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How to handle the stress of consulting interviews

Most candidates find interviewing with top management consulting firms intimidating. These are prestigious institutions known for their ruthless selection process and incredibly high bar for entry.

While it’s natural to feel a little anxious in the run-up to an interview at a top consulting firm, you need to ensure that your nerves don’t get the better of you. Management consultants interact with clients at every level from the shop floor to the C-suite, and your interviewer will want to make sure that you have the confidence and credibility to represent the firm in this context. If you seem stressed or intimidated by the interview, your interviewer will seriously question your ability to do well on the job.

In this article, we share six strategies that you can use to both handle the pressures of preparing for a case interview and manage your nerves on the day.

1. Practice interviews to build confidence

Preparing for consulting interviews is no walk in the park; it requires consistent and dedicated learning and practice. When it comes to building your confidence, nothing can beat practicing live cases with a partner. In fact, most candidates who go on to receive an offer from a top consulting firm like McKinsey, BCG or Bain complete at least 25 live practice sessions before their interview.

At CaseCoach we can connect you with a diverse community of fellow candidates who are all available for case interview practice in our Practice Room. In each session, you’ll play the role of both the interviewer and the interviewee. This will help you to build your confidence and gain a robust understanding of the assessment dimensions.

Looking for the best preparation to ace your case interviews?
CaseCoach’s Interview Prep Course includes all the video lectures, sample interviews, case material and practice tools you need.

2. Get familiar with your target firm and its people before your interview

A lot of the fear faced by candidates comes from a lack of familiarity with both the firm they have applied to, and the people they expect to interact with throughout the interview process. The only way to remedy this is to get familiar with the firm and the people you’re likely to meet.

You can do this through online research and by reading material shared by your recruiter. Recruiting events are another great way to get to know both the firm and its people (including, with a bit of luck, your future interviewers). Speak to consultants at recruiting events to find out as much as possible before your interviews.

3. Remember that the interviewer is on your side

Some candidates think that their consulting interviewers will try to trip them up throughout the interview as a means of testing them. This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Your interviewers want you to succeed. There is nothing worse for an interviewer than spending the day interviewing candidates and having no offers to make at the end of it.

While your interviewers might challenge you, they generally do this to see how far you can go with your answer, and to give you the opportunity to shine. If you stumble, you can trust that they will do everything they can to help you get back on your feet.

4. Do mock interviews in a realistic setting

The more exposure you can gain to the case interview environment, the less anxious you will feel on the day and the better you will perform. To this end, many candidates choose to supplement their preparations by enlisting the services of a coach who can help them practice their interview skills in a realistic environment.

Our coaches are all former consultants and interviewers who have been handpicked from among the alumni of top firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain. As well as taking you through mock interviews and providing you with feedback, our coaches can also share tips for managing stress and making sure your nerves don’t get the better of you.

5. “Fake it ‘til you make it” with visualization

In the days leading up to your case interview, take some time to visualize the outcome you want to achieve. Picture yourself developing a great rapport with your interviewer, nailing the cases, and walking out of the building feeling happy and proud of yourself.

While visualization might not sound like a particularly practical strategy, it’s a well-known confidence-building technique that’s used extensively by elite athletes.

In conjunction with the other tactics we’ve recommended here, visualization can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to handling pre-interview nerves. When you’ve spent time picturing yourself feeling calm and confident, you’ll be surprised at how easily it can happen in reality.

6. Focus on the positives

Finally, if you’re struggling with nerves on the day of your consulting interview, avoid dwelling on its potentially life-changing nature. Instead, focus on the opportunity it gives you to meet fascinating people and solve fun cases. This should help you to both relax and lead the case in a positive and engaging way.

Feeling stressed about an upcoming interview at a top consulting firm like McKinsey, BCG or Bain? Our Interview Prep Course is designed to teach you how to tackle each dimension of the case and fit interviews. The course contains all the video lectures, sample interviews, case material, and practice tools you’ll need to ace any case interview.

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