Preparing for consulting interviews - practical guidelines and useful tips

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Oleg Vitkovskyi's picture

In this post I want to share some tips on how to prepare for the consulting interviews and my experience working in the industry (I did summer internship at Bain, Moscow office and currently I`m working at Finalta, part of the McKinsey, London office).

I will focus on two main points – what competencies consulting firms are looking for and how to approach the case interviews.

Consulting competencies

There are 4 main competencies that consulting firms are looking for: problem solving, personal impact, leadership and drive/passion.

Problem solving it is your ability to structure complex problems, analyze different parts of them and then synthesize all the pieces in order to find the solution. Problem solving is what you are going to be doing in your every day job. 

Personal impact it is ability to influence people over whom you do not have any formal power. As a consultant, you are not a part of the client`s organization but you have to convince your client to do what you recommend them to do.

Leadership is about inspiring others. As a consultant, you work in teams. As you progress you get more and more responsibilities and people to manage, so inspiring them to achieve theirs best is crucially important.

Drive/passion – you have to be really eager to make a difference to the client`s business. Consulting job is not easy, both mentally and physically (challenging tasks, long working hours). Therefore, if you are not passionate about it you might struggle at some point. All in all, consulting firms want to be sure that you, first, can do the job, and, second, that they want to have you on a team and can put you in front of the client on the day one.

Case interviews

During the recruiting process you have to solve at least 4 cases (2 per round). Each case has 4 stages – clarifying, structuring, analyzing and concluding. At clarifying stage you have to make sure that you understood the case question. It’s absolutely okay to ask interviewer several questions (about client`s business, reconfirm the main objectives of the case etc.). Moving to the structuring stage (you are allowed to take 45-60 seconds to think about and draw the structure) it is important that your structure is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. In other words, make sure you`ve covered all the main points and your points don`t overlap.

After you have agreed on structure, you are starting to analyze the case. Treat this part as a two-way conversation. As you go along solving the case, try to think “in slides” as majority of consulting work is presented on slides. For example, if you have to do calculations – make them in a table format, so it looks as a client-ready slide. Recommendation is a final part of the case interview. At this stage, you have to synthesize all the information you have so far and prepare concise summary. Usually the recommendation should not take more than 30-60 seconds (so called “elevator pitch”). Include your final recommendation, supporting arguments, potential risks and next steps. Good luck!