Case and Interview Preparation
The consulting interview process consists of two parts: the personal experience interview and the business case portion. The personal experience interview consists of a “get to know” conversation including questions about your resume, motivations to become a consultant, strengths, experiences working in teams, and many other possible scenarios. The case portion of the interview consists of the interviewer presenting a business problem, often one the consultant has faced, to consider. During the case portion (often 75% of a 30-minute to 1-hour interview), interviewees are expected to logically, creatively, and in a structured manner describe how they would approach the problem.
Practice Makes Perfect
While problem-solving skills and the ability to present logical arguments and hypotheses are skills that Ph.D., masters, law degree, and medical degree students have in spades, the ability to think on the spot and coherently address issues relevant to businesses takes practice. Thus, the Harvard GSAS Consulting Club provides a wide range of programming aimed at helping advanced degree applicants confidently approach the interview.
There are a few general suggestions from alumni to consider when preparing for the interview. First, do not neglect preparing for the personal interview section of the interview. While performing well on the case is a necessary component of getting a job, it is not a sufficient criterion. Interviewees should come prepared to answer the commonly asked interview questions with stories that demonstrate the interviewee’s key abilities and achievements.
Secondly, when interviews come, there are often up to five in one day so be prepared to spend many hours each week for the months preceding interviews practicing and building stamina. A benchmark is to practice cases with a partner (NEVER ALONE) 3-5 times per week for two months before interviews.
Finally, when applying for firms, remember that consulting jobs are difficult to land. However, with enough determination, enough preparation, enough networking with companies, and by spreading your job search net wide, you will be able to enter this exciting industry!
Examples of opportunities that the Harvard Griffin GSAS Consulting Club offers to help members prepare:
1. Professional Development Workshops - We host workshops on how to craft a consulting-focused resume and prepare for a behavioral interview. Learn about different case styles (McKinsey-style, Bain-style, and life science-focused) from current consultants at top firms. After each 1-hour workshop, there is an optional 1-hour case practice session. These workshops begin in January. Don't miss a workshop!
2. Case Practice Sessions – We offer case practice sessions after each professional development workshop, beginning in January. Participants are matched with a case practice partner of similar experience level. The workshops will take place virtually or on the Cambridge and Longwood campuses. The 1-hour practice sessions provide an opportunity for you to practice cases with different people and gain different perspectives.
2. Case Practice Sign-Up Sheet – Sign up to find case practice partners across Harvard based on casing experience level and general availability. Choose from 150+ potential partners! Sign up for the HGCC weekly newsletter to gain access.
3. Offeree Panel - Annually, the club hosts a fall panel discussion featuring Harvard students and postdocs who have recently received offers from consulting firms.
4. Consulting Career Fair - Meet recruiters from top consulting firms and learn more about firm opportunities, such as internships, bridge programs, and coffee chats. The Consulting Career Fair will take place in February 2024.
5. Harvard / MIT Case Competition – This 12-day event co-organized by HGCC and the Consulting Club at MIT (CCM) offers graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to work in teams on a business case under the mentorship of consultants and industrialists. The case is a real-life business challenge posed by the senior management of a selected firm. Please visit the Case Competition website for more information. This event typically takes place in late April or early May.
6. Volunteer Consulting Group (VCG) – Gain firsthand experience in consulting by volunteering your time to one of the group’s engagements which take place twice a year in the fall and spring. Please click VCG for more information.