Tandem Search

A guide to nailing a strategy consulting interview

Dan Fahy, Managing Director at Tandem, explains his top tips for nailing that all-important interview and landing your dream job!

Strategy Consulting interviews are notoriously difficult and lots of time is needed in order to prepare for them, but you can use your time efficiently by following our guide below.

  1. Purchase / borrow some industry-standard case preparation material. “Case in Point” is an excellent resource that we have here at NSI HQ and use daily to increase our knowledge of the process and to give candidates an idea about what to expect. It’s available on Amazon and at most good bookstores. 

  2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Just because you’ve completed an MBA at INSEAD / Harvard or you’re a Manager at a tier 1 firm, doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in. The most successful candidates are the ones that set aside a few hours a week to study. Meet with peers who are working for these firms or other alumni to sit down and go through cases together, if you’re struggling to find people, speak with your professors who I’m sure will be able to give you names of people willing to help. We’d recommend going through around 50-100 cases in preparation to an interview.

  3. Do your research on the firm you’re interviewing with. When a consulting firm hires a new member of staff, they are making a significant investment – especially if a candidate has come from a headhunting firm like ours. It’s not acceptable to think your 4.0 GPA, shiny new MBA and perfect case solving abilities are going to be enough to land the job – these firms want to know that YOU want to work for them over their competition and will remain loyal to their cause. Not demonstrating enough motivation or excitement for a position is one of the biggest factors why candidates get rejected. Make sure you read the latest news on the firm, understand who the key members of staff are in your industry of interest (and who your interviewers are if this is revealed to you). You also need to give a satisfactory answer as to why you want to work for x over y.

  4. Brush up on your mental arithmetic. Often in the interview process, a candidate will be thrown a curveball – would you be able to comfortably answer on the spot, “What’s 17% of 50?”. There’s many tips and tricks to answering these questions – a great resource is “Secrets of Mental Math” by Arthur Benjamin. Did you know that when working a percentage out, you can swap the numbers to potentially find the answer quicker – when you look at what is 50% of 17, it’s a much easier challenge that 17% of 50 and gets to the same answer (8.5!).

  5. Managers and above – realise what the company wants to get out of the interview. It’s not unusual for an interviewer to steer an interviewee in the right direction to crack a case – however, if you’re interviewing for a manager job, YOU need to be the one that is steering the case and not being led to the right answer. These companies want to see your leadership qualities so have examples ready about times you have been a good leader, developed more junior staff etc.

  6. Build a rapport with your interviewer. Another factor that can often get overlooked – especially when doing a “marathon” interview session, is that you need to be able to demonstrate your ability to engage with someone on a personal – not just intellectual level. Are the firm going to be comfortable with putting you in front of an important client? Basic things like smart, clean attire, a firm handshake, regular eye-contact, regular note-taking will leave a good impression in the interviewers mind. A few big no-nos are: a) interrupting an interviewer when they are talking, b) poor punctuality, c) no eye contact / fidgeting d) complaining about a misstep in the process (an interview delay, a last-minute change of interviewer).

  7. Don’t bad-mouth your existing employer. Obviously if you’re going from x to y, the awkward conversation will come up about why you want to leave them and join the new firm. It’s important to be diplomatic and give genuine reasons for interest. Tearing into your current company usually rings alarm bells and can come across rather unprofessional and desperate. A big reason for candidates being rejected is again, linked to motivations. If a company feels that you only want to join them because you hate your current company and will do anything to escape, then things will not proceed.

Hopefully this was useful and feel free to comment if you have any thoughts!

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how we can help your career trajectory, reach out to our team.