The Consulting Interview

Consulting Interview | Gilbertmgaul.comTypically, an interview with a consulting firm will last around 30-45 minutes long. The first 10-15 minutes will be devoted to the traditional behavioral interview. The two questions you absolutely must have great answers for are ‘why do you want to go into consulting’ and ‘why should we hire you’.
After this fit assessment, you’ll then be asked a case question- an analytic business problem which you’ll work through with your interviewer. Usually entry level cases take about 20-30 minutes to work through. Once you’ve finished the case, you’ll then be given 5 minutes to ask your interviewer a few questions. Shake hands, collect their business card, and the process is done.

Case Interview Examples

Rarely will firms give candidates the classic ‘numbers/market sizing case’, but they do pop up from time to time. More than anything these cases are purely designed to test your composure, comfort with numbers, and ability to manufacture logical assumptions together. Below are some examples I’ve made up.

  1. Estimate how many drug stores there are in the US?
  2. How many burritos does Chipotle sell a year?
  3. Estimate the average distance a college student walks in a day.
  4. Estimate the market size for Facebook if users had to pay a yearly subscription.

Business Cases are longer and require much more analytic rigor. They come in all shapes and forms, but here are some examples you could encounter:

  • A. Entering a new market – Your client manufactures perfumes/fragrances. They are thinking of entering the shampoo market. How would you advise them?
  • B. Mergers and Acquisitions – Your client is a leading dress shoe manufacturer and is thinking about buying a small athletic footwear company. Should they go along with this acquisition?
  • C. Developing a new product or service – Google is thinking about starting its own online games and fantasy sports department. What are the key business issues they should be thinking about?
  • D. Growth Strategies – Your client is a South African brandy producer and is looking to expand into the US. How can they successfully gain market share and build brand awareness abroad?
  • E. Starting a New Business – Your friend has asked you to help him build the business case around starting a jet ski rental company in Chicago. Please provide an argument as to why he should or should not take on this venture.
  • F. Increasing Profit/Increasing Sales/Increasing Revenues/Reducing Cost s- Your client is a major car insurance provider with slumping sales and increasing costs. What strategies can be implemented to restore this company back to profitability?

They may be keeping you from success.

Lack of preparation in terms of learning company and interviewer background. Do your homework to show your interest and commitment. Know what the organization does, how they are doing, and who their customers are. And then take the next step. Link your experience to the job opening. How can your previous work tie into the job role you are interviewing for? The final step in preparation would be to get as much information as possible on your interviewers. What is their function in the company, their personal style, any interests you may have in common?

Highlighting gaps rather than relevant skills. Don’t point out areas in which you are lacking by asking for training in skills you should already have mastered. Instead of coming across as eager to learn, you risk appearing unqualified for the job.

Badmouthing former employers. This is an egregious mistake. You are not there to complain about prior positions but to cast yourself in a positive light. Don’t dwell on why you left but what you are seeking in the way of a meaningful, satisfying job.

Neglecting common courtesies. The basic rules of polite and courteous behavior apply here as everywhere. Observe your “pleases and thank yours”, shake hands if offered, and send a follow-up note of appreciation for their consideration and your interviewer’s time.

Putting the cart before the horse. While you are still being evaluated, it is too early to ask about salaries or promotions. The money will be an important factor in the job offer, but you don’t want to make it seem as if it matters more than what the job will entail and how good a fit you are for the organization. By the same token, although you want to know that there are advancement opportunities, you need to show commitment to this job first before you set your sights on the next rung up the ladder.

Sounding desperate. You may well wish to know how soon a job selection will be made but ask the question in a way that does not make you appear overly anxious. Ask instead for the name of someone you can follow up with in a reasonable amount of time.