Summer Prep – Will the Real Consultant please stand up?
Along with finance roles, consulting profiles are the most sought-after at top-tier B-schools mainly because of the fat pay-checks, the chance to work with great people and great brands, international exposure right at the internship stage and an almost sure-shot chance at a Pre-placement offer. So given below is a snapshot of the kind of profiles that are selected and the kind of preparation that is required to do well in a consulting selection process. This list may not be exhaustive but still covers the major aspects of cracking an internship opportunity with a consulting firm.
Indicative Profiles that get selected
– People with very high experience in industry (non-IT or IT)
– Freshmen with superior academic background (IITs, BITs, NITs and so on)and a track record of extra-curricular activities
– Non-engineers (Doctors, Lawyers, CAs)
Lastly, some surprise profiles could be picked for no real reason 🙂
Critical Areas to Polish
Yourself – Know thyself is a mantra while preparing for any interview but in a consulting interview, even more so. Since the industry itself comprises many areas, the interviewer will rather look to talk about you first, know you and gauge your area of expertise through your introduction and then move on to that area. It also goes without saying that articulating the work you did in your previous organizations becomes a very critical parameter for evaluating you because it demonstrates past performance, your level of engagement in the work and the quality of your experience.
Structure – Structured thought is a huge turn-on for the consulting interview panel. Till the time your consulting interviews go on, ensure that you remain structured in everything you speak even if you are not that kinds. Think and answer in bullet points. It even applies to questions on yourself and your work-experience. You could structure whatever you have to say in reverse chronological order (while talking about your background) or in terms of areas (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Interests, Short Term and Long Term Goals)
Communication – This is a make or break area for candidates. Those who can explain complex ideas or concepts in lucid manner stand a high chance of making it through. This doesn’t mean they require candidates who speak in catchy American or UK accents. I personally feel that adding the dimension of voice modulation helps you make communication/conversations more productive and helps influence the outcome. Voice modulation refers to the softer aspect of communication made with pauses, tonal emphasis to make a conversation more effective.
Problem-Solving – The essence of consulting. Hence it comes out in various formats – Guesstimates, Case-studies, finding out the root-cause of a problem. More often than not, these questions are asked to have a glance at how your mind works while solving such problems.
Guesstimates: Guesstimates are step-by-step exercises to find out a solution to a problem by making suitable assumptions. For example, “What is the total Android phone market in India as of today?” OR “What is total amount of detergent used in the city of Mumbai in a day?” Such questions require a structured approach in arriving at a number. Even if the number that comes out in the end is a little absurd, it is the process and how you justify your process that wins you the round. A strict no-no is to mess up with numbers (confusing between millions and crores. etc.). Your ability to carry out little back-of-the envelope calculations in a pressure situation is also something they will have an eye on. The emphasis is always on temperament.
Case-Studies: This is the bread-butter of consulting and you cannot escape case-studies or caselets during your selection process. Be ready to be tested on a problem on analyzing a problem and digging down to its root-cause. There could be cases where there is lot of cluttered data given. The challenge is to sift through the data and work with the right information. You could also be handed a case with absolutely no data to work with. Such interviews maybe more forgiving and just expect you to ask the ‘relevant questions’ around a case to gather more data. Either ways a typical consulting interview lasts for a minimum of 30 minutes if you are not shot down right at the beginning.
Some Brownie points
Use paper and pen freely to pen down your ideas. If given a chance to use the white-board do that too. That gives a feeling that you are confident about your ideas and can present with confidence. During the interview, if there is a suggestion to your response from the interviewer, be open to using that piece of information or advice to channelize your problem-solving. Have no Ego! Keep smiling always, even when you are cornered. This shows that you are not under any sort of pressure.
While there is no fixed mantra to crack a case-interview, you can rest assured that if you keep in mind whatever has been discussed you would’ve come out of the room with a positive impression on the panel.
– Charan Iyengar
(The author is an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode – Class of 2011 and has worked as a Technology analyst at HSBC and JPMorgan in the past. He is a consultant with Wipro Consulting Services)
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