The Kearney Interview: Our Complete Guide to Acing It

The Kearney Interview Our Complete Guide to Acing It

Recruiting season for the consulting industry is coming up fast, so it’s time to get familiar with what consulting interviews look like and to practice the skills needed to pass them. In this guide, we’ll cover all aspects of the Kearney Interview so that you can make the most of your opportunity.

Consulting interviews are tough, but My Consulting Offer was founded and is staffed by former recruiters and consultants from top consulting firms. We’ll cover what’s in the AT Kearney interview and give you tips on how to prepare.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • Kearney’s history and culture.
  • The Kearney recruiting process.
  • The Kearney case interview.
  • The Kearney fit or behavioral interview.
  • How to prepare for a written case interview.
  • Our 5 tips on acing the Kearney interview.

Let’s get started!

Kearney History and Culture

Kearney was founded in 1939 after Andrew Thomas Kearney, the then Managing Partner at McKinsey’s Chicago office, split with the firm and founded McKinsey, A.T. Kearney & Company. However, McKinsey bought the sole right to use the “McKinsey” name and therefore, in 1947, Tom Kearney renamed the company to A.T. Kearney and Company.

In 2020, the company shortened its name to Kearney, and refreshed its brand to reflect what clients have always praised about its culture: that its consultants work side by side with clients in a real and relatable way, making their business transformation straightforward and enjoyable. This has led to Kearney’s standout success.

Today, Kearney is a global team of 4,200 people in more than 40 countries. Kearney “aims to be the difference of purpose for their clients, people, communities, and the planet by pursuing sustainable positive results in everything they do, as established in the principle of ‘essential rightness.’” Kearney fulfills this mission for their clients through their daily work – deploying advanced technological know-how and talent to create lasting economic, social, and environmental solutions.

The 5 Core Values within “Essential Rightness”

“Our success as consultants will depend on the essential rightness of the advice we give and our capacity for convincing those in authority that it is good.” – Kearney Founder Andrew Thomas Kearney

Guided by their principle of “essential rightness,” Kearney prides itself in hiring people who live their 5 core values – curiosity, generosity, boldness, solidarity, and passion – to create a holistic and sustainable positive impact for the clients, people, and community at large. People who “live the essential rightness” have:

  1. Curiosity and drive to explore new ground.
  2. Generosity of spirit to care deeply about the well-being of others.
  3. Boldness to be distinctive and break from the status quo.
  4. Solidarity to be a winning team that supports each other and their well-being.
  5. Passion and presence to be their best self.

Since 2020, Kearney has been hosting Kearney Values Awards to celebrate colleagues firmwide and showcase people’s contributions to these 5 core values.

The culture of Kearney is open, supportive, and non-hierarchical with a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Teams are encouraged to openly discuss any issues / challenges. In addition, Kearney places core emphasis on mental health and encourages team members to embrace holistic health at the workplace. For instance, Kearney organizes its Global People Care Jam to provide an opportunity for its people to co-create actionable ideas that help build a mentally healthy workplace.

We recommend watching 2 short videos on Kearney’s collaborative culture and CEO Alex Liu’s take on the 5 core values to understand what differentiates Kearney from other consulting firms.

The Kearney Interview Process

AT Kearney interview - Interview Process

The Kearney interview process follows these steps:

  • Submit your resume and cover letter on Kearney’s online application system.
  • Interview: Kearney typically has two rounds of interviews with 2-3 interviews in each round, depending on which office / geography you’re applying to.
    • First round interviews are conducted in-person or through phone/video call. You can expect two 45-minute interviews. One interview will be focused on a case interview while the other will be focused on behavioral or fit interview questions. Your interviewers will likely be associates or managers.
    • Second round interviews are led by senior managers, principals, and partners. Typically, you can expect to have three 45-minute interviews. Two of these interviews will be focused on a case interview and one will be focused on behavioral or fit interview questions. But the interview structure depends on the position you’re applying for, so confirm the specifics with your recruiter.
  • Some Kearney offices also conduct written case interviews and Excel skills tests. Again, check with your recruiter to know whether to expect one.
    • Written case: You will be given a case-study handout and will need to present your case-solving approach and recommendations in PowerPoint slides, followed by a case presentation.
    • Excel skills test: You will be provided with a pre-made Excel worksheet and will be asked to perform analysis using functions such as Vlookup, Sumif, Countif, Index, Match, etc. You can use LinkedIn Learning or other resources to master these skills.
  • Receive your decision. After successfully navigating the Kearney interview process, you’ll finally receive the coveted letter that welcomes you as the newest member of Kearney’s team. Congratulations!
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The Kearney Case Interview

The Kearney case interview is a business problem that you solve live with guidance from an interviewer. Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep explains in-depth what the case interview is and details its various stages:

  • The opening,
  • The structure,
  • The analysis, and
  • The conclusion.

It also gives you tips on how to become proficient at each stage. The best way to get smarter about answering case interview questions is to master this 4-part approach.

The Kearney Case Interview: The Details

Kearney case interviews are designed to assess your quantitative skills, business logic, and strategic thinking. Kearney case interviews are typically more quantitative and numerical than other consulting firms’. So, expect to perform math calculations during your case. 

Kearney case interviews are candidate-led, similar to BCG and Bain cases. This means you are expected to “drive” the case using the information provided to you. Consider the interviewer your biggest asset and keep drawing on him/her to share more information as you progress through the case.

The best way to approach a Kearney case interview is to enter the interview as a consultant would enter a client’s office or board room – ready to use your imagination, gather and analyze information, arrive at solid conclusions, and communicate persuasively. Remember to:

  • Clearly scope the problem statement by asking preliminary questions. Spend enough time processing the problem statement and clarifying it with the interviewer to make sure that you are solving the right problem.
  • Structure your case solving approach by laying out the buckets of issues you plan to solve and organizing them logically. Get feedback from your interviewer as you move from one bucket to the next while solving the case to ensure you’ve fully covered each topic.
  • Over-communicate. Articulate your initial hypothesis including the data you need to prove/disprove that hypothesis. Communicate key assumptions or limitations of your approach so that your interviewer knows you are aware of them.

For practice, we recommend going through this Kearney case example.

Given the firm’s focus on quantitative cases, expect Kearney case interviews on market sizing. To set you up for success, we’ve created a detailed guide to help you ace Market Sizing Questions. It details 2 approaches you can use to accurately estimate and answer any market sizing question.

Finally, Kearney does the majority of its work across the procurement, sourcing, and operations sectors. Therefore, if you have a background in this area, it’s ideal if you prepare for cases focusing on these topics to “wow” your interviews and land the coveted offer. But if you don’t have that type of background, don’t worry. Kearney will train new hires.

The Kearney Behavioral Interview

The behavioral and fit elements in the Kearney interview assess whether you have the personal qualities required of a successful consultant and whether you can use them effectively within the Kearney culture. The interview is used to gather information on your past behavior and performance in order to evaluate and predict your future success with Kearney.

Be prepared to answer questions about your experience with teamwork, conflict resolution, and leadership.

Common Kearney Behavioral Interview Questions

Kearney interview questions – Fit assessment:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Why Consulting?
  • Why are you interested in working for Kearney?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Kearney interview questions – Personal Experience Interview (PEI)/ Behavioral assessment:

  • What is the most challenging project you’ve done?
  • Tell me about a team conflict you managed and your learnings from it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to change a stakeholder’s mind.

As you prepare for these questions, it’s relevant to note that the richer you make your story, the better your answers will be. Use these tips from Kearney to guide your preparations for your behavioral/ fit assessments:

  • When you tell your interviewers about the setting, always explain the interpersonal dynamics present in your situation, and share external influences that impacted your decision.
  • You should paint the picture for your interviewer and use vivid/colorful language to bring your examples to life.
  • Make sure that at the conclusion of your example the interviewer knows why that decision was made and feels that he or she could have done the same thing.

Head to our comprehensive article on Consulting Behavioral Questions to learn how to prepare strong answers for the behavioral interview questions.

The Kearney Written Case Interview

AT Kearney interview

Kearney is one of the few firms that test candidates via written case interviews. Let’s break it down step-by-step so that you know what to expect and how to prepare to come out with flying colors.

In a written case interview, your written work and analysis become the center of discussion. You’ll be given slides/handouts that contain information in a text-based format. Some will contain charts and data tables pertaining to the case. The objective is to absorb that information, identify opportunities or the root cause of the problems presented, and then synthesize (not summarize!) your recommendations for the clients. In other words, don’t just repeat key points from what you’ve read, but use that data to develop a point of view on how to solve the problem. You’ll then be asked to present your solution to the interviewers in a PowerPoint slide format.

The written case tests your quantitative skills as you work through the data to prepare analysis, and it tests your synthesis and communication skills as you write down your recommendations and present them to the interviewers. Typically, you will have:

  • ~1 hour to complete the analysis and synthesize recommendations
  • 30 minutes to present your work: ~20 minutes to walk through your slides and ~10 minutes for Q&A with your interviewers.

We recommend that you go through our comprehensive guide to cracking Written Case Interviews to set yourself up for success.

Our 5 Tips on Acing the Kearney Interview

1. Brush Up on Case Interview Math

Kearney places strong emphasis on quantitative skills. This doesn’t mean that you need to learn regression and coordinate geometry. But you should be comfortable with simple business analytics (e.g., linear equations with single variables, basic mathematical formulas applied in day-to-day business, such as Profit = Revenue – Costs).

Chances are you’ll be required to perform quite a bit of mathematical analysis during your case interviews. And if you’ve prepared well on math fundamentals, then you’ll feel “in control” of the case analysis and exude confidence. And that’s exactly what you want your interviewer to take away!

To prepare, head to Case Interview Math to learn the different types of math problems tested in cases and equip yourself with the right tips and techniques to minimize math mistakes. Make the numbers work for you!

2. Practice Productive Problem Solving

The Kearney case interview requires you to organize and analyze data. Therefore, you should practice making your problem-solving process as productive as possible:

  • Organize data in advance to support your arguments:
    • Where multiple data sources exist, think through the accuracy and relevance of each and be ready to make judgment calls on how to interpret and present them.
    • Where data does not exist, form an initial hypothesis and be ready to share how you would go about testing it and sourcing the data.
  • Ensure you cover all the relevant factors in your overarching case structure before you begin to deep-dive into any single issue. You shouldn’t come across as someone who can intuitively think of a few factors but who jumps too quickly into case solving. The ideal candidate will spend sufficient time understanding the problem statement, scoping out different factors contributing to the case, and ensuring that no critical piece of information is left untouched. If you are able to set up a strong structure, then solving the case becomes much more streamlined.
  • Remember to continually check in with your interviewer as you move forward from analyzing one issue to the next. Share your hypotheses and rationale behind each of your moves. This makes your thinking clear and builds rapport with your interviewer.

We recommend that you review Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep to master the 4 stages of problem-solving during the case interview.

3. Exude the “Essential Rightness”

Demonstrate that you have the qualities that Keaney looks for in candidates – curiosity, generosity, boldness, solidarity, and passion – throughout your interviews. Kearney consultants pride themselves on having a long-term vision, being analysis-driven, and bringing holistic and sustainable impact to their clients. During your Kearney case interview,

  • Try not to force your solution to fit a standard framework. Understand the problem statement, the business, and the objectives before laying out any framework for problem-solving.
  • Do not speak before thinking carefully and holistically. Base your hypotheses on supporting data. Always share your rationale and critical thinking with the interviewer.
  • Do not search for a silver bullet. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions and your interviewers acknowledge this. There is never a “right” answer (even in a quantitative case). As long as you’re logical in your approach, cover all issues exhaustively, and engage your interviewer in case solving, you’re golden!
  • Ensure that your demeanor sends the right signals. As Kearney describes, it is important to demonstrate the following during your case interviews as well as behavioral/fit assessments:
    • A passion for learning,
    • A collaborative nature,
    • Good business acumen,
    • Confidence but not arrogance, and
    • Poise under pressure.
  • Lastly, try to avoid using jargon or buzzwords. It’s better to be simple and direct.

4. Build a Story

The simplest way to ace your behavioral interview is to give your interviewers a good reason to remember you. Make your answers memorable by weaving them together into a strong and compelling narrative.

  • Build stories using your past experiences before your Kearney interview.
  • Highlight the impact that you brought to the team, to the project, to the organization in your previous roles.
  • Spend time demonstrating your potential to your interviewer, talk honestly about your strengths and weaknesses, and be yourself. After all, it’s your story! The interviewers are looking for genuine people who have integrity, are helpful and collaborative, and are fun to work with.

5. Confidence Is Key

As a consultant, you’ll work on challenging business problems, face difficult clients, and encounter difficult situations. You’ll need to stay calm and confident. This is also exactly what your interviewer will be testing for. The interviewers are taking cues from your body language as you respond to their questions, as you solve the case, even as you present your recommendations.

One way to naturally feel more confident is to practice in the days or weeks leading up to the interview. The more case practice you have under your belt, the more calm and composed you will stay during the interview. For instance, if you appear nervous or shaky in your quantitative skills, the interviewer may not see you as someone who will build Kearney’s credibility with clients. Therefore, you must exude confidence not only in your voice but also in your body language. The way you walk into the interview room, how you sit up, your eye contact with the interviewer, the way you solve the case – everything matters.

Remember to smile, pause, respond calmly, reflect before you answer, and humbly admit what you don’t know. Confidence is the key to cracking the Kearney interview process.

We wish you the best!

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Kearney’s history and culture.
  • The Kearney Consulting interview process.
  • An overview of Kearney case interviews (including the Kearney written case) and behavioral / fit assessments.
  • 5 Tips on acing the Kearney interview.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about the Kearney interview, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for their AT Kearney case study interview found the following pages helpful:

Help with Case Study Interview Prep

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on consulting interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with to get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Brenda was able to get her offer from BCG.

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Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 85% of our clients pass the case interview.

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