If you are hoping to join McKinsey, Bain, BCG, AT Kearney, Deloitte Consulting or any other top consulting firm, your second biggest challenge would be to clear the tough management consulting interview questions.
The first one, of course, is to get shortlisted for the interview. Reading some of the best management consulting books can help.
Compared to the regular job interviews, management consulting interview questions are quite different. You’d need much more than our witty leadership quotes generator to impress the experienced interviewers.
Sachin Gupta from IIM Calcutta, who recently went through several such interviews and came out victorious, shares his experiences.
I am Sachin Gupta, recent pass out from IIM Calcutta (batch of ’14). I graduated with summa cum laude (top 1%), and was also the overall Academic Representative for the entire PGP class.
The last two years have helped me connect across the value chain i.e. from prospective applicants >> admin >> faculty >> students >> recruiters and also all kinds on intermediaries that complete the MBA ecosystem. Which means I shall sift across my hats seamlessly.
Besides this, I am an Electrical and Electronics engineer from NITK Surathkal
Given my (in)famous track record of having tried everything under the sun, I am confident that I shall be able to further add to your existing conundrum by providing the devil’s perspective to our current decision ;)
Look forward to more chaos before the evening arrives:)
The first interview was with a Principal from Automotive practice:
The first 5 minutes typically revolved around running through my CV. He was poker-faced throughout the interaction making it difficult for me to understand when to stop and when to make the push :)
He quizzed me around my choice of subjects in second year and when it became clear that I had not taken even a single finance elective in the finance campus of the country he promptly dished out a business valuation question for me. How sweet of him, right?
He asked me draw out a typical income statement for an Auto part-maker. Then he pushed me into projecting future cash flows for the firm and finally he quizzed on the ways we can value the firm.
I chose to stick to the Fin basics throughout. I was well versed with basic Accounting and Corporate Finance and held up confidently while doing the basics right and I believe that is what made the difference for him.
Round 2 was with the Principal from Retail practice
As against the poker faced interview last time, the second interviewer was very jovial and supportive throughout. It helped calm quite a few nerves as he drew out a small case in front of me.
The chart depicted the organizational structure of a large multi-national conglomerate and that the CEO of the CPG division was unhappy with the growth in India despite the fact that sales in India had risen phenomenally well. He asked my to explore what could be the possible reasons behind the CPG CEO’s quandary?
I drew out a quick issue tree, trying to keep the MECE structure while identifying the plausible alternatives. We agreed to strike out the first two and focused on the falling profits.
As the discussion progressed it emerged that the CEOs across divisions were judged on their profitability and India despite faring well was being a drag on the overall profitability of the CPG business due our high volume low value business model.
He also asked my to make a 30 second elevator pitch to the Walmart CEO for investing in India despite the recent glitches.
He was happy with my approach and we could wrap up my interview in 15 minutes.
Interview 3 was with the Partner from the Energy practice.
I believe they had by now tested me on my case solving abilities. Going forward great emphasis was placed on my interpersonal skills and my motivation in life. It helped that the partner himself had been the academic representative for the batch in his time, a great point for us. He took great pains to comfort me given that it had been a rocky morning. He very keen on understanding why I had chosen their firm.
I tried to be as truthful as possible through all the personal questions he put out at me. After 40 minutes of intense grilling on issues ranging from my leadership style to my 360 degree appraisal to my past work experience to my future outlook – he was convinced about me but asked me to still see another senior partner before the offer was rolled out
Interview was with another partner from the Telecom practice
Continuing on the theme of personal questions, this interview was a very short one that was primarily a healthy discussion on how my day has been and what all things I look forward to in my career ahead.
SMC India came to Joka for the first time for recruitments- so far it has just restricted itself to Bangalore and ISB.
Round 1 (in campus): They were choosy in shortlists; specific work ex and high CGPA requirements. Single 1 hr interview equal split for personal/cv based questions and a business case. The case was typically one of their live/recent projects.
Round 2 (Mumbai office): 3 students selected from Kolkata.
4 one-hour interviews – 3 of them on the above mentioned format and the 4th was a personals + role-play based interview. It was a day-long process which had a business lunch/interaction rolled in the schedule too.
All interactions were extremely professional with some feedback being provided after every interview. It was a very secure firm high on long term commitment as they believe it is not just another consulting firm but is grooming ground for future leadership cadre.
Most consult interviews would judge you on 3 basic attributes:
This is often tested through cases. Please refer to a good case book for preparing cases. It also helps that one forms groups of 2-3 students often taking turns as an Interviewer, Interviewee and an independent observer. It helps one groom herself/himself in the art of cracking case.
I believe more than your ability to crack the case, it is your approach to solving the case that matters the most. Each one of us has a style of approaching the problem – how effectively are we able to communicate that to the other person holds the key to actually cracking the interview.
Please make sure that you take the interview as a discussion; remember its not a monologue, it is definitely not a debate but it is a two-way dialogue.
Practice learning the art of breaking the problem/conversation into sub parts and also craftily involving the other party along the way :)
I am a strong believer that being honest is not only the best but also the easiest way to approach any interview. Easiest because you just have to be yourself – so no pressure of cooking stories or fabricating facts.
Best because, mother nature has crafted each of us in a different ways, by being someone else we in way go against the law of the nature – hence unwise. Bit philosophical right? Please chew over it!! :)
What I propose to you is ‘Rehearsed Spontaneity‘
I know it is a bit too much, please do not be baffled by the word play. It is something that I have observed in so many celebrities, politicians and corporate big-wigs. It is only good that you start practicing it sooner.
What it implies is that we go over our life stories, our core life principles and themes over and over again in our mind. Prop up all kinds of imaginary but relevant questions to yourself when you are in the shower, when you are brushing your teeth, or standing in a queue or before going to bed.
Simulate the questioning in different scenarios be it an Oprah Winfrey couch, or the World Cup presentation ceremony whatever floats your boat but keep on practicing the way to deliver the your (truthful) answers. There has to be nice feel to all the stories that you recite about your life so far, the key inflection points and your vision ahead.
Such constant churning would take you to places in your conscience that you have never been before and thereby effectively making your unknown self your second nature – a tectonic shift in the way you come across in interviews.
I received my final offer from A.T. Kearney. One of the main reasons I believe for my rejection from SMC (which they also confirmed in their post interview call) was that I was not sure on committing to a long term career at Siemens.
Given that Siemens Management Consulting looks at building leadership cadre, it is keen on candidates who are keen on reciprocating. While I genuinely liked the people I met at SMC and was impressed by the projects they were doing I was scared of being cast into the mold so soon. It is quite akin to the marriage conundrum one faces when the other half pops up the question ;)
Sachin has offered to help out with any queries related to management consulting interview questions that you might be wondering about.