Would you buy a Lamborghini to mow your lawn?

Not unless you care more about impressing your neighbors than cutting your grass. So why do consulting firms look for Lambo talent to do John Deere work?

Lamborghini Tractor
Okay, maybe you can have both.

Performance on generic case interview questions and brain teasers can be correlated with quick-fire intelligence — or with how many editions of Case in Point the candidate owns. Less-structured interviews with principals and managers burn billable hours, and are impractical as an early-round filter.

Firms make these mistakes because they often fail to create a structured, relevant case process that identifies the best candidates (not the brightest) at the lowest cost.

Companies usually rationalize this away: “We just want the big brains. We can train them on any necessary skills.” That’s like buying a Lamborghini to mow your lawn because it has the most horsepower, even though you’ll have to spend the next 6 months modifying the undercarriage to install the blades.

If you hire the smartest people out of top schools without regard to relevant capabilities, you are overpaying for talent.

Consultancies whose entire business model is based around overpaying for talent are off the hook. Would you hire McKinsey if it didn’t mean a gaggle of Ivy Leaguers would soon be Thinking Very Hard about your business problems? This is part of their brand promise. And it works for them.

For most firms, though, the right evaluation approach is built around specific job skills. This isn’t because the ability to learn and grow is worthless; it’s just that you can’t evaluate it accurately. House keys, dark street, streetlight, etc. Firms overpay for proxies, like elite diplomas, when simply targeting the right metrics could radically widen the base of acceptable candidates.

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