As a consultant candidate, no matter if you are an industry hire, a MBA or an experienced consultant (senior consultant, associate partner/principle consultant), you will still be tested in case interviews for your analytical skills and your approach to solving problems.
Your experience doesn’t matter so much in order to pass the case interview because consulting companies want to know how you think, how you solve problems.
However, your experience matters in the selection process for an interview.
So, you have 2 challenges: get an interview and pass the case interview.
In this article I will show you a method that allows you to avoid the recruitment system, with no networking and that you can use to prove your analytical skills, your approach to solving problems, that you are genuine during the process and are the right candidate for the consulting job you want.
But first, let’s see why you should avoid the traditional recruitment system.
The 1st challenge: Get an interview
When you apply for a consulting job, it is not a question of having the right qualifications or not because consulting is a very competitive environment in terms of getting a job. Most of the candidates are qualified this is already a basic requirement. So, your chances for being selected for an interview decrease significantly.
At this point, you need to make your resume stand out by having a better layout, summarize and articulate your qualifications, skills and results in order to pass the screening process etc.
But this is also something most of competent candidates do. Hence, it is not enough to stand out from the crowd. That is why it is highly advisable to do networking in addition to submitting your resume.
So, you need to invest a lot of time, effort and maybe also money to craft a professional resume and cover letter and interact with key people that can make it easier for you to get an interview. This is the best approach for most of the candidates. If you go with the traditional application, you will go with the crowd and this decreases your chances to get an interview.
The 2nd challenge: Passing the case interview
Case interviews are made to simulate the real environment and conditions of a consulting job.
The ideal way to see if someone is a perfect match for a job, is to observe the actual person at work. Since this is not possible, consulting companies created case interviews that simulate the job.
A job implies working with team mates, dealing with a real client that has real problems, finding data and facts about the company, doing onsite visits in order to assess the problem, the situation more accurately etc. In addition, as a senior consultant or principal consultant, you are expected at least to generate leads and/or also to have sales skills, depending on the job you apply for.
The case interview: the real client is replaced by an interviewer and the team mate with another candidate. Since you don’t have weeks in order to find all the relevant facts for solving a problem, you are expected to make assumptions and your own hypothesis in order to find a solution to a business case. This is because what it matters the most is your approach to solve problems, how you use facts and assumptions to build an argument and articulate a situation in order to find an answer. If you do it right, you will pass the interview because it is likely you will also apply the same mindset on your day to day job with real clients.
Overall, in this context, it is difficult, but you still need to stand out and prove your problem solving skills, especially because it is a very competitive environment.
That is why it is better if you redirect the same time and effort you spend competing against the crowd and invest them in a far more efficient approach that nobody does (no competition). But this will make you stand out and prove yourself for the consulting company that you can accomplish the responsibilities of the job because this is the purpose of all the complicated recruitment system and case interviews.
So, what is the best way to prove your relevance for the job? The best way is to deal with a real potential client that has a real problem. So, you will simulate both the job and the case interview in a REAL set up.
This will make you stand out from the rest of the candidates and become absolutely credible.
Overall is about solving a REAL business case by meeting the selection criteria for the job: use some facts, make assumptions, ask questions, use your analytical thinking, focus on logical arguments that support your solution, prove you are an independent problem solver, take charge of the situation.
Solving a real problem and deal with a real potential client is relevant because:
you will proceed like in a case interview: you won’t try to find an accurate solution, but you will focus on the mindset and process for solving a business problem.
It is a more efficient alternative to prepare for case interviews
You will avoid the crowd and competition from the resume selection process and stand out
You just redirect all your time, effort and focus on a far more efficient direction that increases your chances considerably to get a job that nobody does it.
This will make you stand out because you will look more credible, genuine in your approach and prove that you are an independent problem solver. In addition with this method, you will also accomplish something that no candidate does with the traditional approach, namely generate a lead.
If you are skeptical about it, you can look at it as another way of doing quality networking.
Choose the company you want to work with according to your expertise and the client’s profile of the company.
I mention above that you will try to solve a real business case. So, according to the client’s profile your targeted company has, you will choose a company for your business case.
For example, if the company you want to work for targets retailers, then you will choose a retailer.
Research the company: during the case interview this is the step where you have to ask questions to find out additional data about the situation presented by the interviewer.
In this case, you will do your own research about the retailer by visiting their website, searching on Google, looking for interviews in media etc.
Visit the business activity: this is an activity that you will perform only during the job you want to get. The case interview doesn’t include it, so it doesn’t give you the opportunity to prove your observation, selective and analytical skills in this real situation.
During your job, the client will allow you to visit the business activity. But, in this case, you haven’t won the client yet.
So, you will adjust an official on-site visit by becoming a client in order to observe the serving process and get insight about the business activity and model of the company while you are buying their product or service. So, you will buy a product, request assistance for service, ask questions, interact with the staff and make phone calls if necessary, allow yourself to become subjective and get in the shoes of a real client even though, you are prospecting a company and potential client.
This way you will get additional information to the actual research you have made.
Make assumptions: this is a step that you are allowed and required to make during a case interview. This is because you don’t have enough data and facts about the problem you have to solve and because you have to prove your systematic, critical and analytical thinking.
In this situation it is the same: based on your data and facts that you found out from your research and from being a client, you will make assumptions in order to be able to draw a bigger picture, to wrap up the situation of the company. You don’t have enough time and data in order to find an accurate solution.
Identify a possible and relevant challenge or opportunity the retailer has and they are not aware of or that they haven’t found a solution for. During the case interview, this is something the interviewer asks you directly and that you build your assumptions and gather data on.
In reality, on your day to day job, even if the client comes with a problem he wants to solve, you still have to investigate the request at a deeper level in order to find the relevant cause, information and data to efficiently solve the problem.
In this case, you will look and analyse the data you have researched, the observations and information you collected as client and the assumptions you have made about the business or situation and find a challenge or opportunity the business has.
Find a solution: this the final answer that you will support with the data, facts, assumptions, implications you have made and also with the principles and expertise you have in your field.
Both in the case interview and this situation, the solution itself is not important. The way you present it is the most relevant, the way you articulate it and understand the situation and implications behind it.
Contact decision makers: at this point you will set a meeting with the manager of the retailer in order to present your solution. You will tell them you are client and have identified a problem with their service or product and that you have a solution for it.
During the meeting you will present your case the way you do it as a consultant: tell the way you see their situation and problem or opportunity according to your research, client experience and present your arguments for the solution.
The client will have objections and questions about your solution. But it is not a problem because you will sell yourself and your expertise by presenting your mindset behind the solution and your approach to solving a problem. This means that you make a valuable contact and generate a lead.
Contact the consulting company: now you go the consulting company you, find the interviewers or other relevant decision makers and tell them you have generated a lead, a prospect client for the consulting company and you want to present their case.
When I applied this method, I got job offers on the spot.
In consultancy, the worse case would be that you still have to go through case interviews because they have to check you on more criteria: observe you how you work under pressure, team work and for consistency.
But definitely you will make it easier for you to get hired in a way nobody does it because you will stand out, apply the same criteria as in case interviews and generate a lead during the process.