As an industry built around advising and improving other businesses, consultancy interviews are notoriously challenging. In addition to technical/analytical skills, you are examined on a variety of criteria including commercial acumen, emotional intelligence and even public speaking. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, so make sure you dedicate some time to it!
Be business and motivation-focused
The list of potential assessment criteria is huge and can vary from business to business. That’s why our first tip is to look at the business you are applying for. Consultancies will often have behaviour points they market out as ‘values’ or ‘principals’ on their website or literature. You will often be assessed on these criteria, so understanding them and generating examples will show that you have done your research on the business and thought about how you can fit in and add value. Even if you aren’t directly assessed on these criteria, the extra research will help you in answering questions on the business if they come up.
Take a look below for some of the typical types of interview questions you will see and advice on how to answer them.
Competency questions (behavioural questions)
These questions focus on picking out your behaviours through examples. Not only is the quality of the example you have important, but also the structuring of your answer. If you are looking for a graduate consulting role think about examples from your academics, extra-curricular activities, and any work/volunteer experience. The positive here is examples can come from absolutely anywhere. As an experienced candidate try to use examples from the projects you have engaged with to show how you handled any challenges and emerged out of the other side.
Management consulting interview question examples include:
- Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time, despite intending to do so.
- Give an example of when you've led a team.
- Give an example of when you've overcome a problem at work.
You cannot prepare a response for every possible competency question, there are just too many. The best way to prepare for these is to think up a number of examples that can be used for several questions. You may be able to think of one situation which can be used to answer the two examples questions above.
Remember structure is equally important in answering competency questions.
Ascent’s top tip is to utilise the STAR principle. This breaks down any response into four clear parts:
- Situation – explain the situation that you were in or what you needed to accomplish. Be specific and provide enough detail for the interviewer to get a clear picture.
- Task - What goal were you working toward – again be clear and succinct
- Action – Outline how you engaged with the task and steps you took to complete it. Specify your role and contribution, using “I” not “we”
- Result – What was the outcome of your actions? Typically, try to use an example that highlights success, though sometimes you may wish to use an example where a failure leads to improvement. Whatever the example, ensure it ends with a positive result.
Case studies are very common in consultancy interview processes, especially in strategy. Competency questions are what you have done, case studies are what you will do. A case study typically provides you with a client problem and some additional materials from which to provide a solution or recommendation. Problem-solving, analytical and numeracy skills, and even innovation or creativity can all be assessed. It can also give insight into the day-to-day work you might encounter.
There is a huge amount of literature available on case studies, partly due to the variety they have. They can range from data manipulation and maths exercises to internet research-based written reports. All require logical reasoning, time management, and an understanding of commercial principles.
Aside from making sure appropriate skills like data manipulation/technical skills are honed, time management is crucial. Being able to work through a problem methodically and provide justified conclusions within the time limit is the most important aspect. Ultimately you wouldn’t send a client an unfinished piece of work and case studies are the closest reflection of real-life projects.
Make sure you engage in some sample case studies for the area you are interviewing in. This will help both your way of thinking and time management. No case will ever be the same, but practice casing will give you an expectation and understanding of the kinds of problems you will see.
Brainteasers may be added into interviews to challenge your logical reasoning and thought processes. Quick numeracy, logical reasoning is important in a client-facing role where new challenges require speed of thought.
As with case studies, brainteasers have a huge variety. They can be very abstract but also have a strong numerate element.
One example would be: How many cars cross London Bridge in a day?
It’s obvious you don’t have enough information to answer this accurately, the challenge is to get market sizing and scaling right, and show sound reasoning in coming to an estimate. Start big and work down and show your local reasoning along the way.
Other examples may require quick numeracy and knowledge of formulas, such as calculating the volume of something.
Stay tuned to our information hub for more information on case studies and brainteasers.
If you’d like to discuss interview preparation and some of the opportunities we have, contact us. Alternatively, you can submit your CV, and view our current management consulting jobs.