The fit interview is usually the most overlooked step in the consulting interview process. Candidates either ignore the fit interview, thinking that it counts for very little compared with the case interview, or they understate its importance, considering it simply as a box to tick. This is simply wrong. The fit interview is extremely important, usually getting roughly equal weight as the case interview. There is no “average” between case and fit interviews: if you fail either of the two you will not get a "pass" to a 2nd round interview or job offer.
But this is actually a good news: the fit interview is extremely predictable and a good CV and strong stories will make you easily shine. If you prepare well, the fit interview can be your asset and indirectly help you in the rest of the interview by giving the interviewers a very good first impression. Unfortunately, very few candidates do it.
Then, what are the five most common mistakes for candidates? The fit interviews is often perceived as easy: to some extent it is easier than the case, since it is arguably more predictable, but it is as critical and candidates often miss some important points.
1. Indulging too much in details about the situation
Your interviewers are not particularly concerned about the technical/specific details of the situation you were in. It does not really matter whether it was a software implementation, a marketing campaign or a sailing trip. They very interested in how you behave and how you would behave in a similar situation, that’s all for them. Therefore do not delve too much in describing details about the setting, focus instead on what you did and why you did it.
2. Not being specific enough about your actions
Interviewers will drill down in your story to understand the dynamics, your reactions and decisions and most of all the rationale behind them. The description of your decisions should not be elusive or general. On a general level it is hardly possible for the interviewer to understand your concrete action, and thus the specific contribution you personally made. You should be clear about your action, so that it is possible for the interviewer to understand your rationale and make a judgement whether your thought process and action is repeatable and transferable to other situations.
3. Missing the structure
In order to describe your stories, use the STAR method, as described in this blogpost. It is crucial to have in mind a clear framework to follow in your story, since the worst thing can happen is turning it into a free flow of consciousness. All the decision and key steps should flow consequently and be adequately backed up by your explanations.
4. Using a bottom up style
Whenever you have to describe a situation the approach should always be top down, i.e. starting by outlining the main issue first and then going through the reasons/context/supporting facts. Always bear in mind that the partners that will interview you are CEO-level executives, who like seeing the big picture before jumping into details. Think about it this way: for every step of the STAR method to describe the event, you should first express quickly the key points and then provide details and supporting explanations.
Look at the two below description of the same situation of disagreement in a student club after the decision to accept a sponsorship contract
- It was the first Sponsorship contract the Chess Club ever had. The CFO of the Club led a group of other five board members in opposing this initiative, afraid that the contract could turn the Club into a business organization.
- The board disagreed on accepting the sponsorship contract. Six members opposed the initiative, feeling that the Club lacked expertise in managing the sponsorship and risked being turned in a business organization.
The second version is an example of a structured, top-down storytelling. Why should you use the second version instead of the first? For two reasons:
- You express what you are talking about in the first three words and your interviewer can immediately understand the key point of your story.
- You showcase your ability of connecting dots by making connections between the fact that it was the first sponsorship ever and the resistance of the six board members.
Since consultants will be exposed to CEO-level executives, it is essential for them to show the ability to speak the same language of CEOs, focusing on the big picture before delving into details.
5. Showing a lack of self-reflection
You need to show a deep self-reflection for each step in your story, explaining every single decision in the whole thought-process: which options you had, which you chose and why you made that decision. You’ll also be asked stories of failures, so do not hesitate to describe your mistakes, clearly highlighting why you think you made a mistake and what you learnt out of it.
At My Consulting Coach our mentors combine consulting expertise in MBB with extensive coaching expertise. Our programmes at My Consulting Coach aim to put you in the best position to maximize the effectiveness of your preparation without charging you a fortune. We believe in empowering candidates by providing them with simple, clear and effective techniques that will enable them to succeed on the interview day.