Consulting Interview Process: An Overview + Recruiter Tips

Consulting Interview Process An Overview + Recruiter Tips
Jo Randall
Jo Randall

Former Bain recruiting manager and McKinsey recruiter

Your dream career is consulting, but you’ve heard about how tough it is to land an offer. What does the consulting interview process look like and what does it take to be a top applicant?

I can tell you. In this article, I’ll discuss:

  • The application screening process.
  • Online assessment tests, cases, games, and one-way interviews.
  • The consulting interview rounds.
  • Tips to help you get the offer.

Let’s get started!

Step 1 in the Consulting Recruiting Process: Application Screening

The first stage of the consulting recruiting process is application screening, which typically involves submitting a resume and cover letter, completing a basic application form, and selecting your office preferences.

If you want to stand out in the application screening process, understanding more about what consulting firms look for and how to tailor your resume and cover letter to convince them that you are what they are looking for is a good place to start.

This will involve doing some research to build your knowledge of the skills and qualities required to be a consultant, as well as the unique characteristics and values of each firm.

It’s also a good idea to check when the optimal time is to apply to give yourself a good chance of getting seen by the recruiters. This differs between firms and locations, but is also dependent upon whether you’re a student or an experienced professional.

For instance, if you’re applying as an undergraduate or masters’ student in the US, application deadlines are typically earlier than in the UK. Likewise for MBA and Ph.D. students. As an experienced professional, some firms will have deadlines and others will recruit on a rolling basis.

If you’re attending a “target” school, which is a university or business school where consulting firms recruit on campus, your deadlines may be put in place by the school itself. Check your school’s career services website.

It’s important to check for deadlines on the websites of the firms you’re applying to, but some typical timelines for the US are detailed below:

US Consulting Recruiting Timeline

 

For updated information on the application timeline, check our Consulting Application Deadline page.

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Writing a Winning Consulting Resume

Consulting firms look for experiences in leadership, problem-solving, entrepreneurial drive, and personal impact, as well as analytical abilities, strong communication skills, and evidence of drive and teamwork.

For undergraduate, postgraduate, and MBA hiring, they’ll be focusing on a strong academic performance which they’ll assess via your grades, field of study, your university or business school, and your involvement in campus clubs and societies. They’ll also review the relevance of skills gained from internships.

If you have pre-MBA work experience or are applying as an experienced professional, your career history and progression will also be considered with extra kudos given to fast-trackers.

This doesn’t mean that you have to have received a perfect GPA in Finance and Economics from Stanford while being the president of the consulting club.

Or that you need to have worked at a Fortune 500 company and been promoted into a management role within two years of joining.

What it does mean is that you have to present your education, work experience, and extra-curricular activities, especially any leadership positions, as strongly and engagingly as possible. Even those with a perfect academic and career record can still get the application wrong and end up on the reject pile.

Extracting and highlighting your most relevant experiences and skills and showing the impact you’ve had in simple and straightforward language is key to getting this right.

Consultants aim to get results for clients. If you can show that you have achieved results in your education and work experience, you are already speaking the consulting language.

You can read about our unique and proven approach to writing a resume in our Consulting Resumes article.

When you’ve created your resume, try to review it objectively. Would you invite you to interview? Do you think you stand out from your classmates or colleagues as a better candidate? Are you showcasing what makes you unique and ideal for the role?

The Consulting Cover Letter: Do You Need One?

Most consulting firms will also ask for or accept cover letters through their application screening process and you should include one unless specifically asked not to.

For the McKinsey recruiting process, for instance, they state that “a cover letter is not required unless you wish to alert us to an unusual circumstance or to provide information on a reapplication.” In this case, it’s best to take their advice and not send a cover letter to show that you’ve read their requirements.

Cover letters are a great way of enhancing your application and helping to distinguish you from the hundreds of other applicants.

You should clearly show your passion for consulting, your motivations for applying to that particular firm, and how you will uniquely bring value to the role. Ensure your stories are told in a concise but engaging way as you’re aiming to entice the recruiter to want to read your CV following this introduction.

We have some fabulous advice in our Consulting Cover Letters article about how to approach both the content and structure of a cover letter to help you stand out. It also includes examples of actual cover letters that landed our clients interviews with top consulting firms.

UK Consulting Recruiting Process

Other Application Information Consulting Firms Require

So now you’re ready to submit your application.

Most firms’ application forms ask you to submit basic demographic information needed for legal purposes, to ensure fairness, and to avoid discrimination.

Others will ask you to dig a little deeper and answer questions similar to what you might include in your cover letter. Approach these responses in the same way as writing your resume and cover letter, focusing on your passion for consulting, relevant experience, and where you’ve added value.

You’ll also be asked to select your office preferences, and careful consideration should be given to this to ensure you land where you want to be.

If you’d like to apply to multiple locations or to a location you don’t appear to have spent any time in, you’ll need to ensure you have a compelling reason for your choices. Our article Choosing a Consulting Office will help you to approach your decision more strategically.

Step 2: Online Assessments, Cases, Games, & Video Interviews

Consulting Interview Process: Online Assessment

The next stage of the consulting recruiting process is typically an assessment designed to test if you have the skills and qualities needed to be a consultant.

You should expect to hear whether you’re being invited to an assessment within a couple of weeks of your application being submitted, although this can be a little longer in the midst of the undergraduate recruiting cycle. Be a little more patient if so.

You may be asked to do a digital assessment to test your numerical and analytical skills such as the Accenture Digital Assessment.  BCG has an online case where you’re expected to analyze data and recommend solutions. Or perhaps you’ll be tackling Bain’s one-way interview to check your fit against their behavioral competencies. McKinsey has taken online assessments to a whole other level with their recently introduced “Solve” game to assess how you tackle problem-solving through a gamified approach.

You can get a full roundup of the different kinds of assessments, how to prepare for them, and how to succeed by reading our Online Consulting Tests: A Roundup article.

Step 3: The Consulting Interview Process

You’ve reached the interview rounds – congratulations!

Again, being invited to an interview typically occurs within a couple of weeks of taking an online assessment, or of applying if there isn’t an assessment to take.

Consulting firms continue to assess your problem-solving abilities and fit for their firm throughout this part of the process, with a combination of case and behavioral interviews. Although the number of rounds and combination of behavioral vs. case interviews differs between firms, their formats and expectations are relatively similar.

The key difference between the firms’ interviews is whether they use the “interviewer-led” or “interviewee-led” approach to cases. 

For instance, in the McKinsey interview process, you can expect the interviewer to provide direction by asking you pre-determined questions to drive you to a solution to the business problem.

Within the Bain interview process and the BCG interview process, you’ll be faced with interviewee-led interviews. In these interviews, you’ll be expected to drive the analysis by requesting information and data from your interviewer to be able to provide the final recommendation.

You can find out more about consulting firms’ different approaches to consulting interviews in our Interviewer vs Interviewee-led Case Interviews article.

Putting in the time and effort to prepare for both types of interviews will be worth it to differentiate yourself from other candidates and to have the confidence that you can tackle any interview style and case the interviewers present you with, no matter the industry or problem.

Other insights into the Bain interview process:

  • Bain places a high premium on collegiality or “fit,” so it’s important to be yourself.
  • Bain interviewers are especially allergic to canned frameworks. It’s important to use your own structure to set up the case.

Similarly, BCG likes to see you build a framework specific to their case and use creative thinking in your problem-solving.

You can learn more about the first stage of the interview process, how interviews differ between firms, and how to prepare by reading our article First Round Interviews.

5 Tips to Help You Land the Consulting Offer

Consulting Interview Process
  1. Preparation is your best friend – for your resume and cover letter, the online assessment process, and the interviews. Do the research, put in the time, and seek the support you need.
  2. Showcase your strongest and most relevant achievements, what differentiates you from other candidates, and how you’ll bring value to the role when creating your resume/CV and cover letter.
  3. Get familiar with each type of online assessment so that you know what to expect. Practice accordingly, paying attention to time limits, and make sure you do the assessment on a day, at a time, and within an environment that enables you to focus without interruption.
  4. Start practicing for consulting interviews as early as possible and invest the time you need to really understand what case interviews are and how to master them. If you’re short on time, MCO has resources that help you focus your prep on the highest-impact areas.
  5. Don’t forget those behavioral interviews. You’ll need to prepare some strong and relevant stories and be able to deliver them in an impactful way.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • What the consulting application screening process looks like.
  • The different assessment techniques consulting firms use.
  • What to expect from the consulting interview process.
  • Our 5 tips for landing a consulting offe

Still have questions?

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

Other people prepping for the consulting recruiting process found the following pages helpful:

Help with Your Consulting Application

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on preparing for the consulting interview process. 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 James was able to get his offer from Bain.

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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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