Consulting interview and timeline
What is a case interview?
At top consulting companies, you should expect 4-6 case interviews across 2 rounds, with each lasting ~60 minutes. Each interview is broken down into,
- Fit Interview (15-20 minutes): behavioral questions about how you have handled previous
- Case Interview (30-40 minutes): interactive case to test your ability to solve a tough business problem
- Questions (5-10 minutes): your chance to ask questions to the interviewer
The fit interview and case interview are the two critical components for every consulting interview. Here are some examples of the type of questions you might get asked
(1) Fit Interview questions
- Why are you interested in consulting?
- Tell me about a time you had to lead a team.
- Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a team member.
- When did you have to convince someone to change their mind on something important to them?
- Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult problem.
(2) Case Interview questions
- United Airlines profits have been declining over the past 2 years. Can you help find the root-cause and turn the situation around?
- Lululemon wants to launch a new line of apparel in South America. How would you advise the CEO for what line of apparel to launch?
- Burger King is looking into different growth strategies such as potentially acquiring a new upcoming doughnut product called Heavenly Donuts. What areas would you want to explore to determine whether Burger King should acquire Heavenly Donuts?
What are consulting companies looking for?
Top consulting companies are looking for basically the same skills (luckily). The interviewing team assesses these skills from the resume, case interview, and fit interview.
- Problem solving: demonstration of strong intellectual capabilities
- Entrepreneurial mindset: demonstration of taking initiative and/or creatively creating new things with little direction
- Personal impact: demonstration of accomplishing great things through adversity
- Leadership: demonstration that you can lead teams through difficult situations
You will be graded across these dimensions where you must meet a certain bar in each to move on to the next round or to get an offer. You can increase your chances by trying to “spike” (greatly excel) in as many dimensions as possible.
Interesting enough, the Fit Interview assesses most of the skills, so don’t make the common mistake of over looking its importance!
What is different between the 1st and 2nd round?
The interview structure and skills are assessed are largely the same.
- First round: 2-3 interviews (typically 2) conducted by more junior consultants (2-3 years of consultant experience)
- Second round: 2-3 interviews (typically 3) conducted by senior partners (6+ years of consultant experience) who ask more open-ended questions and drill down more into your experiences
I have found that the second round has 2 key differences
- Pressure: partners play a “bad cop” type of role to test how candidates react to uncertainty or even acting like any answer you say isn’t correct to see how you might handle difficult client situations
- Exhaustive: Partners will often drill-down in your experience or a case question to test your thinking and creativity. A classic example is continually asking “okay, what else?” to an open-ended question (e.g., what are the main cost drivers for this business? Okay, what else? Okay, what else? Anything else?). I have heard of instances that the majority of an interview focused only on one question in the fit or case interview
The 2nd round interview is partially what makes interviewing at top consulting companies the most difficult interview process in the world; according to WSJ, McKinsey and BCG are the top 2 hardest companies to interview for. These interviews are incredibly difficult to master but are more manageable when you know how to prepare. We put together free resources and a deep network to help students break into consulting.
What is the typical interview timeline?
The entire interview process takes between 4-7 weeks; however – in order to give yourself the best chance to succeed – you should start preparing for the case interview at least 4 weeks before submitting your application. This will also help you feel more confident going into the interview process.