How to land an internship/full-time position in management consulting?

06/05/2015

Landing a job in management consulting is in the minds of numerous finance students. And, you may know as well that these positions tend to be somewhat hard to get. With this blog post I aim to shed a light on how to prepare for those interviews and how to make most of them successfully.

The interview process for consulting internship/full-time position emphasizes a “case interview” approach where the candidates solve simplified real life based business cases. The method measures candidates’ capabilities in data analysis, business knowledge, logical reasoning, problem solving, and client presentations under time pressure. Showcasing this skillset in the interview stage defines whether you are going to make it to the internship or full-time position because it is what management consultant’s work consists of. The good news is that there is plenty of knowledge gathered of the case interview types and methods for handling and acing the interview. In the following sections I will briefly cover few insights and tips for the case interviews.

In general, the recruiting process consists 1-3 rounds of case interviews for the internship level and 2-4 rounds for the full time position. The topics vary from market sizing to cost/profitability analysis and investment/divestment decisions. Depending on a company they might emphasize more of e.g. personal experience or team working skills. One round usually consists of one or two interviews, which are divided into informal “fit” part and case solving part, both lasting approximately 20 minutes.

The fit part covers candidate’s background, previous experience, and motivation for consulting. This is the “airport test” where the interviewer measures if the candidate is the type of person with whom he/she could spend six hours stuck at an airport. Also, the interviewers evaluate whether the candidate has the social skills and comfort to interact with client’s C-level executives.

In the case solving part the candidate will be usually given some background information about a certain company, an industry and a business case in form of an open-ended question. Then it is the interviewee’s time to ask clarifying questions and additional data, adjust a suitable framework and provide structured, data driven solution to the business case. The interviewee walks the interviewer through his/her thinking and problem solving process and finally presents a summary of the findings, solution, and recommendations in a client friendly way.

Regarding the use of frameworks in the case interview: Think of frameworks as methods or set of tools that provide valuable insight to the business case at hand. For example, SWOT analysis is a framework that can be used to evaluate company’s positioning in a market entry decision. When you use frameworks in case solving, don’t try to force a business case into a certain framework. Learn to adjust and use the frameworks from the perspective of the business objective. What the interviewer wants to see and hear, is logical, structured and data driven approach to localize and analyze the components that drive the case.

Most cases consist of a math part, which includes some basic algebra related to the business context. For example estimating the annual market of golf balls in Japan. Excel or a calculator are not allowed, the calculations will be done with paper and pen. Practice dividing with decimals, calculating percentages, multiplying with large numbers, etc. There are quite a few memory tricks and shortcuts available that save time and effort in calculations. I suggest learning them, too. The math part isn’t a speed contest, it is better to take your time and check the calculations before providing the solutions.

Summer is good time to prepare for the intense recruiting window opening next fall. Well known case solving guide books include Case in Point from Marc P. Cosentino and Crack the Case from David Ohrvall. Victor Cheng’s highly popular web site Case Interview Secrets is full of useful information on how to land that dream offer. If you have an opportunity, practice case interviews with a friend or a group of friends who aim for a similar career. During the semesters Aalto Management Consulting Association (AMCA) organizes weekly case practices where you can hone your skills with other students across faculties.

If you know someone who already works as a management consultant or has done an internship, offer him/her a cup of coffee or lunch for an exchange of a short briefing about their experiences and a tip or two for the application. Of course, attending the events organized by KY Finance and their Management Consultant Partners is also highly recommendable. Participating to a case competitions within Aalto or as a member of Aalto team within our partner schools, is a deep dive to the management consulting world and extremely beneficial. While watching the business news or reading business journals, think of the topics as business cases and how would you tackle them. This is a great way to connect the theory and frameworks to practice, which is eventually what the management consulting companies are looking for from the candidates.

Best of luck to the interviews!

Saku Niemi
Writer is Master’s thesis worker in Finance and Management Consultant trainee at IBM Business Analytics and Strategy

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