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Anonymous A asked on Feb 23, 2018 - 4 answers

Bain & Company scheduled a coffee chat meeting for me. Please someone who has the experience should elaborate on what coffee chat is all about. How do I make it a means to my success?

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updated his answer on Feb 23, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

a coffee chat in consulting is an informal interview, usually to understand if you have the motivation and background for consulting. Rarely, it could evolve in a small case to also test your case skills. If you receive a case it will be normally a short market sizing.

The preparation for a coffee chat should be similar to the one for the fit part of the interview. I would actually recommend to prepare in advance for the questions you are going to get – this from all points of view is the first step in your assessment and you should be prepared accordingly. Some of the key questions to prepare will be:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work for in our industry/company
  • What are your three top strengths and weaknesses
  • Tell me about a time when you failed
  • Tell me about a time when you lead your team in a difficult situation
  • Which role do you play in a team
  • Why should we hire you

To prepare, I would suggest the following steps:

  1. Write down your answers. Use bullets to structure them.
  2. Repeat loud the answers. Put a timer with 2 minutes (complex answers as “What are your three top strengths and weaknesses” may require more time). If feasible, do so with a partner or record yourself.
  3. Reiterate till when you are able to deliver the answer with such time constraint. After few attempts you will notice that your answers will automatically be more to the point.

One thing many candidates neglect to do is to prepare their own questions. Relevant questions at the end are a great way to show your interest in the company and get additional points. In the first reply at the following post you can find some more information on the ideal type of questions to ask at the end of your call:

The key for a good question is that they should not be related to the firm per se (eg how is XYZ in Bain), but to the experience of the consultant (how did you find XYZ in your experience as a consultant? Which challenges did it bring to you?). This will make your questions far more interesting.




replied on Feb 23, 2018
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There may be 2 options:

  1. Personal coffee-chat that is usually scheduled if you are an experienced hire or if you have some valuable background
  2. Group coffee-chat

In the first option, it is mainly about your questions to the interviewer, thus try to ask the following:

  • Questions on the topics of your direct expertise (What types of projects, who are the partners, etc)
  • Asking for advice about your career and how consulting fit into it (! Only if they found you themselves. people love to give an advice)
  • Questions on the topics you are excited about that can demonstrate your intellectual capacity and help you make a good discussion (e.g. data science in consulting)
  • Questions that cause positive emotions and highlight consulting pros (e.g. Mck people)
  • Non-business questions (e.g. team retreats)

Don't ask the following:

  • Questions that can cause negative emotions (e.g. work hours)
  • Information you should learn before the interview (e.g. typical career path)
  • Questions that may show that you are unfamiliar with consulting work (Like are you specialized in strategy or operations?)

Group coffee chat is much easier since you just have to ask several questions. Although try to demonstrate your intellectual capacity sharing your experience and relevant facts

Be prepared and good luck!

replied on Feb 23, 2018
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In general in a coffee chat the consultant will try to gauge (and report back) the following things:

  • Interest in consulting
  • Interest in firm
  • Relevancy of prior experience/readiness from day one
  • Fit with firm culture
  • Executive presence (credibility, eloquence, pithiness)

Since this has still to be a conversation I would, as other suggested, focus on what questions to ask vs. what questions you will be asked but make sure that doing so you give an opportunity to the interviewer to assess you in these areas. Also would strive to ask questions on things you can't find the answer for online or on forums and to keep questions very positive (e.g. don't ask what makes McK different from other consultancies? but ask what is unique in McK culture and what is the flair in your office?)

Hope it helps,


Thanks a lot Mr Andrea — Josephine on Feb 23, 2018

Anonymous replied on Feb 23, 2018

Hey anonymous,

I think you're seeing things using the wrong angle, you shouldn't focus on what questions to expect, but actually on what which questions to prepare (based on information you want to gather and clarify, image you want to convey) in order to have an fruitful coffee chat.

Bain representative is not going to be there to interview and you should aim to lead the conversation.



Thanks a lot on this — Josephine on Feb 23, 2018

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