Management consulting is an exciting field with plenty of opportunities for consultants to develop effective business strategies and help clients thrive in their respective industries. If you’re interested in becoming a consultant, you may be wondering about the best way to approach the interview process. For example, what should you expect and how can you prepare?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the consulting interview process typically consists of two types of interviews: (1) Fit interviews (also called experience interviews), which focus on your skills, background and professional aspirations, and (2) case interviews, which focus on your ability to analyze and solve problems.
Here are the types of questions you can expect in each part of the interview and what you need to know to answer them successfully.
Fit Interview Questions
The fit interview focuses on your background, skill set and your interest in the role. A typical fit interview includes questions like, “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths?” but also focuses on your leadership style and your interest in consulting. Some key questions you’re likely to encounter include:
Why are you interested in consulting?
This question is designed to test your knowledge of the industry and your interest in becoming a consultant. When an interviewer asks this, it’s because they want to know that you’re genuinely interested in consulting as a career path and that you’re committed to bringing value to the firm and to your clients. To answer this question effectively, focus on one or two aspects of consulting that appeal to you (for example, the opportunity to learn about various business models or to develop new marketing strategies) and explain why you find them appealing. In addition to talking about your interest in the industry, you should also talk about your skill set and why it makes you a good fit for the role. Since interviewers look for candidates who are able to solve challenging problems with creative solutions, being able to demonstrate your interest and your potential impact will go a long way towards impressing the interviewer.
Tell me about a time you displayed leadership.
One of the major skills required in consulting is leadership. This is because a large part of consulting involves working with a team to strategize, develop and implement solutions related to the problems businesses face. When preparing your answer to this question, it’s important to focus on a time when you demonstrated leadership and to highlight the outcome of that situation. For example, if you were responsible for managing a charity fundraising event for your sorority, you should outline the steps you took to organize the event and explain how those steps led to a successful outcome.
Why do you want to work for this firm?
This question is designed to test your knowledge of the consulting industry and your motivation for picking a specific firm. When answering this question, it’s important to highlight some of the key reasons for your interest in the firm you’re interviewing with. For example, if the firm is credited with pioneering a specific approach to marketing or revolutionizing a specific industry, mention this. You should also talk about the company’s values and how they align with your own. For example, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and you want to work alongside others with the same drive, it’s important to highlight this in your answer. By demonstrating how your skills, interests and values align with the company you want to work for, you’re likely to impress the interviewer and get one step closer to landing the job.
Pro Tip: Doing your research on the firm you’re interviewing with is extremely important. You can do this by attending company info sessions on campus (if they’re offered) and by visiting the company’s website to learn more about their work and what they value. When preparing for your interview, focus on the aspects that really resonate with you and refer to those in your answers.
Case Interview Questions
The case interview is the counterpart to the fit interview and it’s designed to test your problem-solving ability. During this part of the interview, you’re likely to encounter questions that focus on your ability to assess a situation and provide a structured, solution-focused answer. The types of case interview questions you’re likely to encounter include:
Market-sizing questions (also known as guesstimate questions) are designed to challenge your ability to come up with reasonable assumptions and estimations in situations where you have limited information. Questions can include things like, “How many wheelchairs are purchased annually in the U.S.?” or “How many people wear green on any given day in New York City?” To answer market-sizing questions, it’s important to ask relevant follow-up questions to gather additional information. Once you have all of the facts related to the case, you should come up with an answer that shows that you’ve considered the different factors at play in determining the size of the market (e.g. groups of people who are likely to be wheelchair users, age demographics, etc.) and then deliver the answer in a structured way, explaining your thought process along the way.
Pro Tip: Treating each case as a presentation is a great way to ensure that you’re structuring your answer in a clear and engaging way. In order to do this, you should sketch out your approach on a sheet of paper, explaining the different factors, the assumptions your draw from them and your answer.
Segmentation questions typically follow on from market-sizing questions and are focused on testing your understanding of more detailed market segments. Going back to the wheelchair example in the previous case, a segmentation follow-up question could be, “What are the different segments of the wheelchair market in the U.S.?” To answer this question effectively, it’s important to once again ask the interviewer questions designed to further your understanding of the case. For example, you can ask whether you should consider manual and electric wheelchairs separately or whether different types of healthcare facilities would constitute different segments. Once you’ve gathered the data, come up with a structured answer focused on three different segments of the market (in this case, those segments could be hospitals, healthcare facilities and personal users). When explaining your answer, be sure to touch on each of these segments and to explain the thought process behind each one.
Data analysis questions
Analyzing and summarizing data is a big part of a consultant’s day-to-day tasks, and data analysis questions are designed to test your ability to do this effectively. These questions typically involve being presented with data and asked to identify key insights related to business growth or market size. In order come up with a great answer, it’s important to analyze the various aspects of the data you’re presented with and to identify unusual or unexpected trends such price changes or sharp increases or decreases in sales. Once you’ve identified these insights, lay them out for the interviewer as you would in a presentation, referring to the original data for emphasis.
Value proposition questions
Being able to determine the value of a business is an extremely important part of being a consultant and value proposition questions are designed to test your understanding of this concept. An example of a value proposition question might be: “The client is a restaurant in San Francisco. Their main customers are locals from the Bay area. What are some factors that those customers look for in a restaurant?” To answer this question effectively, it’s important to first identify the different factors at play (type of food, location, price, etc.) and then come up with an answer based on how each of those factors would affect what customers look for in a restaurant. When presenting your answer, be sure to lay out the different factors you’ve outlined in a structured way, while explaining how each one impacts the overall value proposition of the restaurant.
Although consulting interviews often involve several different types of questions, the key to doing well is always the same: practice. Work with classmates and friends to run through fit and case interview questions and come prepared with relevant answers to questions you’re likely to encounter. Most of all, try to relax and enjoy the interview process.
Working in management consulting is a wonderful opportunity to learn about various types of businesses and to help companies reach their goals. And although interviewing for a management consulting role might seem a bit intimidating at first, by knowing what to expect and practicing for each part of the interview, you’ll be able to prove that you’re a great fit for the role and that you would be an asset to the company.