Chances are, if you talk to anybody preparing for consulting interviews, you won’t hear much about the fit interview. But the case interview? Almost guaranteed. But if the fit interview is ~50% of your final interview score, why is it an oft-neglected piece of the management consulting interview prep process?
For one, case interviews are more difficult, requiring more preparation. Candidates know that the case will make or break them. And sure, if you absolutely nail the case interview and do “OK” on the fit interview, you might still get an offer. But the thing is, few people do that well in their case interviews. This means that an underwhelming performance during your fit interview can and will break you. In short, we recommend spending at minimum 2 hours in preparation for the fit portion of your interviews (in reality, most candidates will need 3-5 hours). If you don’t know where to begin, work with our expert team of interview coaches to build an interview prep plan.
In this ultimate guide to the cultural fit interview, you’ll get our tips and best practices for crushing culture fit interview questions and getting one step closer to a job offer!
Table of Contents:
- What Is A Cultural Fit Interview?
- Three Main Types of Fit Interview Questions
- Asking Questions at The End of An Interview
- How to Prepare For a Culture Fit Interview
- Fit Interview Video Guide
What Is A Cultural Fit Interview?
First, let’s define a few terms. Culture fit interviews are also known as behavioral interviews. What is a behavioral interview? Management consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have developed their own flavor of behavioral interviews to ask you qualitative, open-ended questions about your background, experience, and interests – the consulting industry refers to this as the fit interview. The purpose of culture fit interview questions is to test if you are a good fit for the firm. Do you have the personality, style, motivation, and temperament to deliver good work on challenging projects in difficult environments, keeping with the firm’s culture? Because consulting case interviews are intended to measure key “hard” consulting skills (e.g., analytical capabilities, problem solving skills), the fit interview tends to be more focused on soft skills (e.g., leadership and communication).
To best answer behavioral interview questions, use specific examples or stories to demonstrate the skills the company is seeking.
If you want to understand how to prepare for a culture fit interview, you’ll want to make sure to answer the question, “what does a business consultant do?” and “what does X firm say that they’re looking for in a consultant?” It is important to understand what the day-to-day of a consultant looks like and what the firms say about themselves when you are preparing for fit interviews.
Business consultants work in small teams, for long hours, while traveling extensively. They conduct extensive research and analysis to develop specific recommendations for clients.
Being able to use data to support a point, think quickly on your feet, and communicate with confidence are all important parts of the job. Analysts and more junior consultants spend a lot of time researching, gathering data, and doing complicated data analysis with spreadsheets and other database tools. More senior consultants, managers, and Partners spend a lot of time building PowerPoint presentations and conducting meetings to vet ideas and present insights to clients. It’s important to be able to get along with your teammates, understand your role, and be someone who supports your team members.
Culture fit interview questions try to tease out your ability to do all these things.
Three Main Types of Fit Interview Questions
Behavioral-based interview questions at consulting firms usually consist of three different types of questions. The first type is a “direct” question, the second is a “story” question, and the third type is a “tricky” question.
As a rule of thumb, you should have 15+ stories in your back pocket before walking into an interview. These stories should not all be based on your academic life, nor should they all be work related. You should balance your stories across three categories:
- Academic – Classes, clubs, etc. are all fair game.
- Leadership – Did you give a rousing speech at half time of a big game in college? This can qualify. But your experience as the president of a club or volunteer efforts can, too.
- Work experience – Some of your stories should come from internships or other types of experiences that are closer to the professional environment in which you’ll be working.
Build stories from different parts of your experience and emphasize your most recent stories. Let’s go through each question type.
Direct Fit Interview Questions
“Direct” questions are the ones a firm expects candidates to slam dunk. These are the basics, e.g., “why do you want to work here,” or “why consulting?” As the name implies, there should not be much nuance or subtlety to a direct fit interview question. Firms are looking for you to have something prepared and for your answer to come across as clear and enthusiastic.
Direct fit interview question examples could include:
- Walk me through your resume.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Why do you want to be a data analyst?
- Why strategy consulting instead of other types of consulting?
Well prepared, clear, linear answers are valued in response to direct fit interview questions. For example, the answer to “walk me through your resume” should be a linear, chronological story. No jumping around between time periods or excessive walkthrough of every bullet point of your resume!
Fit Interview Story Questions
Even if you haven’t heard them called “story” questions, you are still likely familiar with these types of behavioral interview questions. These are the questions that start out with “tell me about a time when…” They are intended to get you talking about experiences you’ve had that demonstrate hard or soft skills that you’re going to need to perform well as a consultant.
Story fit interview question examples may include:
- Tell me about a time you used data to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership on a team.
- Tell me about a time you approached a problem from a creative angle.
- Describe a time you presented in front of a group. How did it go?
- Tell me about a time when you faced an obstacle on a project and how you overcame it.
Tricky Fit Interview Questions
This final set of questions are the ones that most people fear: “tricky” questions. They are meant to demonstrate your ability to build trust in a stressful situation. It’s especially important to have stories prepared ahead of time for answering tricky questions.
Tricky fit interview question examples will include questions such as:
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Tell me about a professional failure.
- Explain an obstacle you recently faced and how you overcame it.
- Tell me about a difficult boss that you’ve had and how you handled him or her.
Asking Questions at The End of An Interview
You should always be prepared to ask questions at the end of your interviews. After you have spent 30-60 minutes answering culture fit interview questions, you may feel a little drained. But it’s important to be prepared and have something to say when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. Asking questions at the end of an interview presents an opportunity for you to learn about the firm. It also demonstrates your genuine interest in the role and is an opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the requisite skills for the job. It can also provide an opportunity to hint that you have other options. Here are some questions to consider asking at the end of the interview:
- Given the stage you’re currently at in your career, I’m sure there must have been several ups and downs. What advice would you go back and give yourself when you were in my shoes?
- What are some nuances and unique aspects of this firm’s culture that you can only know from working here?
- Why did you end up choosing this office? What sets this office apart from others in the firm?
How to Prepare For a Culture Fit Interview
How to prepare for a culture fit interview? At the end of the day, a grade “A” fit interview performance is accomplished by combining 2 things:
- A deep understanding of the firm (including its operations and culture)
- The specific requirements of the job with stories from your experience that demonstrate the character and skills (both hard and soft) that the job requires
That’s it. Understanding and preparing for the three types of questions we just discussed is critical. Remember to have 15+ stories prepared that pull from a blend of your academic career, leadership acumen, and work experience.
For one final tip, we recommend utilizing a simple framework to answer culture fit interview questions called the STAR behavioral interview method. The STAR method stands for: Situation, Tasks, Action, Results.
You can methodically respond to a behavioral interview question by first providing the interviewer with context by describing the situation. Remember to choose situations that enable you to discuss skills and capabilities relevant to the position you are applying for. Doing research on the role itself is clearly required, as has already been discussed.
Next, go through the tasks that had to be completed, including choices you faced and why you chose one path vs. any other.
Then, talk about the specific actions you took and the results you obtained. Imagine how keeping the STAR method in mind can help you answer a question like “tell me about a time you used data to solve a problem.” Really, any list of behavioral interview questions can be answered by keeping the STAR method in mind.
Fit Interview Video Guide
When preparing for consulting interviews, the case interview gets the brunt of the focus and preparation time. And while case interviews are critical, too many candidates focus their interview prep solely on the case.
You can (and will) lose a job offer with a poor showing during the behavioral fit interview, even if you performed well in the case interview. Prepare for fit interview questions by building a core foundation of knowledge about the firm and the role for which you are applying. On top of that foundation, prepare a portfolio of stories that demonstrate your soft skills, including leadership, communication, teamwork, work ethic, and conflict resolution skills. By marrying your understanding of the firm’s culture and the general requirements of the consulting profession with your background, you’ll be able to effectively answer behavioral based interview questions in the fit interview.