Management Consultancy Interviews – Great Answers to classic questions

 

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

In management consultancy recruitment, while interview questions change, an interviewer ultimately wants to know why they should hire you. Every interview question has a purpose.

An interviewer’s aim is to determine why you want to work for them, whether you’ll be a good organisational and culture fit, and what experience you bring to the table. Beyond these key aspects, interviewers are trying to determine your career expectations, salary expectations, fill in any obvious ‘CV gaps’ and if possible, discover a little more about you.

The “Why you” questions:

Question 1: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Question 2: Why should we hire you?

Question 3: What are your greatest strengths?

Question 4: What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

Question 5: What is your greatest achievement?

Answering the “Why us” questions:

Question 6: What do you know about the company?

Question 7: Why do you want this job?

Question 8: What are you looking for in a new position?

Question 9: How did you hear about the position?

Question 10: What do you think we could do better or differently?

How to answer ‘Culture Fit’ and ‘Teamwork’ Management Consultancy Interview Questions:

Question 11: What’s your management style?

Question 12: Give an example of a challenge you faced and how you overcame it.

Question 13: How do you cope under pressure?

Question 14: How would your friends describe you?

Question 15: What do you like to do for fun?

The “Career expectations” and other management consultancy interview questions

Question 16: What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?

Question 17: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Question 18: What would be your perfect job?

Question 19: Why are you leaving your current job?

Question 20: What are your salary requirements?

Question 21: The silly questions

Question 22: Do you have any questions for us?

 

hiring manager asking candidate common interview questions

The “Why you” questions:

With each of these interview questions remember ‘professional not personal’. Interviewers do not want to know that your weakness is chocolate and you have 10 amazing cats. In fact, it is best to keep the latter to yourself on all occasions. They want to know what you will bring to their consulting team and that you are honest and self-aware.

Question 1: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Why are you right for this job? What management consultancy experience or accomplishments can you highlight to back this up? Keep it concise. This is not the time to list your employment history: your interviewers have read your CV so do not repeat it verbatim but instead expand upon it.

Question 2: Why should we hire you?

A daunting question but a great opportunity to highlight your key skills and attributes: relate these to the company’s goals and the job spec. Why are you the best candidate for the position? How will you fit in this management consultancy team/company? Prove it with specific examples. This shows your interviewer that you are self-aware, can sell yourself and you’ve done your research (highlighting that you are well prepared and truly interested in the role).

Question 3: What are your greatest strengths?

This question (and the following one) might be a cliché but they are very good questions and you need to be prepared for them and for others which might sound different but are actually the same.

The following points might help to focus your answers: once again think professional not personal.

  • What are your key skills?
  • How are these relevant to this particular management consultancy role?
  • Most importantly quote specific examples to showcase these strengths: it’s implied in the question.

Question 4: What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

Let’s be honest: this is a stinker which is why it’s such a good question.

The best tactic is to either volunteer something that is not relevant for the role (i.e. its opposite is not on the list of essential/desirable characteristics) or is something that you can provide evidence you are tackling and getting better at.

Neither “I’m always running late” nor “I can’t think of anything” will leave your interviewer with a positive impression. When preparing your response in advance be self-aware and honest. If you identify a weakness don’t just say you will improve it for the sake of the interview, actually do something. You’ll be a better employee and you will have a great answer for this interview question. If your answer really is “I’m always running late” then a much better response is “I used to struggle with time-management in the morning but now I arrive 15 minutes earlier each day: this provides time to deal with unexpected tasks before my scheduled meetings begin”. This shows you have identified a weakness and worked to improve it.

Question 5: What is your greatest achievement?

Be specific; focus on your professional accomplishments within management consultancy and how these achievements benefitted the business. Did you increase sales? If so, by how much? Over what time period? How did this impact overall sales targets and business development? Relate your success back to the role for which you are applying. This is your opportunity to show why you are the best candidate for the role and what you could do for their business if they employed you.

You CAN use selected and compelling personal achievements if they are relevant and demonstrate qualities expected in the role. But think marathon running rather than 5k i.e. if they are not impressive then best not to.

The most important element in answering “Why you?” questions is preparation. Practise your answers again and again, then practise with an audience and ask for feedback.

Your perfect answers are unique to you, concise, compelling and sound natural.

management consultant putting interview advice into practice about counter offer

Answering the “Why us” questions:

Once you have successfully answered the “Why you?” questions, you will need to answer the equally tricky “Why us?” portion of the job interview. The key to success when answering these questions is research.

Question 6: What do you know about the company?

Purposefully vague, this interview question will draw on both your research and analysis skills. Repeat the company’s “About Us” page and you’ve failed to interpret the question. You do not need to have read all the news articles or remember the Annual Report verbatim but you will need to identify key industry sectors and service lines, highlight current focus, future strategy/growth and where possible company ethos. Now, summarise your findings into one or two sentences and explain their appeal.

Question 7: Why do you want this job?

Plenty of opportunity here to swiftly rule yourself out of further consideration! The key underlying objective here is that they want to know both that you have given the role careful consideration and that you are going to be happy in the post (…and not leave after 6 months….!).

  • What is it that made you apply for this role? (Please do not say money!!)
  • Why did this job appeal to you?
  • What attributes and experience do you possess that make you believe you’d be good at this job?
  • How does this role fit with your goals and objectives (and are they ones we can satisfy/aligned with ours

Still uncertain? Check out this great guide for more tips.

Question 8: What are you looking for in a new position?

This is an easy one but with a twist: find elements from the job description which are relevant BUT don’t simply replay them back or else you risk looking glib and insincere. Also make sure that the job does indeed have what you mention: so don’t say you want a role focussed on delivery if a significant part is sales. Sounds obvious but it happens all the time! Also look more broadly at the firm’s culture and values and how is defines itself and make sure your answer is aligned with those too.

Question 9: How did you hear about the position?

This may reflect the interviewer’s interest in the specific channel. However whether a job board, referral, agency or via a company search does not really matter:  it’s a great opportunity to enthuse about the role and remind them why you applied.   Particularly, why this job stood out above all others.

More insight into the channels management consultants use to find a new job can be found in our Management Consultants Job Search Survey.

Question 10: What do you think we could do better or differently?

Here the adage ‘flattery will get you everywhere’ is not entirely true. This is a chance to demonstrate your sector/service line knowledge, your critical thinking and show how your fresh ideas would benefit the company. Think of it as a consulting freebie!

What have you heard of the company? What pipelines could they work on? How could you use your network to bring new business to the table? You don’t need to give names or have a fully formed action plan but this is a chance to present your knowledge and expertise.

However it is most certainly not an opportunity to “really speak your mind”!  Absolutely nobody wants to know their baby is ugly! Hopefully you wouldn’t be sitting there if you felt negatively towards the company: express your admiration for the business and ensure that any “criticism” is framed in the context of an opportunity for you to contribute.

Ultimately when answering the “Why us?” questions do your research. When your answers clearly address either ‘How do I match the job description?’ or ‘Why am I a great match for this company?’ you can move on to the next section: How to answer those “Culture fit” and “Teamwork” questions.

recruitment consultant discussing jobs with candidate

How to answer ‘Culture Fit’ and ‘Teamwork’ Management Consultancy Interview Questions:

You will also need to show that you are a good ‘fit’. Even exceptional candidates will not get the role if they cannot also prove they will integrate well with their colleagues. “Culture fit” and “Teamwork” interview questions are designed to demonstrate your potential interactions with your new manager, within the team and within the company.

Question 11: What’s your management style?

You may be asked to:

“Provide an example of a time you used your management style effectively and showed leadership”.

Oddly lots of people seem to fall down on this one, partly because different companies are looking for different things. Some interviewers will be keen to understand the size/scale of teams and budgets for which you have been responsible, others are looking for people development experience and examples of managing people issues. Alternatively, they could mean leadership in the context of complex clients/stakeholders that need careful day-to-day management. In general, it is best to aim for the middle ground – people skills. Discuss a project and scenario in which you are well versed: provide context with details about the scale of the project and the client too.

If the focus is on management, an excellent place to start is to identify your leadership style. Once you have determined your style, demonstrate your effectiveness within specific successful projects/scenarios.

Question 12: Give an example of a challenge you faced and how you overcame it.

Avoid personal conflict and instead focus on project challenges and how you overcame them. Highlight your professional nature, your clear communication with colleagues and clients and ideally how you resolved the issue. Most importantly, make sure your answer refers to what YOU were responsible for, the actions you took and their impact. Try not to slip into generically describing what happened on a project, or what other people did.

You may find the question framed around “problem” staff: again best to frame it as a project i.e. Situation Task Actions Results. The key point is that you demonstrated your ability to take action and achieve a positive outcome.

Question 13: How do you cope under pressure?

An example to back up a general statement would be good here and avoid sounding too vague or clichéd. Use the scenario to show how your professional approach enabled you to navigate a stressful situation with ease.

Make it situational: if the culture and structure of the firm encourages delegation or sharing burdens then a reply which references these solutions will sit well.

It is worth considering the underlying reason for the question, which is of course that the role or environment is on occasion (or always!) pressurised: that might also help you give an answer relevant to this post.

Question 14: How would your friends describe you?

See the advice on The “Why you” questions: ‘What are your greatest strengths?’. DO NOT repeat verbatim if this question has already been asked. View this as an excellent opportunity to highlight a strength that has not already been covered during your interview i.e. “I’m the one who always organises everybody”. It could also provide an opportunity to add a bit of character but  “loyal” or “dependable” is fine if you’re stuck!

Question 15: What do you like to do for fun?

Use this to highlight your personality and some interests that suggest personal goals/drive beyond work. Be honest and don’t exaggerate but try to think of at least one thing that sounds interesting and indicative of a bit of “get up and go”! If you don’t have any hobbies… avoid admitting it! Ideally mention something “active” and perhaps avoid statements such as ‘football – mostly from the comfort of my armchair’ which could suggest a lack of energy or impetus.

It’s also a great opportunity to mention personal achievements if you haven’t already done so: but as previously suggested try and make sure they actually are of some note!

Your might in reality be a bit of a “solo” person but now is not the time to emphasise interests that reflect this: something involving sociability or team work is best. But try and avoid the clichés i.e. “socialising with friends”

management consultant in interview

The “Career expectations” and other management consultancy interview questions

Question 16: What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?

State what you require to get started in your role, for example current project information, company familiarisation, knowledge of team resources and staff expertise. Identify an area where you could contribute immediately. A well thought through answer here is vital. Prove you can hit the ground running, show enthusiasm and most importantly show your sector and service line expertise.

It’s also an opportunity to reflect on your “What do you think we could do better or differently?” ideas but with caution: you need to make it clear that you feel you can make an impact but also you need to be pragmatic and most importantly collect the data and facts after your arrival.

Question 17: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Most people accept that it is difficult to plan too far ahead: company structures change all the time, roles exist now that did not exist 5 years ago etc. The best answer will indicate realistic ambition and a degree of loyalty to a firm. Do not suggest that you would be using this role as a stepping stone to a job more worthy of your skills further up in their business.  Make it clear you are focussed on the role in hand and being a great success in that role! Also avoid the cliché “in your job”: that is wrong on so many levels. This may be a good time to ask a question – what is the typical route for career progression in the firm?

The question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is examined in more detail in our blog on the hidden meaning behind three classic interview questions.

Question 18: What would be your perfect job?

In other words what are your ultimate career goals? This is a chance to express your ultimate career aims and ambitions. Most importantly be sure to align your answer with the role and company to which you are applying but clearly avoid being too obvious or sycophantic!

“I’d like to be the next  McKinsey” is great if you’re a management consultant, but not If you are applying for the role of Finance Director. Resist the temptation to go for broke and tell the truth i.e. that you would prefer a fantasy job e.g. as a ski instructor. This is a career question, not a “what would you do if you had 3 wishes?” question.

Question 19: Why are you leaving your current job?

Positive answers highlighting that a move is timely, and that this role and organisation is a great fit and corresponds with your career goals are perfect. This is of course situational: if you have been in your employer 5 years or more then “need a new challenge” or “want a change of scene” won’t raise any eyebrows. If it’s a relatively short period then that’s rarely ideal but seek to provide reassurance that your reasons for taking the role in the first place were sound, that now in the role things have changed/it’s not as described/someone key has left/you’ve explored all options for righting the situation.

Disparaging comments about former employers is at best unproductive, at worse a potential disaster. Even if you were made redundant, keep your answer positive: “Unfortunately, I was let go”. If your departure was due to business need, perhaps follow up with “… due to business demand my area was closed”. You need to be honest but try and avoid implying that you were the one person who lost out. Ideally you were one of a number of people made redundant, or if not, that you lost out to someone who had been in the business longer or who was paid much less than you etc.

Ultimately the interviewer is simply seeking reassurance that you will stay with their firm a reasonable length of time and that any moves you have made aren’t a negative reflection on your talents,  personality or decision making.

Question 20: What are your salary requirements?

Do your research and ask for something in the upper third of the range (based on your experience, education, and skills). Unless you really feel strongly about it don’t quote the top end of the salary you saw advertised: it just sounds a bit crass.

Attempt to arm yourself with a bullet proof justification based on your experience, market data and your current/previous package. Applicants will say “what’s my current salary got to do with it? They should pay me what I’m worth/the rate for the job”. However, we live in the real world and previous earnings almost always have a key role in future offers.

If you feel you need a significant rise try and explain why.

If you are willing to consider a lower package then you don’t want to undersell yourself so “well my last base salary and package was £x but I’m aware that’s more than this role might pay so I will be flexible for the right role”

This is your first real opportunity to demonstrate your communication and negotiation skills.

Question 21: The silly questions

We could write an entire blog on seemingly silly and impossible management consultancy interview questions. Business Insider have collected 24 of the ‘Trickiest questions‘ and The Balance have written a blog on how to answer them. From critical thinking to personality test type questions this category of interview questions is designed to see if you can think on your feet and to observe ‘how’ you think.

Question 22: Do you have any questions for us?

“No” is definitely the wrong answer here! If a candidate has no questions at all it would really send alarm bells ringing, suggesting they are either not very interested in the role or so desperate to move that they don’t care much about where they go. The only caveat would be that if you know the meeting has overrun and the interviewer is looking at their watch, perhaps then the answer should be “well yes I have several things I was hoping to find out but do you have time?”. This would suggest tact and emotional intelligence and be a huge relief to the interviewer!

It is sensible to prepare some questions in advance that are specific to the role. If the company is small/new then questions about the overall company and its strategy are good. You should avoid asking general questions during interviews with larger companies, as this suggests lack of research. Questions regarding this particular area or team would be safer.

Consider questions around team dynamics, ethos and practicalities. For instance, if you are not able to travel internationally and the role requires international travel. It’s better to find out sooner rather than later

Good options might be to ask how success will be measured, or expectations in the first 30/60/90 days in the role. The Muse have kindly provided a list of 51 interview questions you might wish to consider but I suggest actually asking no more than three! The best questions are those you are genuinely interested to find out and these might occur to you through the interview rather than be prepared in advance.

If you’re really stumped, questions around next steps and process are always a safe bet.

It’s often said but worth repeating: asking questions about the salary, package and holidays is not a good idea. These points are very important of course but it’s simply best avoided. If you get to the end of the final interview and no-one has asked about your expectations or said anything about what they offer a simple “do we need at some point to discuss salary and package?” is a gentle way of raising it (and perhaps highlighting a failure in their process!) that also gives them the opportunity to provide a vague face saving reply if necessary.

The only exception to the point about answering “no” if it really really is true might be “no, to be honest it’s been a really great interview/day/process and you really have covered everything that was on my list: thanks very much”!

Conclusion

You should practise your interview question answers with an audience and ask for feedback. Your perfect answers are unique to you, concise, compelling and sound natural. Remember, developing your best answers is as important as developing your CV. You should tweak both of these for every new job application.

For the major Do’s and Don’ts of interview etiquette check out our blog on this subject.