The MBA students in the room had already survived their first round interviews and written tests with McKinsey & Co. Within 24 hours, the three male first-year students would be back in the consulting firm’s offices for a face-to-face grilling with a McKinsey partner.
Roughly 10 to 12 MBAs from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management had won an initial interview. Now only these three would go back, trying to land a highly coveted summer internship with the firm.
Scott Rutherford, who teaches integrative thinking and management consulting at Rotman, is prepping the students for this next hurdle. Dressed in darks suits and ties, the MBAs—from Singapore, Bulgaria and Canada—sit around a table. They look nervous yet eager to be put through the paces by someone, who after all, is on their side.
A SESSION TO ‘CALM THE INTERNAL SELF’
This is not a rehearsal for the interview nor is it an attempt to overly script the students. Instead, Rutherford is here as a leadership coach to boost self-confidence and increase the odds that these students will land a McKinsey internship.
Many career service counselors will prep students for case study interviews. But few business schools offer anything like this Rotman session. As Rutherford says, “I am not aware of anyone who is going to the psychological level of calming the internal self, which I firmly believe in and which I know McKinsey looks for.
“It’s about how these guys deal with things they don’t know,” explains Rutherford, himself a former McKinsey engagement manager who was the first Rotman MBA the firm ever hired in 2001. “A consulting company would rather have their people say, ‘I don’t know,’ rather than make stuff up. “
Rutherford is trying to make sure they don’t “make stuff up.” He’s coaching them to be genuine, to be honest, and to say what they think. He peppers the students with often obscure and odd questions that they could get from a McKinsey partner, and he puts the students through a Bill Clinton-inspired exercise that the MBAs first think is both “weird” and “creepy.” The hour-long session, which followed a three-hour class to prep MBAs for McKinsey’s first round interview, is part of a Self-Development Lab at Rotman that attempts to nurture and strengthen the soft skills of students.
MORE OF A GURU THAN A TEACHER
For someone who might badly want a job with one of the most elite and prestigious firms in the world, this coaching session is priceless. Few would-be employees would ever get the chance to sit down with a former McKinsey consultant who is completely devoted to their objective.
Described by one admiring Rotman student as more of a guru than a teacher, the tall and lanky professor starts off by assuming the role of a McKinsey partner. For the part, Rutherford wears a poker face, stares intently into the eyes of the student he is addressing, and speaks in rapid-fire sentences.