Candidate: Based on our analysis of the data at hand, it seems like that our clothing retail store in New York is not producing sufficient revenue because the New York market is currently not robust and is predicted to not be robust for the next 10 years. Therefore, my recommendation to you is that we close our retail store in New York and focus our energy on the three other revenue-generating retail stores in New Jersey.
Interviewer: OK, I hear what you’re saying, but let me tell you how you are wrong. As you know, New York is the greatest metropolis in the world with a huge population base that is significantly more than New Jersey. Therefore, I believe we should keep our store in New York for that reason alone. Also, that particular store in New York is our very first store that we opened and saw our business grow through the years. As the owner and founder, I’m reluctant to close that store.
Here is a common situation in case interviews when the interviewer challenges your final recommendation that you are giving him. Although this does not happen in every case interview, it is possible that the interviewer will challenge you, especially in the second or third round of interviews.
So what should you do in this situation? Should you submit to the interviewer’s challenge, acknowledge that you were wrong and change your recommendation? Or should you stand your ground and be unfazed by the challenge that the interviewer throws at you?
Before we answer that question, you have to understand what is the interviewer’s mindset is when challenging you. Obviously the interviewer will challenge you if your recommendation does not have any factual basis and is not a logical conclusion of the case that you’ve done together so far. But many times, even when your final recommendation is very logical, factually based and backed by data, the interviewer will still challenge you in this what I call “the ultimate consultant test”. The interviewer wants to see that if she hires you as a management consultant, whether you have the guts to stand your ground when a client disagrees with your solution to the problem. And this is very important because when a Fortune 500 client is hiring Mckinsey for a two million dollar project for 12 months, the client really wants a third party perspective on what the company should do moving forward. So if as a management consultant, you easily submit to whatever challenges the client gives you, then there is really no point in hiring you as a consultant at all. And the reality is that a good consultant is very objective and base his entire analysis and recommendation on facts and data and is very adamant on standing by what he said when the client challenges him.
So how should you apply this information in your case Interview to respond to a challenge thrown your way by the interviewer? The answer is that you need to take a two step approach.
Look back on the details of the interviewers challenge and whether there are any flaws in the facts and the data behind your final recommendation.
When the specifics of the interviewers challenge are right on target and there are significant flaws in the facts that you base your recommendation upon, then you should definitely acknowledge that you have made an error in your recommendations for the client and propose the new corrected recommendation.
When the interviewer’s concerns cannot challenge your facts and data, while your analysis were very MECE and structured and that your final recommendation was indeed very robust based on significant facts and data, then you should not alter your original recommendation and that you should stand your ground in the what you have proposes before.
In this situation, this is how we recommend you respond to the interviewer’s challenge: “I appreciate the feedback and understand your concern. I understand your points that New York is a metropolis with a huge population base and that this store is very dear to our owner because of its history. However based on the facts that we have analyzed during the case, It is clear that the huge population base will not drive revenue to our store because of the declining market in New York in general, and that this particular clothing store is dragging our profits down from the other three stores. Therefore, my recommendation is still to close this clothing store in New York for the best interest of the company overall.”
If you stated your response this way, you will stand your ground on your original recommendation without disrespecting the interviewer’s opinion, having acknowledged the interviewer’s input.
Notice that the interviewer wants to see if you have the guts to be a management consultant and to stand your ground. And if you do have the facts to back up your recommendation but you chose to submit to the interviewer’s challenge and changed your original proposal, that might actually be a knock against your performance and could be the reason that you did not get the final offer.
Next time when the interviewer challenges you during a case interview, now you know what to do.