The top three consulting firms interview smart and well-prepared candidates all the time. Sadly, many fail to get an offer. They’ve put in the hours. They can structure most case questions. Their math is spotless. They have compelling stories to tell. Still, they fail.
You don’t want to be one of them.
Top consulting firms have the good fortune of receiving over 100 applications for every recruitment slot. They don’t need to hire candidates who merely tick all the boxes. They have the luxury of choosing only those who excel above the rest.
So, how can you stand out?
To answer that question, you need to understand that most hiring decisions are made through a discussion among your interviewers.
Why a discussion?
The interviewers rarely agree on their assessment of a candidate.
You might nail the math in one case but not the other, have great ideas on one topic but not another, or feel nervous in one interview and at ease in the next. Different interviewers might also have different ways to assess candidates.
How is it settled?
Candidates who do well but don’t have at least one clear supporter among their interviewers get rejected. Candidates who might not have done as well overall, but managed to have one of their interviewers pound the table for them, get the offer.
Sound unfair? It is.
So, how do you get an interviewer excited?
Interviewers don’t get excited because a candidate is great at structuring, can do amazing mental math or is able to come up with a great synthesis. Make no mistake, these dimensions are must-haves but they are unlikely to make you stand out.
Instead, there are four recurring strengths that get interviewers excited about candidates:
- Showing outstanding insights and creativity by sharing spot-on insights—particularly early in the case—or ideas the interviewer has never heard before
- Actually leading the case by sharing a well-structured plan to solve the case from the get-go, following through on that plan, proactively linking findings to the case question, and suggesting next steps
- Having an impressive background, extraordinary achievements, or compelling expertise that distinguishes them from the crowd
- Leaving a great impression on the interviewers by not only having great presence and communication but also by connecting with them on a personal level
So how do you get that done?
You need to have the right mindset on the day. First, you need to focus on cracking the case, not on putting together a great structure or on nailing the maths. Instead, you need to keep your eyes on the ball. If you do that, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to drive the case and generate plenty of insights along the way.
This is impossible to do unless you’re at an advanced stage of your preparation and you’ve done at least 25 live case interviews with other candidates or interviewers.
Why? Because learning comes in stages.
In the first stage, you’re learning the skills being tested and you’re learning what you have to do in a case overall.
The second stage will be learning how to nail every aspect of the case interview. This will likely take doing 15 to 20 mock interviews. When you’re at that stage and you do a case, your attention tends to be focused on doing well on each individual part of the case.
The last stage is when all of these aspects are internalized and you can go through them with your eyes closed. At that stage, you won’t need to think anymore about what frameworks to use or how you should organize your paper for a math question. Your mind will be entirely focused on cracking the case itself.
This is when you’re going to be truly able to lead the case and generate amazing insights.
In addition to being focused on cracking the case, you need to focus on the fact that you’re going to meet some really exceptional and interesting people. This frame of mind will help you connect and be curious about them, and will help you land the offer.
Don’t forget you can receive personalised coaching with one of our former consultants to help you nail all the case skills and stand out on the day.