If you’ve made it to your consulting final round interviews, congratulations! You are one step away from landing a consulting job offer. Similar to first round interviews, roughly 10% to 30% of applicants will be extended offers after final round interviews.
Given these low percentages, what can you do to give yourself the best chance of acing your consulting final round interviews and landing job offers?
In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about your upcoming final round interview:
- What to expect in consulting final round interviews
- Differences between consulting final round and first round interviews
- 6 tips to ace your consulting final round interviews
What to Expect in Consulting Final Round Interviews
Length of Interview
Consulting final round interviews typically consist of three back-to-back interviews that are 40 minutes to 1 hour each. Some firms may only have two back-to-back interviews while others may have as many as four.
Most of the time, final round interviews are held in the office that you are applying for.
If you are recruiting as a student, final round interviews are sometimes held in the firm’s nearest office. The firm may fly in consultants from other offices to make the interview process easier for students by reducing travel.
What is Tested
While consulting first round interviews are a screening process, final round interviews are a selection process.
Each office has a specific number of spots they are trying to fill for their upcoming consulting class. Consulting firms know what their historical offer acceptance rate is, so they know the exact number of offers they will give to fill their upcoming consulting class. So, they will extend a certain number of offers to the best candidates.
Passing your case interviews is a requirement to even be considered for getting an offer. Just like in first round interviews, you’ll need to continue demonstrating structure, problem solving, business acumen, and communication.
However, demonstrating fit with the firm’s culture and values is significantly more important in final round interviews than first round interviews.
In first round interviews, your interviewers are likely not from the office that you are applying for. In final round interviews, your interviewers will be your potential supervisors or colleagues. Therefore, final round interviewers have a heavy interest in determining whether you would be a great colleague and contributor to the office culture.
During the interview, interviewers will ask themselves two questions:
- Can I see this person as a future consultant?
- Would I want this person on my team?
The answer to both of these questions needs to be a “yes” in order to receive an offer.
Before the Interview
Before your final round interview, the firm will send your resume and your interviewers’ notes from your first round interview to the office that you are interviewing for.
Your final round interviewers may review how you did in your first round interview. If there is a particular area of the case that you struggled with, they may want to test that area again in order to confirm that it is not a weakness.
Questions Asked in the Interview
At a high level, the types of questions asked in consulting final round interviews are the same as the types of questions asked in first round interviews.
Your interviews will start with small talk and ask how you are doing. Then, the interviewer may ask why you are interested in consulting, why you are interested in the firm, or ask a behavioral interview question. The majority of the interview will still be focused on the case interview.
For case interviews, you may see two new styles of cases:
- Conversational case interviews: cases that take the form of a long and collaborative discussion
- Stress case interviews: cases that are intended to give you anxiety and pressure
We’ll go over in detail how to handle these styles of cases in the next section.
Another key difference is that one of your back-to-back interviews will be focused heavily on fit. Your interviewer may spend more than 50% of the time asking fit and behavioral questions. For this fit-focused interview, you may only get a mini-case that takes 10 to 15 minutes or you might not get a case at all.
After the Interview
After the interview, you can choose whether you want to send a thank you email to your interviewers. These are optional and do not have a significant impact on whether you receive a job offer.
If a consulting firm really wants to hire you, they’ll give you an offer regardless of whether you send a thank you email. However, if you do decide to send a thank you email, send it later that day or the next day.
At the end of the interview day, all of the interviewers will meet to discuss the candidates that they interviewed. As a group, candidates will be placed into three categories:
The first category is made up of candidates that have aced their case interviews and have strong support from their interviewers to be given an offer. These candidates will get a phone call from one of their interviewers the same day of their interview or the day after. An interviewer will give them a verbal offer before sending an official written offer through email.
The second category is made up of candidates that did not meet the bar. They either did not pass their case interviews or demonstrated that they would be a poor fit for the firm. These candidates will get a phone call from a recruiter the next day to let them know they are not being given an offer.
The third category are candidates that performed decently, but not strongly enough to warrant an immediate offer. These candidates performed well in their case interviews and demonstrated fit, but perhaps there were better candidates to give offers to.
For this group of candidates, they are essentially placed on an unofficial waitlist. The firm will finish interviewing other candidates before deciding whether to give them an offer. It may take a week or more before they hear back from the firm.
If you don’t hear back from the firm within a few days, do not panic. This does not mean that you have been rejected. Wait patiently. If you have not heard back after a week, send a polite follow-up email to the recruiter to ask for an update.
Differences between Consulting Final Round and First Round Interviews
There are a number of meaningful differences between consulting final round and consulting first round interviews.
More Back-to-Back Interviews
Final round interviews typically have a greater number of back-to-back interviews than first round interviews. One of these additional interviews will be heavily focused on asking behavioral and motivational questions to get to know you better.
Therefore, make sure to spend more time preparing for fit questions since one of your interviewers will dive deep into your answers.
Final round interviews also tend to have slightly longer cases. You’ll face a bit more time pressure than first round interviews to solve the case because there will be more areas of the case that you need to cover.
More Senior Interviewers
Your interviewers in your final round interview will be more senior people than your first round interviews. Expect to interview with principals and partners.
Since your interviewers are more senior, they will be less likely to follow prescriptive interview questions that you may have been asked in your first round interview.
Principals and partners are more likely to ask about whatever they find interesting on your resume. Additionally, they will pick their own cases to give, often using cases that they actually worked on.
Different Styles of Cases
There are two new types of case interviews that you may encounter in final round interviews:
Conversational case interviews: These case interviews will feel more like a discussion or group brainstorming than a typical case. The interviewer will give you a business problem and ask for your thoughts or ideas. The interviewer will ask follow-up questions and the case will turn into a natural back and forth discussion.
Conversational case interviews are a lot less structured than typical case interviews. There will be no clear or right answer. There also will be no clear path to solving the case. The case will move towards whichever direction the conversation is going.
For this style of case interviews, the interviewer is looking to understand how you think about business problems and how good you are at brainstorming and using your business judgment.
The best way to handle these cases is to structure your thoughts and ideas. Don’t just answer the interviewer’s questions with the first thoughts that come to mind. Instead, lay out an approach to answer the question in the most clear and thorough way.
Stress case interviews: These are cases in which the interviewer will intentionally be a bit hostile towards you in order to make you uncomfortable and feel pressure.
For example, your interviewer may not give you time to structure a framework. They could demand that you start the case right away. When you answer their questions, they may tell you that your answer is wrong. Even if you present a reasonable answer, they will still attack it and make you defend it.
The best way to handle this style of case interviews is to stay calm and collected. Know that the interviewer is intentionally being hostile towards you, so continue to be poised and don’t become upset.
If the interviewer does not give you time to structure your thoughts, talk through your thoughts out loud in front of the interviewer. This will give you the time needed to create a structured framework.
If the interviewer says that you have the wrong answer, stay optimistic and persistent. Listen to the feedback the interviewer is giving and continue searching for a better answer.
Finally, if the interviewer attacks your ideas, you should acknowledge the interviewer’s points and politely explain your thoughts or positioning. Never directly attack what the interviewer is saying.
Different Types of Cases
While first round interviews frequently have profitability and market entry cases, final round interviews have a much wider range of case types.
You may see cases on pricing, growth strategy, mergers and acquisitions, responding to a competitor, operational improvement, or investment decision-making.
Additionally, you may also see cases in industries that you have never heard of. These industries are intentionally selected so that interviewers can see how quickly you can learn about a new industry.
The key to solving any of these cases is to stick with your case interview strategy. Although the types of cases and industries may be different, the fundamental strategies to solving these cases is the same.
Make sure you are not heavily relying on memorized frameworks. You may have to think on the spot during your final round interviews to develop a unique and tailored framework for a particular case scenario. Be prepared for this. You may want to practice brainstorming to improve your creativity.
When your case deals with an unfamiliar industry, ensure that you are asking the right questions in the beginning of the case to understand the industry well enough.
Tips to Ace Your Consulting Final Round Interviews
Follow these 6 tips to give yourself the best chance of passing your consulting final round interviews.
Tip #1: Know why you are interested in consulting
Consulting firms want to hire candidates that will work hard and stay at the firm for at least two years. They’ll ask you why you are interested in consulting to gauge how serious and passionate you are about a career in consulting.
Make sure to prepare a structured and compelling answer beforehand to remove any doubts from your interviewers’ minds that this is your top career choice.
Tip #2: Know why you are interested in the firm
In your consulting final round interviews, it is possible that every single one of your interviewers will ask you why you are interested in working at their firm. Consulting firms only want to give job offers to candidates that are genuinely interested in the firm.
Even if you ace your case interviews, if you show that the firm is your backup choice, you’ll likely not be extended a job offer.
Therefore, make sure to prepare a structured and compelling answer to why you’re interested in the firm. You should prepare a couple of different answers so that you are not repeating the exact same answer to each of your interviewers.
Tip #3: Research the qualities that the consulting firm is looking for
Since fit plays a significant role in deciding who gets extended offers, take the time to research the qualities that the consulting firm you are interviewing with is looking for. Many firms explicitly state on their website the qualities they value.
When answering behavioral or fit interview questions, you can strategically focus on highlighting the qualities that the firm cares most about.
Tip #4: Be 80/20
In final round interviews, you are more likely to face time pressure to solve the case. You won’t have time to cover all of the different parts of your framework or get answers to every question you have.
Therefore, you will need to use the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of your effort.
Focus your time on the most important questions or areas that will have the greatest impact on your answer or recommendation. The less important questions or areas of the case can be included as potential next steps in your recommendation.
Tip #5: Have a robust framework strategy
In consulting final round interviews, you’ll likely see atypical business situations with unusual circumstances or case objectives. You will likely not be given the standard profitability or market entry cases that you saw in your first round interview.
Therefore, make sure you have a robust framework strategy to tackle atypical or unusual cases. While you may have gotten away with using memorized frameworks in your first round interviews, memorized frameworks will not work in final round interviews.
Tip #6: Don’t burn yourself out
By the time you have final round interviews scheduled, you will likely have done many practice cases and interviewed with many different consulting firms. If you already feel confident in your case interview skills, do not burn yourself out in the days leading up to your final round interviews.
Doing too many practice cases may give you case fatigue, which will negatively impact your case interview performance. Recognize when your case interview skills have reached their peak and then focus on maintaining your skills by doing no more than two or three cases per week.
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