The ZS Associates Interview: Our Ultimate Guide to Acing It

The ZS Associates Interview Our Ultimate Guide to Acing It

If you’re reading this article, you probably have a ZS Associates interview coming up. The ZS Associates interview includes case study questions, behavioral or fit questions, and a written case. That’s a lot to prepare for!

But My Consulting Offer is staffed by former recruiters and consultants from top consulting firms. We can tell you what to expect and how to prepare for the ZS Associates interview.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • The history and culture of ZS Associates.
  • The ZS Associates recruiting process.
  • The ZS Associates case interview.
  • The ZS Associates fit or behavioral interview.
  • How to prepare for a written case interview.
  • MCO’s top 3 tips on acing your ZS Associates interview.

Let’s get started!

ZS Associates History: Established By Two College Professors, Now A Key Player Across Sales Force Optimization & Healthcare

ZS Associates History

ZS Associates is a global management consulting and professional services firm, designing solutions to solve difficult business problems.

ZS Associates was founded in 1983 by two college professors at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Andris Zoltners and Prabhakant (Prabha) Sinha. Zoltners and Sinha met as Ph.D. classmates at the University of Massachusetts, where they researched the “knapsack” problem. The goal in solving the knapsack problem is to optimize the combination of items in the sack in order to get the maximum value from the combination of items while keeping the weight within a set limit.

Realizing that their research could be applied to solve resource allocation problems across multiple industries, the pair became pioneers in salesforce sizing and territory alignment models. They ultimately developed the world’s first personal-computer-aided territory mapping system. With their proven software, the pair worked off-hours to help companies improve their sales force efficiency.

Within 3 years of opening, ZS Associates helped 8 of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world align territories and resize their sales forces. Today, the firm continues to offer sales force alignment services alongside strong capabilities in analytics, strategy, sales, and marketing. ZS Associates is often quoted as experts in salesforce optimization topics, especially in the healthcare sector.

ZS now operates out of 28 offices across 4 continents, namely Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

ZS Associates Values and Culture

ZS Associates is gaining recognition as a great place to work thanks to its people and culture. In 2021, ZS Associates was ranked among the Top 25 Best Workplaces in Consulting and Professional Services by Great Place to Work®.

Employees at ZS, or “ZSers,” live by 3 core values:

  • Treat people right
  • Get it right
  • Do the right thing

ZS builds on a culture that values the unique qualities in every individual. The firm fosters a global community and a sense of belonging through education, leadership programs, networking, and more importantly, ZSer-led inclusion and diversity groups to drive positive change in the company.

The top 3 reasons employees stay at ZS Associates according to the report include: 

  • They are given a lot of responsibility.
  • They deliver excellent service and impact to their clients.
  • Management is both competent and humble.  

The ZS Associates Application Process

ZS Associates has a 3-step application process.

Step #1 – Explore current open roles

Candidates can explore open roles at ZS Associates through campus recruitment drives or via the firm’s career page. Roles are classified based on the applicant’s experience level (e.g., undergraduate, Ph.D., MBA, Masters’, experienced professional, etc).

Step #2 – Apply with a resume

Applicants at campus drives are encouraged to submit their resumes on the spot. Online applicants are required to create a profile by completing an online form and uploading their resume and relevant transcripts before they can submit the application.

Step #3 – Attend the interview rounds

Selected applicants are invited for the interview rounds to be considered for an offer.

The ZS Associates Case Study Interview

ZS Associates interview: Case Study Interview

Similar to other management consulting firms, ZS Associates uses case interviews to assess the candidate’s ability to succeed in consulting.

If you are new to case interviews, our Ultimate Guide to Case Interviews explains what case interviews are and the 4-step approach to answering them. This encompasses:

  • The opening – Check to make sure you understand the client’s problem.
  • The structure – Think through the factors relevant to the problem and organize them so you can address them in a logical manner. Most candidates would use an issue tree to organize the factors at this stage.
  • The analysis – Gather data to identify the factors most relevant to the client’s problem and develop recommendations.
  • The conclusion – Present your recommendation to the “client” (the interviewer) in a well-structured and persuasive manner.

ZS Associates offers a broad array of roles, ranging from business consulting to more technical data and knowledge management roles. The interview rounds vary based on the country and role , as well as the application channel. However, the interview section can be broadly grouped into 5 key rounds.

1. Aptitude Test

An online test with multiple-choice questions tests candidates for verbal ability, logical thinking, and numerical reasoning. The purpose of the test is to measure the candidate’s ability to understand the information provided, organize it, and then use it to solve problems.

2. AI-Video Interview

A video interview leveraging AI is used to analyze the candidate’s body language, facial expressions, word choices, and tone of voice in reaction to 3 or 4 pre-set questions. Candidates need to record their answers and submit them within a set time limit.

3. Unstructured Case Interview

The unstructured case is an interview with a consultant or partner in which candidates are asked to solve an open-ended business question. These are similar to “interviewee-led cases” used by Bain and BCG.

The candidates are given 30 to 45 minutes to break the problem into key parts and lead the interviewer through their logic to solve the problem. While it’s called an “unstructured case,” that doesn’t mean your answer should be unstructured.

The ZS Associate’s unstructured cases include:

  • Market sizing and market entry strategies
  • Declining market share due to growing competition
  • Operational process optimization
  • Revenue and profit growth or maximization

4. Structured Case Interview

The structured case study is an interview with a consultant or partner, in which candidates are required to interpret data and/or solve a puzzle. Candidates are given 30 minutes to solve 1 to 2 questions in this interview. 

This round is more interviewer-led and candidates are required to share insights or provide estimates based on data and graphs provided. Knowledge analysts may receive more technical questions related to their domain during this round (e.g., DBMS and SQL queries). A few sample questions include:

  • Market sizing: How many cakes can be sold in a day in your city?
  • Puzzle: How many races will it take to identify the 3 fastest racehorses in a group of 20?
  • [Technical] Discuss the issues with traditional file-based systems that make DBMS a better choice for storing files.

5. Behavioral/Fit Interview

This is a 30-minute interview with a recruiter designed to understand the candidate’s fit with the company’s culture and values. A more detailed explanation is provided in the following section.

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The ZS Associates Behavioral Interview

The behavioral interview (or “fit-test”) at ZS Associates is the portion of the interview process that enables you to showcase the soft skills that will help you succeed in consulting and add value to your teams and clients. Given the pressure surrounding the case interviews, candidates often underestimate the importance of the behavioral interview. However, the behavioral interview is still a critical opportunity to leave a positive impression with the firm, and it is equally important to invest time in preparing for this interview.

Some commonly asked questions at ZS Associates include:

  • Why do you want to join ZS Associates?
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with conflict in your team.
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your past professional experience?

The key to passing behavioral interview questions is to highlight:

  • Your values – Show what matters to you and that your values are aligned with the firm’s values and culture.
  • Your soft skills – Show your ability to lead, influence, and manage through adversity.
  • Your impact – Show the value you’ve contributed or the lessons you’ve learned from past projects on the job, at school, or in the community.

Prepare stories that answer these questions and practice your stories so you can tell them in a structured and compelling manner. We suggest using the A STAR(E) framework. Beyond the interview process, it will be important for you to understand what sets ZS Associates apart from the other firms and why that matters to you.

3 Tips to Ace the ZS Associates Interview

1. Prepare and Practice

ZS Associates interview: Prepare and Practice

Start preparing early and commit time to research the company and practice for the different interview rounds. Spending time to read up on your interviewers (on the ZS Associates website or LinkedIn) could also give you hints on the case interview questions or ideas on questions to ask at the end of your interview.

2. Don’t Memorize Answers

You don’t want to sound like a robot delivering a pre-written script in response to either case or behavioral questions. If you prepare in a more natural style, you are more likely to be able to adapt and respond to unexpected questions. Remember your key points and stories and deliver your thoughts naturally.

3. Know the Firm

These interviews are also an opportunity for you to understand if you would like to work at the firms you’re applying to. ZS Associates is a people-centric firm. They value the uniqueness in their people and pride themselves in working with their clients to design solutions that work for them. If you share similar values and purpose, you will naturally help tell your story in a more compelling manner.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • The founding story of ZS Associates.
  • ZS Associates people-centric culture.
  • How to apply to ZS Associates.
  • The ZS Associates case interview.
  • The ZS Associates behavioral interview.
  • 3 tips to ace the ZS Associates interview.

Still have questions?

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

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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 Aaron was able to get his offer from ZS Associates.

[EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING]

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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