Consulting Interviews

With interview season hotting up, throughout this term we present a series of must read guides.

In order to prepare properly for an interview in consulting, you must ensure you are up to date with everything below...

Personal Preparation

  • Re-read your CV - why have you made the career decisions you have? Remember that anything on your CV is fair game - be prepared to talk about it

  • Motivation - why do you want a career in consulting? Why are you attracted to this consultancy?
  • Dress - you must look smart and "city" - no cheap suits, un-ironed shirts or dirty shoes - appearance counts - and you must dress for success

Technical Preparation

You should read:

  • "Vault Guide to Consulting" - Eric Chung & Jim Slepicka

  • "Vault Guide to the Case Interview" - Mark Asher & Eric Chung
  • "Competitive Strategy" - Michael Porter Larger consultancies are likely to make you sit a short maths test in which you will not be allowed to use a calculator. This is to test that you have basic numerical competence, which is not really something that you can learn, although you might want to refresh your mental arithmetic if you think this could be a weakness. The main consulting interview tool is the case study (see our guide to case studies at thegatewayonline.com/consulting).

    This is designed to test your aptitude and intuition to a business situation. You are not expected to have specific industry or business knowledge, so the case would typically be a 'real life' scenario that you should be able to answer from your experience. Notwithstanding this, knowledge of some of the classic consulting frameworks (SWOT Analysis, Porter's Five Forces, Vertical and Horizontal Integration) will be invaluable for structuring your thought process in a logical way - this is one of the key thing the interviewer is assessing.Another favourite method for analysing the way you approach problems is the 'guesstimate'. An example of this would be: 'tell me the number of toilets in the UK'. Although this is not something you can really prepare for, it may be beneficial to develop your own structured method for tackling such problems. An approach for tackling guesstimates is available online at thegatewayonline.com/guesstimates.

Employer Preparation

You should revise:

  • The job specification (if provided)

  • The company's key clients (if available)
  • Their position in the general consultancy and sector specific landscape Their web-site

  • Any other pitch books, promotional literature you can get hold of

Above all, you must understand:

  • Their history

  • Their place in the market - unique selling points - why do clients choose to work with them? What do they do that is special and different from other consultancies? If they specialise in a particular sector, make sure you understand and are interested in that area.
  • Their culture - how do they appeal to their workforce as an employer?
  • Their clients - who are their key clients and what have they done for them?
  • Their work in progress - what are they currently working on? Ideally, you should try to speak to somebody who currently works for that consultancy and can give you some "inside information". Take business cards of people you chat to at campus presentations.

General Preparation

If you are interested in working in business your prospective employer will expect you to have a general interest in current business issues. You should make sure you are up-to-date with the latest market information including:

  • Current issues and trends - commercial, political, environment, technical

  • You should use Michael Porter's five forces model to consider the competitive environment: (i) rivalry amongst existing firms (ii) power of suppliers (iii) power of customers (iv) barriers to entry / exit (v) threat of substitutes
  • Recently completed M&A transactions - strategic rationale, issues Where do you get this information from?

  • The Gateway and thegatewayonline.com

  • Financial Times newspaper
  • The Times newspaper, where the business section has a daily sector briefing
  • Financial web-sites such as bloomberg.com; reuters.com; ft.com; efinancialnews.com
  • Financial search engines such as Factiva and Merger Market
  • Market systems such as Bloomberg and Reuters, if you have access.

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