Getting a Consulting Job: How to Prepare and What to Expect

Axel Barbará, SCM Class of 2015
Axel Barbará, SCM Class of 2015

Michael Tully, SCM Class of 2016
Michael Tully, SCM Class of 2016

Editor’s Note: Axel is an international student from Argentina, where he completed his MBA. Mike is a former U.S. Army officer and worked in the medical device industry before coming to MIT.

The first thing to bear in mind is that applying for consulting roles requires more effort than any other interview preparation, and it cannot be done half-heartedly. When you’re contemplating applying for consulting roles, be really sure that you know what you are getting yourself into: consulting can be very stressful, and demands a significant amount of time and travel.

Below are some tips and tricks for any current/ prospective students on how to best prepare for applying for consulting positions:

  • Know the format. Consulting firms use case interviews to analyze a candidate’s business acumen, analytical skills, thought process, and ability to prioritize and process large quantities of information quickly. These case interviews are generally 45-60 minutes in length and begin with the interviewer presenting a business scenario. The candidate then works through a series of questions (both theoretical and quantitative in nature) to arrive at a final solution. The case interview will almost always include some sort of data interpretation (e.g. reviewing charts, etc.) and raw quantitative computations.
  • Start early. Almost everyone who arrives to the MIT SCM Program’s orientation period having already prepared, or at least having practiced with several live cases, manages to get one or more offers in consulting. Although there are cases where people only start preparing once they arrive at MIT and still manage to get a consulting job, my advice would be to begin beforehand.
  • Get help. Consulting interview preparation is not something that can be done alone. Find resources (books, videos, etc.), network with consultants, try to familiarize yourself with as many live cases as possible, and find buddies to prepare cases and compare notes with. Being collaborative will get you very far with the interview preparation and in the program in general.
  • Attend company presentations. Attending company presentations will help you network with consultants and get an idea of how the company operates. In consulting, the presentation is the product. If you don’t like it, you may want to consider different companies.
  • Prepare for the behavioral interview as much as the cases. Consulting companies will consider the behavioral interview and case interview nearly equally, and it will be the interviewing skills of the former that translate the most to non-consulting industry interviews.
  • Practice your mental math. This is a good skill to have in general. With some simple tricks and some practice, you can achieve some impressively fast mental calculus that will stick with you and be helpful in other scenarios.
  • Do not completely rely on someone else’s opinion of a company. Find out for yourself which ones you like the best. My personal perception changed dramatically once I started going to the presentations and interacting with the companies.
  • Enjoy it. Although it may be tedious at times, consulting preparation should also be fun – if you do not enjoy the preparation or the interviews, the job may not be for you.

To sum it up, I want to repeat myself – Start early! Do not underestimate the workload at MIT. Keep all of this in mind, and begin your preparation before your arrival at MIT so you can hit the ground running.

Getting a Consulting Job: How to Prepare and What to Expect

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