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Consulting Interview Questions (FIT)
Consulting interview questions include two broad types, FIT and case questions. FIT questions, also called personal experience interview or behavioral interview questions, test your fit with the firm. Case questions are generally sanitized versions of real client problems. They are usually 20 to 40 minutes in length and test your ability to solve problems, come up with insights, and think critically and creatively.
They also test your business judgement. Solving the problem is not as important as the rigor of the process of solving the problem.
For firms, consulting interview questions related to FIT are as important as case questions. You may be a phenomenal problem solver but if the interviewer will conclude your profile, personality, and/or communication style will not work well with clients, you will not be hired.
FIT is actually the primary reason candidates get declined, in our experience. Moreover, candidates usually, to a large degree, ignore preparing for consulting interview questions related to FIT and instead spend most of their efforts preparing for cases. Both are important and neither of them should be neglected.
The skills firms will test for when asking questions related to FIT are communications skills, leadership / ability to influence people, ability to work under pressure and deal with conflict and ambiguity, are you a high performer, ability to solve problems under pressure etc.
Below, let’s take a look at some common consulting interview questions and some thoughts on how to approach answering them.
Consulting interview questions that help create an overview of your profile
- Take me through your resume.
- Tell me about yourself.
- What is the most important thing not on your resume?
- How would you describe yourself? How would your close friends describe you?
- What has been your favorite class? Your least favorite? Why?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
- Why should we hire you?
- What makes you a more interesting candidate than anyone else I interviewed today?
- What do you do for fun?
- What did you do last summer?
One thing you need to keep in mind when answering any of consulting interview question is the interviewer is evaluating how you will look in front of a client.
You will need to come across as poised, confident but not arrogant, attentive and someone they would want to work with and socialize with.
Consulting interview questions that test your ability to lead and influence / seeking evidence of demonstrated leadership
- What accomplishment(s) makes you the most proud? Why?
- Tell me about a professional situation in which you impacted your peers.
- Describe the best/worst manager you have ever worked for.
- Tell me about a time you had an impact.
- What kind of leader are you?
- Tell me about a time when you exhibited leadership.
This type of question is usually not this direct but this is what they will be testing for. So if it sounds like they are testing for evidence of demonstrate leadership/influence, make sure you cover it.
For example, if you are asked, “I see here you started a consulting club. Tell me about it.” Your job is not to discuss all the difficulties of starting a consulting club. Instead focus on one person you had to convince that was instrumental for the success of your new club.
Consulting interview questions that evaluate your problem-solving abilities and initiative
- Describe a situation in the past where you had to analyze and solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem.
Problem-solving is primarily evaluated during the case portion but some FIT questions may focus on this skill as well. Keep your answer succinct and give a lot of facts (dates, names, details).
Often this type of question is primarily testing evidence of demonstrated leadership / ability to influence (see above).
Consulting interview questions that test how you deal with conflict and ambiguity
- Tell me about a time when you failed OR
- Describe an experience where you failed. What did you learn from this?
- Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a classmate or a co-worker.
- Tell me about a time you had ethical dilemma. What it was and how you handled it?
Use the absolute top standard for values and demonstrate them across the board when answering any questions related to conflict resolution and, of course, in general.
In fact, I recommend reading The key to a sustainable advantage in your career before you go any further.
Consulting interview questions that test if you are a high performer
- Have you been satisfied with your grades?
- What is your GPA? Your GMAT score? Your SAT’s?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What would you say your biggest weakness is?
- What are your long-term goals?
- How will you know when you have become a success?
- Tell me about a significant accomplishment?
As you may know, many consulting firms have an up or out policy. This policy basically means if you are not moving up, you are out. So being a high performer among high performers is required to succeed at firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain etc.
If you don’t have an impeccable record of academic and professional accomplishments, be ready to explain it, but never defend poor grades. There is no defense that will work. Moreover, in such case you may need to accomplish more before applying to improve your profile.
For example, if your undergraduate grades are lower than what is expected you may need to do another degree, like an MBA, and demonstrate academic excellence before applying, to improve your chances to get an interview and, ultimately, to obtain an offer.
Consulting interview questions that test how serious you are about consulting and about their particular firm
- Why do you think you would make a good consultant?
- Why do you want to be a consultant?
- What are your geographic/industry preferences?
- What are your criteria for selecting a firm? How would you choose from multiple offers?
- Why do you want to work at our firm? Why us instead of another consulting firm?
- Where else are you applying and why?
- If you were offered the job right now, would you take it?
- Why firm X? Why city Y?
- Why consulting?
When answering why McKinsey, why BCG etc, focus on what firms consider to be unique to them. For Bain it is their culture, for McKinsey it is the leadership factory and international reach, for BCG it is thought leadership.
If you are planning to join McKinsey or BCG we recommend reading Bill Matassoni’s memoir Marketing Saves the World. Don’t let the title confuse you. The book is about strategy, with a capital S. Bill is a former McKinsey and BCG senior partner and we have never seen anyone who could better explain the differences between the firms than Bill did in his memoir.
Consulting interview questions asked at the end
At the end you will be asked something along the lines of “Do you have any questions you would like to ask me?” Be ready to ask 2-3 intelligent questions. Don’t ask something you could find out from reading a company website.
Some good questions to ask include questions about firm’s strategy or focus, the background of the interviewer while connecting it to your background. For example, “I noticed you have engineering background, same as me, what was the most challenging part of transitioning to consulting.”
You can ask about a career path at the firm. You can also address an issue about the firm in the press but tread carefully. Never ever make any accusations or make the interviewer uncomfortable.
General advice on answering consulting interview questions
We will finish with some general tips to help you do well when answering consulting interview questions:
- Make sure you smile
- Maintain eye contact
- Be succinct, honest and respectful, but not desperate. Desperation does not work in consulting
- Do not complain about anything
- Do not repeat company slogans and do not use buzzwords
- When answering talk specifics and address the details. Use a lot of facts: dates, names, details etc.
- Be enthusiastic
- You have to come across as if you are having fun
- Make this a pleasant experience for the interviewer
- Show something unique. In consulting we call it a spike. For example, your spike can be that you used to be a concert pianist before consulting. What is the one thing they will remember about you?
- Ask good questions if you have them. They take notice
Where can you watch real candidates being trained how to answer consulting interview questions? Both FIT and case questions?
If you would like to fast track your case interview preparation and maximize your chances of getting an offer from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte etc, we welcome you to train with us. The Consulting Offer program, which is a part of the Premium membership, was designed specifically for this purpose.
There is nowhere else in the world where you can see real candidates being trained by former partners from major consulting firms. You will see the candidate’s progression through each step of the case interview preparation process. And you will see candidates getting real offers from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte etc.
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Any other consulting interview questions you think should be included above?
If there are any other consulting interview questions that you think are worthwhile for the FC community to be included on this page please let us know in the comments.