Odd interview exchange, what should I do?

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by Reggs, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. EMY

    EMY Senior member

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    the exact senario is discussed in this book on page 17. You were suppose to find gas stations/people. It would have required you to know roughly the population of the US.

    Although the interviewer sounds like a douche, I actually think he was helping you by suggesting you should take a stab at it. By saying "how could I?", you basically told him that you were not willing to think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  2. Nereis

    Nereis Senior member

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    Be glad you weren't being asked to estimate the number of people who visit a certain landmark per day. Now that would force you to make some significant assumptions.
     
  3. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I got asked the gas station question once at an investment firm, but I think the interviewer had done time in consulting.

    And I got a whole range of things in consulting interviews. How much revenue does NYC get from parking meters? How many feathers on a chicken? I gather there's less of that now, but it was a major part of interview prep when I was in school.
     
  4. GreenFrog

    GreenFrog Senior member

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    Those types of questions are more brain teaser types and aren't very common in consulting anymore. Maybe you'll get them in the first round but I doubt any of MBB would ever ask you any of those questions.

    If anything, a case will involve a component that requires you to do the mental math associated with said brain teasers. For example, if you get a market entry case, then you'll have to make estimates on populations, age groups, etc.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  5. nerdykarim

    nerdykarim Senior member

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    nice catch.

    i think case interview skills are important, even if you're not going into consulting. hell, whnay. asked me and edinatlanta to calculate how many quarters would fill up the bar we were in while we were shooting the shit at the ATL sf meetup. ed, as one might expect, failed pretty hard.

    for the op:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  6. Joffrey

    Joffrey Senior member

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    Damn. Sorry Reggs. You definitely should've humored him and taken the pad and at least diagram it as you thought through the answer. At first I was thinking I would just step by step explain the process: you'd look on census website for a listing of gas stations in the US. If it's available it'll probably take 15mins tops. Or another business profile website like Gale or Onesource - pull up a major gas station company like Exxon, take the number of locations (which would include non gas stations though) and multiply it by the majors (6 or so) then add another 10k for independents for a rough estimate. If he then told you, "well let's say you don't have access to a computer and they want a ball park". That's when you just use demographics - US population (~350million) break that down to number of households (~50 million) number of cars per household (times 3) divide it by cars serviced per gas station (divided by 1000). Apart from US population, everything else I estimated is out of my ass so the number is likely total shit but it would have been an answer. And you coudl've fudged why you came up with each estimate. Anyway, I thought of this in bed not in the middle of an interview so no idea how I would've reacted.

    Good luck next time.
     
  7. suited

    suited Senior member

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    "I'd be happy to answer your question, as soon as you present me with a viable scenario in which we are transported back in time, simultaneously existing in a place where I have no access to the internet, a computer, a cell phone or any computing machine, yet gas stations exist in such abundance that 1) this calculation is reasonably difficult and 2) you need me to do it on the fly for no apparent reason".

    Or you could have said something like: 300 million people, estimate the number of people between 16-80, how many gas stations would be in a small city of 5k or 10k or 20k etc, come up with a ratio of ppl to gas stations, apply it to the number of people between 16-80. It's a very crude estimate and ignores virtually an endless supply of what-ifs, but the idea is to do it very quickly, I assume.

    I'd probably want to walk out if someone asked me this question, mostly because I don't believe it's an accurate gauge of anything, despite what others in this thread have said.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  8. nerdykarim

    nerdykarim Senior member

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    At worst, it's a good indicator of how well prepared you are for an interview.

    Which (I think) is a good proxy for information about a) how hard of a worker you are and b) how well you understand the rules of the game (of recruiting in particular, but also the business world in general)

    edit: My obvious bias comes from the fact that I'm in an MBA program right now and our career services office drills this stuff into our head.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  9. nerdykarim

    nerdykarim Senior member

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    doubleposted.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  10. Reggs

    Reggs Senior member

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    Thanks for all the responses, and book scan. This is awful news. I really did bomb that.

    On that day, I interviewed for 7 people over the course of about 2hrs and 40 mins. 4 of them were team members, 1 team leader, the VP of the department, and the director of the department. The person who asked me the gas station question was the VP. It went well with everyone else. This was also the second and final round of interviews. I don't feel well about it after this thread. I was told I would know if I got the job in two weeks. I'll let everyone know how it goes.

    Even if these questions come up, are they important weed out questions? I was given other hypothetical situations and asked how I would handle them, and did very well. They were by people lower on the totem pole though.
     
  11. nerdykarim

    nerdykarim Senior member

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    They're really not that important, in the grand scheme of things. Like suited and I said above, a case interview question really just tests your ability to do a case interview question.

    In your letter to the VP, I would maybe explain that you weren't familiar with case interview brainteaser questions but that you've since studied how they work and, should they interview you again, you'd knock it out of the park along with the usual crap about how you love the company and all that.
     
  12. GreenFrog

    GreenFrog Senior member

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    I mean, if you nailed every other interview, everyone liked you, and this question was your only stumbling point, I think there may be a chance that you get an offer (unless every other candidate interviewing for the position does just as well as you and properly answers that brain teaser).

    I wouldn't say it's completely doomed now, based on your last post.

    Good luck.
     
  13. Reggs

    Reggs Senior member

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    When I gave my answer, my idea was to find ratios of gas stations to people in different population densities(urban, suburban, rural ect..), then find out how the US population was fragmented among those density groups. I thought that would be more accurate than "This town has X gas stations to Y people, so apply that to the total US population."

    Then he started pushing the paper idea and focusing on the number only after I told him my plan. In other words, I made my plan without knowing he would want me to give him an actual number at the end. I was just thinking there is no way I could do that, and I also didn't want to say "Ok, hold on, forget everything I just said..." while I fumbled over a second plan that would have been more simple. In the moment as he was pressing me, I was just stuck in this bullheaded confusion and frustration.
     
  14. Reggs

    Reggs Senior member

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    Now that it's confirmed that I bombed it. What if anything should I write in my thank you letter to the VP who asked it? Should I even mention it? Any more suggestions on this?
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  15. CYstyle

    CYstyle Senior member

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    Pretty important, which is why typically they spend 15+ minutes on mini case study questions. Don't worry though, even if you failed this one, your got a whole thread of good advice and you can be prepared for the next one. It happens to all of us don't feel bad.
     

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