The 7 Steps to Becoming a Management Consultant
Step 7: Above All, be engaging, personable and memorable during the interview
So now you have the tools, contacts, knowledge and preparation to excel in the interview. All you have to do is walk in and deliver. Of course, first you need to be invited to an interview. If you’ve done your homework researching firms, networking and preparing your resume, you should have no problem securing at least a few interviews at top choice firms.
Getting an interview
Consulting firms recruit on a very set cycle. There are dates for applications, resumes, first round interviews, second round interviews and acceptances. These typically take place in October/November for full time hires and January/February for internships. If the firm holds interviews on campus, your career center will be able to give you all the details, but you shouldn’t rely on that. If you’ve been networking and doing informational interviews you should have at least one solid contact at the firm who can give you all of the relevant details about their recruiting dates and requirements. This goes for firms that don’t recruit on your campus as well. Don’t let the fact that a firm doesn’t recruit from your school prevent you from applying, you’ll just have to be a little more proactive. Again, reach out to contacts you’ve made and ask them how you can apply. If you’ve done the work, the recruiting manager at the firm should already know your name before they ever find your resume in a pile. This is the #1 most important element in being selected for an interview and why the networking portion of your career search is so critical.
Standing out in the interview
Once you’ve lined up an interview, assuming you’ve practiced your case and behavioral interview skills until they’re second nature, you’re ready to walk in and impress. However, doing well on the case, having good experience and great answers to behavioral questions is only half the battle. Remember, consulting is a highly competitive field and you’re likely being compared against 20 to 30 other equally qualified, equally prepared students. During a day of on-campus recruiting, an interviewer will likely conduct up to 10 back to back interviews. If you don’t perform well on the case or behavioral sections you’ll likely not be considered for a second round. However, the real key is to stand out and be memorable among those that also did well on the case. This is done by creating a connection with the interviewer that goes beyond your resume or your case analysis. You need to try and connect on a more personal level, understand them as a human and demonstrate that you are human.
The easiest way to connect with an interviewer is to talk about things that interest them. Typically you won’t know this coming into an interview, so you’ll have to feel it out during the discussion. An interviewer will typically give you a brief overview of themselves and their role when you start the interview. Try to find out the type of work they specialize in or the industry they focus on. Find out where they went to school. These are great starting points to try to dive into their interests and personality. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will typically ask if you have any questions for them. This is another great opportunity to get them to open up about themselves. Ask about what gets them excited about being a consultant, where they see themselves in 5 years, etc. The key is to try to find common ground, things that you can both relate to, and use that as a launching pad for a more personal discussion.
During the interview you want to stay focused, but also be energetic and excited. Lean forward as you talk instead of leaning back. Light up as you talk about a particular experience you had or as you land on a key insight during your case. Make sure that your energy is not mistaken for nervousness though. This is why preparation and confidence is so important (see Chapter 5). You need the self-assurance that you can handle the situation, which in turn allows you to engage in a compelling conversation.
End on a high note
While you want to build a rapport and drive an engaging conversation, you also need to be aware of the time. You’ll likely have 45 minutes total for the interview, and there will be people coming in after you. Make sure you’re keeping track of the time and take control if you know you’re running over. A great way to wrap up the interview is to say, “I know we only have a minute left, but I just wanted to ask you…”, and ask them something you know will get them talking that you can relate to. Shoot for 1 to 2 minutes of good dialog and then politely thank them for their time. After you leave the room, the interviewer is likely going to jot down some notes about how the interview went so you want to make sure they are left with a strong impression. You want them writing down things that make you stand out in their mind so they remember you. At the end of the day, it is going to be hard for the interviewer to remember all 10 candidates in detail so you want to make sure they have a few key moments from the interview that will stand out in their mind.
Consulting can open the door to unlimited career opportunities. Landing a job at a top tier firm is a dream for many, but one that is daunting and can feel overwhelming. However, if you follow the steps laid out above and put the time into your preparation, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. For those that want to give themselves an extra edge, check out College2Consulting’s in-depth, interactive preparation course that supplements these steps with detailed frameworks, real cases, resume guidelines and insider tips from hiring managers packaged together into a easy to consume system that has resulted in 100% of students receiving a job offer from a top tier firm for the last 3 years in a row.