Consulting Recruiter Interview: Ace this First Step

Consulting Recruiter Interview
Jo Randall
Jo Randall

Former McKinsey & Bain Recruiter

Many consulting firms use consulting recruiter interviews as a first step in the interview process. Recruiter interviews are particularly likely for experienced hire candidates. We want to help you prepare by covering what the recruiter is looking for and how to avoid common mistakes candidates make.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why consulting firms have recruiter interviews.
  • What types of questions are asked in consulting recruiter interviews and how to answer them.
  • 3 Common mistakes to avoid in the recruiter interview.
  • Which consulting firms use recruiter interviews.
  • Next steps in the recruiting process after you pass recruiter interviews.

Let’s get started!

Why Consulting Firms Use Recruiter Interviews

Consulting Recruiter Interview: Why Consulting Firms Use Recruiter Interviews​

The primary reason consulting firms use recruiter (or HR) interviews is to ensure candidates meet the minimum requirements for the role before meeting with consultants and partners.

Areas they are likely to review are:

  • Your understanding of consulting and the role.
  • Your fit within the firm’s culture.
  • Your general background and capabilities for the role.
  • Your motivations and goals.
  • Your ability to communicate clearly and professionally.

Consultants work long hours on client projects. To ensure they’re pulled away from client work only to meet with promising candidates, recruiters assess these high level topics first.

In addition, consulting staff are typically away at client sites Monday to Thursday. Recruiters are able to keep the process moving during this time.

The recruiter therefore has a powerful influence on whether you go through to the next round – if they decide you’re not a good fit for the firm, you won’t be going any further in the process, so don’t dismiss this step as a box-ticking exercise.

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Questions Asked in Consulting Recruiter Interviews & How To Answer Them

The recruiter interview can be a little less formal than the ones you’ll have with consultants, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously or be underprepared.

The questions will mainly be focused on your background and motivations, but they may also throw in some competency-based questions.

So, do your research on the firms, prepare your responses, and practice being clear and concise in your communication. Don’t forget, you’re applying to be a consultant, and consultants think and communicate with structure and focus, so showing the interviewer you can do so is a great indication that you’re a good fit.

As well as being structured, the responses you give should be based on the research you’ve done, and therefore relevant to the firms’ culture, values, and goals. You also need to ensure your answers are personal to you rather than generic, and it’s important to highlight how you will bring value to the role.

Some typical questions you might face within your recruiter interview are:

Why Are You Interested in Consulting?

In your response, make sure it’s clear to the interviewer that you know what the role of a consultant is. Talk about people you’ve met who work in consulting and have introduced you to some of the “behind the scenes” details, and show what excites you about the industry and how it relates to your background and experiences.

This kind of answer will help you to stand out from those candidates who look great on paper but may only be applying to consulting as a backup career or because they don’t know what else to do, so won’t have given it much thought. Most people will give an answer that the recruiter has heard 100 times already during that recruiting cycle alone, so here’s your chance to really impress.

Pro Tips: Things to avoid!

  • Don’t say money is your motivation.
  • Don’t rely on Google to tell you what consulting is – get more specific.
  • Don’t talk about exit opportunities. Although consulting is often used as a springboard to other careers, it’s too early to be talking about life afterward.

Why Are You Interested in this Firm?

This is another question where you risk providing an answer the recruiter has heard many times before. You need to respond in a way that shows the firm that you’ve applied careful consideration to them specifically, and why your reasons are then personal to you.

This is a good opportunity to focus on the values of the firm, as they are often what differentiates them from other consulting firms. Highlight how and why their values resonate with you, giving an example from your experience.

You could also address the types of projects they work on, as there are nuances between the firms. For some firms, such as Bain, there may also be nuances between different offices. For example, Bain’s local staffing model means that most of your cases will be in industries that are concentrated close to home, so if you’re interviewing for the NYC office, showing an interest in finance can also demonstrate that you are well prepared.

Reading articles on their website and those in external publications are also a great way to show that you’ve taken the time to delve beyond their homepage. Again, talk about why those projects appeal to you on a personal level.

Pro tips:  Things to avoid!

  • Don’t give an answer that can be applicable to any consulting firm.
  • Don’t rely on their home and about pages to give you the answer – be prepared to delve a little deeper into their website. Get everything you can out of the careers section of their site.

Walk Me Through your Background

This may also be phrased as “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your CV” and is probably one of the most frequently asked interview questions across all industries. It’s also the question that candidates fear the most.

What the interviewer is really asking here is to talk about your background in relation to the role. This is your opportunity to articulate why your experience is relevant, and your answer needs to be concise, structured, and engaging.

It’s useful to frame your response as past, present, and future, but focus on just a few key highlights or achievements rather than going through your history step by step. Think about which skills you’ve demonstrated well that match the requirements of the consultant role, and make sure to draw attention to those. Finish by talking about why this all fits into your desire to move into consulting – summarize this very succinctly if you’ve already answered the “why consulting” question.

Pro Tips: Things to avoid!

  • Don’t give the interviewer your life history.
  • Don’t walk the interviewer through every point on your CV.
  • Don’t focus on anything negative like leaving a company because you were unhappy or didn’t get along with your manager.

Describe a Challenging Situation You’ve Faced

You may also be asked any number of other behavioral style questions to assess your capabilities and fit for the role. It’s therefore useful to think of a few stories that can be easily tweaked to fit the question you’re being asked.

For this question, it’s best to use an example of a challenge you faced and then overcame. It’s also good to talk about what you learned from the situation, and I know I keep saying this, but your response needs to show relevance to the role. This does not mean that it needs to be an experience in the consulting industry, or even a business setting, but something that shows the skills or characteristics consulting firms are looking for.

The A STAR(E) format is a useful way to structure your response to any behavioral question. Establish the situation, describe what the challenge or tension was, explain the action/s you took, and outline the end result. You can then talk about the effect it had on you in terms of your learnings.

For an example of using the A STAR(E) format, see our article on Behavioral Interviews.

Pro Tips: Things to avoid!

  • Don’t miss the opportunity to highlight achievements and relevant skills.
  • Don’t criticize others to highlight your own strengths, keep it positive.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a non-work-related story if it answers the question more effectively.

Which Consulting Firms Use Recruiter Interviews?

  1. McKinsey – Uses recruiter interviews for some experienced hire candidates.
  2. BCG – Uses recruiter interviews for some experienced hire candidates.
  3. Deloitte
  4. Strategy& 
  5. PwC – Uses recruiter interviews for experienced hire candidates who pass the resume screen.
  6. Tier 2 and Boutique consulting firms – Use recruiter interviews more than MBB firms.

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Recruiter Interview

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of this interview. It can affect both your progression through the process and/or the overall outcome. Make sure you put in the time and effort to prepare. Dress appropriately, arrive/join on time, be professional, enthusiastic and prepared.
  2. Don’t waffle. The interviews are only likely to be 20-30 minutes long so make sure you’re focused and concise, showing the recruiter that you can also communicate like a consultant.
  3. Don’t use clichéd responses. Make everything personal to you and your experiences as well as to the firm you’re applying to.

Next Steps After You Pass Recruiter Interviews.

Consulting Recruiter Interview: Next Steps After You Pass Recruiter Interviews

Congratulations on passing your recruiter interview! The next round will either be an online assessment or consultant interviews.

Online assessments are increasingly used by consulting firms and vary in format, but you can find some great tips in Online Consulting Tests: A Roundup about what types of assessments to expect and how to prepare.

Consultant interviews typically consist of a number of “rounds” and combine case and fit, sometimes called behavioral or personal experience, interviews. At this stage, you’ll be meeting with multiple consultants who will assess your business acumen and problem-solving skills, as well as continue to assess your fit for the role and firm. You can find out more about these interviews in our First Round Interviews article.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • The reasons consulting firms use recruiter interviews and what to expect.
  • How to ensure you avoid common mistakes.
  • Which consulting firms you can expect to use recruiter interviews.
  • The steps following the recruiter interview.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about consulting recruiter interviews, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.

Other people prepping for consulting recruiter interviews found the following pages helpful:

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Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on consulting recruiter interviews 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 Thomas was able to get his offer from BCG.

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