Top 20 Most Difficult Companies for Interviews

You might think companies that are the most popular to work for, like Google, Amazon, Apple and Disney, would put job seekers through the most rigorous interview process, but not so, according to recently released research. It's the lower-profile, highly specialized niche firms that are the most difficult to get into. Consulting firm McKinsey and Company, based in New York City, tops the list.

Glassdoor.com, a website that fills you in on what companies and positions are paying in your area, and also gives you inside information on the firms themselves, examined thousands of interview reviews shared by job candidates in the past year to find out what companies have the most difficult interview processes.

With competition so fierce for the best jobs, companies can afford to be more stringent than ever to find the best fit for their needs. Still, popular companies like Google, which has a historically rigid interview process, failed to make Glassdoor's Top 20 list, coming in at No. 21, probably because they're looking to hire 6,300 people and have reportedly relaxed their interview process.

Still, with as much bad press as a company like BP has received recently, they're not loosening up on their interview process -- they rank No. 10 on the Glassdoor list. Other high profile companies on the Top 20 most-difficult-interview list include Proctor & Gamble at No. 12, Altria at No. 14, Amazon at No. 18 and eBay at No. 19. Gallup comes in at No. 20.

So what makes the interview process so tough at companies like McKinsey, Jane Street Capital, Cree, Bain & Co., and Boston Consulting -- the top five on the list? Multiple interviews that start out with phoners and go from there, that include everything from brainteasers, extremely technical questions and case study analysis. One wrong answer can apparently eliminate you at any point in the process, no matter how well you did on numerous interviews leading up to that point.

"If you screw one interview out of 7, you will not have chance to get hired," reported an eBay software engineer candidate.

"They asked me to walk through my resume first," said a Jane Street Capital Quant candidate in New York. "At the end, you are asked a simple brainteaser. I failed the third round phone interview with a trader. I got stuck at one problem and that trader lost his patience on me."

Another tough aspect of the interview process at some of these companies is repetition -- you're asked the same questions so many times, by so many people, it can make your head spin. "For the in-house gauntlet, they stuck me in a conference room and had interviewers step in and out. Unlike at some other firms, the interviewers do not confer with each other between your interviews, so you will be starting fresh each time -- be ready to repeat yourself some," reported an Amazon marketing candidate.

Just because the interview process is challenging, however, doesn't mean it's a bad experience, according to the Glassdoor findings. "They are very thorough and put a variety of interesting and challenging scenarios forward for immediate response," said a Washington, D.C., job seeker who was interviewing at McKinsey. But he thought that was fair. "If you're not confident or comfortable with your skill sets and problem-solving abilities, this is not the place for you," he added.

"The interview was very long, but the interviewers were interesting and fun to talk to. If you have extensive technical knowledge, I highly recommend interviewing. Even if the work schedule is not for you, it will prepare you for any interview," said a Cree Process Development Engineer candidate in Durham, N.C.

What would those who have interviewed at these companies advise?

"Preparing is an absolute must," said an associate consultant at Boston Consulting in Chicago. "I know many people do not prepare, but I certainly did and I performed much better because of it. Also, remember that doing case studies at home is not the same as doing the studies in an interview. Make sure you time yourself and put yourself in stressful conditions."


Top 20 Most Difficult Companies for Interviews:


1. McKinsey & Co.

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.9

Sample Interview Question: Mom and pop music shop wants to grow with stiff competition. How should they go about it? Calculate customer lifetime value.




2. Jane Street Capital

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Investment Banking

Interview Difficulty: 3.7

Sample Interview Question: You have 2 decks of cards (each deck contains both red and black cards). One deck has twice the number of cards in the other deck with the same color ration (so one deck has 52 cards and the other has 104, both half red and half black). I offer you to play a game. First you get to chose which deck of cards you want to play with. Second, you draw 2 cards at random from your deck of choice. If both are red, then I will give you a ferarri. Which deck of cards would you chose?"\




3. Cree

HQ: Durham, N.C.

Industry: Display Components

Interview Difficulty: 3.7

Sample Interview Question: How many barbers do you need in a city of 1 million people?




4. Bain & Co.

HQ: Boston, Mass.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.6

Sample Interview Question: Help me estimate how many car dealerships there are in the United States?




5. Boston Consulting

HQ: Boston, Mass.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.6

Sample Interview Question: How many golf balls can fit in a 747?




6. Palantir Technologies

HQ: Palo Alto, Calif.

Industry: Enterprise Application Integration Software

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: How would you test an elevator to see if it is safe to ride?




7. Teach for America

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Education

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: You want to take the third graders on a field trip to the zoo, but there is no extra funding to do so. You must ask the principal to reconsider and allow your students to go on the field trip. Explain how you would persuade the principal.




8. A.T. Kearney

HQ: Chicago, Ill.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: Can you tell me how many airplanes fly out of O'hare in a given day?




9. Red Ventures

HQ: Indian Land, S.C.

Industry: Direct Marketing Services

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?




10. BP

HQ: London, United Kingdom

Industry: Oil & Gas Refining, Marketing & Distribution

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: If you had to change a tire, how would you do it?




11. ZS Associates

HQ: Evanston, Ill.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.5

Sample Interview Question: It is your first day, you have no clue about the work and you have been asked to solve a tough problem. How will you go about it ?




12. Procter & Gamble

HQ: Cincinnati, Ohio

Industry: Personal Care Products

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Tell me a time when you had to demonstrate your leadership skills?




13. Salesforce.com

HQ: San Francisco, Calif.

Industry: Customer Relationship Management, Marketing & Sales Software

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How do you look for SQL injections?




14. Altria

HQ: Richmond, Va.

Industry: Cigarettes, Cigars, & Smokeless Tobacco Products

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Describe a very hectic week and what you did to prioritize.




15. Oliver Wyman

HQ: New York, N.Y.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Estimate the percentage of the US which is covered by man-made structures.




16. Bridgewater Associates

HQ: Westport, Conn.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How would you explain your job to an aunt or uncle who is not familiar with that industry?




17. Stryker

HQ: Kalamazoo, Mich.

Industry: Medical Equipment & Supplies

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Would you say you learn a lot about a little, or a little about a lot?




18. Amazon.com

HQ: Seattle, Wash.

Industry: Music, Video, Book & Entertainment Retail

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: Come up with a formula to calculate the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand in a clock.




19. eBay

HQ: San Jose, Calif.

Industry: Internet Auctions

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: It's known that an egg broke when dropped from the 100th floor. Given two eggs, how do you figure out the highest floor an egg can be dropped from without breaking?




20. Gallup

HQ: Washington, D.C.

Industry: Consulting

Interview Difficulty: 3.4

Sample Interview Question: How did you prepare for our interview?

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