The art of the deal

No Experience Necessary

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“Customer service representative for Domino’s” is probably the most impressive part of my résumé. One time, I tried doing a ramen-eating competition and I got to the fifth bowl, which is not that bad. When Flappy Bird was still flapping its way into our hearts, I could get my score up to triple digits.

That’s how I answered the question, “What do you specialize in?” at my last job interview. In other words, I’m relatively unskilled. I won’t be a part of this campus’s most specialized clubs, nor will I partake in its most exclusive events, and for good reason — I am unfit to do most things.

However, I’m going to ignore that valid reasoning so that I can do the things that require skill sets I am lacking. I’m directionless, underqualified and generally confused, but so long as there’s no experience necessary, I’ll try it.

“Saving 30 percent to 50 percent buying in bulk — replenishable items from toothpaste to soup, or whatever I use a lot of — is the best guaranteed return on investment you can get anywhere.” — Mark Cuban

That’s the kind of business savvy that made Mark Cuban into a billionaire. It’s also the kind of innovative advice I imagine consulting clubs across campus are offering to their clients. Many of these organizations work with big-name patrons, such as Google and Macy’s, and the connections made through the clubs could lead to job prospects in the future. For that reason, gaining membership can be competitive, and the admittance process includes résumé screening, group case studies and individual interviews.

The extent of my business knowledge is limited to a few seasons of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” I find that I’m usually consulting other people for advice, so if I want to look the part of a business consultant before trying to join a club, I need some tips from an expert. That’s why I talked to Lukas Gemeinhardt, Haas major and Project Manager at Venture Strategy Solutions, before throwing myself into the world of consulting clubs and case studies.

Ryan Melvin: So what exactly is a case study?

Lukas Gemeinhardt: So a case study is a general interview process for any consulting organization. They just give you information about a company or a potential investment, and they want you to be creative with your solutions and analyzing that company.

RM: Can you compare it to ABC’s “Shark Tank”?

LG: It’s kind of like “Shark Tank” in the way that you’re pretending to be the CEO of a company, and in some situations you’re pitching to a group or panel. For the case, they’re going to ask you questions like, “What are some ways you can grow?” So, you can think in the minds of the CEOs of the “Shark Tank” people.

RM: What are some good business buzzwords that will make me sound better?

LG: Competitor analysis is good. I heard someone say competitive synergy the other day, and I laughed because that’s a funny one. Profit loss and breakeven point — they’re probably going to ask you a breakeven question, like how many units you have to sell to break even. Revenue and losses, if you get a couple of those in there you’ll be good.

RM: Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network.”

LG: Yes?

RM: Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

LG: Okay, I’ll google that.

RM: Vin Diesel in “Boiler Room.” Who do you think I should model my business personality after?

LG: I don’t know the last two movies, so I would just recommend the first one. But I like Vin Diesel, so even though I don’t know anything about the movie, stick with Vin Diesel.

I took my newfound business acumen to my first, and most likely last, group case study with a new consulting group, NextGen Consulting. Luckily, the challenge my group and I were tasked with was the only the one I was most prepared for, because it was basically “Shark Tank.”

The task was to design a new product or service and create a pitch within 18 minutes. The service my team came up with was a housing website aimed at college students, and my input was about as valuable as my pizza-making skills. The other members landed on the name “collegecribs.com,” but when we realized that the site already exists, I could no longer lean on Mark Cuban’s advice about buying soup in bulk. That’s when I made my most valuable contribution: the letter “z.” By changing the “s” in “cribs” to “z,” I caught the interviewer’s eye by resolving some serious copyright issues and demonstrating that I’m in touch with the young, hip crowd.

Finally, I felt remotely close to a being a businessman — I was consulted with a problem, and I provided a timely and cost-effective solution. As for the overall process, I was thrown off by NextGen. Most accounts of case interviews I’ve heard involved heavy competition and daunting interview questions, but NextGen’s process encouraged collaboration over self-promotion. I was expecting to be thrown into a snake pit, but instead I found that either Haas’s snake problem is overstated, or its newer organizations are acting as exterminators. Either way, I probably don’t belong in their clubs.

Ryan does the hardest things at UC Berkeley and writes about them. Contact Ryan Melvin at [email protected].