WHAT IS the personal experience interview?
The fit or Personal Experience Interview (PEI) is usually the first part of typical consulting interview and lasts anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. The main objective of a fit interview is assessing whether the candidate has the leadership traits and the motivation that can make him succeed.
There are two main areas you’ll be tested on in your fit interview:
- Personal impact stories of leadership, impact and teamwork: You'll be asked to talk about a specific experience that reflects how you demonstrate a particular trait particularly relevant for consultants, like leadership. The story could either start from your resume, like “How did you manage to convince sponsors to provide a 500$ funding for your Club?” or be an open ended question, like “Tell me about a time when you…”.
- Motivation to be a consultant in that specific firm: Typical questions include “Why Consulting?” or “Why Firm XYZ and not a competitor?”
While case interviews help consultants to test your problem solving skills, the PEI is there to determine whether you are motivated enough and ready to generate real impact, i.e. make change happen. This requires, among others, managing senior clients and working everyday with colleagues in a team. It is the combination of the different skills tested across both interviews that make for a successful consultant.
IS the fit interview really important?
The fit interview is the most overlooked step in preparation process. While candidates spend time and effort refining their resume, brushing up their math and prepping for cases, they often neglect fit interviews.
Several candidates think that fit interview is a standard motivational interview. However consulting fit interviews are different: they are a challenging, in depth assessment of a specific skillset. Another common misconception is that overperforming in case cracking can somehow compensate for a poor performance in the fit interview. Unfortunately this is not the case. No average is taken between the case and fit interviews: underperformance in either of them will lead to rejection.
Underperforming in the fit interview ranks consistently in the top 2 causes of rejection, after the lack of structure in case cracking. At the same time, the importance of the fit interview is also a good news, because it is the most predictable part of the consulting interview and good preparation will inevitably lead to success.
HOW SHOULD I TELL THE STORIES?
While in the Motivation part you’ll be requested to share reasons for your decision to apply to that specific firm, in the leadership, impact and teamwork part you’ll be asked to share specific stories
STAR is a commonly suggested approach for telling interview stories. Follow the below steps:
- Situation: quickly explain the setting
- Task: describe your role and what you were supposed to do
- Action you took: describe what you did to go the extra mile
- Results: outline how your action had an impact on the initial situation
How to use STAR:
- Give an overview of the Situation and focus more on Task, Action and Result, outlining how you made a difference
- Be structured, organized and to the point
- Be specific: explain the specific problem you faced and the steps you took, focusing on the behavioural/impact side
- Try to keep your initial overview succinct: take out adjectives (much, very, incredible, huge…) and adverbs
- Do not be technical: focus on why the issue was important, not on technical details about the situation
After you tell a story, expect interviewers to drill down quite a bit asking you for other people’s reactions, team dynamics, conflicts. You need to explain every single step in a specific situation, and even more importantly, the rationale behind your decisions in all steps.
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE?
Consultants have clear expectations for both motivational and the personal impact questions. They are not looking for clichéd ideas or standard stories. Rather, they are looking for a mature understanding of what this job is about and of the skillset required. Beside that, consultants usually have their very own way of telling stories and expressing points of view: training with an experienced consultant will help you tailor your communication and ensure your skills and motivation get across.