Applications for many entry level consulting jobs are closing this week, and the interview process will start soon.
It can all happen pretty fast, so you need to be prepared before you receive that call or email asking you to come in for an interview.
If you’re not familiar with case study interviews, check out our introduction to consulting case study interviews here and then move on to these more in-depth recommendations to keep in mind while you’re in the middle of the interview. If you follow these tips, you’ll be cool as a cucumber throughout the case study!
Practice makes perfect
— Lisa Kramer (@Recruit_Campus) September 24, 2012
You know what they say: Practice makes perfect. Practice answering questions with friends, co-workers or someone who has consulting experience. Practice in front of a mirror so you can assess your body language and communication style (your personal presentation is a vital aspect of this industry!).
Get your hands on as many case studies as possible. Most consulting firms post a few sample questions online, so utilize those, go over your results with friends or family, and then find more. Familiarize yourself with different types of questions and discover which approaches work best for you.
Take it one step at a time
— JAMES DAVIDSON (@voiceofjamesd) September 24, 2012
Think about it for a minute
Take a moment when the question is first posed to collect your thoughts. The interviewer isn’t going to expect you to start spouting out numbers right away and will appreciate the indication that you are thinking carefully about the solution.
Take careful, neat notes and clearly label units in your notes. You don’t want to end up with an answer for the average calls/month/user when you were actually looking for the average minutes/user/hour.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Communicate your questions, doubts and mistakes to the interviewer. They may not have provided all the information you need up front, or you may need a bit of context to better understand the problem at hand.
If you think you’ve made a mistake, don’t panic. Say, for example, “Something doesn’t look right here – would I be able to rework my calculations?” This demonstrates your ability to problem solve when aiming for a goal.
Round your numbers
If you have a calculation equalling 127, jump to 130. As long as rounding doesn’t change your answer by more than 10%, stick with this method throughout the calculation. This will minimize the chance of making more substantial errors and shows the interviewer you are comfortable with what you’re doing.
Expect the unexpected
Particularly in later rounds of interviews, you might be faced with less standard questions that are more difficult to prepare for. In this circumstance, stay calm. The interviewer is still looking for the same things: logical thinking, how well you communicate your thoughts and your strong understanding of the business culture.
You need to own the case study in order to own the job – period
The case study isn’t the only component of the consulting interview. There is also a focus on your resume and a period of “fit questions,” asking general and behavioural interview questions such as “Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult boss,” or everyone’s favourite,“What is your greatest weakness?”
Acing this section is just as important as acing the case study, but your performance on the case study usually accounts for at least 50% of your overall interview score. If you totally flop on the case study, your perfect response regarding why you want to work for this consulting firm is going to be quickly forgotten.