Congratulations! If you have reached this portion of the Consulting Interview Training course, you are probably beginning to prepare for a Consulting Invterview. In this chapter, we will break down all of the things you need to know to prepare for your interview ahead of time, and excel on interview day.
First of all, we highly recommend that you review the Consulting Case Study preparation material and the Interview Questions and Answers materials before your first interview, in order to be fully prepared on the day. We also recommend that you review the website of each company you will be interviewing with the day before you meet with them, so that you can refresh your memory on what makes each firm unique, and what its strengths are. Take notes and use them to mention firm-specific things you’ve learned, when and if appropriate, during the interview.
General Interview Tips
There are also a number of general interview concepts to take into consideration, which we highlight below. These might seem trivial, but in such a competitive environment, they can definitely affect the outcome of an interview.
- Dress well but not too well. Do not look like you are attending a wedding or that your suit is three times the price of the interviewer’s suit. Look crisp, clean and neat to the point that there is no focus on your attire. You should wear a solid colored suit, either dark grey, dark blue or black, with a white or light blue shirt, and a patterned or textured tie. Don’t be too bold with your choice of colors. In our experience, any focus by the interviewer on your attire ends up being negative.
- Be structured in every answer, not just in the case studies. Structured thinking is such an important part of the consulting job that it will always be a focus of the interview. Taking a few seconds to think through your response so it comes out in an orderly, well-reasoned manner is absolutely worth it.
- Do not talk too much. Sure, you want to impress the interviewer, but there is a proper way to do it. Do not interrupt the interviewer–let him or her talk a lot if he or she wants to. Defer to him or her to drive the conversation, and respond when you are asked to. Never correct the interviewer, unless it’s something like the pronunciation of your name! In Consulting, few projects have a definite answer, so you will have to stop at the best answer you can develop, and avoid rambling. Be as articulate as you can be, but be concise.
- Be prepared, but not so prepared that you find yourself reciting scripted comments that do not totally flow with the conversation. It is obvious if you sound scripted. Be able to think flexibly, and expect something in the interview to knock you off—i.e., to be unexpected and challenging. Use this as an opportunity to show your poise and thoughtfulness. Take a deep breath and formulate an intelligent response.
- There are no exact answers. Most questions in Consulting interviews are open to a fair amount of interpretation and conjecture. This is especially true of the behavioral/experience questions. Do not get flustered. And do not try to “nail it.” The interviewer is generally not expecting a particular answer, so it’s not your job to figure out exactly what he or she wants to hear. Rather, he or she is looking to gauge your response to the question, how you handle yourself during the response (i.e., confidence vs. uncertainty), and your level of self-awareness.
- Take notes. Take a notepad with you and write insightful things down that the interviewer recommends (e.g. a book recommendation).
- Get up to speed on current events. As we discuss in the Behavioral & Experience Interview Questions section of the next chapter, current events will come up in your interview—they have a lot more of an impact in the real world than they do in a classroom setting. So have a quick summary and view of the key business and non-business major current events at your fingertips.
- Avoid political/personal opinions. It is important with clients that political or personal opinions remain private. Resist opinionated discussion around politics and other controversial issues in your interviews.
- Pose intelligent questions to the interviewer. The questions you ask are often as important as the answers you provide. Some example questions to pose to an interviewer are available in the Behavioral & Experience Interview Questions section of the next chapter.
- Learn the phrase “I Don’t Know.” Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know” during an interview. This is much better than pushing forward with a clearly bad or uncertain answer. If a good answer occurs to you later in the interview, save it for the end. One way to impress an interviewer is to respond after an interview ends with an answer to a previous question that you did not have an answer to at the time, but that you thought more about and were able to resolve.
- Curiosity and enthusiasm have an impact. Remember, the interviewer probably has 12 interviews that day, while also working on a project and potentially having a child and a spouse at home. Do not bore him/her with your lack of energy. Show some spark and originality. Make this person think of you as an interesting person who would be fun to work with.
- Be the world expert of each point on your resume & cover letter. If it’s on your resume and you can’t discuss it intelligently, it is going to look very, very bad. Enough said!
- Highlight why you will be a super consultant, but be smart about it. Rather than telling the interviewer “I’ll be a great consultant because XYZ,” show him or her why you would be a great Consultant. Highlight experiences that show that you will be a thoughtful, analytical worker, and/or a supportive team player. For example, talk about things like “I analyzed the XYZ industry in a class, using a framework similar to one used at your firm. The key takeaways were…” or “As captain of the rugby team in high school, I learned a lot about how to work well with others and encourage the best possible performance out of my teammates.”
- Follow Up. The interviewers will discuss all applicants often within 24 hours of the interviews. Your short, polite follow-up email could make the difference between getting into the next round and being cut from the process. And even if you don’t make it, this person may end up being a contact for you in your career. Be polite and thank the interviewer for his or her time and for the opportunity.
These are general Consulting interview recommendations, which are undeniably important and will help you avoid common mistakes routinely made throughout the interviewing process. However, by far the most important thing you can do is to walk into that interview prepared. Review our Consulting Case Study preparation material and the Interview Questions and Answers materials; rehearse responses to these questions with friends. Decide ahead of time how you’d want to respond to commonly asked questions so that you can reply confidently if they are asked. In short, PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!
Sample Interview Evaluation Form
Below is an example of a review form that each interviewer fills out both during and after an interview. It is useful to review this form to get a sense of what the interviewer is looking for in deciding whether a candidate should move to the next round. Be cognizant of all of the attributes that the interviewer will be evaluating you on, and do your best to maximize the expected scores you will receive. Consultants try to apply intellectual and analytical rigor to everything they do—and recruiting is no exception! So know the game ahead of time to maximize your odds of success.←Consulting Resume & Cover LetterConsulting Interview Questions & Answers→