Cracking the Consulting Interview! Part 6: Interview Day
What should you do a week before the interview? A day before? What should you keep in mind to ensure good performance on interview day? Part 6 of my latest series on cracking MBB interviews.
If you’ve arrived at this article, you’ve either read the previous parts of this series or have skipped one or more of them. That’s cool! But, if you’re interested in preparing for the resume shortlisting + consulting interview process, I highly encourage you to give the previous parts a read. Now, what’s this piece about? The interview, of course.
While your preparation may last anywhere from a few weeks to some months, it all boils down to the interview day. It’s those few hours that have been accorded to you for showcasing all that you’ve worked on until that moment, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. I’ve attended both offline and online interviews throughout my internship and placement processes and this article is a small attempt to share some of my key learnings and tips on how to tackle the interview. So, let’s get started.
What Comprises a Case Interview?
Three sections usually appear in management consulting interviews:
- The Case/Guesstimate: This section typically lasts 15–25 minutes, though it can definitely go above or below this range. I personally had two interviews where my cases went on for 40–50 minutes. The interviewer gives you the problem statement and you collaborate with the interviewer to solve it in a structured manner. If you’d like to know more about this segment, read this article and check out the case demonstrations from my YouTube channel here.
- Personal Interview Questions: Commonly called the HR section, this can last anywhere from 5–15 minutes typically. Sometimes, your entire interview can revolve around this aspect and other times you may not be asked any question on this front as well. This section encompasses questions like “Tell me about yourself” (TMAY), “Why consulting?” etc. If you want to know more about what this section is and how to prepare for the same, do take a look at this article.
- General Awareness: Now, I’m adding this as a separate section as I’ve encountered this in two of my interviews. You may be asked to talk about a specific industry, about something happening around you, general trends and scenes. For example, I was asked to discuss the implications of Covid-19 on India Inc. and the conversation lasted 15–20 minutes. Further, the topic of discussion may stem from a specific internship/project you did, an area you mentioned you enjoyed in your TMAY etc. So, you’d have had ample time to research the field in the months before your interview.
These three sections need not make an appearance in every single one of your interview rounds. But they encompass, to a good extent, what you can expect.
The Week Before the Interview Day
I, personally, am not a fan of last-minute preparation. The week before my interview day, I focused on the following:
- Case and PI Preparation: I engaged in a light revision of cases I’d solved in the past and did quick run-throughs of personal interview questions. I also continued the practice of keeping abreast of current affairs and updates.
- Logistics: This is very important. As my MBB interviews happened virtually due to the pandemic, I fixed up my internet, checked various devices, acquired backup options for both connectivity and devices, cleared my workspace, set my stationery and attire. I engaged in some video calls with seniors from the firm to ensure my camera positioning, acoustics, lighting and backgrounds looked alright.
- Relaxation: I personally value this a lot before the interview, the importance of having a clear head. Listen to music, watch something you like (Don’t opt for a complete binge though!), talk to family, tell yourself that you’ve prepared well and are ready for the interview. Further, ensure that you take care of your body by eating healthy.
Interview Day — General Tips
- Don’t rush at the last moment to get ready. You don’t want to be a nervous wreck.
- Ensure neat and formal attire and appearance.
- Keep adequate papers and stationery at hand, you never know when you’ll have to do a very long case.
- Keep a few copies of your resume with you.
- Remain calm and collaborate with the interviewer. Remember that he/she is present to guide you through tricky spots in a case.
- Confidence is key.
- Regarding food and drink, follow what’s comfortable for you.
Interview Day — Tips for Online Interviews
- In case you’re interviewing online, keep the resume easily accessible so that you can send it to the interviewer or share your screen if necessary.
- For online interviews, ensure a clear desktop homepage and don’t open unnecessary tabs.
- Sit in a quiet venue and avoid distractions as much as possible.
- Position your camera appropriately. Make sure the interviewer can see and hear you clearly.
- While talking to the interviewer, do look at the camera now and then and try to make eye contact.
- If you find your own video distracting, feel free to cover the tile with a sticky note.
- Don’t panic in the event of internet disruption. Keep a contact (HR, buddy from the firm etc.) handy and inform them immediately. They will understand and arrange for an alternate mode to continue the interview.
- An online interview takes away your ability to easily show the structures that you draw for case solving. If you are used to writing on a tab with a stylus, you can consider sharing your screen. For the pen and paper mode, you can use darker and thicker pens and show your structure to the interviewer via the camera if the interviewer for it. Sometimes, you might be asked to send images of your working sheets after the interview, so ensure neatness while writing.
- Communication becomes even more important during virtual interviews. Articulate your thoughts clearly, convey your structures comprehensively and pause now and then to ensure that the interviewer has heard you and there’s no internet disruption.
- Try not to enter meeting rooms which you’re not supposed to enter. This might happen due to errors in finding the right links and stress, but do be vigilant.
- Listen to music, read a book, and relax between interviews. Don’t waste time and energy dissecting your past performance. Just focus on what’s next.
These are some of the tips that helped me and that I picked up following my personal experience with MBB interviews. Now, while this is in no way a comprehensive list, I do hope that this helps you in some form to tackle the interviews better. If you’re feeling jittery before your interview, don’t worry. That’s normal and common. And I can attest to the fact that despite hearing numerous variants of the “Be calm” phrase from well-wishers, the nerves and the excitement don’t vanish completely. That’s okay too, it does keep you on your toes. Just don’t let it get in the way of you doing your best :)
If you enjoyed this article, do follow Swetha Srinivasan. You can also check out my articles on finance and business topics like SPACs, REITs, litigation finance, my cryptocurrency series amongst others. This will greatly help in building your industry knowledge. Also, do take a look at my initiative Cracking the Consulting Interview for case solving sessions, case videos and resume reviews.