During an interview, it is common to be asked “Tell me about yourself.” Even though you’re mentally prepared for the question to be asked, suddenly your heart starts racing, your mind goes blank, and you just plain forget how to talk like a normal human being.
In thousands of hours of interview preparation every year, we find similar themes with EVERY client: you love breaking your brain for the case interview, and assume that for the the fit interviews – being more predictable by comparison – you can wing it.
Au contraire, peeps. The fit interview is where magic happens, where your true self comes out, and where the interview is ultimately decided. True, you can’t get through the process without being good at cases – but amongst those that rock the cases, how do they decide? The fit interview is the tiebreaker, so you best be on your game.
The fit interview preparation process is critical to success, and requires tremendous self-reflection – why you are unique, what makes you valuable to an employer, and what your goals are
1. Why Are You Interested In Being A Consultant?
Whether you are transitioning into consulting from a different industry or are heading there straight from the classroom, the interviewer is looking to see if you are really serious about this career move – that you have researched this industry, and will want to know why you chose this industry over where you have been and all of the other choices on your plate.
Firms know you’ll probably leave – in 2-3 years, if you’re normal – and they are comfortable with that payback cycle. However, the firm loses money on you in the first 6-12 months on the job – they invest heavily in training, and you are contributing very little. It’s a risk to take someone on if they are not committed to the job – so when you answer the questions the interviewer should feel confident that you know about the industry and the company you are applying for.
Make sure you are ready to share how your experience positions you well for this industry – it’s important that you don’t sound like a consulting-worshipper or share how you hate what you’re currently doing. Consultants want workers who are going from strength to strength.
Make sure you have honestly taken the time to weigh all benefits, sacrifices and reasons for making this transition. Although over time consultants are paid well, an industry transition from a senior exec role or a field like i-banking can mean decreased pay, title and seniority, etc. and you need to share what benefits of consulting will outweigh these costs.
An example version of this question might be “You have received numerous promotions and your compensation is far greater than that of a consultant at your level. Why the transition?” The interviewer is clearly trying to see if there is a convincing reason for the switch. Communicate your thought process, research and some areas you like about your current work that you’ll get to do more of as a consultant – make sure you highlight the skills you’ll develop, higher job satisfaction, and long-term career aspirations.
2. Interest & Knowledge For the Industry Or Firm
Why do you want to work for XXX? You can guarantee this question will be asked. The firm is trying to assess where else you are applying, where their firm fits in, and how much work you’ve done to prepare. You have 2 ways to handle this kind of question.
First, you can give them a few reasons – 3 reasons why you want to work for McKinsey, or 4 reasons why Deloitte is your first-choice firm. You need to explain each reason, and let them know at the beginning that you’ve thought about this question a lot – to reduce the risk of sounding totally memorized.
Second, you can tell a story. Stories are the best – they are believable, personal and very memorable. The story might sound like this: “I used to think investment banking was for me…and then I met this guy from McKinsey.” Take insights from your networking conversations, and get specific.
No matter which option you choose here, make sure you address the question with enthusiasm – be excited about what the firm has to offer.
What do you think makes a good management consultant? If you do not have business or economics background, take heed! Interviewers are searching out whether you are interested enough in the job to do your own research – and we’re not talking web research here (although that’s a good foundation). Do you understand what skills are required for success and do you honestly feel prepared to take those on?
Firms want to be assured you have a clear understanding of why you are entering into this industry and what you plan to accomplish during your time as a consultant. The interviewer is trying to find out what you have heard makes a good management consultant – from other management consultants, not some vague online article. Structure your response and make sure you include skills like analytical capabilities, hard work, and great communication skills.
3. Strength and Weaknesses Consulting Questions
“What’s your greatest strength?” (Variations can include “Tell me about your 3 greatest strengths.” or “If I put you on a team with 6 people, what strengths of yours would be displayed?”, etc.)
The interviewer really wants to make sure you understand what a few of your strengths are and how to best apply them to all types of situations. Be prepared to share some examples of those amazing qualities, with brief explanations, but without sounding arrogant. Select strengths (you should have many) that demonstrate well-roundedness – for example, one on data/analysis/problem solving, one on leadership/motivation/work ethic, one on communication/conflict resolution.
“What’s your greatest weakness?” This is such a hated question, but it’s not hard to answer. Don’t do what so many try to do – share about a not very weak weakness, such as “I have an issue with coming up with too many great ideas.”
Your interviewer is trying to see not “if” you have weaknesses, but “how” you handle them and what are you doing to manage a negative effect – so it’s not THEIR problem.