What Top Consulting Firms Get Wrong About Hiring

by Atta Tarki and Tino Sanandaji

Each year, around 185,000 MBA students graduate in the U.S. alone. A significant portion of these students spend more than 100 hours each preparing for so-called case interviews — the favored evaluation method of elite consulting firms such as McKinsey, in which candidates are presented with a business problem and asked to talk through how they would solve the problem. This is a colossal waste of time. Case interviews are a terrible evaluation method; it’s time to end their use in hiring.As former consultants who both prepped and administered case-based interviews, it’s painful for us to admit this truth. Case interviews have long been part of the ritualistic hiring process of elite consulting firms. Stressful and intimidating, they have a patina of rigor and gravitas. If you make it through, you are truly one of the chosen few: Many top-tier consulting firms have acceptance rates lower than Ivy League colleges. As a result, many hiring managers, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups, have also adopted the case method when evaluating new hires, particularly for junior roles, as they try to capture some of that “McKinsey mystique.”

There’s just one problem. Case interviews are not a reliable way of predicting job performance. When ECA was founded 10 years ago, we wanted to take a more data-driven approach to executive search. We therefore reached out to Stockholm based economist Tino Sanandaji to start hunting for rigorous, research-backed hiring tactics. We assumed that case-based interviews would top the list. After all, they seem to be a smart way to evaluate talent: They are designed to screen for general problem-solving skills, which strongly correlates with long-term job performance. Since the pace of change in the business world is ever more rapid, general problem-solving skills are highly valued by employers.

Read the full article in Harvard Business Review.
Atta Tarki is the founder and CEO of ECA and the author of Evidence-Based Recruiting (McGraw Hill, February 2020).

Tino Sanandaji recieved his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Chicago, and is a researcher at the Institute for Economic and Business History Research at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Published On: January 15th, 2020|Categories: Hiring Consultants, Recruitment|

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