Apr 30, 2016

CDO Weighs In: Recruiting Advice for the Consulting Industry - Part II

Stephen Pidgeon T’07 is an associate director of the CDO and author of the books How to Get a Job in Consulting and Case Interviews for Beginners.

Talk about the logistics of the typical interview process for the consulting industry.

Going back to the example of today’s students who are interviewing with McKinsey: to get there they had to go through a series of steps.

First of all, they go through the application process. They’ll have many, many chances on campus to meet the consultants, get to know the company, and learn what McKinsey’s looking for. Then, they apply with their resume and their cover letter and the company chooses half the students they’ll interview. One of the nice things about Tuck is that the other half of interview slots are given to students to bid on. You can be sure that you will interview with your dream company, which is not the case at every business school.

After that, you do a lot of practice—I think the average student here probably does about 50 case interviews as practice, which also means they have to give an additional 50 case interviews to other people, because it’s a reciprocal thing. Second-years are a huge part of that. I was talking to a second-year last week and saw his calendar: from midday to eight in the evening, for seven days, it was full with helping first-years and he was happy to do that.

Then, on a day like today, students will have two interviews. They’ll do a case and maybe some fit questions with one consultant, then move into the next room and do the same again. Hopefully, that evening or the next day, they’ll get the good news that they’ve progressed to the second round. That usually means being invited to the actual office that might be hiring them, where they’ll meet more people and do more interviews.

So by the time someone has succeeded and gotten a job, they’ve probably interviewed with five to seven increasingly senior people in the organization.

For the consulting industry, how important is prior experience vs. performance in interview vs. networking?

What I like about consulting recruiting is that it’s very meritocratic and it’s very much about your performance in the interview. It’s not really about your prior experience, per se. They are not hiring you because you were a writer or a doctor or an Army engineer or a banker. They’re hiring you because of the type of person that you are and the skills you demonstrate in the interview.

Equally, networking is useful for you to get to know the company and for them to get to know you, but it isn’t going to get you the job. You get the job in the interview, which is a nice thing to know, because when you walk in there, it’s all on you. If you’ve planned and prepared well, give it your best shot, and you’re the person they’re looking for, then you’ll get it. If it turns out that you’re not the person they’re looking for, you don’t want that particular job.

Any other advice on how best to prepare for interviews in the consulting industry?

Again: know the job and know the kind of person they’re looking for. A lot of people come to business school already having decided their goal is to work for McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or Deloitte. That’s fine, but you need to do more of your homework as to exactly why you want to do that, what they’re looking for and if you’re that person.

Put in the time. Case interview prep is like learning to fly a plane: you just need to log the hours. You might have a technical understanding of it early on, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Nobody was born good at case interviews, just as nobody was born knowing how to fly a plane.

Remember that the type of person they’re trying to hire isn’t measured only in the competencies, but also in terms of the way you portray yourself. From the second you walk into the interview room or even their building and say hi to the receptionist, you’ve got to be the person they want to hire, the person they want on their team, and the person they want to put in front of their clients. If you maintain that all the way through and you’re being true to yourself, hopefully you’ll end up with a job that’s a good fit for you and wasn’t based on you stretching the truth, lying your way in, or just managing to scrape through. Because who would want a job where you have to lie or turn up not being yourself every day?

Other advice on how to prepare for the consulting interview: come to Tuck. [Laughs] It’s a good place to learn about this, where you get lots of support.