Published: Mar 23, 2016
Being prepared for an interview in the consulting industry means more than just brushing up on your pat answers to a couple of behavioral questions, and arriving armed with multiple copies of your resume. Fortunately, we've got you covered: each year, as part of the annual Vault Consulting Survey, we ask consultants—many of whom are recruiters—to give us examples of the kinds of questions an interviewee at their firm is likely to face. This year, for the first time, we're breaking those down by practice area, to give you a better sense of the questions you're liable to see. Over the next few weeks, we'll be rolling those out, practice area by practice area, so if you don't see your specialty listed, be sure to check back in with us soon.
Up first, tech consulting firms:
In this sector, questions seemed to break down into four general categories: Case studies and business strategy; questions that test your technical knowledge; personal/behavioral interview questions, and those that were more general in nature.
Before we cut to the questions, a note (and shameless plug): what follows are the questions only. Our respondents didn't provide us with sample answers (and we didn't ask for them). If you'd like a more structured look at the consulting interview—including tips on how to break down the questions—there are a number of great guides available, including our own Vault Guide to the Case Interview.
Also: please feel free to solicit help and/or discuss potential answers in the comment thread below.
Case Studies & Business Strategy
1. Provide an analysis of an unusual high volume day for an emergency room, some possible causes, effects of, and data points you might use to determine a trend or outliners.
2. Can you describe how you would approach a situation where your project's progress is slipping because of lack of contribution from one of the client's project team members?
Company X is looking to update their POS technology.They are leaning towards a particular product, but you don't think that's the best fit for the company.What would you do?
3. Building a call center onshore vs. outsourcing call center offshore vs. hybrid - which is most financially competitive, and by how much, and what are other qualitative aspects to the decision?
4. How would you improve CRM with customer retention rates dropping?
5. A large retail firm is looking to develop a new digital strategy to better engage customers and improve sales—how should they begin this journey and what factors are most important to keep in mind?
6. A multi-national manufacturing firm is faced with flat sales and the IT department is under pressure to identify ways to reduce costs. Our team has been tasked with developing a roadmap to achieving cost savings—how should we proceed?
7. We have been asked to help a small brewery located near a large city. Distribution is currently limited to the pub, but they would like to expand distribution into the metropolitan area. How would you design and develop the business case for this expansion?
8. How would you source IT/BPO from Africa?
9. You are tasked with developing desk references or training materials for the client in the Payroll office or grants office. Explain to me how you would go about developing these materials to make sure they meet the client’s need, their culture and approach to learning.
10. A very large sports league needs to move their entire datacenter into the cloud in six weeks to support their new mobile video application. What are the first sets of challenges you would expect to face?
11. Our client has had trouble identifying, tracking and managing key projects within the organization and senior leadership does not feel like they are investing properly in the most important business problems. You have been asked to develop and lead a new PMO function to help with this problem. Developing this PMO will require assistance from the previous project managers, who are resistant to your project because they are concerned that it will change their roles. Describe the steps you would take to develop the new PMO.
Testing for technology knowledge/experience
1. What is the most common reason IT projects fail?
2. Compare and contrast waterfall and Agile methodologies and how you have seen Agile implemented incorrectly.
3. How would you go about responding to or facilitating an RFP for a digital asset management solution? What is your requirements gathering approach?
4. Define Architecture.
5. Your opinion on the best SDLC process and why.
6. What are the biggest challenges to successful project delivery?
7. What do you think should the process be for describing requirements for outsourcing IT?
8. Have you seen the Agile methodology implemented incorrectly? If yes, describe why it was not working.
9. Selecting the project from your resume which you said you took the most pride in, please do this: describe the project like you are speaking to a non-technical grandmother. She needs to understand what made the project difficult, what your solution was, and why such a thing had value to the business.
10. When was the last time you had to compromise on code quality to meet a delivery date? How did you choose what to trade off? What happened after?
11. What is degenerated dimension?
1. In what ways do you stay up-to-date in your area of expertise?
2. Tell me about a difficult conversation you've had to have.
3. Tell me about the most negative feedback you received about your performance. Did you agree with the feedback? What did you learn and what changes did you make as a result?
4. Tell me about a time when working in a group project and things started to go wrong?What did you do?
5. What is your biggest issue?
6. What motivates you to join our organization?
7. How do you deal with frustrating situations?
8. Where do you think business ethics are derived from?
9. How would you approach a project situation where two key stakeholders have conflicting requests?
10. Explain a situation where you had to work with a difficult client. How did you recognize the client was a challenge and what did you do to manage the situation?
11. We value global acumen and cultural diversity—give me an example of how this applies to you, and what you do to strengthen your understanding of the world and other cultures.
12. Give me an example of a project where you faced issues as a result of communication and/or cultural differences with the process and the outcome.
13. Which career path is most appealing to you?(i.e. Do you see yourself as a BA/Business Architect or PM?)
Other/ General Experience
1. Describe a project where you were the leader or participant in design or construction, including the business problem to be solved, the solution, and the team dynamics. Draw the solution as appropriate.
2. Give a detailed description of your roles and responsibilities at your current job. What were your greatest accomplishments and the biggest setbacks, and how did you learn from them?
3. What was your biggest professional failure?
4. What are some Leadership positions you have held?
5. What are some examples of your strengths in Project / Program Management?
6. How have you developed and leveraged your skills and relationships?
7. What experience have you had interacting with C-Level executives?
8. Describe some instances where you used some consulting tools to define and resolve a business problem?
9. Tell me about your most productive/successful team—why was it successful?
10. If your manager were to tell you that the analyst in a different team had to be rolled off and you have to step into that role next week, please explain how you will go about with this transition. (He/ she should explain how they’ll transition current responsibilities and take on the new ones).
11. What techniques do you use to document business processes?
26 Interview Questions the Top 10 Consulting Firms Ask
Vault Guide to the Case Interview
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.