etc. have LONGER interviews than banks/pe/hfs, not necessarily harder.

-IP

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 12:08am

qweretyq:
Jane St is definitely tougher to get into than MBB.
But I don't think this applies to other prop... SIG and a couple others were much easier

I agree with the above about MBB interviewing everyone for first rounds ... I interviewed with all 3 and the first rounds were not too bad

Bain had a tough, structured second round of 3 specific interviews, testing creativity, math skills, and case logical deduction. Only in retrospect did I realize that each one was designed to look for one specific skill.

McKinsey's on the other hand, had one case and one market sizing. The case was straightforward although my interviewer was a douche who kept disagreeing even with my right answer, just to see what I would do (and that eventually screwed me just like he planned)
But if you include the initial problem solving test that weeded out a lot of people, it is definitely really tough (I think I passed with a score of like 17/25 iirc.

Did you go through the whole process? Jane Street and SIG have very similar interviews, though Jane Street's has more rounds and is tougher overall. Still, SIG's interviews get progressively harder.

 
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:29am

I've sat through consulting (not MBB, something on the next tier) interviews and banking interviews, I personally think banking interviews are much easier. After a while, all the technical questions are more or less the same for banking, nothing will surprise you if you went through BIWS's interview guide.

Consulting cases are pretty random, you can practice as many cases as you want with the vault guide, but you'll likely have to think on the spot frequently during the real interview.

 
Nov 7, 2013 - 3:30am

I really don't see how some of the highly technical algo type stuff made it on the list. Hell, even some of the bond and volatility math questions were a lot harder, for me, than case study type stuff.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
 
Jul 9, 2011 - 12:27am

Nah you got me.
Jane st I got out early - but from the questions I see posted + more rounds it seems very difficult.
SIG I passed the first round, in which they also asked about activities on resume (JS didn't seem to care). Second round was also not too bad, but I didn't pass

I got through two other prop firms and got offers from both of them.

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 1:56pm

eokpar02:
Finance interviews outside Jane Street and DE Shaw are a breeze. The consulting interviews I had (BCG, McKinsey, Novantas, Cambridge Associates, The Exeter Group, and a few others) were fairly difficult. A lot of times the interviewers were purposely mean and reticent to give me information.

Second this, I think the attitude of interviewers in a lot of consulting interviews is vastly different than the way bankers and their ilk approach interviews.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
 
Jul 9, 2011 - 2:02pm

happypantsmcgee:
eokpar02:
Finance interviews outside Jane Street and DE Shaw are a breeze. The consulting interviews I had (BCG, McKinsey, Novantas, Cambridge Associates, The Exeter Group, and a few others) were fairly difficult. A lot of times the interviewers were purposely mean and reticent to give me information.

Second this, I think the attitude of interviewers in a lot of consulting interviews is vastly different than the way bankers and their ilk approach interviews.

I didn't get a single consulting offer after having 10+ plus interviews with big consulting firms and smaller Boston ones. A lot of the interviews required a pretty advanced knowledge of statistics and current events. I think consulting beats the pants off IB but I would much rather prefer working for a tech/ trading firm since its a tad bit more cerebral.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment. -Styles P
 
Jul 9, 2011 - 4:09pm

eokpar02:
Finance interviews outside Jane Street and DE Shaw are a breeze. The consulting interviews I had (BCG, McKinsey, Novantas, Cambridge Associates, The Exeter Group, and a few others) were fairly difficult. A lot of times the interviewers were purposely mean and reticent to give me information.

I nailed all the questions for a JSC interview and still didn't get the offer. That's how tough it is. No joke.

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 4:11pm

BB interviews are fairly easy unless you're interviewing for an exotics trading or quant trading role.

MBB are definitely tough, especially if you're trying to get it out of undergrad since there are relatively few spots. But getting MBB from a top business school isn't that bad since they hire TONS of MBA's.

Among finance firms, the toughest are de shaw, citadel, jane street. I don't think any others really come close.

 
Jul 9, 2011 - 5:01pm

Having interviewed in all of these areas and gotten offers in most, out of undergrad:

Jane Street/ Top quant shops>>>Solid buyside/ hf > Trading > MBB >> IB

Just like all the lists where banking doesn't rank as a high paying profession, this list is probably skewed by the fact that the makers had 0 experience with quant interviews - not easy to find ppl who did/ got through these.

MBB interviews aren't that tough, you need good business sense, creativity, and practice. Practice is very key here, as there is definitely a technique to doing consulting cases (you have to master the conversational nature). Once you master it though, the interviews are actually fun and can be a little b.s.ish. The sad part is that from what i've seen its at about the same level of rigor consultants often apply to real problems

The potential for hard brain teasers make trading interviews riskier. There's always the risk that you'll just miss the critical insight/trick and you're screwed.

The guarantee of hard brainteasers and quant problems makes the prop shops toughest of all

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