The interviews in consulting firms are the only ones to make the candidate get out of his comfort zone

The interviews in consulting firms are not the only ones to include case studies. For they are the only ones to impose case studies whose theme, solving approach, the target area and the problems are unpredictable. The only thing that the candidate knows is that he doesn’t know what his case study will be. No other type of maintenance puts the candidate in such an exhibition in front of his examiner.

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No other type of interview than those from consulting firms, including strategy consulting and more from top tier McKinsey, Bain and BCG are more exposed to risk of being completely panicked when facing the unknown. In addition, the candidate will be evaluated for the case study of the resolution process and the fact that ultimately find the answer, what English speakers call “crack the case.”


Because it is not enough to demonstrate intellectual coherence, business sense and logic, you must also solve the case. Conversely it is not enough to resolve the case in support of sectoral expertise or good feeling. For example, if a candidate is an expert in pharmacy and encounters a pharmaceutical case, all of these approaches as a result of industry knowledge will be positively taken into account if they are reconstructed at the base, with logic and structure. In practice falling on a case of our area of expertise is often a poisoned gift source of much frustration as the interviews are not intended for general industry expertise and need to deconstruct its automation. Deconstruct its automation is a formidable test, for example, do you know how to explain to a 5 year old that 8 minus 2 makes 6?

I’m not talking about seniors recruited to showcase their expertise course, I’m talking about young graduates or post MBA candidates or with 5 years maximum of experience.

The interview caracteristics for the job in «classic» management

In a “classic” management job, wich means, without relationship with the board or the investment bank, the interview relies almost exclusively on issues of personal presentation, experience and motivation. Sometimes some senior positions or technical component brings a scenario to test the automation of the candidate. In this case, the interview process is often divided into two parts: a general interview with HR services to discuss the experience, skills and motivation of the candidate and a more operational interview where focus will be on the work itself and experiences directly related to the position.

CV candidat consultant


However, even in this type of technical discussions, the subject is on a component of skills clearly identified, predictable and well defined for the candidate. It is very rare that the candidate has to answer questions outside of his “comfort zone.” The comfort zone is defined as the set of subjects, issues and activities that the candidate naturally dominates because of his qualifications or experience. For example, a tooth is treatment in the comfort zone of a dentist. By cons, making a gum graft may require some additional skills that only some dentists can provide. In an interview for a “classic” management position, discussion is generally bounded by the candidate’s comfort zone. If the candidate has not lived up on technical subjects or expertise, there are three main reasons: panic, a job of higher seniority than their skills or a job corresponding to a different expertise of their area of excellence.

In both cases, it is therefore ultimately a targeting error. There are of course an infinite number of ways to miss these interviews, but we can retain that they are supposed to let the candidate in his comfort zone regarding his skills. But interviews in consulting firms is quite different.

In a nutshell, the interviews in consulting firms are the only ones to make the candidate get out of his comfort zone.

Why interviews in consulting firms are so demanding?

Deciding to start to become a consultant in strategy is a choice that will require a high level of personal investment, both in terms of time but also in terms of effort and preparation. Such a decision should not result only a whim. Firstly because the process of passing interviews is long and discouragement comes quickly. Moreover, this investment in your professional future will require a minimum of 2 years in consulting firms to be profitable for your career. In under two years, it may send negative signals such as “I didn’t achieve it and I dropped along the way.” So, before putting the head down, it is important to understand why a consultant requires much effort and investment.


Is it worth it to become a consultant?

Could the effort to become a strategy consultant be more profitable if you would consecrate it to another activity?

Entretien cabinet de conseil...10 erreurs pour rater son etude de cas

I’ll give you a 100% lived synthesis with a justification, mine, of the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a consultant. It is very rare that top tier former consultant extend this kind of subject, simply because the “rat race” in full swing in the industry and leaves very little time during the year McKinsey, BCG and Bain but also after this type of exercise. In addition, if a consultant wakes up 10 years after leaving his office to relive the experience, the specificity and intensity of the subject will make him no longer up-to-date. I had the opportunity to spend a year to organize the specific approach that I share in this blog since I left the consulting firm. I have the chance to take this time today to expose it. My feedback has nothing to do with a lot of anonymus “advices” posted on online forums – often by people who have never had an experience as a strategy consultant – or sites that pay anonymus testimonies on the other side of the Atlantic as Vault for example. I have nothing against Vault, I think it is a useful source of information but excluding insider reports on a given company who can provide a knowledge base for American candidates, it is more information type entertainment rather the nature to ask candidates questions on funding their approach and reasoned choice of career. Finally, articles of daily general newspapers and even economists like Echos or La Tribune give a message far removed from the reality of working as a consultant. Finally Strategor works are high level syntheses regarding the strategy as taught in business schools but in terms of concrete feedback, how to say, you love cars? So here’s what business school teaches you vs. the reality of the profession in an imaged way…

Demystifying interviews in strategy consulting firms

The consulting in general and in strategy in particular attract each year thousands of candidates … and only a small proportion manages to get a job in these consulting firms.


The Diploma is not enough

These massive failures aren’t due, in most cases, to inadequate qualifications, but rather a lack of anticipation and preparation for interviews. I must say that the interviews in consulting firms are very strong because they add, to the classical stress of job interviews, an intellectual exercise testing: the case study.

The terrible case study

The terrible case study is an additional difficulty but it is largely overestimated by the candidates!

You red right, it is not the difficulty, it is a more specific difficulty to these special interviews.

For a certain effort and a methodical approach it is possible to pass the case studies in all cases – I’ll come back later, it is a major theme of this blog.


The price to pay for the big consulting salaries


Do not forget that for the candidates in consulting firms, the salary is between 20% and 50% higher according to the profiles than jobs in industry and services. Not to mention the salaries of officials…

Anticiper chaque reunion comme une partie d'echecs

In fact, career changes are much more rewarding and dynamic in consulting firms, with more responsibility and higher salaries in the short term.

In the medium term, it is also a springboard to positions of management and operational management for those who join corporate clients. For those who are moving up in the consulting it’s the guarantee of access to non-standard remunerations. Finally, in the long-term, it is access to senior management positions or partner, real professional success story.

It is clear that these benefits come at a price, the effort before, during and after the consulting. This blog aims to share my insights, lessons learned and approaches to help you, just like me, receive the best offers of consulting firms.

The application of these methods has allowed me to receive offers from McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, a firm in which I worked 5 years. To begin your preparation in practice, this is where it goes!


To your success