The interview process is one of the most exciting (and intimidating) steps in landing your job as a consultant.
Your success at this stage hinges entirely on one thing: preparation.
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In the world of consulting, preparation is integral in securing your first placement – and ensuring your continued professional success.
Here’s a list of 4 types of questions you should be prepared for when getting organized for an interview in consulting.
1) Personal and behavioural questions
Exploring your character and disposition is standard fare in a job interview.
From the outset, you can expect employers to ask questions that get a sense of you, your resume, and how you see yourself as being hardwired to respond – or not.
- What is your personal brand?
- Why do you think you are suited for a career in consulting?
- How have you handled poor team morale before?
- Describe a situation where you failed at a project you undertook. What steps did you take during the process? What would you have changed?
- How does your education enhance your ability to work as a consultant?
Consulting is a field that welcomes a variety of degree and discipline backgrounds, so be prepared to discuss your university experience in a way that highlights your skills and experience.
In the early stages of an interview, a prospective employer will be assessing your ability to problem-solve and think critically – be sure to emphasize those skills.
2) Knowledge-based questions
Consulting is in large part a collaborative work process, often requiring you to work primarily at a client’s office.
Depending on the project, you may be working as part of team or entirely on your own. Meeting a client’s needs may also require frequent travel.
To this end, firms will seek to establish whether you are familiar with the industry, the lifestyle adjustment, and demanding work schedule that requires considerable flexibility.
- What do you think your day-to-day will look like during your first year?
- Discuss some of the major challenges you will face in this role.
- An online brokerage is growing well but can’t seem to reach their target profitability goals: what could be going on?
- Our client is thinking of acquiring a company that makes a patented pacemaker: what do they need to consider in making their decision?
- A particular city has been identified as a potential market for our client in this industry. What are some of the challenges they might face in expanding?
Consulting firms will evaluate your ability to adapt to the actual responsibilities of your role. While completing case studies requires stringent preparation and a winning strategy, above all consulting firms are looking for evidence of your thought process.
In other words, presenting a solution (innovative or not) after demonstrable analysis is more valuable than a colourful “on the fly” response.
Solutions matter, but evidence of nuanced thought process is central to success in any case study question.
3) Organization-specific questions
Know your (would-be) employer. Failing to understand an organization, its operations and its culture is the fastest way to failure.
Your interviewer will be interested in your understanding of the firm, its area of focus, preferred methodologies, and even if you can situate yourself within the firm.
- Why do you want to work at our firm?
- What area of our consulting interests you most?
- Who are our clients and competitors?
- What is your long-term career plan, and how do we fit it?
- Tell us about some of our recent successes or innovations.
Your answers to all these questions will be contingent on the type of the firm, its internal structure, size and specializations.
Deploy your knowledge in an appropriate, engaging way. Accuracy and relevance are much more compelling than volume. Spouting unnecessary facts and statistics will show that you’ve done your research – and failed to grasp what matters.
Worried about a mis-step? Explain any assumptions you’re making and identify the research that you’ve conducted.
4) Oddball skill-testing
Part of working in consulting is being prepared for unexpected changes and challenges, so be ready for some unpredictable interview questions.
Consulting requires an intimate knowledge of markets, so firms may test your ability to size up markets and offer estimates.
- How many airplanes leave from Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday?
- How many lightbulbs are there in Manhattan?
- What is the market size for a cancer diagnostic technology in the U.S.?
- How many passengers fly through LAX in a calendar year?
You can’t do much to prepare for the unexpected, but training yourself to approach questions like these with a calm head and clear focus can make a big difference. The best advice? Use careful, rational estimates.
Want more insight into careers in consulting? Check out TalentEgg’s Consulting Career Guide!