During an interview, it is common to be asked “Tell me about yourself.” Even though you’re mentally prepared for the question to be asked, suddenly your heart starts racing, your mind goes blank, and you just plain forget how to talk like a normal human.

In thousands of hours of interview preparation every year, we find similar themes with EVERY client: you love breaking your brain for the case interview, and assume that for the the fit interviews – being more predictable by comparison – you can wing it.

Au contraire, peeps. The fit interview is where magic happens, where your true self comes out, and where the interview is ultimately decided. True, you can’t get through the process without being good at cases – but amongst those that rock the cases, how do they decide? The fit interview is the tiebreaker, so you best be on your game.

The fit interview preparation process is critical to success, and requires tremendous self-reflection –  why you are unique, what makes you valuable to an employer, and what your goals are (especially as they line up with the firm’s).

Now, no one wants to work with a robot – we’re not trying to point you to “perfect answers” here. Firms hire humans who are intelligent but also have vocal inflections, facial expressions, emotions and, hopefully, humor. Your goal, when practicing for the fit interview, is not memorizing to recite answers.

There are no trick questions in fit interviews – but you can still go in horribly unprepared. You must practice – and the first step toward practice is understanding. Today, we’ll help by laying out 4 key types of consulting fit questions. Enjoy!

1. Why Consulting? Why Now?

Whether you are transitioning into consulting from a different industry or are heading there straight from the classroom, the interviewer is looking to see if you are really serious about this career move – that you have researched this industry, and will want to know why you chose this industry over where you have been and all of the other choices on your plate.

Firms know you’ll probably leave – in 2-3 years, if you’re normal – and they are comfortable with that payback cycle. However, the firm loses money on you in the first 6-12 months on the job – they invest heavily in training, and you are contributing very little. It’s a risk to take someone on if they are not committed to the job – so when you answer the questions the interviewer should feel confident that you know about the industry and the company your are applying for.

Make sure you are ready to share how your experience positions you well for this industry – it’s important that you don’t sound like a consulting-worshipper or share how you hate what you’re currently doing. Consultants want workers who are going from strength to strength.

Make sure you have honestly taken the time to weigh all benefits, sacrifices and reasons for making this transition. Although over time consultants are paid well, an industry transition from a senior exec role or a field like i-banking can mean decreased pay, title and seniority, etc. and you need to share what benefits of consulting will outweigh these costs.

An example version of this question might be “You have received numerous promotions and your compensation is far greater than that of a consultant at your level. Why the transition?” The interviewer is clearly trying to see if there is a convincing reason for the switch. Communicate your thought process, research and some areas you like about your current work that you’ll get to do more of as a consultant – make sure you highlight the skills you’ll develop, higher job satisfaction, and long-term career aspirations.

2. Industry/Firm Interest and Knowledge

Why do you want to work for XXX? You can guarantee this question will be asked. The firm is trying to assess where else you are applying, where their firm fits in, and how much work you’ve done to prepare. You have 2 ways to handle this kind of question.

First, you can give them a few reasons – 3 reasons why you want to work for McKinsey, or 4 reasons why Deloitte is your first-choice firm. You need to explain each reason, and let them know at the beginning that you’ve thought about this question a lot – to reduce the risk of sounding totally memorized.

Second, you can tell a story. Stories are the best – they are believable, personal and very memorable. The story might sound like this: “I used to think investment banking was for me…and then I met this guy from McKinsey.” Take insights from your networking conversations, and get specific.

No matter which option you choose here, make sure you address the question with enthusiasm – be excited about what the firm has to offer.   

What do you think makes a good management consultant? If you do not have business or economics background, take heed! Interviewers are searching out whether you are interested enough in the job to do your own research – and we’re not talking web research here (although that’s a good foundation). Do you understand what skills are required for success and do you honestly feel prepared to take those on?

Firms want to be assured you have a clear understanding of why you are entering into this industry and what you plan to accomplish during your time as a consultant. The interviewer is trying to find out what you have heard makes a good management consultant – from other management consultants, not some vague online article. Structure your response and make sure you include skills like analytical capabilities, hard work, and great communication skills.

3. Strength and Weaknesses

Are you aware of what you are good at and what areas needs improving? Now, don’t get us wrong – if it were possible to be perfect, firms would be pumped and you would be hired. However, in the absence of possible perfection, it’s critical to make sure you have a healthy understanding of where you’re strong – and where you need work – without displaying extremes like arrogance or insecurity.

“What’s your greatest strength?” (Variations can include “Tell me about your 3 greatest strengths.” or “If I put you on a team with 6 people, what strengths of yours would be displayed?”, etc.) The interviewer really wants to make sure you understand what a few of your strengths are and how to best apply them to all types of situations. Be prepared to share some examples of those amazing qualities, with brief explanations, but without sounding arrogant. Select strengths (you should have many) that demonstrate well-roundedness – for example, one on data/analysis/problem solving, one on leadership/motivation/work ethic, one on communication/conflict resolution.

“What’s your greatest weakness?” This is such a hated question, but it’s not hard to answer. Don’t do what so many try to do – share about a not very weak weakness, such as “I have an issue with coming up with too many great ideas.” Ummm…yeah – lame!

Your interviewer is trying to see not “if” you have weaknesses, but “how” you handle them and what are you doing to manage a negative effect – so it’s not THEIR problem. Do you have a plan in place whereby you are improving in your weak area? How do you receive constructive criticism? As a consultant, you’ll receive excessive feedback – from peers, managers, those that report to you – and frequently (3-6 mini-reviews per year, 2 formal reviews). You should be eating weaknesses for lunch – not trying to hide them. After all, that’s how you will grow.

There are always-scary weaknesses – like being error-prone or resistant to feedback. There are also always-safe weaknesses – like learning how to speak your mind and becoming a more clear communicator. In one of our 8-hour Bootcamp modules, we go around the room and share weaknesses – we’re the ultimate spin doctors, and it’s fun to watch the room transform as attendees break off fear of exposure and get bold about planning to improve.

For weaknesses, don’t be surprised if they ask for more than one – so be prepared to share boldly about at least 2 weaknesses.

4. General Business and Current Events

In this industry, consultants make it a point to be remain constantly aware of some basic business news and current events. Why? It’s important for you to stay on top of recent insights – but it’s also important that you’re always ready to engage in a business conversation with a client. This question is a proxy for both – are you genuinely interested in business? Are you client ready?

Be prepared to make business insight review a part of your daily schedule, if it is not already – starting today. Some suggestions are to start reading the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Fortune. You don’t need to memorize each and every detail, but you do need to form opinions and have a basic understanding on what is happening and why that might be important. Start with focusing on some leading companies and business issues of that day.

“Tell me about a company you admire.” Here’s an example question – and when you’re building the answer, remember: you are trying to convey passion for business and insights as well. You will want to structure your answer and give 2 or 3 well-developed topics. Don’t ramble on-and-on – 1 minute max is sufficient – and be succinct and genuine. As a bonus, you might want to share some ideas on what will make the company stronger/more admired. This shows the interviewer that you’re growth oriented and you believe you can do great things.

As you’re thinking about this, as always it’s important to prepare – so you don’t pick a generic choice like Google or Apple! Be more creative in your selection – show that you really study business, not only as a consumer, but as an informed advisor.

Want more? Check out these articles from MC on this topic: Consulting Fit Interview Questions and Their Fatal Mistakes Management Consulting Interviews: 10 Key Preparation Tips Management Consulting Interview Preparation: The New and Improved Guide

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In 9 out of 10 cases, especially if you are an experienced hire or come from a non-target school, having a contact inside a consulting firm will make the difference between getting an interview or not. Because of that, effective networking is critical.

In the following videos, we give an overview on networking basics – specific to consulting. You’ll learn:

  • Who you should networking with inside the firm
  • How your networking effort will affect the way your resume is reviewed
  • How a candidate is ranked in a team review process
  • What makes consultants motivated to respond to your networking efforts
  • How to hit the sweet spot when networking (esp. in regards to timing, firm selection, firm location, and position)

By the way, want to be notified when we release new YouTube videos about consulting? You can join our community and subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

How to Network for Management Consulting – The Basics

Networking and the Consulting Resume Review

4 Reasons Why Consultants Respond to Networking

5 Rules of Sweet Spot Networking

We hope you enjoyed the networking overview. Our MC community would love to hear how you – yes YOU reading this article right now – are planning to network your way into consulting. Leave a comment below with the action steps you’ll take to get in the door.

Also, for those serious about wanting to network your way into a consulting firm, we recommend you take a look at The Consultant’s Networking Bible – an 88-page networking manual that explains, step-by-step, exactly how to build relationships with consultants and recruiters and network into your dream consulting firms. Also included with the manual is:

  • A database of 111 global consulting firms with detailed profiles including firm sizes, position titles, diversity groups, and email monikers.
  • 2500+ email addresses and phone numbers of recruiters, consultants, and human resource contacts
  • Email templates that will get you responses – whether it’s your first time emailing a Monitor recruiter or asking a Bain consultant for resume help
  • Call scripts that provide strategies to establish rapport and make people want to help you in your quest – regardless of how cold or hot the lead

You can learn more about the Networking Bible here.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love helping our readers in any way we can :)

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The case study question is a fundamental portion of any consulting interview. Perhaps you’re a natural at networking, possess a wunderkind resume, and exemplify expert-level interpersonal communication skills. When it comes to evaluating case studies, none of your other skills really matter.

The bad news is that case study questions require a very particular way of thinking. There are not particularly intuitive for the uninitiated. Consulting firms used to say, “You don’t need to practice for case interviews – anyone can do them, even an English major.” However, it wasn’t true – and thankfully, they’ve stopped spreading nasty rumors.

The good news is that there’s a method to the madness, and accordingly, anyone can excel given the right preparation.

Today, we’re getting started with some of the basics as we’re getting going on a series focused on case interviews. Specifically, we’re giving you the 5 core principles of case study questions ever interviewee should know.

1) Focus on Structure

Structure is everything when it comes to answer case study questions. Your answer cannot be “free flowing” or “think as you go.” Interviewers want to know you can see the problem and solution from start to finish.

Don’t be afraid to be very explicit in demonstrating your answer’s structure. Saying something like, “The 3 areas I’d want to investigate,” or “The 4 explanations that come to mind,” is perfectly acceptable. It may feel a little contrived, but your interviewer actually wants to hear these types of words in your answer. They demonstrate that you possess the ability to think and problem solve within a firm structure.

2) Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative

Delivering a structured response does NOT mean you should limit your creativity. Unorthodox answers are encouraged. After all, your firm will be interviewing hundreds of potential hires, and the vast majority will regurgitate the same answer time after time after time. If you want to stand out, taking an innovative approach to your case study solution is the perfect opportunity.

The caveat is that your innovative answers need to be firmly supported with logic, sound reasoning, facts, figures, and all the evidence you’d expect in any traditional answer. The goal isn’t creativity. The goal is a creative solution.

3) Don’t Rely on Frameworks

Frameworks are important. They give you a place to start and direction in which to proceed, but don’t rely too heavily on them. The 3CP or Porter’s 5 can get you started, but if you rely solely on your framework, you’ll ultimately hinder yourself from offering a creative solution.

Another issue with many common frameworks is the lack of financial consideration within the model. We’ve adjusted these, creating a few of our own custom frameworks. You can find these models in the third edition of MC’s Consulting Bible.

4) Discuss the Implications, Not Just the Numbers

Most case study questions require a quantitative answer. But be careful not to stop at the numbers. If the client needs to reduce costs by 13%, that’s great, but what does it actually mean for the client?

The key is to put yourself in the client’s shoes. What does your analysis mean for their unique business? Are they facing layoffs or needing to outsource?  Are they finding themselves antiquated in the market and needing new direction? Focus on the implications, not just the numbers.

5) Act Like a Consultant

Don’t approach the case study like an essay question to your Finance 3000 test. Act like a consultant. You have just been paid big money to help a real client solve a complex problem.

Be confident. Create initial hypotheses, particularly for more open ended questions, and then adjust as you learn new information. Most importantly, be sure to offer the client recommendations for actionable steps. You aren’t there to offer theory. You’re there to provide a clear course of action for solving a specific problem.

Next Level Prep

Understanding these 5 core principles is your first step towards mastering the case study. Stay tuned for more tips in the months ahead.

For the complete guide to consulting interviews, including:

  • 300+ outline and instruction pages covering every conceivable topic central to consulting interviews
  • Over 50 fit questions that you’re guaranteed to hear in consulting interviews.
  • 50+ pages of practical advice on cracking the case interview including 4 versatile frameworks that are easy to use to solve every case, every time.
  • 16 actual cases that you can do on your own or use to practice with a partner.

purchase MC’s Consulting Bible today!

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Gallup Consulting Interviews and Culture

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Black Belt Supreme closes May 31!

Note: Number of available spaces remaining are updated daily below (paragraph 13). For the last 12 months, we’ve been running our popular Black Belt Interviewer course – with tremendous success. Compared to a scary 3% acceptance rate at consulting firms, Black Belts rock – 55% of our participants have gotten 1 or more offers at […]

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