Second Round Consulting Interviews – Everything You Need to Know

  • Last Updated May, 2020
final round of consulting interviews - how to prepare

Congratulations on making it to the final round of interviews! You’ve already beaten the odds.

Are you wondering what’s different between this round of interviews and your first round consulting interview? Want to find out how to prepare for your final round consulting interviews? You’re in the right place.

If you’re just starting your research on management consulting as a career, our case interview prep page is the best place to begin.

Let’s get started!

What’s Different About Final Round Management Consulting Interviews?

There are 5 main ways that final round consulting interviews differ from the first round:

how to prepare for final round consulting interviews

  1. Your interviewers will be older. First round interviewers are usually associates or engagement managers. They may only be a couple of years older than you. Second round interviewers are senior engagement managers, associate principal, and partners. They may be closer to your parents’ age than yours and have been interviewing for years.
  2. There will be more emphasis on behavioral or fit questions. Everyone who’s invited to final round consulting interviews can case. Because of this, there’s more emphasis on fit in these interviews. The interviewer will want to know if you demonstrate the soft skills that are important in consulting engagements. Are you someone they’ll enjoy working with for long hours? Would they feel comfortable putting you in front of their clients? Are you a leader? Can you create change in an organization? Review our page on consulting behavioral interview questions to make sure you’re ready for these questions.
  3. The cases may be less structured. Because first round interviewers are newer at conducting case interviews, they frequently give the case in much the same way it’s written up. Final round interviewers have been casing consulting candidates for years. They’re generally less rigid in following the outline of a case and instead, are more conversational. Because of this, you want to practice being less rigid in your approach to answering the case and work on building rapport with your interviewer. Remember, you want them to see you as someone they’d want to staff on their next client team.
  4. The cases will focus on issues other than profitability. The most frequent type of case in first round consulting interviews is profitability. How can the client grow revenue? Cut costs? Improve its bottom line? In final round interviews, you’ll see more government sector or non-profit clients. If the client in a case question is a business, their problem may center around reducing employee turnover, improving quality, or some other issue that does not directly affect net income.
  5. You may encounter the stress test. If a second round consulting interviewer likes you, they may decide to grill you to see how well you handle pressure. They might do this by asking whether you’re sure about the answer to a case interview math problem you’ve analyzed. They might press you to brainstorm more creative options to solving the client’s problem, or they might just be argumentative. 

This seems counter-intuitive. If an interviewer likes you, you might think they’d be friendlier. Consulting clients frequently push hard on the team working for them. They’re paying a lot of money for the team’s help and want to feel confident that if they make difficult changes to their business that it will be worthwhile. The stress test seeks to make sure you’ll remain confident of your analysis and recommendations in the face of such push-back. 

If an interviewer pushes back at you, this is a good sign. It means they want to know the limits of how you handle stress and keep your cool. The more level headed you remain, the easier it is for the interviewer to go back to the interviewing committee and say why you would be a great consultant to have at the firm. 

If you were failing the interview, the interviewer would have no reason to push you because it would leave a bad taste in your mouth when you received the rejection. They wouldn’t waste their time and mental energy.

3 Tips on Preparing for Final Round Management Consulting Interviews

how to prepare for final round consulting interviews

Prepare Stories to Answer Common Behavioral Interview Questions Using the A-STAR(E) Format.

As a reminder, the A STAR(E) format stands for:

A – Answer. Give the interviewer a one-sentence answer to the question.
S – Situation. Provide a brief overview of the situation in your story. When and where did it take place?
T – Tension. Describe the conflict.
A – Action. What did you do to resolve the situation?
R – Results. What impact did your action have?
(E)* – Effect. What were your take-aways from this experience? 

*(E) is optional depending on the story.

You’ve already answered a couple of behavioral questions in your first round interviews, so maybe you feel comfortable with this type of question. However, in your first round, you were primarily being tested on your analytical skills and ability to answer a case. Now, your fit with the firm’s culture and your ability to interact professionally with clients will get more emphasis.

Also, if you prepared just a couple of stories before your first round interviews, you need more. McKinsey instructs candidates to avoid discussing the same story with multiple interviewers. Though other firms are more flexible about this, it’s still a good idea to provide different stories. Doing so will give you more air-time when the consultants meet to discuss candidates and decide who will receive offers.

For a great example of using the A STAR(E) format, see our page on c.

Know How This Firm Differs from Other Management Consulting Firms

Get to know the companySome firms, Bain and BCG in particular, want to know that you’ve researched their company and taken the time to speak to their consultants at presentations on campus or during informational interviews. They want to know that you won’t just make a great consultant, but that you’ll make a great consultant for their firm

Expect to be asked why you’re interested in a career in management consulting and why you’d like to work for their firm in particular. The best way to come up with a strong answer to why you’d like to work for Bain or BCG is by asking Bain or BCG consultants what the company’s culture is like and why they picked that firm over other consultancies.

Level-up Your Casing Skills from Average to Exceptional.

If you read our page on case interview prep and mastered the 4 parts of the case: the opening, the structure, the analysis, and the closing, you can work your way through a case. 

But now it’s time to ace your case.

The Principal or Partner interviewing you may have given the same case question dozens of times. Set yourself apart from other candidates by going beyond the minimum in your answer.

The opening – In the opening, an average answer will ensure you understand the client, their business, and the problem they need to solve. An exceptional answer will take into account any time constraints the client has for finding an answer to the problem and implementing a solution. It will also address other constraints such as limited funds available for investment in the course of action recommended by the case team.

Depending on the case, this might impact funds available for the development of a new product, the launch of a marketing plan, or to make an acquisition. There may be space constraints on adding a new line in the factory or creating work-space for newly hired employees. There may be other key factors that need to be addressed in the solution to the client’s business problem.

The structure – An average answer for structure will include a framework for working through the client’s problem in a logical and comprehensive manner. An exceptional answer will provide a framework that isn’t off the shelf but is specific to this client and this problem.

The analysis – In the analytics section of the case, and average candidate will ask probing questions to find out more about the specifics of the client’s business, identifies factors that are critical to solving the case question, and develop a solution. A candidate providing an exceptional answer will smoothly gain information on the client’s problem and provide insight by interpreting the data they receive. He or she will continually identify the next steps to address and move the case forward toward a recommendation.

A good method for ensuring you address all of this in a comprehensive yet conversational way is to use a 4-step process: 

1) Ask for data,
2) Interpret the data,
3) Provide insight into the problem, and 
4) Outline the next steps.

The conclusion – An average conclusion will recap the client’s problem and provide a well-thought-through solution with the reasons supporting the recommendation. An exceptional conclusion will do that and also highlight any risks the client might encounter as they implement the proposed solution, as well as outline how the consulting team can continue to help the client either with implementation. This help may include looking into problems or opportunities identified while solving the initial case. 

Remember, a consulting firm wants to continually build its relationship with clients and to identify new and interesting business problems they can help solve. For a video example of an exceptional answer to a case study question, click here.

What to Expect in Your Second Round Consulting Interviews and How to Prepare

in front of a panelFinal round consulting interviews are sometimes called office round interviews because they typically take place in one of the consulting firm’s offices rather than on-campus. You’ll meet 3-4 consultants and the interview structure will be similar to your first round interviews. 

You’ll answer case studies and behavioral questions. Depending on what firm you’re recruiting with, one of your interviews may be focused entirely on behavioral questions.

The Night Before Your Final Round Consulting Interviews – How to Prepare

As we recommended with your first round consulting interviews, we suggest you prepare for your case and fit interview questions well in advance of the interview date. 

The night before your interview, relax. Watch a movie or go out to dinner with friends. This will help you be as stress-free as possible for your big day.

The Day of Your Second Round Management Consulting Interviews – How to Prepare

Arrive early, but not too early, about 15 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start. If you’re earlier than that, the interviewer may not yet be ready for you and that would create an awkward situation.

Be prepared with good questions to ask your interviewer. Good questions show your interest in the firm and management consulting as a career. They’ll also help you to better understand whether this firm/career are good choices for you so that if you get an offer, you’ll feel confident deciding whether to accept it. For more on the best questions to ask your consulting interviewer, see this article.

What If the Second Round Isn’t the End of the Process?

Occasionally, candidates are asked back for a third round of interviews. This usually happens if 1 or 2 interviewers thought the candidate was strong but another raised questions they feel they need to probe further. 

If you’re in this situation, it’s good news. It’s a much better outcome than being turned down for the position. If you feel you’re weak at a certain aspect of consulting interviews, take some time to improve before your third round interview date.

In this article, you’ve learned what to expect in final round management consulting interviews. You now know the 5 things that are different between first and final round interviews, our 3 tips on preparing for final rounds, and what to do if your second round interview isn’t your last. 

Still have questions?

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

Other pages people preparing for final round interviews found helpful include:

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