The more you prepare for the interview, the better you will do. One way to get ready is to practice answering interview questions commonly posed to consultants.
Here is information on the types of interview questions you might be asked during an interview for a consultant position. You’ll also find strategies to prepare for an interview, along with a list of specific interview questions. Think through how you would respond to these questions in advance of your interview.
Types of Consultant Interview Questions
Some questions you will be asked are common interview questions that you might encounter in any job interview. You can expect questions about your work history, your strengths and weaknesses, or your skills.
Anyone applying for a consulting role should feel comfortable answering questions about their:
- Time management abilities:These are key, since a consultant may work with one client at a time, or several.
- Problem-solving skills: Expect interviewers to dig into your problem-solving skills, since consultants are very often brought on to evaluate and fix organizational challenges.
- Communication skills: Both verbal and written communication skills are necessary for consultants to pinpoint a client's issues, then share a strategy to resolve them.
Along with skill-based questions, consultants can expect several varieties of questions aimed at understanding how you think and work.
You will likely be asked a number of behavioral interview questions, which focus on how you have handled various work situations in the past. For example, you might be asked how you have handled an issue with a difficult employer.
Other questions might be situational interview questions. These are very similar to behavioral interview questions. However, situational interview questions are about how you would handle a future work situation. For example, an interviewer might ask how you might manage a project with a very tight deadline.
The most common type of consultant interview question, however, is the case interview question. A case interview question is one in which the employer gives you either a business scenario or a brainteaser, and asks how you would solve the problem. These kinds of questions show the employer that you can use logic to solve complex problems.
You can also expect to receive questions about yourself and the industry.
Consultant Interview Questions
Case Interview Questions
As you address a case interview question, be sure to demonstrate to the interviewer how your analytical thought processes work. Feel free to ask questions for additional information that you might need to solve the problem. It’s also a good idea to take a notebook or drawing pad along to the interview so you can draw graphs, illustrations, or an issue tree to work through the problem.
- You are consulting a small firm that sells a well-reputed product. A large competitor starts selling a similar product incorporating the most recent technology. What should the small firm do in response?
- How many tennis balls can fit into a football stadium?
- Estimate the size of the U.S. pencil market.
- How fast is the market for X growing?
- Your client is a snowplow company. The past two years have seen a reduction in snowfall by 20%. What would you suggest they do, and why?
Questions About Yourself
Interviewers ask candidates questions about themselves in order to gauge how well they would work with their organization’s current teams, organizational structure, and company culture. Research the employer ahead of time so that you’ll be able to align your responses to mesh well with the company’s systems and requirements.
- What's your leadership style?
- Describe how you typically conduct a sales meeting.
- What kinds of consulting projects do you typically work on? What has been the focus of the last four or five projects you have worked on?
- What has been your average number of clients at a time?
- Do you tend to focus on one project, or do you handle a number of projects simultaneously?
- How do you keep track of your progress during a project?
Questions About the Industry
A firm grasp of rising industry trends is a useful marker that a job candidate is engaged and passionate about his or her industry and profession. Be prepared to provide facts about your industry that demonstrate you can proactively identify rising business or market issues and effectively control organizational risk exposure.
- We want to achieve savings of 20% in the next 12 months. How can you help us reach this goal?
- What makes a good consultant in this industry?
- What do you see as the major issues facing this industry?
- What are some important ethical considerations for consultants?
- Why do you want to work for our consulting firm over other firms?
- Walk me through the life cycle of a recent project you worked on from start to finish. What results/deliverables did you achieve? What went well, and what did not go well?
Behavioral Interview Questions
One great way to structure your answer to behavioral interview questions is to use the STAR interview response technique to describe a past situation, the task or problems involved, the action you took, and the result of this action.
TIP: You’ll gain extra points in your favor if you can quantify the results with percentages, numbers, or dollar figures to show how you improved productivity or fixed a critical issue.
- Tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma, and how you managed it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client. What did you learn from the experience? What would you do differently?
- Describe a time you had to lead a team through a difficult challenge.
- Describe a time when you were working for multiple clients at the same time. How did you keep from spreading yourself too thin?
Situational Interview Questions
Situational interview questions are like case questions in that the hiring manager wants to know how you think. It’s fine to draw upon experience to illustrate how you’ve successfully tackled a similar situation in the past.
- How would you explain a complex technical issue to a client?
- Imagine you had a difficult boss. How would you handle the situation?
- Tell me about a time you struggled to meet a deadline. How did you manage your time to complete the assignment?
Tips for Preparing for a Consultant Interview
Do a mock interview. Case interview questions require some preparation. Ask friends or family members to give you as many practice case questions as possible. During the interview, listen and take notes, asking any clarifying questions. Asking questions will help you think through the problem, and will also show that you are listening carefully. It will also help you engage with the interviewer and establish a positive rapport.
Think aloud. While answering a case interview question, say your thought process aloud and use a pencil and paper to work through the problem. While you need to provide an answer, the question is much more about assessing your thought process. Therefore, share your thinking out loud.
Follow industry trends. Many of your case questions (as well as some of your other questions) will be related to the industry in which you will be working. Therefore, before your interview, make sure you are caught up on news about the industry.
Never underestimate the importance of body language. Don’t forget to practice the basics of good interviewing. Make sure you are prepared to give a firm handshake, make friendly eye contact with your interviewer, and smile when appropriate. Sometimes, interview questions can feel overwhelming, but don’t forget that you still want to be personable.
- Practice beforehand by answering frequently asked case, situational, and behavioral interview questions to build your self-confidence before your interview. Try asking a friend to roleplay the part of a hiring manager in a mock interview.
- Keep up on industry trends. This insider knowledge will help you demonstrate the value that you would bring to the organization as an industry-savvy consultant.
- Use percentages, dollar figures, or other statistics to quantify past successes. This will impress your interviewer with the positive changes you have effected during your consulting career.