Last week we held an MC exclusive subscriber giveaway contest – entrants told us in 200 words or less how they became interested in consulting. The prize for best answer was a FREE Consulting Case Bank and The Consulting Bible 3rd edition – a HUGE giveaway – so we weren’t surprised when we heard from so many of you. What we didn’t expect was the diversity of responses! You wowed us!
As we were looking through your responses, we realized you were answering as if you were in an interview – and that’s smart. These days, it pays to practice being in “interview mode” so you’re ready for the real thing – whether it’s networking with a neighbor at Starbucks or sitting in the hot seat.
With that in mind, we categorized your responses and selected some Honorable Mentions before we identified the winner. It was a tight race, so we also awarded some runner ups. Here’s a hint for future contests – humor goes a long way with us!
We hope you enjoy these as much as we did! Here goes…
The “epiphany” answers
Interview tip: Consultants love epiphany answers. They’re personal, interesting, and relatable. The key is to keep the focus on consulting and not let yourself get overly personal.
Why we liked it: Concise, meaningful, and true – and said like a consultant. We wish we could have known more of the story behind how you came to articulate your personal mission, however.
Why we liked it: We loved the concept of a “happy accident” and were super intrigued with your story. We appreciated the tenacity you demonstrated to get yourself into the IO class and had to chuckle when we read the industry you chose for your project!
“I had this nice little stint with American Express, when, along with the ‘top chart honors,’ I found myself thinking from the business point of view, the work that I did at my job. New ideas and strategies while working on the projects, finding different ways of doing things more effectively; I started feeling enthralled. While looking for a better change, I was going through the net, after having decided to match my achievements with a more challenging career that I could possibly find. Then, one day, I fortunately came across the Management Consulted website. It was like “Oh!! Here’s my destiny!” I started dating the Management Consulted website and began loving it. It was then that I found, after researching here, that my passion actually lay in consulting..! No second thoughts, I instantly ordered ‘The Consulting Bible’ which was as promising as its name. Along with the help from some other Internet resources (I must confess), I got a break in a boutique consulting firm, and I am enjoying my career everyday. Thanks Team Management Consulted, for opening the gates of my career, and I am sure you will continue to be a guide with a beacon along my journey!”
“Consulting struck me as my ideal future career after I quickly began researching everything there was to know about it after simply hearing about it through word of mouth. I was immediately captivated by the dynamic and fascinating world of consulting, and began taking interest in studying cases. Formulating their solutions became a rewarding intellectual challenge. Moreover, after reading the book “The Lords of Strategy” by Walter Kiechel, my passion for consulting only increased as I realized the critical role that corporate strategy and consulting firms played in historically shaping the modern world.”
“I became interested in consulting while doing a PhD investigating regional economic integration in East Asia and Japan’s international trade strategy. I had an opportunity to interview senior managers and department heads of Japan’s multinational manufacturing companies. While I was working with them, the focus of my PhD gradually shifted toward how economic integration and various factors (domestic, international, political, economic) have impacted Japanese companies’ corporate strategy and operations over the past couple of decades. What I found particularly fascinating was the number of variables that needed to be taken into account while making strategic decisions on governance, production or any other function. It requires a broad knowledge and a high-level, big-picture understanding of the company and its markets. As a consultant you get to work on this kind of executive level without having 20 or 30 years of work experience in a given company. You are trained on how to get into a CEO’s mindset within a lifetime of an engagement while being an outsider. No other occupation offers you an insight into corporate strategy or operations in such a short time. Having had a glimpse of this world, I decided to leave academia and apply to consulting firms.”
“My interest in management consultancy started before I even knew about the industry. After a BSc in Biology I worked in the safari industry in Botswana, working for small companies that catered to high-end clientele. Managing these camps, I saw all facets of the business. In addition, the clientele were very successful in their own right, many being executives of Fortune 500 companies. I saw many different management styles and personalities, which fed my curiosity about what makes a business succeed where others fail. When setting up my own PhD project I approached it like a business. Marketing to safari clientele for funding, partnering with local safari companies for logistical support and networking to learn everything from charity fundraising to electrical engineering. I also consulted for a start-up charity, advising them with fundraising, strategy and database implementation. Having now finished my PhD I strongly believe that management consultancy is the position where I can be most effective. This is not our first recession, this is not our worst recession, but helping businesses to succeed and flourish will provide the much needed jobs to enable us to do what we are best at; pulling ourselves up by the boot strings.”
“I was working in a wine shop during my undergrad and started to realize that I was able to close more sales by being a trusted advisor to my client rather than acting like a sales rep. I studied everything I could about wine and became very knowledgeable in that field in a relatively short time. I learned from this side-job great listening, problem-solving and caring skills that were appreciated by my clients, and ended up considering myself as a wine consultant rather than a sales clerk. Afterwards, I started looking for THE job in which I could learn the most in the shortest amount of time, while building great relationships with clients. That’s how I become interested in consulting.”
“Our company’s engagement of a top tier consulting firm to help us transform our struggling business. This brought an opportunity to work closely with a number of consultants who I found to be inspirational. Their generosity in sharing their knowledge and experiences of their past engagements, combined with the continuous opportunities to solve real world business problems, inspired me to embark on the management consulting career path and pursue the chance to work again with the calibre people that consulting attracts. The experience of working with and learning from the consultants and their willingness to coach was the most rewarding professional experience of my young career to date. An experience that has sparked something that I don’t think will be easily shaken.”
Interview tip: Yes, there are lots of perks to consulting, but talking about perks implies that you’re in it for what you can get, not what you can give.
“I am competitive in nature and always give the best in whatever I do and my passions include photography, travelling and embracing new cultures and languages. My biggest strength is my ability to get along with people and convince them on issues I feel passionate about. I feel I will be able to sell ideas and products (soft selling) to people effectively. I discussed with various consultants about the nature of work, the challenges and what excites them in their work. I was amazed by their experiences and the richness of the profession and started relating myself with the job. Consultants get to travel quite a lot and meet different kinds of people and this makes them diverse and enables them to have insights, which others can only strive for. A consultant is someone who needs to know more about a business than a person who is doing the business. So, the consultant needs to be one of the best in the industry and has to be well-read on all issues concerning the sector he is into. This really motivates me to be a specific industry consultant who advises on overall group strategy to various business houses.”
“Was attracted by the following attributes of consulting. Very intellectual job – can I do it? The perks were fantastic – travel to new locations, work in different industries, client pays for the travel. Consultants get more respect than other professionals. Great career opportunities after stint in consulting.”
“It is consulting that found me and stuck by my side rather than the other way around. I was looking for fun things to do to make my freshman year’s summer more productive, when an old friend forwarded me to an internship opportunity with her firm, Deloitte Consulting, in Hong Kong. Initially, I just wanted to hang out with her in the fancy city, while making some money to pay for school. However, after I ripped through interviews over the phone, I was fascinated by what I got asked about, even back then I didn’t know that I actually went through ‘case interviews.’ As you may guess, I enjoyed my work in Asia and learned a lot. This summer, I ventured into the niche sector of actuarial consulting with a major firm in St. Louis. There I advised only insurance companies’ business models – it is a different type of consulting, yet invariably an enriching learning experience. I enjoyed the problems I solved and life I lived for the past two summers, so I think I can say that I’m not merely ‘interested’ in consulting – I’m ‘attracted’ to this fun career from which I can learn so much.”
“It took me a while to understand I was interested in consulting. I took on internships as a market researcher for Google and a research analyst for Accenture Management Consulting, both of which I enjoyed doing. However, this was not the only reason why I went into consulting head on. ‘Strategy’ was a keyword that had appealed to me even before I joined university. I always thought of myself as a future CEO trying to solve big corporate problems. I wanted to do it as soon I graduated. Of course, since my family doesn’t have their own multimillion dollar business, becoming a CEO so soon wasn’t an option. So consulting was the next best alternative. I realized through many interactions with consultants, friends and counsellors that consulting was really all about solving high level problems. And this summer, after doing a consulting internship, I realized that I really enjoy the work of a consultant. Also, to be honest, the perks like flying to a different location every week for work and staying at a 5-star fresh out of college add to the thrill of the job. So that’s my story about getting into consulting!”
Interview tip: Talking about your activities – consulting club, starting a business, etc. – is a great way to demonstrate your genuine interest in consulting – works better for students as opposed to experienced hires.
Why we liked it: Conveys a believable excitement for consulting and confidence on why they want to go into the biz. We also loved that they learned from their failure!
“I was involved in the consulting club and did some consulting projects in grad school. I really enjoyed doing this type of work, and learned a lot from those experience.”
“When I was in high school, I decided that I would apply to an engineering school because I’d like to acquire skills in problem solving. I have always liked solving all kind of problems, even the ones I didn’t know, at first, how to solve. Once I got into engineering, I joined my school’s junior enterprise, which paid consultancy to small entrepreneurs. In my first job, I had time to deeply research the problem and had help from a colleague and my manager. At the end, we delivered to our client a great report and it helped him a lot. Shortly after this, the junior enterprise organized a recruitment fair in which I had the chance to talk to major consulting companies about their career opportunities, the kind of projects they worked on and what their daily activities were. I asked one of the consultants what kind of person they were looking for and, in my opinion, he was describing the kind of professional that I would like to be. In that moment, I got “stung by the consulting bee” and decided that I was meant to be a consultant.”
Interview tip: Showing that you’ve learned about consulting from someone in the industry lends credibility to your answer to “why you’re interested in consulting.”
Why we liked it: It’s got humor and originality so it shows off personality, and it pulls off being personal without going too deep. The main reason this response didn’t win is because it was too humble – the writer was too focused on what they’re not good at instead of what they ARE good at.
“I became interested in consulting after coming to the University of Pennsylvania for college. When I was a freshman, many seniors whom I knew were entering consulting. Their decisions made me curious about why they entered consulting. My interest in consulting began towards the end of freshmen year. Throughout the next years in college, I became involved with the consulting club on campus, which gave me the opportunity to speak with many professionals from the industry. In addition, I worked at a public sector boutique consulting firm and at PwC Advisory the summers after my sophomore and junior years respectively. I realized I enjoyed the challenging analytical nature of consulting work and would like to pursue this career after college.”
“My brother’s friend is a consultant. I have watched his growth from a MBA graduate to the senior manager in just 5 years. He learned the knowledge like a sponge and is always busy – I want to become a person as excellent as him. I want to learn all kinds of knowledge, I want to work with excellent people, I want to use my knowledge to resolve problems, I want to use my wisdom to help the client overcome their difficulties. I will be the savior of a company. Being a consultant can bring this sense of achievement to me.”
“My friend told me about this industry during my bachelor studies. I found it interesting as it sounds extremely dynamic – team work, meeting clients and new projects.”
“A ‘firm called BCG’ advertised at my engineering institute’s placement cell. Though the opportunity somehow seemed tempting, I decided not to apply. Little would I know that 4 years down the line, that company would be one of my dream companies to work for and ‘Consulting,’ the profession I believe to be a suitable fit for me. I was introduced to consulting as a career option by my brother who was pursuing his MBA. I have quite a lot of friends in consulting too. Information from them and from popular consulting websites reassured me about my suitability for consulting. At my workplace, constantly thinking about ‘how we can do things better’ and implementing many of these made me tilt heavily in favor of consulting.”
“The satisfaction from solving problems always excites me. That was one of my main reasons for studying engineering, before learning about consulting from a friend. To get a better understanding of the consulting industry, I cold-emailed and cold-called many consultants to arrange informational interviews with them and pick their brains. The similarities among them were uncannily striking – each was bright, sharp and passionate. They shared their stories with me, and I realized 3 main things stood out – the prevalent problem-solving aspect across many industries, the steep learning curve, and the types of people you get to meet. Nothing beats experiential learning. Upon graduation, I declined a job that paid 3 times more to take up an internship with a consulting firm. Through the 5-month period, I was able to see firsthand how the entire consulting process worked, from problem identification to approach formulation to solution communication. Each step was meticulously structured, collaboratively executed and involved many problem solving scenarios. I believe this entire package, from my inherent interest in problem solving, to the later self-taken initiative in contacting people and taking on an internship, has shaped a solid view and understanding of consulting. This forms my motivating interest. [197 words]”
Thanks for keeping within the 200 word limit!
Interview tip: Too much of your personal story can take the focus away from your professional story. Be careful here.
“My story begins several years ago when I got married. I invited my aunt from Switzerland to celebrate my wedding in Moscow, Russia. A meeting with my aunt launched a new spin of change in my life when she explained that I should get an MBA degree to get international recognition. I got married and started preparing for an MBA ,and became interested in consulting as one of the career paths that MBA graduates chase. Getting married and later becoming a father gave me a sense of responsibility and higher career aspirations – now I regard my career development as important like never before. I found out that a consulting career can be one of the best opportunities to become a professional. I can choose whether I will specialize in finance or become an expert in a particular industry. This sense of choice drives me forward to become a consultant. My interest in consulting was gradually warming up while solving GMAT problems, reading management lectures at university, dealing with start-up business cases at the business-incubator, and attending trainings for international managers. I was impressed by consultants’ presentations, recruiting events and private conversations with alumni from one of the Big 3 consulting companies. It helped me weigh all the pros and cons of consulting and get a sense of what it’s like to be a consultant.”
“When I graduated college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering I did not know consulting as-is existed. I have 15 years experience in an industrial environment. The 36 year old family company I was in got into really deep trouble 8 years ago. For the last 5 I was the general manufacturing plant CEO. Long story short, we were victims of a very elaborate accounting fraud that led to the company’s demise. I found the scheme and it took me 2 years to stop it, avoiding jail for my family and I. Too close for comfort though. In the last year, I met a few very interesting people, one of them was a family friend that helped us out of the hole, but the damage was just too deep. Anyway, throughout this season, I thought ‘let’s make a new “Robin Hood” team (without the stealing of course)’… That did not happen. I’m broke, but my determination and field knowledge are as strong as ever to become a consultant to help as many businesses and families as I can. I can’t do it alone though, so here I am, trying to get into a firm to learn the ropes first.”
Over the top
Interview tip: You can either go very wrong here or very right – you’re usually walking a very fine line!
Why we loved this one: It’s absolutely beautifully written and creatively humorous – those last lines brought us to tears! However, we have no idea what they said because it’s so stream-of-consciousness. It’s so unstructured that it doesn’t clearly depict who you are and what you offer. We only remember 2 things after reading it – the last 3 lines and the fact that they’re an incredible writer!
This next one was submitted by the father of a premium client. He said the prompt “intrigued” him. We love it!
“I led teams in development of an entirely new business unit inside a Fortune 50 company. The unit and its first products targeted the highly competitive personal computer market during the early days of the PC revolution. We were incredibly successful in gaining market share and mindset. But, this came at a great personal cost for many employees. My team suffered divorces, traffic accidents from lack of sleep, missed family milestones, nervous breakdowns at work, and more. I vowed to learn from this experience, and the experience of others, about how to help companies, operating under intense schedule pressures, succeed in bringing products to market without literally killing their people. Hence I entered consulting. With this goal as motivation, consulting has enabled me to work with incredibly talented and interesting people as they form teams to deliver products and services that improve lives and careers, and at the same time help these people and those around them feel positive about their daily work.”
Interview tip: Humor can go a long way in an interview – it certainly does with us! – but it should be used sparingly.
Why we liked it: This is so funny…and so wrong…yet so true! Beautifully told and super creative, but obviously not suitable for an interview.
From Tech to Consulting
Interview tip: You might just be working with what you’ve got, but you need to add a little more personality to make it into an MBB.
“1. I love to solve problems based on data mining. This utilizes my background as a DBA (Database Administrator) and brings interesting challenges. 2. I believe people should choose their career based on what they enjoying doing. I am an engineering student with experience being an executive at the debate club. I believe this gives me both the analytical skills and the persuasive skills to succeed in the consulting industry. 3. Consulting career is a career that brings continuous development. Tons of skills, knowledge, new perspectives can be learned daily. The process is vital for long term improvement on one’s personality.”
“I have been thinking a lot about this. I want to translate my experience in solving CIO problems to CEO agenda and build industry capability. I spoke with my friends and mentors and what I see is Management Consulting (MC) is an intellectually challenging profession. What impressed me are not only the passion for solving problems and communication skills of management consultants, but their curiosity and the impact they have on businesses. An MC job is very demanding – there are long hours, lots of travel, analytical horsepower, tough challenging work – but all of that excites me because I feel like I will learn a lot, be able to help some of the world’s most impactful businesses solve their problems, and work closely with elite people in the industry. My greatest strength that will help me hit the ground running in MC is my leadership skills in team-intensive and deadline-driven work environments. In the next 5, 10 years, my career aspiration is to become the trusted advisor or member of the CEO’s senior staff – to be a Go-To-Man in leading organizations in a role where Business meets Technology. I see Management Consulting aiding me in this journey.”
Interview tip: A textbook response says all the right things, but doesn’t sell us on it because it’s not personal or compelling.
Why we liked it: It’s a well-rounded story, well told. The only thing missing is the wow factor. We can’t put our finger on it, but it’s just not quite there.
“I currently work and live at the intersection of business and technology, I am driven by the opportunity to provide innovative solutions around the strategic challenges faced by my client organizations. I am inspired by the creativity of those in my communities, and look forward to exchanging ideas on all things enterprise and otherwise. Consulting as an occupation has given me a unique opportunity to continue learning at a rapid pace, while sharing, teaching, and mentoring like minded and talented individuals. Perhaps most critically, I am able to create measurable business impact for my clients and their businesses, which is something that I take great pride in.”
“I am a techno commercial executive with 10 years of experience in a B2B environment primarily in identifying, developing and implementing product, corporate and sales strategy. I have worked in technology industries like Energy, Aerospace, Telecom and Digital Mapping in India and abroad with customers around the globe. I hold Engineering and a Masters in International Business degrees before coming to France to do my International MBA. I also have a diploma in Law. Consulting is a great career as it provides continuous learning opportunity through assignments on different projects in varied industries. It is one of the most chased careers after MBA and attracts the brightest talent around the globe providing one of the most high paying salaries and global mobility opportunities. I am interested in consulting as I believe I have the right skills obtained through my solid academic background and varied industry experience globally in various functions. My ability to think quickly and manage stressful and challenging situations along with my structural thinking capability will certainly help me in consulting. Working in consulting will give me a platform to become a global citizen brushing shoulders with the brightest talents working in a fast changing, stimulating multicultural environment on sustainable innovative solutions for clients.”
“I started working as a Business Analyst Trainee to initialize process/operation improvements across our group. I have gained exposure to a variety of different aspects, and in this process I found myself enjoying problem-solving. That is when I decided to pursue this further. The other reason why I feel interested in consulting is that I enjoy working with smart guys in a fast-paced working environment. Then I applied for a graduate program in Finance and got the admission. I will return to school next year and then apply for a professional consulting firm to realize my real potential.”
“In 2008 my company (headquartered in Pennsylvania) made a bid to acquire a bio-pharmaceutical company located in North Carolina. The target company had three plants, about 50 plasma collection centers and a decent list of customers. A management consulting firm, LEK Consulting, assisted us in the transaction. During the months leading up to the acquisition, we formed about twelve work-streams and initiated about thirty projects to sequentially chip off the work of integrating the two companies on the date of acquisition. I was managing three of the twelve IT projects, working closely with finance and human resources business executives. The whole program and project management exercises were thrilling, challenging and intense and completely engulfed my time. Every week on Thursday mornings, we would have status meetings with each work-stream lead reporting in the progress during the week. Travel to North Carolina to the target’s offices, examining their documentation in the virtual strong-room (managed by LEK), working with the target executive in understanding their business to the extent they would share information, was all very challenging, new type of work and required creativity and thoughtfulness. I hardly realized how quickly the months passed. I started wondering that if the tactical execution was so thrilling, how thrilling and exciting would the strategy of identifying the acquisition target be! This has kindled a raging fire in me and made me seek a challenging career in consulting!”
Off the Radar
Interview tip: Hhmm, we’re guessing these guys aren’t actually interested in a consulting career.
“I have a small internet company, but I became interested in entrepreneurship at least 10 years ago. I have tried to develop several small businesses, but most of them failed, so I started to read a lot about it and the most important information I have found is about management consulting. This material was very helpful to me and I’ve been studying these cases for some time now.”
“I’m interested in the Case Bank because I wanted to teach my public finance students how to tackle consulting cases. I couldn’t find a nice guide. I wanted to see if your Case Bank could be used for my course.”
Interview tip: We love the way you love us, but seriously, you still have to answer the question!
“Hello, I’ve been reading Brian’s Mergers and Inquisitions site since its beginning. Although the site is investment banking focused it often provided insights into other areas as well. Occasionally Brian would mention/refer to your website. This is what led me to Management Consulted. I’ve found your website really helpful and am quite excited to see you guys come back with so much content after having kept a somewhat low profile for a while. Thank you so much for putting all that advice out there! I wish you the best!”
Interview tip: Either you missed the point or you thought we weren’t going to actually read your response. For future reference, we read everything!
“Consulting is logical and rational.”
“I want to be smart.”
“Variety of project. Impact. Reputation. Exit opportunities.”
“Speaking to people and understanding the work.”
“I had a friend who worked for McKinsey and Company and he told me the kind of projects he worked on and that really interested me.”
“Fast career track, good learning curve.”
Interview tip: It will never hurt your chances to share with interviewers your discovery that consulting is better than finance!
“Having been born and raised in an Asian country like Vietnam, I have always been overwhelmed by the idea of studying something like engineering, like most boys with a dream to be able to build all kinds of great robotic and mechanical things. However, it was an over-saturated market for engineers as most are unemployed or receive very low wages; at the same time, a new trend of careers in banking and finance emerged with people working in this field wearing suits and driving nice cars. I too joined the herd and studied finance, dreaming one day to be a rich person. Now that I’m at the end of my bachelor program, feeling unsatisfied with what I can do working in the field, seeing it as not creating any real, practical value other than playing with numbers in comparison to my desire of building fulfilling things back then, I found out about a viable career path in consulting. Although I might not be the engine of an organization, creating values like engineers, I can be the gear, the transmission of the organization that helps transform those values into wonder. That, for me, is a career that I long for.”
“It’s thanks to an essential principle: a profession is defined by its values, not by its possible pitfalls. When I began university, consulting seemed interesting because it was prestigious and impactful, because it dealt with high-level strategy. But hearsay said solutions were not always implemented, that the solutions can be more fluff than substance. So I waried of devoting serious effort to pursuing the profession; my past two summer internships were in finance. In both, I missed the critical creativity I enjoyed exercising in school and in my spare time, and I gave consulting the second chance it needed to win me over. I met with alumni in the industry. They reminded me consulting was not just problem-solving but leadership; it produced ideas for leaders and itself trained leaders. I would make decisions whose responsibility I would shoulder, including choosing to craft solutions strong enough to convince clients to implement them, choosing not to settle for fluff. These problems were not in the values of the profession; they were choices in my power to make, and they were a challenge. Seeing this, I have overcome my qualms about pursuing consulting: I am now recruiting at full speed.”
“Interned 2 summers with investment banking and decided consulting will give me a broader understanding of business. At some point, I’m hoping that will give me an easier transition into starting my own school. I go to Harvard, so alumni conversations definitely helped spark my interest in the field, too.”
This response was personal and talked about what makes him an attractive candidate – even though he was talking about finance. Unlike some of the other top responses, we couldn’t find any downfalls with this answer. This candidate would be our first pick for round 2 interviews – magnificent job!
If you missed the mark on your response and want to know how to improve, consider a Power Half Hour with us. We’ll give you a brutally honest critique (we’ve got to break you down before we build you back up!) then help you craft an interview answer that screams consulting! Email us for info!