Here is my collection of the TOP 10 consulting interview tips to remember for a consulting interview:

Before the consulting interview…

1) Practice in front of a mirror AND with friends. Each has its own benefits. The mirror allows you to fix awkward facial expressions, poor body language, etc. The friend gives you live feedback and is closer to the actual interview dynamic. Volume and pace are important – don’t talk too fast (it’s natural when you’re nervous) and don’t compensate by speaking too loudly.

2) DRESS NICELY. Wrinkled shirts = do not think ahead = unable to plan workstreams = poor team member. Misshapen tie-knot = lack of friends able to do you a favor = poor social skills = poor team member. Dress nicely for men typically means a suit with tie and clean dress shoes. Same expectations for women. No cologne for men, very very light perfume for women.

EXTRA CREDIT if you wear brands that are most closely in line with the firm’s predominant dress code. Some of you may think I’m taking this too far, but ignore the jobless naysayers. For consulting, Brooks Brothers is your best bet. Half the consultants wear it, and you wearing one of their common dress shirts will subconsciously imprint into the interviewer’s mind that you already work there. High-five.

3) Do not OVERDRESS. Had a schoolmate who went to all banking interviews in an extra-long European-style suit, with a vest and loud tie. It screamed fashion guru, not banking analyst. Wear standard, muted colors – gray, white, and light shades of blue are your friend. Some may think that standing out is a good thing – but don’t push the envelope too far. Ask me if its appropriate.

4) Scan the news in the morning. Consultants and most successful businesspeople (read: your target audience) are very well read on the latest business news, and have a more than cursory understanding of politics and international affairs as well. At the very least, know the key issues of the moment. For example, you’ll look idiotic if you go into an interview today without being able to talk about the subprime and financial crisis for a minute or two.

EXTRA CREDIT if you bring up something interesting you read that morning to kickstart the interview or work it into the conversation:

“I’ve lightly traded a personal portfolio for the last couple years, but recently most of my tech stocks haven’t done well…and I just read today that Apple released the iGod 3000, which has helped me recover some losses I suffered in these last few months’ chaos

5) KNOW YOUR RESUME BACK AND FORTH, UP AND DOWN – it is one of the few things that you completely control so know what the heck it says! I remember attending post-interview review sessions where interviewers would recall applicants mixing up the dates for their previous jobs, extracurriculars, and so forth. At best, you look forgetful. At worst, you’re suspected of fabricating your record. So know it well, know what you wrote in it, and be ready to give 30-second, 60-second, and 2-minute run-throughs of it. Which brings me to my next point…

EXTRA CREDIT if you refer interviewer directly to a line in your resume:

“If you look at my resume under the Company X internship, I increased their billing data accuracy 25% by redesigning their online forms”

During the consulting interview…

6) …have your resume handy, and ask if the interviewer would LIKE A COPY. An interview is not the time to be shy – most people bring their resumes but just keep them hidden in their padfolios. Bring it out and offer them one – it shows you’re proactive, and if they say no, you’ll have it in-front of you if you need to refer to it…BUT YOU SHOULDN’T BECAUSE:

7) Prepare and ask smart follow-up questions. 99% of the time, you’ll be allowed 5-10 minutes to ask questions of the interviewers. Have 2-3 good questions ready, and no, “Why did you choose management consulting?” does not count as one. Examples of good ones include:

  • What’s been the most difficult client issue that you’ve faced?
  • Do you consider post-[insert current job here] options and if so, what are they?
  • If I got this job, what advice could you give me to help me get off to a fast start?

…plus many more that I will write about in a future post.

There is a lot more DURING THE INTERVIEW content that I will write about in later posts. All corporations have a FIT INTERVIEW (eg, do you have the right personality traits to be successful at our company) and in consulting, there is also the CASE INTERVIEW (eg, can you solve problems that are Cliffs Notes versions of our actual job)

After the consulting interview…

8) Ask for a business card, ask the consultant if you can email them with follow-up questions, and then ACTUALLY FOLLOW-UP. I’ve found that especially in consulting and corporate (less so in finance), people are eager to talk to you and typically accessible. Ask them for FEEDBACK. Thank them for their TIME. Ask them to point you to others who have more expertise in a particular topic of interest to you (for example, if you’re really interested in non-profit consulting, ask them to point you to someone who could speak to that firm’s non-profit consulting opportunities). This keeps the interviewer engaged with you, and leaves an impression of someone who’s both interested and proactive. Two qualities that definitely HELP in landing a job.

9) Ask your interviewer to give you DETAILED FEEDBACK. Why? Because this feedback – both the pros/cons, strengths/weaknesses – will influence the style and content of your future interviews. If your first interviewer mentions that you had no problems with the fit/personality questions but really struggled with the market sizing calculations, you can bet that the second interviewer will focus on your quantitative chops.

10) Remember a few INTERESTING FACTS from your consulting interview. Facts like the interviewer’s name, office, background. Facts like the conclusion of your particular case study, or the setup for a tricky brainteaser. Why? Because when you get your second round interview, it’s GREAT to bring up those facts with your interviewer. Not only is there a chance that they’ll know the first round interviewer, but discussing these things make you look sharper and more familiar with the firm. Establishing a connection with your interviewer OUTSIDE OF THE INTERVIEW ITSELF is a KEY DIFFERENTIATOR in helping you land the offer.

Good luck! We hope these consulting interview tips were helpful.

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Thanks for reading! For more background info and if you’re just starting to read our blog, here are some recommended posts: Management Consulting and the Consulting Industry 101; Investment Banking vs Management Consulting; Day in the life of a Management Consultant; Overview of the management consulting recruiting process

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