In providing an answer to the topic of questions for consulting interviews, we will start by urging you to think about the true meaning of a question. After which we will examine the different ways to breakdown questions for consulting interviews, the most popular question categories in each broad bucket with examples, and then conclude with some general advice on how to approach any kind of question for consulting interviews.
One lesson you will learn as a consultant is the importance of problem definition. So why don’t we take a moment to define the word “question”? Like many everyday items we take for granted, we assume we know their very meaning/essence until we are asked to define it. So take a pause and define the word “question”.
Here is my attempt: I came up with the definition “we ask questions to understand”, but then I quickly realized that such definition does not cater for anyone in a debate trying hard to defend a position, or prove that the other person doesn’t know what he/she is saying. Now here is the definition of question from the Oxford Dictionary: a sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information.
And this definition changes everything. It implies two things: firstly, any direct or indirect sentence or group of sentences that extract information from you is a question. By implication, a consulting interview is a dynamic series of questions and answers. An answer that elicits more information from the other party then becomes a question for that party. Secondly, how the other party interprets the information they draw from you through a question is totally up to them. And if you want to influence their interpretation, you must understand the other party’s motive.
What does a great answer look like to this party? Do I have the answer he/she is looking for? And can/should I, within ethical confines, adjust my response to match that expectation? You will see that the interviewer’s motive is instrumental in providing a great answer.
Another word for motive is objective. I hope you now see why the objective of a conversation is key. Don’t jump into answering questions without searching for the motive. If you miss the objective, and you might as well say goodbye to your chance at working in that consulting firm.
Any question you are asked in a consulting interview, in some way, is backed by the following motives. They are all testing for the following:
Is the candidate:
So make it a second nature to quickly query any question directed at you. Ask “what is the objective here? What is the motive?” And once you know what that is, your responses will be effective.
The most popular way questions for consulting interviews are broken down is by the basic nature of the question. Under this type of issue tree (a structured approach to breaking down a theme), questions for consulting interviews are either categorized as Case Interview, or FIT Interview question. Note how we have decided to categorize brain teasers as part of case interview questions because it is fundamentally a subset of it (explanation to come soon).
The other two ways to break down questions for Consulting Interviews are
We are sure you can come up with other ways.
As previously mentioned, this can be further broken down into Case interview and FIT interview questions. We have provided in-depth analysis into each broad category on this website but we will go over a few examples quickly.
There are five broad subsets of this time of questions for consulting interviews. They include brainstorming, estimation, hypothesis testing, Exhibit Analysis/chart interpretation, and sometimes brain teasers.
We have found that many candidates and even current consultants struggle with brainstorming. Here are some effective brainstorm techniques to help you. And if brainstorming in your head is still hard, you can try this approach. Candidates who can brainstorm well will never need to memorize a case framework again. Some insight examples/resources available for your use include:
Estimation Questions are fundamentally brainstorming questions in one line/one branch only, focused on “guestimating” the size of some economic measure, where it focuses on market demand/supply it is known as market sizing and when it focuses on any other kind of estimation it is known as estimation question.
All of the above are usually combined to form a full case interview session. If you would like to learn more about the types of cases that exist, you can find them here.
Some great examples of full case interviews are listed below:
FIT consulting interview questions are the under estimated challenger to your dreams of becoming a management consultant. We say this because, more often than not, we have seen candidates neglect this aspect of their interview to their own peril. No matter how great your ability to solve cases is, you cannot be offered a job at a consulting firm if you cannot show how you have upholded the firm’s values in the past, how you demonstrated your analytical skills and your ability to influence others. This is true for Bain, as it is true for Mckinsey and BCG.
Motive of a FIT Interview:
Here are some examples of resources you will find useful as you prepare for your FIT interview
The motive of any case interview is to test for the presence of a structured and analytical thinking mind.
We will limit the scope here to the kind of consulting interview questions you are asked from the moments you step your feet into the building to moments just after your interview.
The benefit of examining the questions for consulting interviews through this lens is to emphasize the importance of never letting your guard down. That the question was not asked during a case interview time frame doesn’t mean you should respond in an unstructured manner. A structured thinking approach should be a way of life. Sometimes, partners intentionally disarm you before asking questions. Under this mode of classification, you can have consulting interview questions asked:
Focus on all the questions an Interviewer asks you just before you commence the case. Some common questions include the following or some variation of it.
The common motive or objective behind questions like this is to see if you can communicate in a structured manner while still being likable. With your response you are answering a more fundamental question in the mind of the interviewer: are you naturally a structured thinker? Are you insightful and observant? Do they want to work with you on a difficult, long project? So yes, it is a question to make you relax and break the ice, but don’t let your guard down.
Questions for consulting interviews that fall in this category have been extensively discussed on many platforms and forums. We have extensively done justice to it in many articles on our platform and extensively covered them in the EMBA, McKinsey After 5 Years Maternity Leave (Assel, TCO IV) and in other seasons/parts of The Consulting Offer (TCO) program. These types of consulting interview questions can be further split into case or FIT interview questions.
Refer to all kinds of questions that come after the FIT and case interview section is over. In many cases, you will be the one asking these kinds of questions, other times the Interviewer could have some for you (either in person, via video or email). Your response must communicate moderate enthusiasm about working with the firm. We say moderate because you will be sabotaging your own chances if they get the feeling that you are putting the consulting firm on a pedestal, working at McKinsey will be the pinnacle of your career and that you are desperate to work at the firm. As we often say, desperation does not work in consulting.
Some examples of such questions include:
Useful Articles under this section:
This third way of breaking down questions for consulting interview is relevant because its understanding can differentiate you in a pack of great candidates. Questions for consulting Interviews are broken down by who is asking include the following:
When we refer to “consulting firm”, these can further be broken down by the party involved: the recruiter or the interviewer. We have one thing to say about the former before focusing heavily on the latter. It is important that you are polite and thoughtful when asking recruiters questions. Arrogance will get you nowhere.
We have spent a significant portion of this article covering this part of questions for consulting interviews, so we will not speak of it any longer here.
It is expected that you come with questions to your interview. The questions you ask the Interviewer should never be something you can learn by reading the company’s website. You can ask questions that will help you elicit information about your performance on the case, better understand the kind of work you will be doing if made an offer, learn more about particulars of transitioning to management consulting if you have a technology background (e.g. if the interviewer has similar background), understanding the current realities of the firm that you are unable to glean from its website. Some common questions you can ask include:
Useful articles in this segment include the following:
Think about what will be the biggest concerns your interviewers will have and try to address those. For example, lets say John is coming from technology background and is interested in an Expert position at McKinsey. What interviewers will likely question behind the closed doors (when John is not present) is the following. Will John be able to perform effectively given he is coming from technical background? Will he be able to lead? Will he be able to communicate in a language consultants without technical background can understand? If you are FC Insider, you can watch One-on-one Advice Session with FC Members, episode 2 with Suresh which addresses in more detail particular concerns/questions interviewers would have in the situation we described here.
As we wrap up this article, you mustn’t try to memorize your response to any interview question you are being asked. If you do, you will likely sound robotic and it will hurt your chances. Instead, understand what the motives behind each question are. Then follow a structure that allows you to communicate the most important thing.
Also, remember that it is likely that your interviewer has heard every sample response online. Don’t fall into the trap of sounding like others or worse, like a robot. Be honest with your responses. Interviewers lean towards genuine people. Show that you understand what you are being asked, and communicate your response in a structured and succinct manner.
Other Useful Articles
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