The “why consulting” interview question is asked by every consulting firm. You can crush your case interviews and behavioral questions, but if you don’t have an outstanding answer to this question, you will not receive a consulting job offer.
By the end of this article, you’ll learn how to best answer the “why consulting” interview question and develop an answer that is better than over 90% of the answers that interview candidates give.
Why the “Why Consulting” Question is Important
Candidates spend hundreds of hours preparing for case interviews, but most candidates spend less than 10 minutes preparing for the “why consulting” question.
This is surprising given that every single consulting firm asks this question.
If you are interviewing with 10 consulting firms that have two rounds of interviews with two interviewers each, that is 40 separate interviews. If just half of your interviewers ask you the “why consulting” question, you’ll be answering this question 20 times!
Additionally, the “why consulting” question is often the very first question an interviewer will ask you. Your answer to this question will be the first impression that the interviewer has of you.
Given that many interviewers mentally decide whether or not you will pass the interview within the first 10 – 15 minutes of the interview, leaving a positive first impression is absolutely critical.
Therefore, investing an hour to craft an outstanding answer is surely worth it if you are already spending hundreds of hours preparing for case interviews. Even spending 30 minutes preparing for this question can give you a significant competitive edge.
Ready to learn how to give an outstanding answer? Let’s get started.
What Interviewers Look for in Asking “Why Consulting?”
Why do interviewers ask every candidate the “why consulting” interview question? Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of an interviewer.
This question is an easy screener question to immediately separate the strong interview candidates from the weak candidates. The “why consulting” question assesses four things.
1. Basic understanding of the job: Interviewers want to know that you understand what consulting is and what the job is like.
Consulting is probably the most popular job to apply to among undergraduate and MBA students. At top schools, about 20 – 30% of each class applies to consulting.
The reason for this is that many people who do not know what they want to do in their career apply for consulting because of how diverse the work is and how abundant the exit opportunities are.
It is also the easiest job to apply to because it just requires a resume. Often times, no cover letters or networking event attendance is required.
Among these applicants, interviewers need to separate candidates that are actually interested in being a consultant from candidates that decided to apply last-minute to see what happens.
Therefore, in giving your answer to the “why consulting” interview question, you need to make sure that you demonstrate that you understand the consulting job and role.
2. Structured thinking: Logical, structured thinking is highly valued and necessary in consulting. You’ll often need to break down large, complex problems into smaller, more manageable problems.
Interviewers want to see that you can structure your answers to interview questions. Although the case interview largely assesses this, the “why consulting” interview question is another data point for the interviewer.
If you have a highly structured approach to case interviews, but your answer to “why consulting” is unorganized and incoherent, this can raise a red flag for the interviewer.
You want to be consistent in demonstrating structured thinking. Therefore, both your approach to case interviews and your answer to “why consulting” must be clear and structured.
3. Communication skills: Communication is key for consultants since they work closely with team members and clients and often interview customers and industry leaders.
Therefore, interviewers want to see that you can communicate in a clear, concise, and confident way.
Interviewers will often ask themselves whether they can see you presenting work in front of a client.
If you stumble your way through the “why consulting” interview question and cannot answer the question clearly, the interviewer will have doubts that you can do the consulting job because of your poor communication skills.
It is essential to practice answering the “why consulting” question beforehand so that on interview day, your answer will be clear and easy to follow.
4. Enthusiasm for consulting: As an interviewer, you want to ideally hire someone that works hard and will stay at the consulting firm for a long enough time, typically 2 – 3 years.
It is a huge waste of resources for a consulting firm to hire and train someone only for them to leave after 6 months.
Therefore, interviewers look for enthusiasm when asking the “why consulting” interview question. They want to see a spark light up in your eyes when you give your answer. They want to see a smile on your face as you passionately explain why consulting is your dream job.
Enthusiasm signals to the interviewer that you will work hard as a consultant. It is also an indicator for how long you are likely to stay at the consulting firm.
The Best Way to Answer “Why Consulting”
There are three components to an outstanding “why consulting” answer: content, structure, and delivery
There are many good reasons you can give for why you are interested in consulting. These include the following:
- You want to make a significant impact by working with executives at billion-dollar companies on their most challenging business problems
- You enjoy the diversity and novelty of solving business problems across multiple different industries and functions
- You see consulting as the quickest way to build a strong toolkit, both on hard skills and soft skills, to become a business executive
- You see consulting as the quickest way to build the skills to start your own company
- You enjoy working closely with teams on tough, challenging business problems
- You want to get an insider view on how large companies are run and operated
- You want to develop knowledge and expertise in a particular industry or function
- The opportunity to work across many different industries and functions will help you narrow down your interests and help you decide on a future career path
- You value the significant mentorship and personal development that consulting provides
- Consulting provides an opportunity to learn how to manage others at a relatively early stage in your career
- You find excitement in working with and servicing clients, helping to deliver significant value to them
- You are excited to travel to different places around the world for work
- You don’t have a traditional business background and feel consulting is the best opportunity for you to transition into a role on the business-side of companies
- You enjoy working with and making friends with bright and extraordinary people
There are also many bad reasons for why you are interested in consulting. You should avoid giving the following reasons:
- You want to earn a lot of money and consulting is a highly lucrative industry
- You want to add a brand name to your resume and consulting is seen as highly prestigious
- You are planning on getting an MBA or other graduate degree and know that consulting firms frequently sponsor employees so that they can attend school for free
- You want access to the amazing exit opportunities that consulting provides
- You enjoy staying in nice hotels and eating fancy meals while traveling for work
- You are unsure of what you want to do in your career, so consulting seems like a safe choice to make
These reasons signal to the interviewer that you are interested in consulting for the wrong reasons. Most people that are interested in consulting for its pay, prestige, or exit opportunities typically do not last in consulting for more than a year before quitting.
So, pick three compelling reasons why you are interested in consulting. You should also personalize these reasons. Explain how your past professional work experiences or personal experiences have shaped the qualities of a job that you value.
In the next section, you’ll learn how to structure your answer to the “why consulting” interview question.
Now that you have identified at least three distinct reasons why you are interested in consulting, you will need to structure your answer so that it is clear and easy to follow.
You can use the following simple, but effective structure while answering the “why consulting” question:
- State that consulting is your top career choice
- Provide three reasons to support this
- Reiterate that consulting best fits your professional needs and goals
Using this approach, your answer may sound something like the following:
“Consulting is currently my top career choice for the following three reasons.
One, I want to make a significant impact by working with executives at billion-dollar companies on their most challenging business problems. The opportunity to make such a big difference is what excites me and gets me out of bed.
Two, I am passionate about the energy sector through my previous work experience at ExxonMobil. Through consulting, I can further develop my expertise in energy and also develop the soft and hard skills to make me a successful business executive.
Three, I enjoy working closely with teams, especially with bright and extraordinary people. I look forward to getting to know my colleagues closer and developing friendships with them.
At this moment, I feel that no other career better suits my professional needs and goals than consulting.”
You do not need to use the exact wording in this structure, but your answer to “why consulting” should follow a similar flow.
Your content and structure to the “why consulting” question may be great, but you will still need to have an outstanding delivery of your answer.
There are three things to focus on in your delivery of your answer to the “why consulting” question.
1. Be genuine and credible: Regardless of what reasons you give for why you are interested in consulting, make sure they are genuine and credible.
When people tell a lie, their body language and voice tonality changes. If you do not genuinely believe what you are saying, the interviewer may be able to pick up on this. Interviewers can tell when a candidate is just listing generic reasons for going into consulting.
To avoid this, focus on providing reasons for going into consulting that you actually believe in. This will make it much easier for you to come off as genuine and credible.
2. Display enthusiasm: When answering the “why consulting” interview question, you need to convince and show the interviewer that you are excited and passionate about consulting.
Remember, showing enthusiasm is an indicator that you will work hard and stay longer at the consulting firm. So, make sure to be happy and smiling.
If you are normally a quieter and more reserved person, you will need to be extra enthusiastic to match the enthusiasm of people that are more extroverted.
3. Practice giving your answer: You know that you will definitely be asked “why consulting?” So, why not practice giving your answer?
By practicing even a few times in front of a mirror, you can eliminate most of the stuttering and hesitation that many candidates experience. When you don’t have to worry about planning what you are about to say, you can focus on delivering your answer passionately and enthusiastically.
One caveat here is to not over practice. You do not want to have your entire answer memorized word-for-word.
This may make you come off as robotic, which makes your answer appear to be less genuine and credible.
You should know what you are going to say and practice giving your answer a few times, but you still want to maintain the authenticity of answering naturally rather than giving a forced, memorized answer.
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