TAG | behavioral interview
Here are questions you will most definitely receive in the behavioral interview. This breaks down each question into what exactly is the interviewer looking for and the key points you should hit to make sure the interviewer can see you are a good fit. Here are some general rules:
- Answers should be concise! Ideal answers are around 1:30 to 2 min.
- Even fit questions require structure. More on this within each question below.
1. Tell me about yourself
Most interviews will open with this question. You need to make use of this opportunity to tell your story. What the interviewer is really asking with this question is:
- Why are you here today? (Why are you interviewing with our firm specifically?)
- What are your goals? (What is it that you can gain by joining our firm?)
- Why consulting now?
If you have never worked in consulting before or worked in a very unrelated industry (ie. banking, software development, etc.) this is the place to explain why you are suddenly trying to switch into consulting.
2. Why do you want to do consulting?
There is a 99.99% probability you will get this question. The interviewer wants to know not only whether you can handle consulting but whether you will truly love doing it. There are several things you want to emphasize:
You love the nature of the work
- Diverse exposure to industries, diverse experiences in functions
- Like big challenges, enjoy the problem solving process
- Fits with your long term goals
Just mentioning these generic points is not enough since everyone simply can and will do that. You need to draw from your own experiences to demonstrate these points through stories that will stick in the interviewer’s head. Refer to a project that required you to break down an ambiguous problem. Talk about how you enjoyed the process and that you think that consulting can provide more of such experiences.
3. Why this firm?
The more specific you can be, the better. You might want to break it down into 2 or 3 key points. For example:
- Type of work (firm is strong in your area of interest, it has your preferred location, etc.)
- People (you liked the people you’ve met, they are not only smart but also fun, etc.)
- Philosophy and culture (travel policy, hierarchical structure)
4. Tell about a time when you failed
Many people have a hard time with this one because they believe revealing a failure might contradict some of the strengths they’ve mentioned or make them look bad. This is absolutely not true if you do it right. You should pick a failure that you recovered from.
How to pick a good failure
- Pick a failure that is unrelated to the job requirement. Hobbies provide a great pool of examples (sports, music, debate, programming projects, etc.) You can talk comfortably about these failures rather casually since they are not deal breakers for the job.
- Pick a failure that shows you applied what you learned from the failure in achieving success the second time around. This demonstrates you have a positive attitude towards failure. You believe many successes are not possible without first failing and learning from the failure, and you have real life examples that demonstrate how a failure was instrumental in the success of future project.
How to tell the story
- Set up the situation. What was the project at hand? What were you trying to achieve?
- Describe the failure. Paint a picture of what you failed to do.
- Explain what you learned from the failure. Make sure these are valuable learnings that you were able to apply in the future.
- Explain how you recovered from the failure. A recovery does not necessary have to occur in the same project. Many entrepreneurs completely crash and burn in a startup and recover in a different and new startup. You can bring up an example of how you applied the learnings from your failure in achieving success in another endeavor.
5. Tell me about a big challenge you have taken on. (Hardest problem you’ve ever had to solve)
How to tell the story
- Layout the context of the situation. State the challenge up front in once concise sentence. What was the project and why was it so challenging? Why did you take on this challenge? Were you required to or did you proactively seek it?
- Demonstrate what you did and how you tackled the challenge. Be detailed. Explain how you made this task less of a challenge by breaking it into smaller more manageable pieces.
- Showcase the results. Quantify the results with NUMBERS. Don’t just say the task eventually went well. Say something like, “… resulting in a 20% improvement”, “… had a turnout of over 600 attendees”, “… raised over $10,000″, etc.
Key points you want to convey
- You take initiative
- You take on big challenge, big reward problems
- You can put structure around ambiguity
- You are results oriented. Show the facts!
6. What is your biggest weakness?
Pick a weakness you have made improvement on. A lot of guides tell you to pick a weakness that is not related to the job and they give some STUPID examples of “I tend to forget things”, “I have a hard time remembering names”, “”. If these sounds stupid to you, that’s because they are! You won’t be able to fool your interviewer with these. More reasonable and less silly weaknesses would be things like taking on more than you can handle or being too self-reliant.
How are you working on getting better at this area? Structure your process of improving as a work plan. Show them your thought process when you encounter these situations in the future.
Again, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE! I cannot emphasize this enough. This is such a general communication skill that will help you not only the interview, but on the job, and in all life situations. If you currently don’t have structure in the way you communicate, this is a good opportunity to develop the skill.