The consulting interview process is thorough and to get a job at a top consulting firm you'll probably need to go through 4 or 5 interviews across multiple rounds.
Most of these interviews will involve both a case study and a series of questions about you and your achievements and motivations (i.e., personal 'fit'). When I was interviewing candidates at McKinsey in London, I spent about 25 to 30 minutes on each part.
It's important to note that the case study and the personal 'fit' part of your interviews are equally important. To pass an interview, you'll need to meet the (high!) bar on both parts. I've been in plenty of decision meetings where a candidate has aced a case but flunked the personal fit part of an interview- these candidates were always rejected.
So, what can you do to make sure that you sail through your fit interviews? My top 5 tips are below:
1. Identify your key 'stories': Most consulting 'fit' interviews will involve a behavioural element- to make sure that you have a specific skill needed for the role you're applying for (e.g., leadership, ability to work in teams), you'll be asked to talk through a situation in your professional or personal life where you've shown this skill.
Before your interviews, prepare 5 to 10 stories that show you have the skills you'll need as a consultant. Make sure that all of these stories have some essential elements- you should be able to provide your interviewer with a brief 'top-down' summary of the situation, you should be able to explain clearly why this situation was professionally or personally relevant and, at the end of each story, you should be able to demonstrate how your actions led to a positive outcome (e.g., 'as a direct result of my sales excellence program, my team's sales increased from $5m to over $10m in less than 1 year')
2. Know your CV: Make sure that you know your CV inside-out before you walk into your first interview. Go through it line-by-line and make sure that you can talk about everything on it. I've interviewed candidates who seemed surprised to be asked about specific points- this is not an impression that you want to create
3. Be prepared to talk in detail: Many years ago, when I was going through the interview process at various consulting firms, I remember being surprised by just how detailed the 'fit' questions I was being asked were. My interviewers didn't just want me to describe a situation in broad terms- they wanted to know exactly what I had said to whom and why I had said it.
Years later, when I started interviewing prospective consulting candidates I found out that there are good reasons for this. Your interviewers will be looking for specific examples of behaviours within the situations you describe and so will probe you in detail on what might seem like very minor points. What this means is that when preparing for your fit interviews, think through in detail every important point of your 'key' stories- for example, get your practice partners to ask you in detail about key conversations
4. Focus on what you have done: One common trait that almost all the consulting candidates I interviewed shared was a tendency to talk about what 'we' or 'our team' achieved. In fact this was so common that by the end of my interviewing career, I would start off interviews by warning candidates that I was only interested in hearing about what they themselves had done
5. Practice, practice, practice: This may sound obvious but you need to practice 'fit' interview questions. Use everyone you can and also try recording or videoing yourself answering the most common questions. Many candidates I've spoken to for consulting jobs have focused their preparation almost entirely on case interviews. Whilst I can understand this- case interviews are unlike any other type of interview and might seem scary- this is a mistake. As I mentioned above, fit interviews are equally important to case interviews. If you prepare until you're incredible at answering case questions but neglect fit questions, you'll be doing yourself a disservice
There's nothing complicated about the tips above. But that's important- consulting interviews aren't complicated either. Your interviewers are just trying to make sure that you have the intelligence and people skills to be a success. By following these tips, I think you'll give yourself a better chance of passing through a fit interview
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm