If you have your sights set on a career as a management consultant, you already know the interview process can be brutal. With thousands of applicants from a highly-skilled pool to choose from, interviewers are looking for anything that makes candidates stand out as a winning applicant.
In this post, you’ll learn the 5 steps you need to take to ace your management consultant interview.
1) Do Your Homework
This step seems pretty obvious but you’d be surprised how many people go to an interview with only a basic understanding of the company. If you want to ace your interview, you need to do some in-depth research and homework to get prepared.
As soon as you get your interview, call the person who arranged it and ask these important questions:
- Who will your interview be with? For example, is the first round with a manager or someone from HR?
- What is the dress code? Many companies prefer smart casual, whereas others may have a more relaxed dress code and it’s important to look the part.
- Where is the interview being held? Confirm the address as well as the correct floor and room of the building so you’re not left searching on the day.
Next, do some research into the company itself and arm yourself with a basic understanding of the annual sales, number of employees and branches, the mission statement, and the names of the CEO, manager, etc.
If you’re able to bring up just a nugget or two of this information during your interview, it shows a deeper level of knowledge and a passion for the company.
Also, make sure to set up alerts on your phone for any news stories about the company you’re interviewing for. The interviewer may ask you a general question about why you want to work for their company and having up-to-date information about the business will show a meaningful interest.
As well as brushing up on the company itself, make sure to keep abreast of the latest industry news. Consultants have a broad knowledge of the latest business news, politics, and international affairs. Make sure you know the key issues currently in the media and have some general answers prepared. You’ll be amazed at how many candidates trip up when asked a simple question about their opinion on the latest major business story in the media.
No matter what career you’re aiming for this year, doing your homework will always help you stand out from the crowd.
2) Present Yourself Well
Yes, we shouldn’t judge books by the cover. But interviewers form opinions on interviewees as soon as they walk in the door. Make sure you make the best first impression by dressing appropriately.
For management consultant interviews, the dress code will be a business professional. For men, this means a suit in a neutral color with a crisp white shirt, muted tie, and clean dress shoes. For women, a pantsuit, smart skirt, and blouse or equivalent is appropriate.
Even if you’re a fashion icon, it’s best to avoid bold colors, patterns or fabrics when attending your first management consultant interview. Also, avoid strong colognes and perfumes. These may make you stand out for the wrong reasons.
Want more help preparing for your management consultant interview? You’ll find interview checklists, tools, and resources for preparing for your interview here.
3) Prepare Answers
You wouldn’t go up on stage and give a speech without preparing, so don’t walk into your interview without practicing first. Start by practicing basic answers in the mirror. You’ll be able to work on your posture and facial expressions this way.
It’s also a good idea to practice with another person. Get them to act as the interviewer and do a rehearsal. If you can find someone in the management consultant space to do this with you, that’s a huge bonus.
When answering questions, volume and pace are important. If you talk too quietly or rush through your answers, the interviewer is going to have a hard time listening. Focus on slowing your pace and projecting your voice.
a) Fit Interview Questions
Fit interview questions are general questions about yourself that will help the interviewer decide if you’re a good fit for the role. You’ll be asked about your qualifications, experience, and why you want a career in management consulting. Make sure you have all this information down to a science so you don’t trip over your words trying to answer a basic question about yourself.
Why do you want to work for this firm?
This question is often asked to gauge your knowledge of the industry and motivation to get a place at a particular firm.
To prepare for this question, highlight specific reasons for your interest in the firm. For example, if the firm is an industry leader in a niche industry, mention this. Or perhaps they are renowned for a specific marketing approach – this is something else to mention.
Another key point to bring up is the firm’s values or mission statement and how this aligns with your work ethic.
It’s easy to give generic answers about wanting to work for a top firm, but those who stand out are the ones who give interesting, researched answers.
If you are struggling to come up with innovative answers to this question, go to the firm’s website. There you will find their core values and mission statement as well as some information about senior leaders and industry news. If you’re in college, you may be able to attend information sessions about the firm on campus which will give you key insights also.
b) Market-Sizing Questions
Also known as guesstimate questions, market-sizing questions are designed to test your ability to arrive at educated, thought-out answers and estimations with limited information. There isn’t a correct answer, but your thought process is what the interviewer is interested in.
When working in management consulting, you are often faced with problems that have no concrete solution. Instead, you must rely on your creative thinking to arrive at the best solution based on the information and resources you have. This is the skill interviewers are looking for.
“How many bicycles are purchased each year in California?”
To begin, you need to ask to follow up questions to get as much information as possible. Once the interviewer has given you all the facts they can about the question, you’ll be expected to present a structured answer showing your thought process and approach to the question.
Make sure to utilize all the information given to you and clearly show how you’ve made assumptions based on the information. For example, you might have additional information about demographics, population size, cycling schemes, recent investment in cycle paths, etc.).
Treat the answer as a presentation, giving all the information in a clear and concise way. Your final answer could be anything as long as you’ve arrived at it based on all the information you have.
c) Value Proposition Questions
Another important role of management consultants is being able to determine the value of a business based on the information presented. These questions are designed to test this understanding and thought process.
“Your client is a real estate firm in New York. The target customer is high-end investors. What are those customers looking for?”
As with the market-sizing question, you begin to answer this with follow up questions to gather as much information as possible. Identify all the important factors of the business such as location, price, quality of real estate, etc. and present an answer based on these key factors.
Give a short presentation showing your reasoning and thought process to show how you arrived at your conclusions. Again, there is no right answer to this hypothetical question. Instead, the interviewer is looking for a clear, coherent thought process.
d) Data Analysis Questions
As a management consultant, you’ll spend a lot of time analyzing data and summarizing findings for clients. So these questions are designed to test this skill.
You’ll be presented with data and asked to give key insights related to market size or business growth.
When mapping out your answer, you need to analyze all data sets presented to identify any unusual trends such as spikes in sales or sharp declines.
Once you’ve got all your key insights, create a clear summary to present to the interviewer highlighting the important findings. Always refer back to the original data to show how you arrived at your summary.
Remember, the data you’ve been given is going to have something worth noting that the interviewer is looking for. So take your time when analyzing the data to make sure you don’t skip over any important points.
4) Emphasize Leadership Experience
A vital skill of any management consultant is the ability to lead. At all stages of your career, you’ll be working with a team to analyze, strategize and implement solutions for major clients. The best management consultants are able to step up and lead a team cohesively and effectively.
The interviewer may want to highlight any past experience with a specific question such as, “Tell me about a previous role where you showed good leadership skills.”
Where most interviewees go wrong is just talking about the previous leadership roles they took up. However, this question is actually an opportunity to highlight specific outcomes or results you gained in the past.
For example, you may have managed a charity fundraiser in the past. In this case, talk about how you managed a team of people and the success you gained as a result. This could be managing a team of caterers or volunteers and successfully raising X amount of money which surpassed the previous year’s fundraiser.
Or perhaps you were captain of a sports team and successfully led your team to victory by implementing a new training regime.
If you’re a freelancer without much leadership experience, you could consider transitioning to a leadership role first to gain that all-important leadership experience.
It’s always good to have figures to talk about. For example, raising 50% more during a charity fundraiser than the previous year; freeing up 6 hours a week; generating X in revenue; etc.
However, you don’t have to have management experience to be a leader. You can easily talk about your time as a charity worker, team captain, youth worker, etc. and still show excellent leadership skills.
If you’re concerned you don’t have the experience to become a management consultant, there are plenty of different career options out there. Make sure you do your research to find the best career path for you.
5) Prepare Questions for the Interviewer
You’ll almost certainly be given time at the end of the interview to ask your own questions. Prepare three or four interesting questions to use this time wisely.
The interviewer is going to see a lot of potential candidates who will all likely as similar questions such as, “Why did you choose management consulting?” or “Why do you like working here?” They’ll be extremely bored with answering the same questions so stand out by asking something more innovative.
Here are some good examples:
- What has been your most challenging project while at this firm?
- What is the number one mistake new hires make that I should avoid?
- What is your best advice to help me hit the ground running if I get the job?
- What is your most memorable moment while working at this firm?
It’s best to have a couple of questions prepared about the interviewer as well as a couple of questions that will help you if you get the position. This shows an eagerness to work for the firm as well as an interest in the interviewer which will help forge a connection.
Ready to Start a Career in Management Consulting?
If you’re thinking of a career in management consulting, make sure to check out our in-depth guide on becoming a management consultant to find out if this challenging career is right for you.