I would recommend spending about 1 - 2 minutes on each question. You have a lot to get to in the interview. Less than a minute will make you seem rehearsed and shallow and more than 2 minutes for each will take up too much of the interview time.
For the “Why consulting” question, interviewers ask this question to make sure that you really want to be a consultant and all that comes with it. There are two types of firm recruiters - consultants and non-consultants. The recruiting consultant leaders are everyday partners that also have responsibility for overseeing different aspects of recruiting (e.g., Leader of Harvard Business School Recruiting, Leader of Paris Office Recruiting, Leader of Operations Practice Experienced Hire Recruiting). These leaders have 2 goals.
- Meet the needs of their constituents (i.e., the hiring demands of the office / practice)
- Hire candidates that have the potential to become a Partner in the Firm
By asking “Why consulting”, the interviewer can get a sense of whether you are in consulting for the long haul or just to get a stamp on your resume and then parlay the name brand into another job after two years. There are many ways to answer this question depending on your particular situation but here are a few.
- I want to work in an environment where I receive a great deal of mentorship and feedback on a regular basis
- I want to be exposed to work in a number of different industries and across a number of different functions
- From speaking to other current consultants, the mix of client interaction, team problem solving, partner mentoring and analytics is something that excites me
- I’m looking to learn in an environment where my skills are developed more rapidly (in “dog years”) than in other environments
- I want to work in an environment where I am constantly challenged by new types of problems
- I have spoken to other consulting partners and the type of day-to-day work they do (e.g., client work, consultant training, internal knowledge development, practice leadership, etc..) sounds very enticing
Recruiting leaders do a lot of post-recruiting analysis and the “accept rate” gains a lot of attention. Therefore, the interviewers are keen on knowing why you want to join their specific firm. Have you done research? Have you talked to the recruiters? Have you attended events? Have you spoken to firm members? Do you have friends at the firm?
This is your chance to show off all of the hard work you have put in learning about the specific firm. Interviewers are a little smug at times and are SURE that their firm is the BEST and they like to hear it. They even like to hear their firm contrasted to others, but don’t overdo it. Here are a few examples.
- Unlike X, Y has 3x more global offices and I would like to consider moving internationally at some point later in my career
- I like the innovation focus of BCG, evidenced by your launch of BCG Digital Ventures
- From my conversations with current consultants and Bain, BCG and McKinsey, consultants at X seem to enjoy their experience more and have much more diverse problems and clients, which is attractive to me
- While I don’t want to go into Private Equity, I am interested in X because of the significant amount of PE due diligence and 100-day plan work you do
- I really want to join X because of your emphais on business research
- During my conversations about culture with current Bain, BCG and McKinsey, consultants, I find that X consultants describe the culture at X to be closer to one that I am seeking than Y and Z
There are certain things that you should NOT say when answering “Why MBB?”, including:
- Your firm has a great brand name, which is attractive to me
- Tells interviewer you are going to use the firms brand as a resume enhancer
- X is known for dealing with the C-Suite and in particular, CEOs, which is where I want to gain experience
- That’s true and not true of all 3 MBB firms. And, very, very few Associates or Managers talk to CEOs or any CxOs. That’s a myth. This tells the interviewer you are going to be high maintenance and is an almost immediate ding
- I really like the young, laid back culture of firm Y
- Tells the interviewer you are less than serious and want to have a good time