Researching consulting firms: what do you need to ask?

THIS article looks at some of the questions that you should consider asking in your consulting case interview. After reading this article and one of my previous articles on researching for your consulting case interview, make sure to access the practice case interview questions.

Questions, everyone’s asking them

Preparing a resume, and building a personal story, is one of the first and most important steps in applying for a job. This kind of preparation helps you answer your interviewers questions, “Who are you? And, why should we hire you?”

The reason your interviewer will ask so many questions is because they are trying to get to know you, and to decide whether they want to hire you. Consulting firms invest a lot of time and money in their employees. So, hiring the wrong person is a costly mistake.

Consulting firms will ask a lot of questions, and so should you. You can only begin your career once, so you want to start out on the right foot. Some of the reasons why you need to research your potential future employer are outlined in the article “Researching consulting firms: what do you need to know?”.

Whatever you are looking for in a consulting job, asking questions is the best way to go about finding the firm that is right for you. For example, asking questions will help you find the firm that:

  • interests you,
  • inspires you,
  • suits your lifestyle and family needs,
  • will help you achieve your current goals, or
  • will give you the skills and experience you need to move on to the next big thing.

Some questions to ask

Here is a list of 7 questions that you might want to ask. You could ask these questions in your interview, or try to answer them for yourself by doing some pre-interview research:

  1. What kind of consulting projects does the firm normally work on? For example, does the firm deal with high level strategy? Does the firm work primarily with particular industries?
  2. Do associates work on more than one project at the same time? The answer to this question will help you understand whether the firm will give you depth or breadth of experience. For example, McKinsey and Booz Allen Hamilton normally assign their associates to a single project at a time, providing associates with depth of experience.
  3. Do project teams include both consultants and full-time client members? Try to get an idea of how much client contact you can expect to have.
  4. What is the size of a typical project team? Some consulting firms use a lowly leveraged structure. That is, one partner will work on a project team with one or two other consultants. This kind of firm will give you more exposure to clients and more interaction with the partner.
  5. What is the travel model? Think about how much travel you want to do. Booz Allen Hamilton, and McKinsey typically keep their consultants on client site four days a week.
  6. Does the consulting firm have offices worldwide? If so, there may be opportunities to work overseas.
  7. At what level do consultants begin to specialize by industry, function, or geographic expertise? That is, for how long will you be able to remain a generalist before specialising in a particular practice area or industry group.

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