Interview Questions and Techniques For Hiring a Consultant
Consultants are interesting characters. They’re used to sitting at the top of their demographic in all manner of things; academic credentials, pay, career prospects, working hours! The client-facing nature of consulting often means experienced consultants have the polished veneer of an experienced salesman, with a number of technical skills to back it up. Consultancy as an industry didn’t grow by 7% in the US in 2016 for no reason; companies are willing to pay for these individuals to come in and change their structure.
All these factors considered, it can be hard to identify the best techniques or interview questions when hiring a consultant. Technical ability, experience, culture fit are among the many factors employers need to consider and gain insight on when hiring. Consultants have to be agile and commercial as part of the job they do, so sometimes it can be hard to uncover the real insights to understand whether someone will truly add value to a business.
Below are some of our top interview questions and techniques you can use when hiring your next consultant, to gain deeper insight into prospective hires and ultimately make the right choice
Competency questions (behavioural questions)
These questions aim to address a candidate’s behaviour in a specific circumstance. These are great interview questions as the responses can be assessed not just on the content of a response, but how the interviewee structures their answer. Even if your prospective consultant does not have relatable work experience to the role in question, learning more about how they have acted in past situations can highlight personality traits and how they may act in the given role.
Example questions 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.
Competency questions provide huge scope for assessing a candidate’s suitability for your company. They are also a useful technique for providing the candidate more depth on the culture or values of your business. They can be tailored towards values the employer considers important, or address a key aspect of the role such as project management or coaching. Do not overlook the importance of these competency questions- they can really reveal a lot about a candidate, and steer them away from carefully manufactured answers that they have prepared beforehand.
This is a technique common in management consulting. Case studies again provide huge scope focused on assessing a candidate’s skill set. Problem-solving, analytical and numeracy skills, and even innovation or creativity can all be assessed. Case studies can also be linked to client-facing skills, presenting the output in a simulated environment.
Employers should consider how powerful selling-tool case studies can be. They are essentially a business scenario reflective of the day-to-day work the business undertakes. An engaging and well-managed case can excite prospective employees and allow them to visualise their life at the company. On the flip-side, a poorly run case study can result in a candidate, regardless of their performance, becoming disengaged and disinterested. Do your research carefully to prepare the best questions possible.
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.
Stay tuned to this information hub for more advice on the creation and answering of case study type questions. View our case studies.
Brainteasers generally require candidates to use logical reasoning in order to answer difficult mental problems. These are a great way to gain insight into a candidate’s thought process and their problem-solving abilities, vital skills for any management consultant. This is especially important in consulting: being able to adapt to a client’s changing requirements or challenges. Although sometimes they may seem a bit abstract, the skills employed behind the question can reveal a lot about a person's character and abilities.
Brainteasers can be very abstract, but can also assess numerate ability if that is a key requirement.
For example, one interview question could be:
- How many ping pong balls can you fit in a commercial airliner?
The thought process could be totally abstract, using educated guesses and scaling. Alternatively, a candidate could be expected to take a much more numerate approach, perhaps calculating the volume of a cylinder using the estimated measurements of the plane, and dividing that against the volume of a ping pong ball. Neither is necessarily right or wrong; it depends on what the employer is wishing to assess.
Stay tuned to our content hub for a more in-depth look at all of the things covered in this article, both from a candidate and employer perspective.
If you've got your interview questions and techniques sorted, but need help finding the ideal candidates to start your recruitment process, contact us today.
Learn more about the team at Ascent Professional Services - view our about us page.