The classic interview question: “is there anything you’d like to ask us?”
For some management consulting job applicants, this is the bit they’ve been looking forward to. For many, however, it can be a moment of dread. Either because they don’t have any questions for whatever reason, or because they are concerned the questions might somehow reflect badly on them.
It is just as important to consider this section of the interview as it is the grilling that focuses on your experience and skills. Not least because it’s the last impression the interviewer will have of you!
Therefore make sure this is part of your overall interview preparation. Of course, you should have already undertaken your pre-interview preparation, and done everything necessary to make a great first impression.
This is also important whether your interview is in person or over video. It may be even more crucial on video because it may be harder to put yourself across in the way you want through the rest of the interview, so the questions could allow you to be more engaging. As we have suggested, you could even have a ‘cheat sheet’ to help. You could add post-its of potential questions as prompts around the screen but try not to read directly from them. Questions should come across as naturally as possible, and not too rehearsed.
In general, having no questions, while not a black mark, risks being thought a bit odd and could be viewed negatively. The only exception being if it is clear the meeting has run out of time: if the hour is up it is certainly sensible to draw attention to the time before raising any queries because the interviewer may be hoping you don’t have any! It could be flattering to say “well everything has been extremely thorough so I think we’ve covered most of the ground” but if time allows two or three questions are probably ideal.
This is not a time to ask for information that you should have been able to find out by competent research, or is on the job spec, or which they may know has been covered by other interviewers. Also, pay/package/holidays/working from home/work-life balance are probably not on the agenda at this point. Neither is any question that might either sound negative or force the interviewer to give a negative answer. Although you will need to hear both good and bad news about a potential employer at some stage you want the last section of the interview to finish on a positive note!
Here are some questions to consider asking the interviewer during your consulting job interview:
1. How will you measure the success of the person in this role?
This gets right to the heart of what you need to know about the management consulting job: what does it mean to do well?
The job description should outline this. However, the actual manager may have very different ideas about what’s most important in the role so it’s useful to have a conversation about what the job is really about. For example, the job spec may list seven different responsibilities but your success in fact hinges on two of them.
2. What does great performance look like in this consulting role?
Hopefully, you know what the job is and how you’re being measured or assessed (see previous question), so this is a subtly different question that also shows you’re not the type to settle for “OK”.
3. What is the key to succeeding in this role?
Yes, you might have been told targets or deliverables, but that’s really not the same as this great question.
4. What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
This can provide information you never pick up in the job description. All consulting jobs have challenges, so it will be interesting to hear the reply, although it is unlikely the interviewer will admit to messy interdepartmental politics or impossible budget constraints!
Nevertheless, it can create an opportunity for you to talk about how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past, which can be reassuring to your interviewer.
5. How can I make the most impact in the first 6 months?
As well as showing you’re keen to hit the ground running it also gives you a great steer: as a sub-question you can ask about what the first 3-6 months might look like.
6. What are you hoping the successful candidate will accomplish in their first 6 months?
This question can give you a sense the learning curve to expect and the pace of the team and organisation. If you’re expected to have major achievements under your belt after only a few months, this might be fine if you’re coming in with a lot of experience, but it might be stressful otherwise. Alternatively, you may be relieved to learn that most of your first six months won’t simply concentrate on training.
This question can also draw out information about key projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.
7. Can you tell me more about the team I would be working in?
This might have been already covered but if not this will help you understand the way the company is structured, who you’ll report to and the department the role sits within. These are the people you’ll work most closely with, so it’s worth trying to find out about the team dynamic and working methods.
Depending on the response, it may also give you the opportunity to mention any experience or success you’ve had working in similar teams – just to give the employer one final example of how well you’ll fit in if you get the job.
8. How long would you expect someone to be in this consulting role and what would be the potential next career steps?
You really need to know this too but be very careful that your phrasing doesn’t give the interviewer concerns about your tenure in the job they are looking to fill. They have a need for a job to be done and will be wary if they think someone is going to be angling for the next move too quickly. There is no definition of “too quick” but it is safe to assume that two years is the minimum that even the highest flier would be expected to be in a job before getting itchy feet.
9. Could you tell me more about the company’s culture and values?
Care is required that you don’t look like you haven’t done your homework. Otherwise, this question is a good way of both impressing and using up a few minutes if you’re stumped for other questions! Why will this “impress”? Companies LOVE to talk about their values and LOVE to think they are hiring someone who cares. However conversely sometimes the interviewer hasn’t read the script which can be a bit awkward (see point remaking the interviewer feel uncomfortable) but of course, speaks volumes.
10. What type of people tend to thrive in the organisation?
Asking about what types of people tend to thrive (perhaps versus those who tend to struggle) can provide useful information. This can reveal what the manager really cares about in their employees and which traits he or she values. This can sometimes shed light on their management style.
11. What do you enjoy most about working for this company?
If you feel this is too direct, try “What do people in the team most enjoy about working for this company?”. Don’t ask the opposite: as per above, you don’t want to leave the interview on a negative or make the interviewer feel uncomfortable..
12. Do my qualifications/experience/this interview meet your expectations and what you were looking for?
There is a risk this will make your interviewer feel uncomfortable so may be one to avoid! Nevertheless, it might also give you an opportunity to address any concerns if you are worried about how some aspect of the interview went. Better than agonising about it on the journey home. However, it’s most important you make sure you have their agreement to do so: at this time in the discussion, the interviewer may not have the time or interest in revisiting a point they may feel has been covered.
Avoid putting them on the spot e.g. How did I do? Have I got the job? Give them room to dodge the question and bear in mind that a positive response to the headline question simply means they feel they’ve covered everything: not that you’re through to the next stage.
13. What are the next steps and what is your timescale?
It’s likely they have mentioned these, but if they haven’t then not only is it an essential piece of information but it also might just give you some feedback or indication as to whether you are likely to feature in the process from here! Best not appear too pushy or impatient but it is important to tell them if you are at/approaching final stages with other consulting job applications.
We have more advice and help with your job search on our Candidate Services page including CV writing, and updating your LinkedIn profile. We also have a comprehensive guide to answering a range of interview questions you may encounter.
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