This post first appeared on ConsultingFact, a website founded by a former McKinsey management consultant, which helps others break into management consulting.
When you ask this question you are really asking two completely separate questions: firstly, “what are the necessary ‘consultancy attributes’?”; secondly, “how can I demonstrate that I possess such attributes?” This post will concentrate on the latter more than the former, but before an interview you need to be satisfied with the answers you have to both.
With this in mind, here’s something to think about in answer to the first question:
|Reliability & Time Management||A consultant must be able to be counted on to do what they said they would, in the manner and time they said they would.|
|Expertise||A candidate with a certain level of expertise and experience in a particular field will look more attractive to recruiters; knowing how business works and not just the latest business news is important.|
|Leading and Following||Being a team player and not being embarrassed to say “I don’t know, but I know someone who does” are good traits to have, but the ability to build and lead a team is just as important – communicating and working through others.|
Demonstrating Your Abilities
It is all well and good knowing what qualities you need, but now you need to show that you are a master of them. A common error can be simply saying “I am good at this” without showing why.
Interviewing well is a lot like writing a good journal paper or essay, a list of unsupported statements and conjectures will get you nowhere. You need to back up your claims with evidence and examples; you need to be concise and avoid ambiguous language and you need to anticipate any criticisms. This will allow you to make the strongest possible claim or argument.
You must know your CV inside out. Analyse your CV for past experiences in university, societies or sports clubs and think of times when you’ve demonstrated each of the competencies necessary for a career in consultancy. These can be simple anecdotes where you personally have demonstrated the required quality.
How to Structure Your Answers: S.T.A.R.
|S – Situation||Provide context to the example; explain the role you played in the scenario.|
|T – Task||Clearly state the objective you or your team had.|
|A – Action||This is all about what you did. Use first person pronouns and verbs to specify what you did towards achieving the tasks you mentioned previously. You should spend the majority of your answer on this section.|
|R – Result||Mention the outcome, ideally quantitatively, referring to the tasks you or your team set. Even in failure you can talk about what you have learned and what you would do to be successful next time.|
Q: “Describe a situation where you were successful in getting people to work together.”
A: “During my third year in University we were assigned a group project as a part of our Economics course work. We met as a group after our lecture to discuss the workload, however two weeks before the deadline we still hadn’t managed to meet up to decide on the subject we would cover for this project. This is where I decided to take the initiative, taking charge of the group to make sure the project was completed on time.
“I obtained contact details of each student through the economics office and got in touch with each member to arrange to a group meeting. I booked a group study room in the library and asked each person to prepare some thoughts for the project and to outline their timetables for the following two weeks. After a schedule was in place, I allocated different sections of the project to group members and coordinated further group meetings. As a result, our group submitted the assignment 2 days early and we later received an A grade.”
Granted, you don’t want it to look as though you’ve just learned a script and you’re dictating it to the interviewer word-for-word, your answers need to look natural. At the same time, you still need to have done the necessary preparation: learning about the company and position you’re interviewing for, as well as thinking about your key qualities and times at which you have demonstrated them.
Remember: Listen very carefully to the question and think before you start answering. When you answer you need to evaluate what you’ve learnt from each example you talk about. Employers are interested to know that you are constantly learning and developing yourself.