Cracking the Consulting Interview! Part 1: Finding out if Consulting is the Right Fit
As a student without ample industry experience, how to glean if consulting is the right fit for you during your placement process? Part 1 in my latest series of articles on cracking MBB consulting interviews.
So, this is a tough one. By the time we enter our placement year, most of us would have done a few internships and projects at different firms, institutes and startups. They wouldn’t all belong to one industry either. So, how should you decide if you should enter consult preparation or not?
Now, I’m neither an industry expert nor a management consulting veteran with decades of experience under my belt. But, as someone who’s been through the process of consult preparation, I believe that sharing my experience would help at least a few of you out there who might be confused regarding this. So, let’s dive right in.
While I have a background in engineering and physics, I was drawn to finance at the beginning of my third year at IIT Madras. I began with a few online courses, some courses on campus and then worked on a project with the Department of Management Studies on campus. I found that I really enjoyed exploring this area.
I interned with the corporate strategy team at an investment bank later on in the year. This gave me good exposure to strategy consulting and the projects I worked on irked my interest.
I was also working with startups and NGOs as a part of the 180 Degrees Consulting IIT Madras chapter, first as a consultant and then as a Project Lead. This offered me a taste of consulting and I immediately took to it.
Just before beginning my resume writing process, I spoke to a senior who had entered the management consulting space. His description of what the work would entail, the necessary skills, his experience, the perks and the drawbacks as well really resonated with me. That conversation sealed the deal and I plunged into case preparation.
I had a lot of fun while solving cases with friends, consultants from the companies and seniors. I loved the idea of finding solutions to complex, real-life problems in a structured manner. I emulated this in various case contests as well.
So yeah, this is essentially how I worked out my fit with consulting during the placements stage (and I might’ve used one or more points here while answering questions like “Why consulting?” in my interviews).
Personal Highlights of Consulting
Through all these experiences, here are some of the aspects of consulting that I found irresistible:
- I would get to explore different industries and functional areas through multiple projects before figuring out a specific area I want to specialize in.
- I would have the opportunity to learn about a variety of things and that excited me, a knowledge enthusiast.
- A lot of people I looked up to on campus had entered the field of management consulting.
- My personal experiences through projects and internships showed me that this would be something I’d enjoy.
- I am a people person and thoroughly loved the fact that through consulting I’d get to interact with top decision-makers from different fields.
- I’d get to see tangible impact and can contribute to real positive change.
Tips and Recommendations
So, for those of you out there who are confused, here are some tips and factors to think about while exploring consulting preparation:
- Internships and Projects: Explore consulting or related fields through internships and/or projects. Student consulting organizations, business analyst internships at startups, and strategy consulting internships at companies are good options. I’m sure your seniors and mentors will be able to offer granular advice on the same. If you like these internships, great, you might like consulting as well.
- Interactions: Talk to people — seniors, friends, mentors, professors, family members etc. who have direct experience or have deep knowledge of the industry. Understand the pros and cons (this is also very important), the skills and requirements and what the day-to-day job entails. If that excites you, then you might enjoy the field as well.
- Analysing Other Options: Like with any project valuation in finance, it’s important to compare the project under analysis with other options. Explore other areas like investment banking, product management, core jobs, research etc. and see which fits you the best.
- Case Preparation: There was this popular saying while my batch was undergoing case preparation, ‘You’ll know if you’ll like being a consultant based on how much you enjoy case prep.’ And, I do believe this is true to some extent at least. While the job would involve so much more than what one experiences in a 30-minute case, it’s likely that if you hate case solving, you might not enjoy the job as well.
- Skill Set Fit: Again, while I’m not an expert at this, I did learn a lot from seniors and buddies at the three firms (McKinsey, BCG and Bain) regarding what a consultant would have to encounter. Interacting with clients and other stakeholders, drilling down a broad problem statement to find out the root causes, a lot of travelling (sigh, the good ol’ pre-pandemic days), quickly learning and absorbing information are some of the things one must think about.
- Case Prep as a Valuable Skill: I personally learnt a lot during the 4 months of case prep — gained industry knowledge, built structuring skills, honed my communication abilities and built a wonderful network. I believe that these skills and gains will be of immense help wherever you go. Whether you’re sitting for investment banking interviews, participating in case competitions, writing a term paper for a course, or just giving fundaes to juniors, it never hurts to be structured and MECE :)
Stay tuned for the next piece where I’ll share my insights and learnings from the resume shortlisting process.
If you enjoyed this article, do follow Swetha Srinivasan for future editions of the Cracking the Consulting Interview article series. You can also check out my articles on finance and business topics like SPACs, REITs, litigation finance and my cryptocurrency series amongst others. Also, do take a look at my initiative Cracking the Consulting Interview for case solving sessions, case demos and resume reviews.