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Unprepared Interviewer

#1 Unprepared Interviewer
13/07/2011 16:26


A few weeks ago, I attended a phone interview with one of the top consulting firms. Initially, it was meant to be a face to face but had to be done by phone because the consultant was on the way to the airport and was rushing off to board a flight. As the phone reception was really bad, it was almost impossible to hear the interviewer and convey my messages appropriately. As such, it was a struggle to complete the case interview.

As a result of that, HR had agreed to push me on to a repeat round 1 interview, which happened a few days ago, after some cancellations on their side due to busy schedules.

The interview started off with some fit questions and then we proceeded to a case where I was told that a Japanese comic company is looking at expanding their business to country M and that they were looking at the market size. My task was to determine how to improve the market size and market share.

I then asked the interviewer some clarifying questions as to whether the company had already decided on the expansion and if they have completed evaluations on whether this move was indeed feasible. I then explained that the reason for me asking is due to the fact that there would be difficult to expand the market share and size if there was no market for the product to start with.

The interviewer then agreed with me and explained that the question was incomplete and hence made up something on the spot saying that the company has identified 3 countries and hence, I had to identify if Malaysia is a good place to expand to.

I then probed a little further in the effort to obtain more information from him about the industry, their products, the competition etc in order for me to analyze. However, the interviewer told me that he did not know much about the industry and only found out about my interview question on that day and prior to the interview all he did was go down to Kinokuniya bookstore to look at the spread of comics they had on sale. As a result, he asked me to make assumptions on my own.

I of course made a few deductions and gave him assumptions followed by facts to tell him the reasons why I made that assumption. Towards the end, I volunteered to perform a guesstimate in order to size the market in the country. During this process, I conveyed my thoughts verbally and ran him through each and every stage and method I was using to finally get my final figure, upon which I realized the answer was a little too unrealistic and hence went back again to my work and re-assessed the source of the problem. I identified it quickly and made necessary corrections to it and came up with my final answer.

The interviewer then asked me if I could verify my number and hence I verified it against the local GDP and explained to him why I thought the value was correct. He then acknowledged and we proceeded to the final part of the case interview where I came up with marketing strategies to increase market size and share in the country.

At the very end of the interview, I asked him for feedback and he told me that it was a very interesting case study, a very long one in fact as I managed to exhaust and cover just about every factor that had to be taken into consideration for the analysis. He commented that I even came up with marketing strategies to breach into non-existent or weak markets in the country. However, he advised me to put things into one word or he would think that I was unorganized if I was unable to do so. I did not quite understand what he was trying to say but he did not explain further when asked.

I had a thought about it later on and recalled how he asked me prior to the case interview, as to how I would communicate and convey messages to people who are not in my field. For example, if I am an engineer and I had to give a presentation to people from the sales department, how would I convey the message to them and make them understand?

I then explained that based on past experiences, I would put things in a plain and simple way without using terminologies and at the same time give examples to help the audience further understand the message I am trying to convey. He commended me on my approach upon giving my answer.

Today, I received a call from the consultant telling me that I did not get the job because I did not put things in one word and I spoke my thoughts when I was doing my market sizing part of the interview. He would have preferred me to work on the solution on my own and just given him the final figure.

This of course was a shock to me as every single model interview video or article I've seen or read out there was telling me the importance of speaking my thoughts aloud during a case interview and especially when performing a market sizing task as it the importance was not entirely in getting the right figures but rather showing the interviewer my thought process and ultimately showing them that I can think in a well structured manner.

Secondly, I treated my interviewer as a client and as such, I tried to explain things and run through the various points with the aim of probing more information which could help me with my analysis as well as allowing him to fully understand my approach if he were to be a layman.

Honestly, I am very confused with the reasons that have been provided to me by the consultant. If there are any of you out there who could provide an explanation or a solution to this problem, please respond. Thanks in advance!

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#2 RE: Unprepared Interviewer
13/07/2011 16:47

Anon66 to jho (#1)

Some honest feedback:

- At any interaction with a consultant (at interview, in CV, in cover letter, in a career forum), make your point in a short, sharp way. Consider bullet points. This post is too long, unstructured, and unhelpful;

- It is normal for scenarios to be incomplete and for you to be asked to make assumptions. Consultants are testing your thought process and don't add value by perfecting case studies;

- Strongly recommend you do not ask for feedback whilst still in an interview. In my first interview in consulting I did this and it helped get me dinghied

I am sorry to say, but I suspect that you were too long-winded and a little unstructured. That is from reading between the lines and looking at your post below.

Next time:

- Draw out a structure when approaching a case to demonstrate you are structured - then stick to it;

- Aim for a maximum of three bullet points when answering questions or writing. If you need to convey ground, structure your thoughts into maximum three areas with three bullet points each;

- Get some practice interview experience

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#3 RE: Unprepared Interviewer
13/07/2011 17:10

jho to Anon66 (#2)

Hi there,

Understood. I actually did come up with a framework with bullet points and even pie charts to address the various issues briefly. Sorry the post above did not reflect on that. Wanted to give a fairly detailed account of what happened during the interview.

What I do not understand is why the consultant preferred that I worked out my guesstimate alone and only gave him the final answer.

Thanks for your feedback!

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