We recently had the opportunity to interview Jason, a student at NYU Stern who landed a summer internship with Deloitte Consulting S&O. He reached out to us after going through an extensive process and receiving a summer offer.
In this interview, Jason shares tons of great details about the process that he went through – and coming from a non-target, his story includes extensive advanced networking, rigorous case practice, and even detailed tips for the fit interview.
Jenny Rae: Thanks for joining us today. First of all, if you could just give a little bit of your background: where you are going to school, what you are studying, and finally how you got interested in consulting in the first place – that would be super helpful.
Jason: So currently I’m a junior at NYU Stern majoring in economics and global business. In terms of getting interested in consulting, that wasn’t something that I came to Stern for right off the bat. It’s something I had to discover for myself as with many other people here at this university. I had a bunch of friends in freshman year who did express an interest in consulting. It wasn’t something I was familiar with at all. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I started to get more into it and went to some info sessions on what the industry looks like and what to expect. It appealed to me a lot in terms of the nature of the work.
I talked to one of my professors who was a former management consultant himself, and he talked about his work; I remember how excited he was when he was talking about it. He would literally jump up and down as he was talking to me with excitement, so that really left an impression on me. That’s basically what got me into consulting, seeing how excited people could be about it, and also looking at the work responsibility. It’s just something that fits well with my habits and my personality.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic. So now you’re a junior, what did you do in your freshman and sophomore years, and even in the first half of your junior year to build your understanding of business, and also demonstrate some work experience before you got into the consulting process?
Jason: Sure. So first was class work. I don’t think I need to delve more into that. Aside from that, I talked a lot to my friends and classmates about they were going to be professionally, learning what my options were. Something for me that was very important was I pledged a professional business fraternity, and that really taught me everything I needed to know professionally pretty much, and also helped guide myself professionally. I think that was probably the primary driver into where I am today.
Jenny Rae: Can you tell me a little bit about what some of the specifics were that the professional business fraternity did to help prepare you?
Jason: Right. It was a lot of professional development on a broad level, which meant how to network properly and preparing for interviews. In addition, I had my resume prepared and started understanding what career paths I could take to be well prepared and knowledgeable when it came to those. I also focused on understanding what’s going on in the business world.
Jenny Rae: Were there any costume parties involved with the fraternity?
Jason: Not so much!
Jenny Rae: Great. Well, on a more serious note, did you have any other work experience before you came to your junior year?
Jason: Sorry, I forgot to get to that. So most of my experiences at interns and internships during my time in college were at startups. I interned at three different startups, each with increasing level of legitimacy, if you want to put it that way. The first one was just some random person trying to start a business, and the second one was focused on social media disclosure, and the final one that I’m still working with right now focuses on search.
I felt that startups were a great way for me to gain exposure to all sorts of different issues in general – like learning, for example, how to use Excel properly. Actually, I learned a lot about Excel during the time at my most recent startup. In addition, I enjoy just getting exposed to different business issues and learning how people are sifting through those. The startups gave me a great variety of skills that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic. Now, tell me about the process that you’ve gone through specifically in your junior year to look at some of the consulting firms, and we’ll talk about the process to prepare for the strategy to get the interviews, and then we’re actually going to talk after that about the specific process to prepare for interviews.
Jason: I tried to make sure that I did a complete holistic detailed process when it came to recruiting. In the very beginning, I started focusing almost all my attention on recruiting at the beginning of my fall semester, junior year. That mostly included doing my research, figuring out what kind of consulting I really wanted to do, what firms were the right fit for me, and trying to do as much networking as I could before the recruiting events started. Those started in about late December and January for me.
Not many consulting firms recruit at Stern, so my options were very limited, which is another reason why I tried to do as much as I could before actual recruiting started, to try to get my foot in the door.
I felt like I got a good head start. I know that a lot of my peers who were also going into consulting hadn’t done that yet or really tried as much as I did and that set us apart in terms of the recruiting process later. I found that very important – to get a head start.
Once the recruiting process did start full on in terms of recruiting events, I made sure to go to as many as I could for every firm – even those I was barely interested in. I talked to as many people as I could to get my name thrown around, hopefully talk to them, get a business card of course, follow up, have a phone call, meet with the person if possible.
Once the deadlines for resumes and cover letters happened, I waited for interviews. There weren’t many interviews available through NYU Stern specifically; I would say maybe 5 or 6 in consulting. None of the big 3, of course. I did get interviews from PWC and Deloitte, FTI and a smaller boutique consulting firm Prophet, which focused on brand consulting.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic.
Jason: To prepare for interviews, of course I did whole case interviews, and was very well-informed through Management Consulted. I started a bit during the fall semester just understanding what to expect, and then actually practicing during December, and then the bulk of it during winter break with partners. I would do about 4 or 5 cases per day, which is kind of an overload I would say at some points, but I definitely prepared myself as much as I could for the case interview once it actually did come.
Jenny Rae: And when did you actually start doing case interviews? Can you tell me the schedule, essentially, that you followed? When did you start, and then when did you really bulk up the frequency?
Jason: I knew case interviews were something to expect in consulting for a while, so I started just kind of understanding basic frameworks to use. Just how to tackle case interviews and getting my resources. And the very beginning I started pretty much at the beginning of October. So I would work on a case here and there while I had my course work.
Once winter break hit, right after Christmas, and between Christmas and New Year’s, that was 4 to 5 a day. I found a couple others that were wanting a career in consulting also, so I practiced a lot with them. I would do two with this friend, two with another friend, and did a lot of prepping that way.
Jenny Rae: So it sounds like you worked mostly with your peers, people were also going through the recruiting process.
Jenny Rae: Did you do any mock interviews with current consultants, or with former consultants? People who had actually been consultants before?
Jason: That’s right. I did a bunch of practice case interviews with people actually at Deloitte as opposed to elsewhere. I had a couple of people tell me, “I’ll just case you if you want me to.” Of course, I’m not going to turn that down.
Deloitte also has an interview buddy system, so in the week before a case interview, they have someone reach out and actually practice cases with you. So my buddy was really helpful. I did probably around 5 cases with him.
Jenny Rae: I want to talk about this specifically because we have never really addressed this before on the site, although it’s been going on for the last few years. What do you think was the reason why people were interested in giving you some cases when they’re really busy – and why so many cases? Why would they invest more than the minimum in you?
Jason: I think they invested in me because I showed that I was invested in them. I made it completely clear when I first met with them at a recruiting event that I really knew why I was there, that I was interested in consulting. This came through in my demeanor, and also the questions I asked. If I just asked very broad general questions like, “Why did you want to be in consulting,” I sounded like everyone else. It’s hard to be a little more unique or sound like I care during the recruiting event or even on the phone call, but at least being more specific in the questions I asked showed that I was really interested.
Asking targeted questions for that firm or that employee really shows clearly that I’m invested, that I really do care about consulting, and that I want to be part of the firm. So I would ask him specifically, for example, “Where is this firm heading, given certain situations that are happening with the consolidation in consulting?” I was trying to get a picture of what’s going on. They immediately knew when I asked those questions that I was doing my share of research and that I cared about consulting.
Jenny Rae: Awesome. You had also obviously done a pretty extensive amount of preparation before you got to the place where they were doing cases with you. Is that right?
Jason: Right. By the time I got any practice case from any consultant, I was already pretty much fully prepared. So they told me that I was already ready for a case interview, so just go in and knock one down. But they said most people they offer case practice to are not ready at all – they can barely understand how to tackle the question to begin with. I think a lot of that early, extensive preparation paid off well.
Jenny Rae: Great. Now, let’s talk about the interviews. So you mentioned a couple of the firms that you went through, so if we could just go through them one by one. Tell me a little bit about the interview process for each one, and let’s end with Deloitte.
Jason: Sure. So my first interview was with PwC. The first was a behavioral interview, but there were 2 interviewers that came to NYU. One of them just did behavioral, one of them was behavioral with non-traditional case questions, but asking questions giving some data at the end of the behavioral interview. I didn’t make it past the first one. Honestly, I felt the interview was pretty hostile. Not a like a stress interview type interview, but the guy did not want to be there – he was just not happy.
Jenny Rae: That totally happens.
Jason: That interview didn’t go so well. I didn’t get the second round interview, but I do know what they did from friends who got an offer from them. They told me that the second interview was a case interview, and they got the case 2 to 3 days in advance. So that case interview was basically sifting through all of the facts, preparing an answer and showing how they think. It was different than most other consulting firms – most firms don’t tell you anything until you actually walk into the interview.
Jenny Rae: Definitely.
Jason: Another interview I had was at FTI Consulting. Again, this interview didn’t go so well. They seemed pretty disinterested, but I don’t know, of course – I can’t blame things on other people, it could be me.
Jenny Rae: Was that a behavioral focused interview as well?
Jason: The first one was behavioral on campus. It was very basic general questions, like asking why I was at NYU and to “tell me about yourself.” They also did ask a couple of somewhat technical questions. They asked, “What is working capital?” and “Can you walk me through an income statement?” So that was a little different than the other consulting firms. And I think that is due to the fact that they stress that they are very practically minded when it comes to consulting.
Again, I didn’t make it past the first round interview, but I know for the super day it was also all behavioral questions. I don’t know what the questions were like, but it was just a behavioral interview.
The third interview was with Prophet, which is a boutique brand consulting firm. It was 1 round of interviews, but it was 2 interviews. Two people, 1 with each. One was a behavioral interview, which was traditional, nothing that special. However, they did have some very basic case questions like “This car manufacturer is trying to target this customer segment, and this is what the capabilities are. Think of some things that could address the segment.” It was like a part of a case interview, but not an entire case interview. It was almost like how I would start a case if I was given a case prompt. It was very general, so if anyone had any experience with case interviews they would be able to answer those questions pretty easily.
The second presentation was a presentation interview, so it was kind of like a case interview. I had to give a presentation on a brand that I felt was under leveraged, or a brand I felt was strong. I gave a 3-minute presentation on that brand; I chose Heinz. I gave my presentation, and in the rest of the interview went for 30 minutes, my interviewer asked me questions about the brand in terms of what challenges I saw in it. But he also dug a lot deeper into specific targets that you could potentially reach or not reach, and why. It was pretty detailed terms of marketing knowledge for that presentation-based interview.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic. And did you prepare for that one before you went into the interview – to be prepared for it?
Jason: Right, yeah. I had about a week to prepare for the interview. So I tried to make a good presentation.
Jenny Rae: And what happened with that one?
Jason: I got on the wait list. They have probably 20 candidates, but they only take 1 or 2 interns.
Jenny Rae: Yes – the waitlist is good.
Jason: Going into consulting from Stern is very difficult because the spots are so limited, so that waitlist was really important to me, and to actually to get a call like oh you’re going to get an offer.
Deloitte was my last interview, or last set of interviews. The first round was 2 interviews, each 30 minutes, one behavioral, one case interview. The behavioral interview was with a partner at the firm. He was very nice, very personable. It wasn’t like a regular behavioral interview. He just went straight to the interest section of my resume and we talked for 30 minutes about that. His daughter playing the piano, I watched baseball growing up; it was nothing stressful. I didn’t even feel like I was in an interview. I was just like talking to some guy I met on the street. Very great – I thought we connected well. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why I got a second round interview.
The case interview was very basic. It was a classic Deloitte type of case interview. It was with a manager at Deloitte, and it was a very traditional Deloitte case interview in the sense that they give you a situation, but then they ask you specific questions to answer. They asked, “If I would start a new plant in X area, what are some issues we’d have to look at?” A little more specific than that, but that’s what the questions would be like.
I felt like it went very well, very smoothly. Any candidate who is familiar with casing and practiced can tackle a case, but I was fortunate to have a very easy one, I think. They said I did a good job before the interview was done. I got to the second round.
For the second round with 2 partners, I had a 60 minute case interview. It was a 2-on-1 case interview. However, it didn’t feel intimidating. They even told me that if they asked me specific questions, I shouldn’t feel threatened – they were just trying to see how I think. The first 15 minutes were actually behavioral, and the rest was a case interview.
It was a pretty difficult case interview compared to those I had done, especially from Deloitte partners. The client was a food service company. The interviewers gave me a sheet with all these numbers on it and I had to do my calculation on those. Not only that, but sometimes I had to spend a lot of time figuring out what the numbers meant. It wasn’t just, “I know what this is and this means this and this means that” – I was asking, “What does this number actually mean?” I noticed that I took a long time doing that – at least it felt like a long time. It must have been okay, or I don’t think I would have gotten an offer.
Aside from that, there was a lot of brainstorming in areas I’ve never really done before. I don’t remember any specific questions, but they would say “We’re considering doing X action, think of some issues that might come with that.” And these were issues that I had never encountered before. It was something that I was not prepared for. I thought the interview went okay, but I think that was a good thing, because everyone else I knew that was there said it was impossibly difficult.
Jenny Rae: So okay was good enough.
Jason: Yes. Okay was good enough. I think okay for me meant I did a very good job. Then, the following Tuesday I had an interview on the phone and got the offer, and was incredibly excited.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic, and congratulations. Deloitte is such an impressive firm. So do you know how many people from Stern they took? Was it a specific group of people from Stern that they took, or were you in the general New York pool?
Jason: I think they only take 1 every single year from Stern for Strategy & Operations. I have never heard of them taking two before for S&O; it’s always just one that works in the New York office. They also take one for the tech consulting arm, and one for the audit arm. So 3 interns total in New York.
Jenny Rae: Great. So then obviously you go through the celebration and the party, and you’re excited about the summer, and then you have to go and deliver over the course of the summer. So what are some of your plans as a strategic person about how you’re going to tackle your summer?
Jason: In the summer, I don’t have too much of a plan, to be honest. I’ve had so many people at Deloitte, former and current, who stressed to me not to worry about the summer. They said that I really have to go out of my way to mess up so much that I would not to get a return offer. In terms of a return offer, I’m not really worried because I don’t plan on messing up and I think I’m capable enough.
That being said, I still want to do a good job, whether or not that’s making a great impression or having better opportunities down the line networking. So what I am working on right now – going into summer – is understanding exactly what my goals are for the next couple of years. I’m trying to get a better sense of what they are and how I would manage those at Deloitte by doing more networking within the firm. I know for interns on Fridays in the New York office there is a lots of open time for me to network with people in the firm, even more senior level people, so I can get my foot in the door even more that way, understand the opportunities that are there for me, and understand what I want to do.
Basically, I want to use the summer to springboard myself for the next few years down the road.
Jenny Rae: Fantastic. So let’s say that the summer goes well. Let’s assume that all of your preparation and your planning and your hard work is going to pay off and like they said, you will get the predicted offer at the end of the summer. Will your next few years be decided? Do you think you will accept it, or do you still have other options that you are considering on the table going into next year?
Jason: So if I get a return offer, more than likely I am just going to accept it. I really have not enjoyed the recruiting process, to be honest. I really would not like to go through it again. This is just a reflection of my personality. The difference between Deloitte and MBB isn’t that much of a big difference for me personally. I really like the people I met at Deloitte and I have friends who work there, so I would prefer to stay there.
Now, down the road in a couple of years, in terms of me being at Deloitte – where, doing what, etc., I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to set up with them. It depends on what I need, and what happens through the summer.
Jenny Rae: Okay. Jason, what would be some of your final tips or recommendations to people who are about to enter into this recruiting process? What would be some of your key takeaways that you would like to share with them?
Jason: So my key take away is basically what I think set me apart from everyone else, or at least everyone who struggled or didn’t get an offer in consulting; I think it was just this – be completely detailed in recruiting. Understand where you are in the process, and understand what you need to do to prepare a lot for those next steps.
I know a lot of people that actually didn’t start casing until a week or two before the case interview, and that was not a good thing. I know they struggled – they told me. I practiced a couple of months in advance, and a practiced a lot when I did that. That made me so much more prepared to do the case interviews, and I think that’s one thing that set me apart. But from a whole process perspective, I thought of it in 4 ways.
First, the process started with doing research, understanding what the firm is, what you need to know.
Second was networking. I made sure to network as many people as I could in the firm. Generally speaking, I aimed for 10+ meetings in person and then a follow-up with a phone call and meeting again. So 10+ of those for each firm. I felt that was very important because if I had just networked with just one or two or three, I didn’t think it was necessarily helping me definitely get the interview. It wasn’t enough. I know for other people it wasn’t.
The third part was prepping for the behavioral interview, and last was prepping for the case interview. I dedicated most of my time to the case interview, although I would say now to others – please don’t overlook the behavioral interview. I think if I had spent more time with the behavioral interview, I probably could’ve made it past the first round at PWC and FTI. I know people who were completely strong candidates but maybe just didn’t network enough and that hurt them, or maybe they hadn’t done enough case interviews and they could make it past the second round and get an offer because of that.
Jenny Rae: Okay, great. Any final thoughts before we sign off?
Jason: There is one more thing I just remembered. I don’t know what it’s like in other universities, but again, like I mentioned before, at Stern the opportunities were limited so even if you are completely dedicated to consulting as I was, try to have a backup plan because I know a couple of others who didn’t, and I didn’t have the best backup plan admittedly. So if you are going into consulting, have some backup plans in mind.
Jenny Rae: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. As a thank you for doing the interview, I would like to send you a copy of our book called Three Month Mastery, which is about preparing for life on the job as a consultant.
Jason: That would be great!
Jenny Rae: Jason, thank you so much for your time – your perspective is amazing. Good luck at Deloitte!
Jason: Thank you so much.