Top 20 Most Difficult Company Interviews

McKinsey & Company, Teach for America ask the most difficult interview questions

June 22, 2011 — -- Finding a new job is tough enough in this economy, but some employers are famous for putting job applicants through the ringer. These 20 companies were identified by jobs and career community website for having the most difficult interviews for job applicants.

If you're looking to switch jobs or are among the 9.1 percent unemployed in the nation, you should prepare appropriately before applying to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, ranked No. 1 in terms of interview difficulty.

Teach for America also made the list, standing out among the slew of consulting and finance firms, like Bain & Company and corporations such as Procter & Gamble. The educational nonprofit organization ranked No. 7, above Bridgewater Associates (No. 16), known as the world's largest hedge fund with $90 billion in investments.

Google was amazingly absent from the list, ranked No. 21. The search engine company's interviews have been known for asking potential engineers challenging brain teaser questions.

Samantha Zupan, spokeswoman for, said there have been reports that Google's hiring process has become less arduous since it announced in January plans to hire 6,000 employees.

"They've been more relaxed in their hiring," Zupan said.

Finance interview questions tend to ask math problems while consulting companies focus on case questions, which are interactive discussions over hypothetical scenarios. In general, complicated questions are designed to show interviewers how applicants solve problems, according to Zupan.

"We initially looked at this and said these are tough places to interview but it was interesting looking at company employee ratings also," Zupan said.

While McKinsey may have the most difficult interview process, 64 percent said it was a positive experience, and employees rate their satisfaction as 3.9 out of 5.

Ellen, an applicant to McKinsey and Company, said she had three rounds of live interviews over the span of two months.

"McKinsey is known to give a long and challenging interview process, but I found the overall process to be clear, fair, and enjoyable," she said.

But Ellen, who has a Ph.D. in the sciences, said she had practiced case interviews for months and researched the job through current employees before her first interview. She still did not get the job.

The first round involved a difficult problem-solving test and two group case interviews. The second visit, which lasted three hours, was comprised of three case interviews testing an applicant's "fit" with the company. The third and final round included three case questions and fit interview questions with partners of the company.

A finance company tends to ask questions to gauge an applicant's quantitative abilities. Interviewers could screen applicants over the phone by asking an applicant to multiply 367 by 19 without using any tools.

Applicants to Jane Street Capital, a quantitative proprietary trading firm that was #2 on the list, could have three interviews over the phone, including brain teasers and math problems, before making it to a final live interview. One applicant was asked math questions he later discovered were age old problems that had never been solved.

Zupan said even if applicants feel like a company requires a grueling interview process, it is important to remember that candidates are also interviewing the company as a place to work.

"Do not assume what you're getting into," Zupan said. "While you may feel stressed at the end of it, it doesn't mean it will be a tough road ahead as an employee."

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