Frequently asked questions
It usually takes 1-2 months to prepare for your interview nicely (in case you spend 4 hours daily) starting from zero level on your own. This implies:
- Defining a calendar on how to prepare
- Learning the basic frameworks/theory for cases
- Prepare your answers for the fit part (including your questions at the end of the interview)
- Learn how to answer market sizing questions
- Practice math and graph analysis
- Read examples of cases
- Practice cases, fit and communication skills live
In case you prepare with a coach, experience partner or former consultant, you can assume that every hour you will do with him/her will be worth between 2-15 hours on your own, thus decreasing significantly the preparation time.
Good news is that most of the consulting companies have pretty common personal fit questions. Bad news is that candidates may underestimate this part of preparation, although FIT questions are a very important part of the interview. So we want to share with You some basic, but the most fundamental advice for your sufficient preparation.
First, write down in advance your stories about your leadership, conflict solving skills, team skills, analytical excellence. And second, practice them by telling to your fellow students or experts. Basically, there are three main blocks of fit questions:
- "Tell me about yourself" - Usually the interviewer begins with such a question This is an opportunity for him to learn about you, and yours is an opportunity to start a nice presentation. Chronological structure for your FIT question might take a lot of time for you to reply and thus it's very difficult to take the necessary things. So, we would recommend you to start with a summary of your background, why you are relevant for consulting (or some specific company).
Next, talk about 3-4 of your roles (may be professional, education, extracurricular). The more experienced you are the more you should speak about professional roles. It can also be the distinct roles within the same organization (Company, your responsibilities, you greatest achievements there), and also your main reason why consulting or this company.
- "Why consulting?" or "Why company X?" - questions to check you motivation and how much you know about the company you want to join. In this case you use the following approach:
- Start with a story of how you found consulting
- Show the interviewer how the skills and experience that consulting offers can help propel you to achieve a dream that will transform the lives of a lot of people positively
- Round up by showing that you have certain base skills that you believe will help you strive in the firm and tell the interviewer that you are hoping that, through the interview, you can show that you truly possess these basic skills.
- Next the interviewer will also ask you to provide examples from your background to assess how good you are as a leader or a team player; how you can create impact and persuade people; or how you can achieve your goals
Prepare and practice personal fit interviews – they are as important as the cases.
Every consulting company has its own type of tests and each of them has its own criteria. The most common are:
- McKinsey: PST, or more recently substituted with Imbellus in some offices and countries
- BCG: Potential test, or sometimes SHL + a logic test based on traffic lights color (two or more traffic lights are connected by codes; each code change a color of the traffic light; one of the code is broken and you have to understand which is the broken one)
- Bain: Not common in Europe, sometimes present in other countries. In Russia and Australia: written test; in America: GMAT style test
- Oliver Wyman, OC&C and Roland Berger: GMAT style math test, sometimes in person, sometimes online
The best way to prepare for the tests like GMAT, SHL and PST is to train them in advance on various platforms and sources, free or paid ones. But, preparing just for GMAT won't cover all the aspects of McKinsey Imbellus test.
Nevertheless, there are common tips on analytical tests that can be useful in your preparation:
- Be conscious with a time. Commit to a discipline to go through as many questions as possible than actually solve less. It is better to solve more even by skipping some.
- Practice a lot of math before – it is normally a key component of all the tests
- Use elimination process when you have doubts in multiple choice question
- For PST, Potential test and Written test: Practice graph interpretation
- For PST, Potential test and Written test: Practice quick reading and quick understanding of key information only Finally, it is important to understand in advance whether you get penalized for wrong answers (eg Potential Test) or not (eg PST), that may change your strategy for solving.
Excellent case interview performance is not something unachievable. It's fully in your hands to make it happen. Below we want to share some simple algorithms that you can follow in order to prepare for your case interview.
1) Start with (a) McKinsey case book, which can help you better understand the whole interview mechanics and what happens behind the stage
(b) Then read Case In Point by Cosentino to understand different types of cases and approaches to crack them
(c) Victor Cheng's LOMS (Look over my shoulder) audio tutorial - he has his own frameworks for the cases and explains how to apply them. This audio tutorial is very good to start working with cases, but bear in mind that it has its natural limitations
By the way, we're happy to share these resources with you. Just let us know at FREE RESOURCES and we will send it on your e-mail.
2) Practice your quantitative skills and fast math
3) Start training case studies with peers. It is not a 1-way talk but a real discussion between two people, while you can test the structure, the business sense and the ability to use the indices or the data communicated by the interviewer. By practicing with a partner you can feel the real limit of training using books.
Here André is sharing his experience with candidates:
"Actually, the best motto for case interview preparation is practice-practice-practice. In my time I have practiced 150+ case interviews with my peers which helped me to get multiple offers I wanted".
Once you feel you are not improving anymore practicing with books or peers, we would recommend you to take an expert coach for structured feedback and polishing your own performance.
The focus of the first round is more on your personal fit and individual behavior combined with a case interview. During the first round the interviewers will be senior managers and/or junior partners, while in the second round you will meet senior partners or directors.
Since the two profiles mentioned above have a different seniority, there is also some difference in the type of questions. At the first round you will be likely asked more analytical questions and the business cases will be more detailed (e.g. estimate the market share at the end of the third year knowing that.). In the second round you might have to tackle more broad and strategic questions (e.g. what would you outsource in a marketing department)
The partners in the last round are more experienced and they will challenge every single detail of your story. So make sure that you have a couple of backup stories. It's important since additional questions will take up to 50% of the interview. Try to remember the main details and facts and make sure that you know how to explain the key concepts quickly. Test your stories with your friends, ideally consultants, and ask for their feedback. There can be multiple groups of additional questions:
The interviewer may be interested in details about the context He may want to check whether this was your effort or more sort of a team effort. "Have you faced any difficulties while implementing your solution?"- Typically an interviewer would like you to tell him how you've overcome those difficulties. Your interviewer will check how real your story is. You should be ready to provide even more granular actions, key milestones and a breakdown of potential effects.
At the moment, we don't see the risk of Coronavirus causing a long lasting recession as it was the case in the last financial crisis. According to the opinion of our experts, it will have some short-term and maybe mid-term implications, but definitely not a long term.
Consulting industry therefore reacts differently to the virus depending on the region and company. While some Asian countries (i.e. China and Singapore) indeed freezed hiring for the moment, other Asian countries (i.e. Vietnam, Malaysia) still continue hiring.The virus has not yet affected recruiting in Europe and Middle East (it is still booming and hungry searching for candidates) or North America.
However, in China and Germany: some consulting companies have already resumed hiring in China. In parallel, other companies like Oliver Wyman in Germany are adapting their recruiting practices to the current situation and now offering more online interviews instead of the assessment centers in person. Hope, it helps you further to get more confidence.
The first best option to maximize your chances significantly is to apply with a referral, whether you are coming from a target school or not. This doesn't mean you cannot get into consulting without a referral if you are coming from a non-target school – just that referrals make things easier.
Applying with a referral means that the consultants directly talks to HR forwarding your application, thus just mentioning the name in the cover would not be as effective as a true referral.
Important thing - referrals DON'T get you a job. They only open the door, so your CV, cover letter and actual preparation for the interview should be on the top level to make it happen.
The second best option is to make your preparation with a professional coach, who will help you to make the whole process more efficient, provide structured feedback and share his rich experience in recruiting and consulting, so that you get your dream job offer.
There are several important aspects on which you can stream your attention, energy and efforts in order to make your way in the consulting world. There are hard and soft skills which you need to be prepared with.
You can read books about consultancy and how it works, what is expected from you and how you could do this.
In parallel you can also take some courses in PowerPoint, Excel and MS projects to polish your skills. There are also a number of books about storyboarding, storytelling and content creation, which will obviously help you to create good presentations. A lot of things to do!
But, if you want to take the essence of all of these preparations, we have a program especially designed for candidates who just got an offer in consulting in order to give support in the first 100 days of their jobs and long term career path.
It depends. In general, you need about 100 hours of practice to feel confident. With decent coaching and guidance by professional the preparation process becomes much more efficient and faster at the same time.
90 seconds for preparing a structure for a case might seem tough, nevertheless it should be enough for preparing the initial structure. You don't have to prepare it 4 levels deep right away.
Take 2-3 minutes for preparing for FIT part, think of the key points and have your stories prepared in advance, so you just need to adjust them to a specific question.
You can solve the case not perfectly but the key point would be HOW you did it, how structured you were, what questions you ask, what recommendations gave. If you were stuck - was that a problem to you? That's what will be assessed.