Management consultancies tend to operate two or three stage recruitment processes with multiple interviews during each round... and if that wasn’t gruelling enough, some firms’ require candidates to sit tests, and participate in case studies and group presentations. Here’s a closer look:
The Application – CVS And Covering Letters
Consulting firms receive a great number of applications every year. As such, your CV and covering letters need to be honed to perfection to give you a chance of getting to the interview stage. Having a great CV is a sure fire way of grabbing a recruiter’s attention; so don’t let this opportunity go to waste!
At some point during the recruitment process you’ll most likely have to sit some form of tests.
For instance, as part of the McKinsey interview process, most candidates are asked to complete a multiple-choice, problem-solving test. Although the test is designed so that no business background is required or expected, this 26 question case-based test uses real McKinsey client cases, assesses your problem solving abilities and helps the firm understand how well you would perform as a consultant.
These tests challenge data interpretation as well as basic maths skills. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. At the majority of firms, including BCG, Roland Berger, and Bain & Company, mathematical aptitude is tested during the interviews or as part of an assessment day.
Applicants will generally face two rounds of interviews with consultants, managing directors and partners. Each round will comprise a number of interviews and some firms may even use a third round in separating the wheat from the chaff.
The first round will typically comprise one or two half hour interviews with a senior consultant. The second could be made of up to four interviews, with each ordinarily around the 45 minute mark. These will usually be case interviews, with at least one tête-à-tête with a partner. On the whole, the further you go in the interview process, the more senior the interviewer.
Interviews tend to fit into one of two camps – behavioural and business case.
Before focusing on business acumen and commercial awareness, firms want to see if their applicants have the brains, the creativity, and the mathematical and statistical know how to make the grade. Furthermore, consultancies use this interview as a chance to gauge whether candidates represent a good cultural fit for the firm. Interviewers at certain firms are reputed to use an ‘elevator test’, questioning whether they could bear to be stuck in an elevator with a candidate for an extended period of time.
Your CV will provide the overarching structure for the interview, but don’t go thinking a regurgitation of your education and experience will suffice. Successful applicants will expand on the details of their CV. So make sure you extract and relate your experiences to demonstrate you have what the firm’s looking for – i.e. leadership, communication skills and the ability to work well with others. The saying goes ‘it’s what you say, not how you say it’; but in reality, it’s both what you say AND how you say it. Nowhere is this more true than in a consulting interview. Listen to the interviewer carefully and make sure you actually answer the questions asked. A common interviewer complaint is that too many applicants don’t answer questions correctly.
For more information on the consulting application process, read the second part of this article here.
This article is an extract from Inside Buzz's "An Inside Look at Consulting, 2013 Edition". For more in-depth information on consulting, download the free guide here.