Role play in consulting interviews: roundup of reader questions


Here’s a roundup of reader questions – covering topics including role play consulting interviews, consulting interview dress code, consulting lingo, and cover letters.

To start, I found an online copy of the Wetfeet Guide to the Top 25 Consulting Firms – worth a quick browse as their company profiles are strong on the basics.

Now onto the questions:

I have an interview coming up, and the recruiter just informed me that there will be a role play portion to my case study. I’ve never done one before, any advice?

Role plays are not uncommon in management consulting interviews. Generally, you play a consultant presenting information to a client (played by the interviewer). Your job is to present your findings and recommendations in an analytical, persuasive manner. The client may throw up roadblocks, be difficult to deal with, and it’s up to you to stay calm, confident, and present your points with good reasoning and data.

These situations come up frequently on the job, and interviewers want to know that you have the presence to handle yourself adeptly.

How come consultants like to use so much lingo? Is this also true in the Fortune 500s?

Management consulting terms is a topic I’ve covered extensively here. It’s simply a function of the industry, and successful management consultants are masters of consulting lingo. To a lesser extent, these phrases are used in Fortune 500s – although I’d say your bigger concern there is unique, company-specific acronyms, nicknames, and terms. The better you are at it, the more natural you appear.

Okay, so I am in my sophomore year and I am trying to position myself for a consulting gig next year. What are some good summer internships for a sophomore that will look good come recruiting season?

I cover consulting summer internship recruiting here, but if you’re unable to land a consulting job, aim for two criteria: prestige and skill development. Prestige is more important if you want to ultimately work at a McKBain Group. As an example, I’d choose Goldman Sachs Asset Management over Gallup’s consulting group, even if you’ll acquire more consulting-like skills at Gallup.

What career paths are available when you’re leaving management consulting?

I postponed answering this question because of my last 2 posts, both covering management consulting exit opportunities. There are lots! From business to public sector, from non-profit to grad school, one of the biggest attractions to management consulting over investment banking is its breadth of opportunities.

What’s the proper attire for management consulting interviews?

I briefly covered consulting interview dress code before. On this topic, everyone has an opinion. To keep it simple: wear something nice but not flashy, and keep your outfit neat (eg, no wrinkles).

What other sources besides your blog would you recommend to understand the job better?

I’ve interviewed 2 big bloggers in this space – Marquis from McKinsey and Steve Shu from Nortel. Both of their sites have tons of high-quality information about the industry.

For case study questions and preparation, I’d look at www.caseinterview.com

Check out my blogroll for more resources.

Finally, I recommend some books and periodicals for consulting applicants.

Can you do an update to your day in the life of a management consultant?

One of my most popular posts is A Day In The Life Of A Management Consultant. It took a long time to craft that post, but I’m planning at least one more version (and if current consultants are interested in guest posting on that topic, please contact me!).

The next 3 questions are a series from a very dedicated reader…

1. I’m very tempted to contact my past interviewers at Accenture for the coming September fulltime recruitment season, but I’m not sure if that would be a good idea since my final round interviewers never replied to my emails when I requested their feedbacks after I got rejected. Should I email the consultants who interviewed me for the earlier rounds and let them know that I’m still interested?

If your final round interviewers did not respond to feedback emails, it’s ok to email your first round interviewers to followup briefly. It’s important not to push your luck – at most, I’d thank them for the opportunity, briefly update them on final rounds, and tell them you’ll be applying again for fulltime recruiting. If you receive no response, wait until 1-2 months before fulltime recruiting starts to re-initiate contact and jog their memory.

2. Besides Accenture, I was never offered interviews from other firms. During last September recruitment season I emailed a Deloitte Consultant after the campus info session, and he answered a lot of my questions. I told him about my CGPA concern, and he advised me to briefly say why I underperformed in my cover letter, but in the end I didn’t take his advice since I was too afraid to risk highlighting a major weakness. Do you think I should mention reasons for my low CGPA in my cover letter?

If it’s very low, you should briefly mention it in your cover letter. Keep in mind that most consulting cover letters are scanned briefly, if at all. My advice here is to work hard on your grades and get a higher GPA! Think about graduate programs that offer an opportunity to “reset” your GPA for recruiting.

3. As you’ve mentioned in your blog – too much downtime or getting a job in another field (ie: accounting, marketing) could remove me completely from the consulting track. I’m no longer in school and unemployed, but also not suitable for graduate school yet. I feel like I’m stuck in the most unfavorable position, and I don’t know what I can do now so I can increase my chances for the coming September recruitment season. I’ve already tried applying to various jobs such as Business Analyst positions within banks and mid-small size consulting firms but still no luck. What type of jobs do you think I should also consider if I still want to get into consulting in the very near future – research analyst, marketing management, CRM?

Without knowing specific options available, you should think about:

1. The prestige and influence of the company 2. The skillset you’ll be developing – is it analytical? Do you build presentation skills? Functional or industry-specific expertise? 3. Career paths of people who left that company – did they enter consulting? 4. The network you’ll build – remember, networking is key for getting consulting jobs!

To an extent, #3 and #4 are the same. This is also the relative prioritization I’d have when deciding.

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