At the end of a consulting interview you normally have a few minutes to ask questions to your interviewer. The questions you ask are not formally assessed but they will contribute towards making the interviewer excited (or not!) about you.
Remember that your interviewer is, in fact, believe it or not, a real human! Although they may be assuming the role of ‘scary interviewer’ with you, they’re likely experiencing a full day of interviews (tiring!) or a full day of client work (still tiring!) in between, so asking tasking questions that are not well thought through is not going to make them your number one fan.
When it comes to asking your interviewer questions, you want to be mindful that they connect you with your interviewer on a more personal level or help you stand out by demonstrating your motivation.
Questions to avoid asking
Before we cover the questions you should ask an interviewer, it’s worth noting the questions you really shouldn’t ask. You’d think some of this would be obvious, but a surprising number of candidates still put their foot in it.
One of the worst questions you can ask is inviting the interviewer to talk about the negative parts of their job or the firm. Don’t ask about how hard they work or the latest scandal hitting the firm!
Similarly, you should avoid challenging your interviewer, for instance by asking why you should join that specific firm over one of its competitors.
Another type of question to avoid is anything factual that could be answered by reviewing the website. This makes you look unprepared and wastes the interviewer’s time.
Finally, you should definitely avoid asking how you did in the interview at the end! At best, this makes everyone awkward and at worse it makes you look desperate and ruins a strong performance.
Instead, ask questions that achieve one of two things: builds a connection with your interviewer or demonstrates your motivation to join the firm.
Questions to build a connection
To prepare relevant connection-building questions, arrive at least 15 minutes early, read the short bios that are provided about each of your interviewers, spot what you have in common with them, and use that for your questions.
For example, if they went to the same university, studied a similar subject, or worked at a similar employer, you could ask how they found their transition to consulting given this background. You can even ask about hobbies and sport interests you share. If they see you as a younger version of themselves, they might want to take you under their wing.
Questions to demonstrate your motivation
If the interviewer has experience in an industry you’re interested in and know a lot about, then ask them about it. This will help to show your motivation to do that kind of work in the future.
You can also do your homework and find out about the industries covered by the office where you’re applying. By looking at the trends in those industries you can have discussion topics on hand if your interviewer specialises in any of them. This allows you to demonstrate your interest in the type of work they do.
Don’t fret if there isn’t an opportunity to demonstrate your motivation in this way or if you don’t have anything in common with your interviewer. You can always ask general questions about their experience at the firm: What surprised them the most when they joined?, Do they have any advice for new joiners?, What types of projects do they enjoy the most? These are all great questions to ask. By asking positive questions about themselves and their experience they will feel the same way about your interactions.
Overall, remember that the interview is an opportunity to meet someone impressive and to get to know them. By being curious about them you’ll get out of the interviewer and interviewee dynamic and help the interviewer like you as a person. All of this will help them answer the question of “would I want this person on my team?” This plays an important role in deciding whether to give you the job or not.
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