Management Consulting

Interview the interviewer: Advice for aspiring analysts and consultants

A Partner at a top management consulting firm tells us about what he looks for in an interview.

By The Notch Team
July 2016

Notch sat down with a Partner from a top management consulting firm to understand a little bit more about consulting and what they look for in interviews.

 

What is the typical day of an Analyst or Consultant at a management consulting firm like?
Regardless of the content of the project, it all comes down to head down, hard work. Sometimes you’re on the field or client’s office, talking to people, trying to understand the on-the-ground facts; other times you’re in the office looking for the information that can support the hypothesis. There’s a lot of time spent on research, talking to experts and interviewing various types of stakeholders. By the end of the day, you find yourself with some slides summarising insights you’ve generated. Your Project Manager or Partner will probably encourage you to push the analysis further or question your findings – that’s how you get to quality outcome. While it’s not what I call a desk based job, there are days where you just have to grind it out and really just put in the hard yards on research.

 

What are the main things that you look for in a candidate during an interview?
The case interview is designed to help understand the raw horse-power of a candidate. By horse power I mean the ability to very quickly grasp problems, formulate a potential answer, structure the analysis and gut check the answers. They are given an ambiguous issue, and we’re trying to test how much the candidate can structure it. The best interviews I experienced were the ones where candidates were able to break up how they think about the problem from a size and numbers perspective. That appeals to me because a lot of insight sits in raw data.

The other part of the interview, what we call the ‘fit’ interview, is to test the candidate’s strength of character. While it’s critical that you’ve passed the case interview with flying colours, that strength of character can turn a marginal interview in to a strong one. The main thing I look for there is authenticity. For example, I appreciate candidates who very authentically answer questions like ‘What are you not good at?’. Often people will say things like ‘I’m such a perfectionist’ or ‘I work too hard’. But what I’m looking for is when people say, ‘I’m sort of struggling with this, and this is what I’m trying to work through’.

 

“The best interviews I experienced were the ones where candidates were able to break up how they think about the problem from a size and numbers perspective. That appeals to me because a lot of insight sits in raw data. ”

Do you have any advice to candidates as they prepare for their interviews?
The case interview is a really important test, and it’s one that you can practice for. I remember my first interview, it was with BCG, and I didn’t know what case interviews were. I was lucky that my interviewer picked up on that and then walked me through it. Most candidates won’t be that lucky. It’s important that you have practiced and know what to expect so that you can focus on demonstrating your skills and let your true self shine through. We’re not trying to test whether or not you understand what a case interview is. What we’re really trying to get to is, ‘Do you have the raw structuring skills and horse-power to pick up some things very quickly’. Fortunately, I think these are skills that can be built up through practice.

 

In order to get the inside scoop, we have kept the name and firm of the interviewee of this article confidential. All our interviews are conducted with top management from the following firms: McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group, Bain and Co., Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Accenture and Strategy&.