Ever thought about how Indian School of Business (ISB) was set-up OR how Zomato was born? Ever imagined helping a company decide which liquor brand should be placed where OR working pro-bono to help provide basic facilities to the underprivileged?
When I first heard about management consulting, I instantly knew this is where I wanted to be. The freedom you get to define your career path once you step into consulting is tremendous!
The most common management consulting firms out there are McKinsey and Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain and Company, A.T. Kearney, EY-Parthenon, Strategy&, etc.
Most of these firms have a similar recruitment process wherein firstly they shortlist your CV. Post that, some of these firms have what is called a ‘buddy process’ (discussed in detail later) and then, there are typically 2 to 4 rounds of interviews lined up.
A wholesome profile is what consulting firms are usually looking for. What do we really mean by wholesome? By what I have observed amongst my colleagues, a CV is generally measured in ‘spikes’ and ‘highs’. A ‘spike’ accounts generally if you outperformed in some field of work, be it academia, event management, social impact, start-up, etc. Trust me, I have seen a plethora of varying profiles being shortlisted. My advice: rather than worrying about having enough credentials and accolades to your name, focus more on preparing a decent, impressive CV, one that is devoid of any stupid grammatical errors and pleasing to the eye. Also, get your CV reviewed by people. It definitely helps! Don’t hesitate at all to reach out to your friends and seniors.
As soon as your resume gets shortlisted, you are assigned buddies, who are basically employees from the firm you are shortlisted for. They are to guide and help you prepare for the case interviews. You will be practising the best cases with these brilliant people, hands down! Never shy away from reaching out to them. Personally, I wouldn’t be in such a firm had it not been for their support. Now, some consulting firms like Auctus Advisors keep these buddy interviews evaluative. They generally rank the candidates to prepare a ‘hot list’ as to the order in which to interview them. So, better take them seriously.
Undoubtedly the most important part of the whole procedure, a typical interview process has an HR interview and a case interview – which may be a business situation or an estimation question. Normally, an interviewer will be testing you on problem-solving, leadership, entrepreneurial drive and personal impact.
Starting with case interviews
So, every other senior you go to suggests you to start your preparation with the world famous Victor Cheng videos (available on Youtube). If you ask why, you generally get the response that they will help you “get a feel” of case interviews. No doubt, they do. As a matter of fact, Mr. Victor Cheng is himself a former McKinsey & Company management consultant and is the founder of caseinterview.com, one of the most prominent blogs on management consulting industry.
Step II is commonly Marc Cosentino’s Case in Point. Different people use this book in different ways. This book covers a whole range of topics from the basics of interviews to the common consulting buzzwords. The problem is you can’t cover all of it and honestly, there is no need to do that too as it will restrict your innovativeness. I personally used this book to get a hang of frameworks.
What are frameworks?
Frameworks are the basic structures that facilitate you in making your approach to the case MECE (Mutually Exclusive Completely Exhaustive). They are usually the core of case interviews. Indispensable. Inevitable. Consider a problem where a chips manufacturing company has been incurring losses and wants you to figure out why. A basic framework for such a problem can be-
A case broadly has three aspects to it. The first is where you understand the problem and ask questions to clarify the objective and gain preliminary information. The second and the most crucial part is to structure down the problem and analyse information (like shown above). Finally, the recommendations and your own innovative inputs to the case close a case. Now, it is very important to understand that you can not “learn” each and every part of it. As is usually said, there is always some part of the solution that comes naturally to you. This is definitely not an intimidating statement but might help you in a reality-check once in a while.
Let’s discuss each of these in detail:
The preliminary questions reveal your basic business sense. Mostly you get a single statement to begin your case with. For example: Company ABC, a chips manufacturing company, has been facing losses. They want you to identify problems and recommend solutions.
Now, you can not solve the case without knowing where the company is based out of, how bad the losses have been, how long they have been facing the losses etc. In short, you are supposed to grasp the context before you move on towards solving the problem. There is no specific defined algorithm for the same. But it is important not to lose on important insight from these questions. Some amount of practice will help you organise your preliminary questions well.
The most important aspect of the cases is your structure and analysis of the problem. As you go along reviewing theory and practicing cases, you will learn several frameworks. Some typical frameworks being profit-loss framework, 3C 1P (Company, Customer, Competitor, Product) framework and market-entry framework. But these bookish frameworks should only act as a guiding path for you. Make sure to devise your own personal frameworks as you improve. This will not only help you deal with a wider set of problems but also give a personal touch to your interview.
What follows is closing the case where you give your insights and recommendations. This part of the case has the potential to make you stand out. Your innovative solutions draw from your personal pool of knowledge and world exposure. Make sure to leave an impact here. Although it is not recommended to have an in-depth knowledge of all industries but having some insight would do you no harm. Wharton Consulting Club Casebook or Kellogg Casebook do a good job at briefly introducing the reader to several industries.
You should have thorough understanding of all that you have written on your resume. Your stories and experiences should have layers of unfolding to them. The interviewers enjoy digging deeper if they find something exciting. It is a good practice to list down several stories from your life and use them when and where needed. However, you can never fully prepare for the HR questions and it will ultimately be your presence of mind that will get you through.
All in all, consulting firms expect a holistic personality. Do the best you can do to reflect yourself and you will be good.