The interview process for the strategy consultants that specialize in transactional work will be similar to those that are more generalist. However, there will undoubtedly be a market sizing question. A big question for PE clients is typical “how big is the market” and “what is the headroom within this market?” As a result, almost every interview from these firms will include a market sizing exercise of some sort.
The interview process can typically be split into 3 parts:
Fit and competency questions
Market sizing questions
Some companies will also include brain teasers although these are becoming less common.
Typical of most jobs, particularly at the graduate level, a fit and competency interview are there to learn more about an applicant’s motives, experience, and understanding of the particular job and/or firm they have applied to.
Fit questions can be well-practiced and such examples include “what would you consider your greatest strength?” Competency questions require an applicant to provide a real-life example where they demonstrated a particular skill. “Tell me about a time where you demonstrated leadership?” Such questions can be easily prepared for and become significantly easier with practice.
Market sizing questions (sometimes known as guesstimates) are often used in interviews because they require a mix of logic, maths, and common sense. They can be asked as a standalone question or as part of a larger case interview. Candidates that are competent with market sizing questions can find them extremely easy to execute and if included in an unstructured interview it can result in the candidate having an extra 20% time to answer other questions.
All the top-tier consulting firms are likely to test their candidates with a market sizing question at some stage in the process as it is considered a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation. For instance, you may be sat talking to a UK clothing retailer about their growth strategy and someone may put forward the idea of opening an e-commerce store inviting the question “how much revenue could we expect to generate from an e-commerce store?” and on the back of an envelope (or more likely a piece of paper), you could estimate the size of the UK’s online clothing market and apply a market capture percentage for the client to give them a rough figure. Being quick with these calculations keeps the conversation flowing with the client and maintains a good impression.
Every graduate that has applied to consulting jobs and been successful has passed at least one case interview. It is the most relevant part of the process for consulting jobs and they are usually based on projects that the hiring firm has delivered for a client. It is an exercise that requires a logical approach to finding the problem and appropriate solution. A case interview is a business case that involves a strategic problem such as entering a new market or increasing profitability and as the interviewee, you are asked to recommend an appropriate strategy.
Read our full guide to case interviews.
Brainteasers have the potential to stump even the best candidates. That is because it often involves a certain perspective to find the right answer, without it you can easily draw a blank. There are different types of brainteasers including riddles, lateral thinking, root cause analysis, practical questions, and more. They became popular as interview questions due to the requirement of both creative thinking and a logical approach.
The good news is that the use of brainteasers as interview questions is in decline and even a previous advocate, Google, has dropped them from their question bank. The bad news is that they are still in use for many graduate employers and still have the potential to catch you out.
Although incredibly frustrating in a lot of ways, there is only a finite amount in circulation. Sometimes the names or numbers change but fundamentally they are the same. This means that if you put in the time to practice it is unlikely you'll be caught out in an interview.