The recruitment processes differs across firms. You are typically required to first submit a CV and cover letter as part of the online application. It may sometimes also be necessary to answer a few competency questions relating to your motivation or previous experiences. Although not a requirement, having a Master’s degree may prove much more useful in the consulting business than in other finance-related industries. The majority of firms accept applications from candidates who do not intend to complete a postgraduate degree, but some firms (the boutique firms in particular) may have a stronger preference for hiring those that have completed a Master’s degree.
You may be asked to complete online tests. These are typically numerical tests and/or case studies, although some firms may also require you to complete verbal reasoning, logical reasoning and/or e-tray tests. In some cases, you will be asked to visit the firm’s local office in order to sit a particular test and you will then only be invited for further interviews if you were successful as this stage. The tests vary in difficulty. Some may be of a similar level to GMAT (a standardised maths exam that some graduate programs require candidates to take as part of the admissions process), whereas others may be completely different to tests you have taken in the past (for instance, McKinsey’s Problem Solving Test). For these reasons, you should look online to see whether a firm gives an overview of the tests they will require you to complete (some firms may even offer sample tests to help you familiarise yourself with the structure and the content/level of difficulty of a particular test).
Some firms invite successful candidates to undertake a phone interview before deciding whether or not to invite them to the office for a face-to-face assessment day. Many firms require candidates to undertake multiple interviews across different rounds, with employees of differing levels of seniority throughout the process. A typical interview lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour and is often split into the 3 following sections (this however varies depending on the firm you are applying to and the position you are applying for):
You will usually be expected to answer questions that are designed to assess your skills, competencies, strengths, experience, career motivation and firm motivation. More detail on how to answer these questions is provided in the Application, Interview & Internship Handbook (also published by City Career Series).
This is probably the most important part of the interview and tends to take 30-40 minutes (although this can vary). It serves to verify not only your business judgement and commercial knowledge, but also your analytical, numerical and reasoning skills. Through your interaction with the interviewer, you will be tested on your ability to clearly and concisely process information, present ideas, build relationships and think flexibly whilst applying the frameworks explained later on in this handbook.
You should practise case interviews with friends and familiarise yourself with the different types of challenges that firms face. Although there are thousands of case study variations, there are certain types of problems that persist in a majority of interviews. These can typically be tackled using only a few basic case interview frameworks. This handbook focuses primarily on the commercial knowledge and frameworks that you will most likely be expected to apply.
This part of the assessment is typically afforded greater weight in consulting interviews than in interviews for other City careers and typically lasts for 10-15 minutes. This section of the interview gives you the opportunity not only to find out more about the firm and the nature of the job, but also to impress your interviewer with your knowledge, business acumen and intellectual curiosity.
For this reason it is important to do your research and prepare questions well in advance before the interview. If you research (for instance) the firm’s market position and its future growth strategies, you may be able to incorporate this information into your questions and engage with the interview in a meaningful discussion. This could demonstrate your genuine interest in the firm and the quality of your preparation and research.
By Jake Schogger - City Career Series