Why your consulting interview preparation is old-fashioned?

Talk to anyone who has remote dreams of getting into consulting someday and they all would share something in common. They all sound too similar and mostly mechanical.

The Case Interview “Open” Secret has been out for a while now and to be honest it is too mechanical to follow it in 2021.

The consultants who interview you all know that you have read that resource by listening to the first few words in your answers.

There are many myths that aspiring consultants often fall for in the beginning of their preparation.

The first myth to be dispelled is that of frameworks. Many early stage aspirants feel that frameworks are the way to go in a case interview.

As long as you try to deliberately imitate and apply the framework, you’re bound to fail in the interview. It doesn’t work that way.

Many people have this myth, because as long as they think about a case interview, they start speaking a bunch of jargon: MECE, hypothesis driven, clarifying question, issue trees…

The second myth is that of “case books”. There are so many case books out there these days that it seems that there is a competition going among colleges to publish a case book.

Don’t get me wrong but most of the case books aren’t even worth reading. I reviewed case books from some of the top business schools in India and found that they are all sharing the same run of the mill, half-baked questions and answers.

Reading them can give you a false sense of preparation that would fall apart the moment you encounter a real consulting interview.

The problem is that they don’t get to the crux of case interviews. It is like showing you snapshots of a case interview and expecting you to write a full story on it.

The third myth is that of “consulting bibles” that all talk about jargonising frameworks and MECE. They share dozens of templates of frameworks that look good on the surface. They are also clever to tell you don’t apply them as it is in a real interview. But how do you adapt them? What the heck? How would a candidate know when and what changes to make to it?

The last but not the least is the “case partners” for mock interviews. While it may sound convincing and may imitate a real world interview. In reality, it is the most incomplete preparation that you can ever get.

Case partners are a typical case of the blind leading the blind. Almost nobody worth their grain at MBB firms would have time to practice cases with college students, unless it is part of their job.

Even if you’re lucky to find one good consultant, there would be a lack of structured outcome that can help you improve. On top of that, you would always be pressed for time against their schedules.

In the absence of structured preparation for consulting interviews, most candidates often fall into one believing one of the four myths.

The result is that most candidates memorise and repeat frameworks in the interview. The clever ones also pretend to act showing that they haven’t memorised the framework. Believe me, it is so easy for an experienced interview to look beyond your acting skills.

At one point, I was also a believer in these “Bibles” and “Mantras“. I was deeply involved in routines and frameworks until I encountered real world consulting and business practice. I gradually understood the importance of “talking about people” and “thinking about people” when working on consulting projects.

Consultants are also human beings, whether it is an interview or a project, they are essentially engaging in normal communication between people. No one succeeds in business or consulting by being too mechanical and rigid.

There are “three-action tips” that you really need to train hard : “ask”, “think” and “speak”.

Consulting is not a job where you memorise stuff and impress people with your ability to recall. You need to develop a rapport with individuals you work with to get ahead in consulting.

You need to be able to articulate your thoughts and extract/deliver value out of your conversation with fellow consultants, analysts, partners and clients.

If you can’t ask well-thought questions to the client, they may not share the right data with you.

If you don’t tell your team of analysts, what kind of analysis you are expecting from them, the data you share may become useless.

If you don’t have the ability to distill your thoughts while presenting your findings to the partner, you won’t move up the ladder in consulting.

Of course MBB consulting firms give plenty of training to incoming consultants. But they look for early signs of these abilities in hiring candidates.

Asking clarifying questions, structured thinking and articulated speaking are the three top things that define a consultant.

In the coming posts, I will share how you can master these three areas at an accelerated pace.

If you are aspiring to be a consultant, you should definitely get in touch with me to discuss your consulting prospects today.

I am always up for working with ambitious and hard working individuals through STEPVUE.

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Abhijeet Singh
Abhijeet is the Founder & CEO at STEPVUE. He is a heady mix of ambition, sarcasm, sports and something more. Ex: GAIL India Limited (Brand Marketing), RSM MBA and DTU
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