Each consulting organisation will have a slightly different applications process, but whatever the finer details, there will be one or more interviews you’ll need to attend – most likely one of them will be a case-study interview. Come with a clear idea of what you can offer to the firm, and prepare yourself for the typical questions and scenarios you will face.
If your application has caught the consulting employer’s eye, you will probably be invited to a first-round interview, either in person or on the phone. This will be an information-gathering exercise to find out whether you possess the competences they are looking for and to explore your motivations for applying to the firm and for the particular role.
What to do in advance
Before the interview, look through your written application and pick out several achievements and experiences that you can use to demonstrate you have the consulting skills they are looking for. You should also expect to be quizzed on your knowledge about the employer, so make sure you know what kind of consulting they focus on, the types of clients they work with and how they are different from their competitors.
You will certainly be asked why you would like to work for them, so spend some time thinking about an answer that does not rely on clichés or flattery! According to recruiters, the best candidates are those who can show they really understand the job and explain why they want it. A recent hire at Alfa advises, ‘Do your research on what the company does. Technical knowledge at graduate level is not important, but you must be able to demonstrate enthusiasm for the company.’
Make a good impression
Try to build a rapport with interviewers without being over familiar. Maintain eye contact as much as possible and, if it is a panel interview, look at all the interviewers when you are answering a question. PwC recommends: ‘It pays to look and act confident. When meeting the interviewer, smile and show an interest in what he or she is saying. Shake hands firmly. Smile periodically.’
Listen to the questions carefully, don’t interrupt, ask for clarification if you need it and make your answers clear and concise. If you are having a telephone interview, prepare as thoroughly as you would for a face-to-face one. It can be harder to engage with an interviewer over the phone. Convey your enthusiasm as much as you can, speak slowly and clearly, and try to keep the conversation flowing. It sounds obvious, but try to be yourself. 'Don't prep to the extent that you won't be relaxed and show your true character,' advises Imogen Buchan, an associate consultant at Bain & Company.
Top interview tips from McKinsey & Company
- Relax. Although it's easier said than done, you will perform better if you are relaxed. Our interviewers are friendly, fair, and fun, and they want you to succeed.
- Be yourself. There is no ‘typical’ hire—we all come from a variety of backgrounds. Be yourself in your interview—we are excited to meet you.
- Take your time. Do not feel rushed to respond to questions before having time to think them through. Ask your interviewer for a moment to think or to clarify anything you do not understand.
- Don't forget to interview us. Get something out of it for yourself. Ensure you take time to ask questions, get to know your interviewers, and get a feel for our work, our people, and our values.
Case study interviews
These are business-related scenarios that form part of many consulting firms’ recruitment processes, and probably the aspect of recruitment graduates worry about the most. For in-depth advice on getting through them successfully, read How to ace your case study interview.