How to Answer "Why Consulting?" in Interviews

AT Kearney Bain BCG consulting FIT McKinsey PEI The Boston Consulting Group why consulting
New answer on Oct 22, 2020
12 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Aug 04, 2017

Hi. This may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things when it comes to a case interview - but I wonder what are interviewers' expectations of answers to the "Why consulting" & "Why McKinsey/BCG/Bain" questions?

1. How long & specific/vivid should an answer be?

2. Should it be answered in a structured manner as well; i.e. "There are X reasons why I choose consulting / MBB.... First is .... Second is .... "?

3. Other things that need to be considered when answering these questions.

Thank you!

(edited)

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Matthew
Expert
replied on Oct 04, 2017
Only ex-Partner (McKinsey and Oliver Wyman) on PrepLounge

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.

WHY CONSULTING?

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.

  1. Meet the needs of their constituents (i.e., the hiring demands of the office/practice)
  2. 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 regularly
  • I want to be exposed to work in several different industries and across many 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

WHY MBB?

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 into 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 emphasis 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
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Vlad
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Aug 05, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

“Why consulting?”, “Why McKinsey” or “Why BCG” questions are used to assess your motivation to be a consultant in general and to work in that particular firm. They will check how you have done your homework and what you’ve learned about them. They also want to make sure that you have a clear intention to work in consulting.

  • The answers to these questions are supposed to be short and take no more than 30 seconds each.
  • For each question, you should provide three bullets points with different reasons.
  • Make sure that you guide the interviewer through your reasoning. Words like “The first reason”, “Moreover”, “Finally” will help you.

Why consulting

When answering “Why consulting” questions, provide three reasons why you want to pursue a career in a consulting firm. A general rule is to find the reasons that are important for you and logically fit everything you have done before (e.g. you want to grow further in financial services and get exposure to these clients). You can always use some personal rationale like your experience of working with consultants on a client side.

Why our company

Answer “Why our company” question fits exactly the same logic. You can start with general facts about the local office. If you have an interest in a particular industry or client this may also be a great reason. If you have friends working in that company mention what you’ve learned from their experience.

Good luck!

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Oct 03, 2019
Top rated MBB coach with many offers /Ex McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience/Real cases

To add to the comments :

- Be specific. E.g., it is okay to say I want to learn about more industries, it is better to say that during my time at xx and yy internships, I realized that the part of the job that excited me most was problem solving or looking at things from a strategic perspectives and presenting those findings to senior leaders

- Make sure your answers reflect what matters as a consultant. For example, MBB typically will not serve smaller startups so if that is your interest it may not be the best fit

- Don't focus on the glamorous aspects of the job in your answer - e.g., travel - this gets old really fast and people will be weary of your answer if that is what is most exciting to you

- Do mention instances where you think consulting has had a big impact on a company or industry and why this is important to your decision making process

As to why a particular firm

- Make sure you read up about the firm and it's culture and values. Everyone wants to be told they are special and unique, understand what makes each firm unique

- For example, McKinsey almost always works at the client site because they think it is critical to build sustainable long term relationships in order to be the best consultant, Bain on the other hand typically works from their home office. Similarly McKinsey has a global staffing model and BCG does not etc.

- Go to events and informations sessions to learn more. Firms will tell you what they want to hear, they also want to know you have made the effort to go to events when possible and are genuinely interested. If you do go - make sure you refernce that you went and how it helped you learn about the firm in your answer

- It is always a good idea to talk about the specific people you know at the company and why they helped you in your decision making process and how that matters to you

Hope this helps,

Udayan

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Apr 30, 2020

Dear A,

When answering “Why consulting” questions, provide three reasons why you want
to pursue a career in a consulting firm. A general rule is to find the reasons that are
important for you and logically fit everything you have done before (e.g. you want to
grow further in financial services and get exposure to these clients). You can always
use some personal rationale like your experience of working with consultants on a
client side.

Hope it helps,

Best,

André

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15
Tadeus
Skilled
updated an answer on Aug 04, 2017
Looking for experienced case partners. Aiming for MBB jobs. Done 100+ cases so far, ~10 with MBB consultants.

Hi Anonymous,

When it comes to the answer length, from my talks with different consultants I have learned that the ideal answer is about 2-3 minutes. More than that and you risk that interviewer will lose focus and won't remember what you have said.

As for other questions, I suggest you to take a look at the bootcamp article on the topic: https://www.preplounge.com/en/bootcamp.php/interview-first-aid/ace-the-personal-fit-interview/the-three-key-questions

Hopefully the article will provide you some guidance on how to approach those common questions.

- Tadeus

(edited)

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13
Rakan
Expert
replied on Aug 04, 2020
Associate at Kearney, with 6+ years of industry experience and an entrepreneurship backbone. Passionate about coaching & feedback

My response could serve as a prequel to the sufficient and useful ones you've received so far. It is more philosophical in nature.

This is a great question, although it seems trivial and boring at first. If I may draw the analogy to the movie Karate Kid. Mr Miagi asks the karate kid to clean his house with the "wax on and wax off" movements. Only after it became a habit and after he mastered the movements did the karate kid understand why he was doing it in the first place. Similarly, if you've (1) done sufficient research about consulting as a sector/career, the firms you are applying to, the skill sets you gain, the experiences and exposures you gain, and the people you meet; (2) defined your objectives by working in this field; (3) networked enough with current and ex-consultants, your answer to this question will come very naturally. If you are struggling with responding to this, it is a sign that there is still a knowledge gap against what you know about consulting, your career objectives and your knowledge of the firms and what it really is like.

To answer your other concerns:

1. How long & specific/vivid should an answer be?

Limit your response to under 3 minute. In interviews, you are expected to be able to deliver the message when asked and to do so directly. The response should be personalized although may overlap with general responses. Be specific on how you arrived to that "why". For instance, spoke to 50 people in the firm and loved XYZ about it.

2. Should it be answered in a structured manner as well; i.e. "There are X reasons why I choose consulting / MBB.... First is .... Second is .... "?

Don't over structure the response to these questions. They want to see your natural side as they will be assessing if they'd want to work with you as well. Be structured when solving problems and communicating complex ideas/thoughts. Otherwise be natural yet direct and to the point. There's no harm in being a bit structured.

3. Other things that need to be considered when answering these questions.

This question is more important to you than to the firm. Before assessing how they would view or take your response, it should truly be the right one for yourself. You need to know why, align your personal objectives, pick the right firm, be entirely convinced and happy with your choice and then respond.

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Samuel replied on Mar 08, 2020

You have great and insightful answers here already, but allow me to add my two cents.

As I am learning from FirmsConsulting, the best way to address this question is to show the interviewer how the skills you get from consulting can help you achieve your greatest altruistic purpose in life. Firms are looking for candidates who can see the big picture and can attempt big dreams. If you can make this connection, then you will have answered the question well. That said, some of the common skills that consulting endows you with are problem-solving (analytical), communication, and people management skills. Find how these skills can equip you to, not only transform your life but that of millions of people. Show them that realistic connection.

You are also better off starting your answer by quickly and succinctly describing how you came to know about consulting. A personalized story makes your stand out.

I hope this helps.

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12
Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

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Feel free to PM me for disccount codes!

Hope you find it useful!

Best,

Clara

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Originally answered question:

Tailoring "why (insert firm)" answers

Anonymous updated the answer on Sep 11, 2017

Dear Ben,

In my experience, "Why X company" is based solely on your own research and the internal network that you have built (e.g., friends, conversations, experience, etc.)

All companies have its own strategy, strengths, weaknesses, and specific goals either in the short-term or long-term. By doing your research and talking with people, you will find out relevant information that will help you build your customized answer. Determining these differences are important during the interview, especially in MBA or experienced hires.

Some specific examples that come quickly to my mind:

- ATK: Worldwide experience in Procurement and Analytics

- OW / Bain: Financial Institutions and PE

- Simon K.: Revenues

AFTER DETERMINING THE SPECIFICS, A STRONG CANDIDATE WILL LINK THESE SPECIFICS WITH HIS / HER CAREER GOALS OR MOTIVATIONS

I hope this helps.

Hugo

(edited)

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Ben on Sep 11, 2017
(deleted, pressed enter too early)

(edited)

Ben on Sep 11, 2017
Oops, so... BCG wise (as I see you are a project leader there), would a "Why BCG?" answer along the lines of the following work: Why BCG? Well, the biggest difference I see between BCG and its peers, is that it embraces intellectually challenging problems, seeks the 'best' answer, and is adept at finding creative ways to re-state problems. (Insert example of BCG Perspectives piece, where they compare biological systems with companies/economies, showing some parallels between robust examples of each). I believe these are areas where I thrive and excel. Most of my resume impacts involve either creative problem solving, and/or finding ways to reconstruct a problem in new, insight-providing ways. (insert example; I have a few instances of using creative problem solving, and at least one good example of reconstructing a problem that gaved impactful insight)."
Ben on Sep 11, 2017
Also my initials are BCG, which I'm sure will take me far ;)
Gaurav
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Oct 22, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

These are the most common questions in that part, and with them interviewer wants to get from your your real motivation on:

  • Do you really want this job?

  • Do you want to become a professional in consulting and why?

  • Do you know about this job and what is your reasons?

  • To assess your persuasion skills

To answer this kind of questions use top down communication: explain the framework and give 2-3 reasons to each point. Make sure you have specific reason for your motivation, they don't contradict with each other and they have real connection to yourself.

To answer specific reason question why this firm - go on their webpage, read how they present themselves, network to get some information from insiders.

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GB

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