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Advice When Preparing for a Consulting Interview
Having worked with some of the world’s leading management consultancies helping them to attract talent from Partners to Analysts, Owen Thomas offers some insight into what to expect from an interview in the sector.
Management consultancies typically have 2 or 3 rounds of interviews depending on the seniority of the position. They are almost always competency based with hiring managers and potential peers which can differ from other processes where HR Managers or technical testing can be involved. The interviews tend to ebb and flow in a conversational style and there are a couple of key areas interviewers are interested in.
Presentation & Communication
I always advise candidates to imagine the person they are meeting is a potential client. The interviewer wants to understand how you will interact with stakeholders and represent their brand when you’re out at a client site. All the usual tips are applicable here; positive body language, good eye contact, confident and succinct answers.
Projects & Influence
Consulting by nature is project based, and interviewers will naturally want to understand your experience here. It’s beneficial to think about the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s a common mistake for people to talk too generically about projects and their role delivering them. I advise people to set the scene and then talk about their specific responsibilities. Use this phase as an opportunity to talk about your influencing skills. This is particularly important for people who haven’t previously worked in consulting (for example Project Managers). In consulting it’s not enough to be great at delivery, you have to be able to advise and influence decision makers. If you have examples of times where you’ve suggested improvements to a project, or win someone round to your way of thinking, this is the time to demonstrate it. Finally, don’t forget the result of the project – was it a success and did it deliver the benefits it set out to. If it didn’t go to plan don’t be afraid to talk about what went wrong and how would you do it differently given your time over.
It goes without saying that during the conversation the interviewers will want to explore your understanding of the industry and/or functional area. However, it’s equally important to think about the future of your industry. Consultants work at the bleeding edge of client operations, and as such, interviewers will want to understand your opinion on the big challenges facing particular industries and the opportunities that may present to consulting firms.
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