Alan Keeso









By Alan Keeso

Through Term Two: The Transformation Report

Continuing from, “Through Term One: The Transformation Report”.

Term Two featured many interviews for Oxford MBA students. For those who explored management consulting careers, it was a time for case-based interviews. Case interviews vary in structure depending on the firm, but they generally go as follows:

  1. The interviewer introduces a business problem that a client is facing;
  2. The candidate, following some points of clarification, takes a minute to structure his or her approach to tackling the case and presents the structure to the interviewer;
  3. The interviewer might then hone in on a specific element of the case, asking the candidate to do some brainstorming, or will let the candidate suggest where he or she would like to begin;
  4. The interviewer might also ask the candidate to come up with an estimate of the size of the market in question. For example, “How might we determine how many vacuum cleaners are sold in the US each year?”;
  5. After working toward an estimate, the interviewer, either on his or her own accord or as prompted by the candidate, will provide some data or a graph for analysis;
  6. The candidate might work his or her way through two or three data analysis questions;
  7. The final requirement is a brief summary of key findings or recommendations: “You’re in the elevator with the CEO, who wants to know what your preliminary findings are. What do you say?”; and
  8. One or two more cases might be presented by a different interviewer within any given round of interviews, in addition to personal experience and CV questions that should not be underestimated.

Many of my classmates went through this process several times, across different consulting firms and multiple rounds of interviews. For some, case interviews are nearly a breeze. My good friend and classmate, Mathieu, is one such person who has and will continue to do some amazing work for businesses around the world. He returns to McKinsey following his MBA. Mat, along with another classmate, Ross, who will also be going to work for McKinsey, has an impressive ability to rapidly process and address business problems.

Bryan, yet another classmate, will be going to work for L.E.K. Consulting following his MBA. The day he received his offer many of us felt like we had received offers. Bryan spent countless hours not only preparing, but also helping his classmates to prepare. While I had initially made the decision not to apply to any of the strategy consulting firms offering generalist positions to MBA students, following some conversations with one of the top firms, I thought it foolish not to reciprocate their interest and apply. So, I spent time with Mat, Ross, and Bryan to get ready for my interview. My practice sessions generally went like this…


As such, the day approached for the real interview, and framing this in a positive light, I was consistent.


A struggle from beginning to end, the performance fell short of the firm’s expectations. The reaction I got from my peers following news of rejection made it seem like I should be commencing Kübler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief, but in truth, I found some good humour and learning in all of it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the case interview process, and more so for the firm I interviewed with. The help and guidance they offered leading up to the interview exceeded anything I’ve seen or heard of, somehow leaving an impression conducive to wanting to work with them, even after getting rejected to work for them. While it would be thrilling to work for one of the top strategy firms and to stand a fighting chance of surfacing from inescapable debt, the truth is if I were to be offered a do-over of that interview I’d sooner adopt the athletic position and….


So I move into my final term at Oxford, having set aside most notions of returning to the private sector, unless a return enables an opportunity to work directly and immediately on matters of environmental sustainability. Mainly, I look toward the non-profit world, where I see the convergence of private and public sectors around global themes. Following on from the line of thinking I brought forward in my last blog post, I’ve realised a sense of urgency to explore our connectedness to the natural world further, and my hope as I wade further into my career transformation is to eventually find myself at the nexus of where thought leadership meets action in this space. I believe it will be here that I find the mission I’ve been looking for since deciding to leave the private sector for two more years of school, and here where I can best contribute.

And should non-profits conduct case-based interviews to allow entry…? Mat, Ross, and Bryan are standing by in the war room with a new approach….



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