The key to any good interview is preparation—and there's no better preparation than knowing the kinds of questions that you're likely to face. With that in mind, I took a look through the thousands of responses from our 2013 consulting survey and selected some of the most representative questions that successful candidates had to navigate. For this post, I limited my research to questions from firms that made the top 10 in the Vault Consulting 50 this year—in a follow-up, I'll focus on questions from different types of firms: boutiques, firms with particular practice area specialties, and so on. In the meantime, feel free to test out your answers to any of the below—or to provide feedback on others' answers—in the comments.
Situational & Personal Questions
These are the standard questions that almost every professional in any walk of life will have to negotiate successfully if they're to find themselves getting a job offer. However, just because they're not specific to the consulting industry doesn't mean that you should take them lightly—tripping up on a question about your long-term career goals can do your application just as much harm as blowing the case interview portion. Some examples:
Market Sizing/ Estimates
Market sizing and estimation is a crucial skill in the consulting world, and is also something that is conveniently easy to test for in interviews. In fact, every single firm in the top 10—and a clear majority of the firms we survey every year—ask candidates to estimate the size of something, whether it's ice cream cones sold in Beijing in a day, or the potential market for electric cars in the United States. Regardless of what you're asked to figure out, you should always start by explaining your assumptions—population size, percentage of the population likely to use said product (and why you've settled on that percentage), and any other factors that are likely to have a significant effect on the estimate. Indeed, showing that you can logically approach the problem is far more important than whatever number you might eventually arrive at, so be sure to do the bulk of your reasoning out loud, and make the process a conversation with the interviewer, so that they can follow your thought process.
Here are some sample market sizing questions from this year's survey:
No consulting interview would be complete without case interview questions that test a candidate's ability to think strategically about problems. Answering them is all about preparation (that's why you're at business school—and why there's no shortage of guides to help prepare) as well as a continuation of the approach for market sizing questions—make it a conversation, and explain every step of your thinking/process along the way. Again: showing that you can arrive at a solution after thoughtful questioning and analysis is far more important in these questions than being able to throw out a brilliant new strategy on the fly, so focus on the process, and allow it to lead you to a solution. Some examples:
Brainteasers/ Random Knowledge
While it's now rare for consulting firms to ask the "golf balls in a 747"-type questions that were in vogue a few years ago, there are occasional interviewers who like to stretch candidates to see how they perform under pressure. Here are a couple of questions that stood out in this category.
For examples of interview questions from specific consulting firms, check out the profiles of the firms in our consulting rankings by clicking the firm's name in the rankings.
Standard advice about interviewing at companies decrees that you should always do your research in advance, and come armed with a few pertinent questions on the firm's business model, goals, and the like. It also decrees that you should save questions pertaining to compensation, perks and benefits for at least a second round interview.
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