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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
We will finish with some general tips to help you do well when answering consulting interview 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.
PREMIUM MEMBERS RECEIVE IMMEDIATE ACCESS TO:
FOUNDATIONAL PROGRAMS AKA CASE INTERVIEWS:
TCO Solution Videos
TCO I, Felix, McKinsey Offer
TCO I, Sanjeev, joins BCG
TCO I, Rafik
TCO I, Samantha
TCO II, Alice Qinhua Zhou joins McKinsey NYC, trained by Kevin P. Coyne
TCO II, Michael Klein
TCO III, Jennifer Nwankwo joins Bain
TCO III, Zach Steinfeld joins Deloitte S&O
TCO IV, Assel joins McKinsey
TCO IV, Tom & The Experienced Hire Program
TCO IV, Sizan & Prepares for McKinsey & BCG
TCO V, Ritika Mohan joins McKinsey
Insights from Coaching & TCO
DETAILED: How McKinsey, BCG et al. Runs an Engagement (275 videos)
First 90 Days in Consulting
Business Case Analysis
All conveniently available as:
900+ hours of partner-led training
No Internet required. Sync videos to watch offline, or connect with Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G
Push App to the background and play audio
Automatically beam videos from your phone to your Chromecast or AirPlay-enabled devices
Pick up where you left off
It’s all included, every month that you choose to be a member.
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.