Management consulting interviews: the biggest mistake you can make in the fit interview


Time for a major content injection. In the next 3 posts, I will add to prior articles on management consulting interviews.

The first post will focus on the biggest mistake you can make in consulting fit interviews – and how to avoid that pitfall.

The second post will focus on case study interviews. Finally, the third post will focus on consulting interview preparation and post-interview to-do’s.

So, what is the biggest mistake you can make in the fit portion of management consulting interviews?

Not providing anecdotes and takeaways in your responses

I’ll confess – this is 2 separate mistakes, but both fit into the category of “not going above and beyond” to provide distinctive responses.

Let’s start with anecdotes. Poor consulting interviewees give generic responses without anecdotes. Witness the following:

What is your greatest weakness?

My greatest weakness is that I tend to lose interest quickly in specific projects. I need to develop the ability to focus consistently on one task for long periods of time, even if it’s not the most interesting thing I could be working on.

Why are you interested in management consulting?

I’m excited about the intellectual challenge of the job, and the ability to work closely with smart, ambitious people to solve tough business problems.

Generic responses. No anecdotes, no stories, no references to personal experiences.

Why is that bad?

Stories are what make you stand out. In providing a generic response, your answer will be like everybody else’s. You won’t get an offer, just like everybody else.

When consultants finish interviews, they have group discussions about each applicant. The strongest applicants are the ones who gave memorable, personal responses – responses that interviewers can relay back to hiring committees. In the answers above, your interviewer will have very little to say about you.

Let’s add an anecdote of only one sentence to each response to instantly make it better:

What is your greatest weakness?

My greatest weakness is that I tend to lose interest quickly in specific projects. In my time at Genentech, I was known as the research analyst who was constantly pursuing new ideas and experimental procedures in the lab, but as a result, my progress on the core research questions suffered slightly. I need to develop the ability to focus consistently on one task for long periods of time, even if it’s not the most interesting thing I could be working on.

Why are you interested in management consulting?

I’m excited about the intellectual challenge of the job, and the ability to work closely with smart, ambitious people to solve tough business problems. In my asset management internship, I was impressed with the abilities of my colleagues, but I didn’t feel challenged by my daily work – I think consulting can provide both.

The responses now are much stronger. The interviewer will remember you as the innovative Genetech researcher who needs to learn patience, and as the asset management intern who wants to be challenged by tough business problems.

The answers are still incomplete, which brings us to the need to add takeaways in consulting fit interviews.

By takeaways, I mean conclusions, lessons learned, retrospective insights, whatever you want to call them.

In both of the original “bad” answers, there weren’t any takeaways. The interviewer is left without a satisfying conclusion!

Let’s add a takeaway of only one sentence to arrive at a final, strong response.

What is your greatest weakness?

My greatest weakness is that I tend to lose interest quickly in specific projects. In my time at Genentech, I was known as the research analyst who was constantly pursuing new ideas and experimental procedures in the lab, but as a result, my progress on the core research questions suffered slightly. I need to develop the ability to focus consistently on one task for long periods of time, even if it’s not the most interesting thing I could be working on. My experience at Genentech taught me that innovation needs to be balanced with smart prioritization – and in my current healthcare research job I’ve been working hard to do just that.

Why are you interested in management consulting?

I’m excited about the intellectual challenge of the job, and the ability to work closely with smart, ambitious people to solve tough business problems. In my asset management internship, I was impressed with the abilities of my colleagues, but I didn’t feel challenged by my daily work – I think consulting can provide both. In my career, I’d like to be at the forefront of progress in the business world, and I’ve realized that you can only get there by working with the smartest teams on the hardest challenges.

The greatest weakness response is stronger because you communicate that not only do you understand your weakness, you’re applying that lesson in your current work.

The management consulting interest response is stronger because you communicate a reason for your interest in working with smart people on tough problems – you want to change the business world.

There you have it. A strong consulting resume will land you an interview, but you won’t get the offer without acing fit questions.

Include anecdotes that personalize your responses, and include takeaways that demonstrate your ability to see the big picture. You’ll conquer management consulting interviews in no time!

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