As always, interviews are a two-way street. And consultancy is no exception to this. Once you’ve finished the difficult part of answering - to the best of your ability - the case study interviews, it is now your turn to take the lead and give the finishing touches by asking the questions directly to the interviewer. It is your chance to reinforce your genuine interest based on the research you’ve conducted on the consultancy firm.
It is important to note that you’re not interrogating the interviewer, instead cultivating a space for a personal yet professional dialogue. It would be a mistake not to ask any questions, for obvious reasons such as showing lack of interest or enthusiasm for the opportunity, therefore this is a condensed summary of the questions you could ask to help you leave a great impression!
In this article, various thematic blocks are suggested on which good questions can be asked. You will also learn five sample questions for inspiration and what mistakes to avoid.
Asking personal questions is an important indication that you can build professional yet genuine rapport with someone new, and more importantly in the future with potential new clients. Moreover, it is a perfect opportunity to showcase your personal side. By asking questions about the interviewer’s background, it can open a door to some wisdom that they can share or any interesting insights about a career in consultancy.
For example, ‘Can you tell me more about your background and how you decided you wanted to pursue a career as a consultant in x company?’
This is an excellent question to establish personal tone with the interviewer and understand their career route that led to their current position in the company. Perhaps it was a certain subject at university, career progression benefits or a particular skill they wanted to develop. The purpose of this question is that you can see if you can relate with their career path and evaluate their reasons are similar to yours. These sorts of questions leave a positive mood on the interviewer because they can pause and reflect on their own personal journey. Try to tailor these personal questions that enable you to shortly comment afterward onto your own personal experience, as you navigate into this new sector.
Questions about the industry is an excellent opportunity to reinforce your interest and desire to gain a real in-depth understanding of this new territory. It’s important to conduct commercial research about the industry, perhaps read some white papers or consultancy projects, but if there are some questions that the internet or their websites have not been able to answer, you can confidently ask them to exemplify your real independent ‘out of the box’ thinking. For example, ‘What was the most challenging case you worked on as you started out in this new industry, and what did you learn from that?’ Or perhaps, ‘What is the work-life balance for a consultant starting in this new industry?’
The purpose of these questions is to obtain a real insight of the challenges as well as lessons the industry can teach new consultants as they navigate through this new terrain. It may be different for each individual, but listening to these experiences can help you formulate a more holistic understanding about the expectation as an upcoming consultant in this industry.
As much as you are being interviewed, it’s important to also interview the firm’s culture. Try to direct the conversation into a deeper understanding about the firm to gain an exclusive insight of what the culture is really like. Take advantage that you’re being interviewed by an actual employee who has their own opinion and observations about the company. For example, ‘what are some unique aspects of x’s working culture that you can only know from working here?’
The purpose of this question is to gauge if you’re really suited to work for the company. If your values align with the x firm’s culture to be able to excel but also equally contribute to further their objectives.
This question is important because it demonstrates that you’ve meticulously read the job description. Moreover, you can display that you’ve taken it apart and noted down how you can add value to the role. For example, ‘What should a new consultant expect to accomplish in their first year in this role?’ This diverts the answer to demonstrate on discussing the expectation, to which you can follow by adding the value you can bring to that expectation from previous job roles.
Exemplary questions to get the conversation flowing and to be able to make use of the last few minutes at the end of a case interview:
What do you see as the biggest challenges for the company in the next 5 years?
What is your background, what was your path into consultancy?
How does this company differentiate itself from competitors when pitching for work?
How do the core values of this consultancy firm impact how the firm’s employees work with each other and clients?
Can you tell me more about the culture of this particular office? How does it differ from other offices, if at all?
Try to avoid questions that are too generic; hence why it is important to brainstorm some questions before the interview, so that you are ready to ace the final 5-10 minutes of the interview. Don’t be scared to take the lead in the last few minutes.
Firstly, you should not ask any questions that could be answered by the recruiter or evidently specified in the job description. Remember, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate a genuine interest, therefore, any questions that can be answered by a quick google search is a massive no.
Secondly, avoid asking questions that have a very simple yes or no answer. These are weak and imply that you haven’t given it much thought. For example, ‘do you enjoy this job?’ illustrates that you have not done a lot of commercial research to ask the enthusiastic questions on the actual role or the challenges it may present.
Ultimately, these questions should be complementing each other to display to the interviewer that you have a real interest and desire to prosper in this role, and more importantly, become an asset to the consultancy firm. Actively listening as you receive answers from some of these questions, and divesting what’s been said, can help you set the tone for the end of the interview.
Each heading aimed at providing you with a comprehensive insight to the particular questions you can brainstorm to illustrate your real hunger to thrive as a consultant. You can never fully rehearse all these questions, but you can equip yourself to direct the remaining few minutes of the interview to a memorable finish!