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What Happens Behind Closed Doors after an Interview Is Over

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Here is a composite of a discussion in which candidates are evaluated, based on several actual post-interview evaluation sessions:

Consultants have gathered at the end of a day of interviewing undergraduates to decide who will receive job offers at their firm. Out of ten candidates, the group must choose two. There are six people in the room: Patty, the administrative head of recruiting; Troy, the associate who is leading analyst recruiting efforts for the year; Anna, a senior vice president; Teresa, an associate; Steve, an associate; Nigel, an analyst; and William, an analyst.

Each recruiter has ranked their choices from 1 (high) to 10 (low) and has marked these scores on a whiteboard at the front of the room. Total scores have been tallied for each candidate, which has led to an immediate conclusion: There are four clear leading candidates, and the rest will be ruled out. In this excerpt, the group's discussion therefore centers around the top four candidates: Julia, Larry, Bruce, and Vince.

Troy, team leader: Okay, everyone, we have to pick our top two candidates, and we'll also pick two wait-list candidates-the third and fourth best candidates on our list. We'll tell them that they've been placed on a wait list. For people who we give offers to, we'll encourage them to get back to us within two weeks and at least let us know what's going on.

What we should probably do first is look down the rows at the scores that candidates have received and see if there any patterns, like Is and 2s. We've certainly got a row of Is here with Julia.

Anna, vice president: She was awesome. And you know what-I think she would take our offer.

Steve, associate: I'm not so sure about that. I think she has an offer at [ABC Consulting Firm] or she'll have one soon and that she's pretty positive on them.

Anna, vice president: I think she'll take our offer. 1 did a "fit" interview with her, and either she's an excellent liar about what she's really looking for, or else she's going to take our offer. I asked her to explain what she thought were the differences between us and other companies and she was really able to explain why she thought our approach fit her.

Troy, team leader: Building on that, she asked me the type of questions that indicated that she was very seriously considering us. My gut feeling is that she likes us as a firm, but she's just wondering where people can go after they leave our firm, for example, how many of our analysts get into leading business schools.

Patty, recruiting coordinator: I would have to agree that she likes us a lot. She actually had an offer with another firm that exploded last week, and she put them off and gave up the offer in order to wait and see whether she would get a final round with us.

Anna, vice president: She also declined her offer with [XYZ Consulting Firm].

Troy, team leader: I think we're in violent agreement.

Anna, vice-president: Yes. I think we should make Julia an offer.

Troy, team leader: Okay, let's move on to Larry. Steve, what did you think about him?

Steve, associate: I gave Larry a lot of analysis to work on in my interview, and he was very good with that. But it's going to take him some time to get up to the point where he's fully client-ready. Not that he would explode there, but I think his style is just not one where he seems enthusiastic and ready to work with clients. He seems like he would say "I can do this analysis myself" rather than working with a team well.

Anna, vice president: I have a different perspective on Larry's client-readiness. I think if you gave him something to do with a client team, he would bring it back dead-he would accomplish it. But I'm not sure he would do it in a way that everyone would think is a "win-win" style.

I think his intensity comes from his military background and his familiarity with authority and orders. You really would have to coach him-he can't just go out there and launch a mission at a client site.

Teresa, associate: That's interesting. I had Larry right after you and he made the point that you can't, by virtue of who you are and your rank, expect things of people. He really understood that issue.

William, analyst: I think the thing about his intensity is that it's really improvable through coaching. He's very open, and he listens to feedback.

Steve, associate: What's your thought of how Larry thinks on the fly? Because everything I asked, it was sort of like "Hold on a sec," and he'd scribble something on his little pad. His answers were really good, but he kept using that approach on everything.

Teresa, associate: He did that with me too, and at first I was really concerned. But he did come back with exactly where I was headed, and I wonder if there's a little bit of a language issue, and that he needs to write things down in order to structure his thoughts. English isn't his first language.

Anna, vice president: I think he's a bit afraid of cases. Because when I said I wouldn't be giving him a case, he said "Oh, no cases" and looked rather relieved. I think that writing things down is just his way of handling it.

Troy, team leader: Well, to summarize everyone's comments, he sounds like he has good analytical skills and is potentially coachable on personality issues. Maybe we should put Larry on hold and move on to the next person to evaluate. Let's consider Bruce.

Steve, associate: I have hesitations about Bruce. He did two things that really bugged me. One, he wore those suspenders and that shirt. It would be as if a woman wore a skirt that was too short-you just don't do that, especially on a client site. And second, he walked into his case interview without bringing his notepad. There was no way he could take notes.

Troy, team leader: How did he end up doing?

Steve, associate: He did okay. Bruce is certainly very bright and tries really hard. He has a great presence. He's like the ultimate Xerox salesperson. The bottom line is that he is very intelligent; he did well on my case. We talked about how you would compare the brand equity of Colgate toothbrushes to that of Oral B toothbrushes, and he was able to apply past work experience. But in terms of his judgment, I'm not so sure. If those two incidents hadn't occurred, I would have ranked him much higher.

Nigel, analyst: Why don't we address your two issues, Steve? The suspenders-all right, that could have been a bad judgment call. But as for the notepad, Bruce could have forgotten one, and if you really wanted to, you could have given him a notepad.

William, analyst: I think that the headline for me with Bruce is, he's a little immature. And maybe the suspenders issues falls into that. I'm on your side, Nigel, in terms of the notepad-during my case, he was assertive to ask for paper, and so that's a nonissue as far as I'm concerned. But I felt a little uncomfortable talking to him, and it wasn't the way he dressed or anything, it was who he was. And that concerns me a little. I felt that Larry was more coachable.

Nigel, analyst: I think Bruce is more presentable. Thinking of my last couple of clients, I could see sending him to any part of the client organization, saying "Go talk to these people," "Go talk to those people," and 1 feel like he'd come back with the necessary information.

Anna, vice president: Did Jacob [another vice president who interviewed Bruce] leave any comments behind for us on Bruce before he left?

Troy, team leader: Jacob's comments on Bruce were, and I'll read them from his notes: "Extremely presentable, could lead the client through different situations." Maybe we should next discuss our third-ranking candidate based on these scores and then try to make some decisions.

Troy, team leader: Let's talk about Vince next.

Teresa, associate: I personally had a tough time deciding between Vince and Larry, making them two and three on my list after Bruce. I thought Vince had a very nice style, good analytical structured thinking. I gave him my Taco Bell case. He did a very good job in answering clearly. The only negative that I saw was that as he was going through the case he made a couple of assumptions, because he's foreign and isn't that familiar with Taco Bell, and he didn't validate these assumptions with me to ask if they were reasonable. But that was really my only negative on him.

Anna, vice president: The only reason why Vince ended up number three on my list was because I saw the Energizer Bunny-Larry-before him. In comparison, although I thought Vince was very solid and had a good fit and very client presentable, he was a little bit nervous. I'm not sure why. Vince was more reserved than Larry.

Troy, team leader: I thought the same thing. Vince got into a little bit of trouble on my case. He was nervous, and I think that's why he didn't structure his answer the way he would have been capable of. But I still think he was presentable and has had experience in which he has had to interact with clients.

Anna, vice president: He's done a lot of analysis, actually, in his prior work experience. And he's taken a lot of initiative.

Steve, associate: The one problem I had is that Vince's thought wasn't as strategic as I would have expected. His thought process and the rigor he put around the strategy aspects of my case were not strong. I thought he was very confident and had a very operational notion of how a business should be run, but I didn't see him thinking, "What would be the implication of this company action, and what would occur?"-strategic thinking didn't seem to come naturally to him. Vince got the answers, but I always had to push him on it. I asked him, "You have an organization that has a lot of brand loyalty from its customer base and you have a major competitor coming into the market. What are some of the issues you would face?" He got flustered and wasn't able to work through this issue. I think that I could put him in front of a client, but I would actually pick Bruce over him, except for those two issues I mentioned about him. I would drop Vince and take Bruce and Larry.

Patty, recruiting coordinator: What do we think the chances are of Bruce and Larry taking an offer from us?

Nigel, analyst: I don't know about Bruce. He seemed more focused on consulting, but I don't know what his other choices are. Larry seems to be talking to other firms, and he's definitely talking to investment banks, but I don't have an indication where he'll go.

William, analyst: Larry told me that he's been interviewing for six weeks, which tells me that either he doesn't like the offers he's been given, or he hasn't been given any good offers. And he repeatedly said he was getting tired of interviewing. So I think he's probably very "susceptible" to taking our offer.

Anna, vice president: I asked Larry what he was looking at, and he said investment banks and other consulting firms. My sense is that he has a bit more of a natural fit with an investment bank, in terms of the hierarchy thing.

Steve, associate: I sat next to Larry at lunch and asked him what he wanted to do with his future. And definitely investment banking was one part of the future and management consulting was another part of that future. He had a wide variety of ideas, including starting his own business. Bruce was more focused on this job and on being a consultant.

Troy, team leader: So, let's try to wrap up. Is there any consensus? We're going to take Julia from the very beginning of our discussion, but which one of these people-Bruce, Larry, and Vince-would you want to fill the other spot? Which one would you rather work with on a team?

Anna, vice president: Well, when it comes down to it, I compare Bruce and Larry and I think that style and forgetfulness are easy to coach. Running over a client is harder to coach. Steve, would you strongly object to us giving Bruce an offer?

Steve, associate: No, I think you guys have done a good job of making the case for Bruce. He's confident and self-assured and focused on consulting.

Troy, team leader: I guess it sounds like unless there's disagreement, we should make offers to Julie and Bruce and put Vince and Larry on the wait list. We'll divide up the calls and make them tonight.

*Names and certain details have been changed to protect privacy.
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