Management consulting interviews: the best follow-up question you can ask, plus 4 more

My first post in this series covered consulting fit interviews and the biggest mistake you can make.

At the end of every consulting interview, the consultant will typically offer feedback on your performance and provide an opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Most applicants do not use this time effectively – asking follow-up questions allows you to learn more about the job, and strengthen your candidacy too.

Most interviewees feel pressured to ask something, and will throw out meaningless questions like “Do you know when we’ll hear back about second rounds?” or “How many consultants work at your firm?”

Bad idea.

Never ask your consultant interviewer a question that can be answered by a recruiter.

Here are 3 strong follow-up questions that you can ask:

Would you mind telling me about your background, and how you ended up as an Accenture consultant?

I’d be interested to hear what your most challenging case has been thus far in your BCG career.

What do you think are the biggest misperceptions that applicants have about consulting?

These questions are great because they demonstrate your interest in the job, they’re interesting for the interviewer to answer, and you’ll gain some wisdom from the responses.

Here’s a great question if feedback hasn’t been provided:

When you think about my interview performance, what would you suggest are the 2 or 3 things I can do to improve?

Even if feedback is provided, most consultant interviewers won’t offer concrete suggestions to improve. This is a great question particularly for first-round interviews, and demonstrates a focus on personal development that all consultants respect.

Finally, here’s the absolute best follow-up consulting interview question:

I’m really interested in public sector consulting. I’d be interested to hear what you know about that area at Bain. (You can fill in “public sector consulting” with any topic of personal interest – Brazil, nonprofit consulting, energy and renewables)

Why is this question so good?

Because it reinforces your life story – and the best applicants have distinct life stories. Because it demonstrates an interest beyond “any ‘ol job in management consulting” to a specific industry, geography, or function. Finally, because it can lead to follow-up conversations with your interviewer, and if your interviewer is not familiar with the topic, he/she may recommend additional contacts that you can reach out to!


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  • Sean

    Kevin, what do you think about this question?

    “If Firm X disappeared tomorrow, and you had to go work for another consulting firm, which would you choose?”

    I think the answer could be quite interesting, and I suspect it’s a question that few applicants would ask, but if it would make the interviewer feel uncomfortable, maybe it’s not a good idea…

  • Kevin

    Sean – the answers would be interesting, but I’d reserve that question for offline conversations or people with whom you have a good rapport. Given their role as firm representatives, it’d be an uncomfortable question at best.

  • Kevin

    Consultant99, it seems to me that interview feedback is pretty standard, particularly in first round interviews. My suggestion here is that if feedback is provided (eg, “the way you structured answers was solid, but I would focus more on underlying business drivers”), it’s OK to follow-up interviewer feedback by asking for actionable recommendations to improve (“eg, “knowing that I need to be stronger at elucidating business drivers, are there any specific resources you’d recommend I read?”). If feedback isn’t provided, I would find it surprising that asking for suggestions on making yourself a stronger interviewer would be negatively received.

  • Consultant99

    Kevin: that sounds reasonable. During the interview I typically give feedback on the case, such as why I ask the case and an interesting aspect that the candidate may have wanted to explore but wasn’t likely to come up with. So a follow-up on the case content is great because it shows that the candidate can extend the conversation. But in probably 100 interviews of undergrads and MBAs, I’ve only once been asked by the candidate “how did I do,” which was by a candidate whose biggest weakness is that she had zero self-confidence. I strongly encourage people to follow-up with me after the interviews and I’ll take a lot of time to dissect the interview with them… and far too few people take me up on this.

  • Alberto

    Thank you very much for the blog. It is very informative and useful for applicants intending to start a career in management consulting (like me). I am going to be interviewed for McKinsey (1st round) quite soon. I have some experience in IB interviews but it seems some points not valued in IB (such as follow-up questions and thank you messages) are important to Management Consulting interviewers, so I need to know more about these.

    Question 1: I heard that in the 1st round one meets with analysts and only in the 2nd round one meets with partners/principals. Should I change my follow-up questions accordingly? I mean, considering the statement “Never ask your consultant interviewer a question that can be answered by a recruiter”, I would suppose that one should also avoid asking a partner/principal a question that could easily be answered by the analyst in first place, for example.

    Question 2: What is the outline of a “model-thank-you-message” recruiters expect to receive in their inbox after the interview? In IB, they usually do not care about it but if you still want to send something, a standard minimal message directed to each of the recruiters will suit (in fact, a too long message may be regarding as particularly annoying). In short, I am concerned with the detail level I should put in my follow-up e-mail messages.

    I will be waiting for your advice. Thank you once again for the useful website!

  • To briefly answer your questions here:

    Question 1 – most questions can be asked regardless of their seniority (for example, “can you tell me more about your background and your time at this company?”)

    Question 2 – I would keep these emails short, mention one or two moments from the interview to jog their memory, and ask a followup question if appropriate.

  • Taylor

    Great post, and can’t get enough of the site. Wish I had found it sooner. Had a first round interview with Bain the past fall for an internship position for the fast approaching summer. Didn’t receive second round opportunity. I asked the “what could i do better” (worded more nicely) in one of the first round interviews and the consultant loved it – saying I just needed more practice with cases. In fact when they notified those who did/didn’t make it, the guy called me to tell me and encouraged me to keep practicing and stay in touch for full-time. I know for a fact that of those who didn’t make it I was the only one to receive a call rather than an email.

    My question is this: how much should I stay in contact with that person as full-time recruiting approaches this upcoming fall? I was going to ask “What can I do in my free time this summer to best prepare me for Bain aside from practicing cases?” with some obvious lines of reminders of what contact we had. Is it appropriate to ask to drop into their office and meet anyone? Doubtful but it would obviously set me apart if that would work. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

    Love the vault of resources available here, and can’t wait to read more. I’ve finished Cosentino and have The Consulting Bible next on my list. Look forward to scheduling interview prep before interviews with Bain/Deloitte this fall.

  • Kslgj

    Thanks for this. Funny, this is the exact opposite of what you are told to do in ibanking interviews. NEVER ask for feedback as it makes you seem weak, NEVER voice preferences re teams …

  • Arvind

    Great post, and the best informative site I ever experienced!

  • Sun

    Hi Would you mind giving some inputs… on how I can give feedback to interviewer after the actual interview. So, in my case I went to this interview and after a day I got a mail asking for feedback about the person and interview… How would you go by……………..