The 16 Best Questions to Ask in a Consulting Interview
You may think that the consulting interview is over once you finish the case interview, but asking questions at the end of the interview is another opportunity to leave a positive and memorable impression.
By the end of this article, you’ll know the eight best questions to ask in a consulting interview to give yourself an edge over the competition.
Why You Should Ask Questions in a Consulting Interview
There are three goals you should have for any consulting interview:
- Demonstrate that you have the skills and qualities for the job
- Show that you are genuinely interested in consulting and the firm
- Connect and bond with the interviewer so they have a positive and memorable impression of you
Solving case interviews achieves the first goal.
Answering the “why consulting” question achieves the second goal.
Asking questions at the end of the consulting interview is the only opportunity to connect with the interviewer on a more personal level. It is the only time when you can ask almost any question that you want. It is also another opportunity to show how interested you are in consulting and in the firm you are interviewing for.
Asking the right questions can leave the interviewer with a positive and memorable impression of you. Asking the wrong questions can leave the interviewer with a negative impression.
Candidates spend hundreds of hours preparing for case interviews, but most candidates spend less than 10 minutes preparing what questions they want to ask. This is surprising because almost every interviewer will try to leave time at the end of the interview for questions, so you know this situation is going to happen.
Therefore, investing thirty minutes or an hour to identify the best questions to ask is surely worth it if you are already spending hundreds of hours preparing for case interviews.
Ready to learn the best questions to ask in a consulting interview? Let’s get started.
What Questions to Ask in a Consulting Interview
There are two categories of questions you should ask:
- Asking personalized questions focused on the interviewer
- Asking intelligent questions focused on consulting or the firm
Each category has its own goal or objective.
Asking Personalized Questions Focused on the Interviewer
The goal of asking personalized questions focused on the interviewer is to connect and bond with the interviewer. The more the interviewer likes you, the more likely they are to pass you onto the next round or give you a job offer.
So how do you get the interviewer to like you?
One of the simplest ways to do this is to express genuine interest in the interviewer’s career and life. It is human nature for people to enjoy talking about themselves.
If you ask personalized questions to the interviewer to get them to talk about their work and life experiences, they will naturally have a tendency to have a positive impression of you.
The key to this strategy is that you need to actively listen when the interviewer is answering your question and be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
Here are eight of the best personal questions you can ask:
- What was the most challenging case that you worked on?
- What has been your favorite case so far?
- What do you enjoy the most and the least about your job?
- Looking back at your first year in consulting, what would you have done differently?
- Do you plan on staying in consulting for the foreseeable future? Or do you have any ideas on what you would like to do next?
- I noticed that you have a very interesting career background. I would love to understand how you got to the point in your career today.
- How did you become interested in consulting?
- How did you choose the industry or specialty that you are currently in?
If possible, you should prioritize asking personal questions to the interviewer. Asking questions at the end of a consulting interview is the only opportunity to develop a deeper and closer relationship with the interviewer.
Asking Intelligent Questions Focused on Consulting or the Firm
There may be times when the interviewer does not like talking about themselves or sharing their personal experiences. There may also be times when you feel that you have not communicated strongly enough your interest in consulting and the firm.
In either of these situations, it may be better to ask the second category of questions: intelligent questions focused on consulting or the firm.
The goal of asking these types of questions is to demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in consulting and the firm.
Here are eight of the best questions to ask:
- What are attributes or qualities of the most successful consultants?
- What advice would you give to an incoming consultant?
- What do you see as the biggest opportunities or challenges for the company?
- How do the core values of the firm impact how the firm’s employees work with each other and clients?
- Can you speak more to the culture of this particular office? How does it differ from other offices, if at all?
- What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about consulting?
- What should a new consultant expect to accomplish in their first year?
- I’m really interested in [specific industry, function, or program], can you speak to the opportunities to get more involved?
Tips for Asking Questions in Consulting Interviews
1. Focus on asking personal questions focused on the interviewer: Remember that personal questions focused on the interviewer are the best types of questions to ask to get the interviewer to like you.
In most cases, you don’t need to ask intelligent questions focused on consulting or the firm to impress the interviewer with how much research you have done.
Interviewers will likely spend the entire day interviewing people and answering questions regarding consulting and their firm, so personal questions give the interviewer a nice break from answering the same questions over and over again.
2. Practice active listening: After you ask your question, don’t just zone out. Practice active listening by giving the interviewer eye contact, occasionally nodding that you understand, and giving your genuine reactions to what the interviewer is saying.
Sending these affirmative signals to the interviewer while they are answering your question will make it more likely that they have a positive impression of you. Everyone loves a good listener.
3. Ask follow-up questions: After the interviewer has finished answering your question, don’t just move onto asking another question. Instead, try to ask a follow-up question to go into more detail on the interviewer’s answer.
Asking follow-up questions shows that you are genuinely interested in what the interviewer has to say and that you have been listening closely.
4. Make it a conversation: You don’t want to be asking so many questions that the interviewer feels like they are being interviewed. Instead, try to turn the dialogue into a conversation.
After the interviewer has finished answering your question, don’t always jump right into asking another question. Share an interesting short story or experience with the interviewer that is relevant. Express your opinion or beliefs on the topic.
This can be an opportunity for you and the interviewer to discover commonalities. The more commonalities you show with the interviewer, the more likely they are to like you.
What Questions NOT to Ask in a Consulting Interview
Below are the types of questions you should absolutely avoid asking in a case interview.
1. Not asking any questions: Probably the biggest mistake you can make is not asking any questions when given the opportunity. This may lead the interviewer to think that you are not interested in the company or the job.
The only time it is acceptable to not ask any questions is if the interviewer mentions that they are running behind schedule or that they have emails that they need to catch up on.
If this is the case, you should mention to the interviewer that you have questions you’d like to ask, but understand that the interviewer is running behind schedule and may not have the time to answer them.
The interviewer will either tell you that they have time to answer one or two questions or will tell you that they appreciate your thoughtfulness and need to end the interview.
2. Asking questions you can easily find on Google: Don’t ask questions that you can easily get the answer to by doing a quick internet search.
These questions show that you have not done even basic research on the firm, which is an indicator that you may not be interested in working at the firm.
Additionally, these questions may suggest that you are lazy and not thoughtful. You are essentially wasting the interviewer’s time by asking questions that can be answered on your own.
3. Asking “yes” or “no” questions: Ideally, the questions you ask in a consulting interview will lead to a memorable conversation between you and the interviewer.
Asking questions that can be answered simply with a “yes” or “no” makes it much more difficult to turn into a conversation.
Additionally, these questions do not give the interviewer an opportunity to talk about themselves. Remember that the more the interviewer talks about themselves, the more likely they are to have a positive impression of you.
4. Asking questions that assume you will get the job: Don’t ask questions that assume that you will get the job. For example, avoid questions such as:
- What would the compensation be?
- What would the case staffing process look like?
- How do I ensure that I get on a case that I like?
- What are the different options for onboarding training?
- How likely is it to do an office transfer after one or two years?
These questions may leave a negative impression on the interviewer. They may think that you are arrogant or too confident that you will get a job offer.
5. Asking controversial or touchy questions: Avoid asking any questions that may make the interviewer uncomfortable to answer. For example, if the firm recently had a scandal or a series of layoffs, it is better that you avoid these topics.
Also avoid discussion topics on controversial issues that may offend people. If you think there is even a small chance that the interviewer may be offended, ask a different question or bring up a different topic.
6. Asking questions that are too difficult to answer: Finally, avoid asking questions that are difficult to answer. Interviewers spend an entire day interviewing candidates, which is extremely tiring.
The last thing they want to answer is a complex, hypothetical question on whether artificial intelligence or machine learning will eventually replace consultants.
Keep your questions simple, but thoughtful. Ask them questions they can easily answer without thinking too hard, such as questions on their work and life experiences.
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