Interview Preparation Tips
While some people are confident and love being tested in interviews, others get nervous and don’t always show the best version of themselves. No matter which one of these is you, the following tips will help guide you to perform at your best.
Remember you only get one chance to make a good first impression and preparation is key.
We have even seen confident candidates fail in interviews. Overconfidence can sometimes lead to a lack of preparation for an interview, and it often shows up in an attitude of “sell this job to me”. So even if you are the smartest person in the room, with the gravitas to match, you need to do the basics well and remain professional at all times or hiring managers will be put off by a perceived lack of commitment to the interview process.
Whether you feel the position is one you would love to be offered or if you’re merely there to explore the opportunity further, you need to put your best foot forward at all times. Be professional and humble and never let complacency or arrogance come across – it is a small market, people talk, so do yourself proud each and every time.
1. Always do your due diligence on the company you are interviewing with
What have they been in the news for lately?
Read the companies last annual report.
Who sits on the leadership team?
Who are their biggest competitors?
Speak to anyone you know who has worked or does work for that business to get their insights.
2. Have an opinion on what problems they could be trying to solve
Even if you are not currently in the same sector as the hiring company, make sure you understand the issues this sector is facing and come with a view on how, as a business, they may tackle some of these challenges. Clients like that you’ve had a think about their organisation and come with some points of view. It shows interest in them and also a proactive approach that will distinguish you.
3. Rapport is key
It is an unconscious bias that people hire people they like. Always try to build rapport with the interviewer in an authentic way. Be curious, inquiring and also aware that the hiring manager will be evaluating your style and personality against other major stakeholders in the business you would support in order to be effective in the role. They will be asking themselves if you have the style, maturity and gravitas to lead people as well as senior stakeholders while also challenging them without getting them offside. Keep this in mind and always have examples on hand of previous relationship building successes both from team leadership and senior stakeholder perspectives.
4. Keep it concise!
One common reason for rejection is not being able to articulate your answers in a concise way. Often candidates will give long-winded answers and go off on a tangent. Yes, it’s imperative you need to build rapport BUT interviewers have a limited amount of time and want to get to know you as much as they can in a professional capacity more than a personal one, at least at first.
5. Your Questions
Come prepared with two or three good questions to ask the interviewer when the opportunity arises. This usually happens towards the end of the interview. Always remember when asking questions, the manner in which you ask is often more important than the question itself. Be humble and well intentioned when asking questions about the opportunity so you can determine if this is the right role for you.
When asking about career progression opportunities should you be successful in the current role, please be acutely aware that hiring managers want to be assured you are excited and interested in the role at hand as opposed to the next promotion. It is all in the positioning of the question and can easily be asked more generally like “what do you see as the career pathways from this position after a few years in the role and strong performance”.
6. Money talk
Never ask about salary in the interviews where possible, talk to your recruitment consultant about the salary levels beforehand. Let us do the negotiations for you. If asked about salary expectations in the interview (and yes, it does happen!) gently advise the hiring manager that you haven’t given it too much thought because you’ve been focussed on the role and fit for the position. Advise them that you believe your recruiter would have provided all this information to them prior to the interview.
We have seen these types of conversations go south very quickly if not handled correctly in the moment despite good interview performance up to that point.
7. Behavioural Style Interviews
In behavioural psychology, past behaviours are the best predictor of future behaviours unless those behaviours weren’t helpful and you’ve adopted new ones. Behavioural questions evaluate how you’ve handled situations in the past and what you would do if faced with a similar situation again in the future. It’s about articulating your approach and process but also having learnt from situations that didn’t turn out well. Clients also like to understand what you have learned from failures and how its changed your approach and subsequent behaviours.
For example: Tell me about a time you have failed on a project you were working on? What did you learn from this?
This is not easy but if prepared you can come out on top.
We suggest you tackle these type of questions using the STAR method. This method also ensures you stay on point and concise.
Think of a situation similar to what the interviewer is asking you about that had a successful or learning outcome. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work related as long as it’s relevant. Remember to include the who, what, where, when and how.
Describe the task you were responsible for in that situation. Keep it specific but concise. Make sure to highlight any specific challenges you faced.
This is the part where you describe exactly what you did. How did you complete the task you were assigned? Remember to focus on what you did and highlight traits (qualities) that a hiring manager will find desirable (initiative, teamwork, leadership, dedication, etc.)
Share what the outcome of the situation was and how you specifically contributed to that outcome. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What were the results of your actions?
This is where you also get to be introspective and share some of the softer learnings over and above the hard facts or results.
Here are more behavioural interview questions to practice with.
8. Watch your ego!
Clients find candidates that display a high level of ego in interview are either covering up for some insecurity they have or have a lack of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Either way it is not a good look. Clients prefer to hire humble, achievement-oriented people who are universally likeable, no matter how talented they are.
9. Mind your manners
Wherever possible write a thank you email to the hiring manager for their time.
Some clients have a real issue with candidates that do not send thank you messages post interview. A recent survey on this showed that 25% (one in four) interviewers appreciate or even expect this courtesy. If possible, it is recommended you end it straight after the interview or at the very least the same day of the interview.
Research shows that people with manners are perceived as more likeable. Writing a thank you note post interview, reiterating that you would be excited to work with them or that you’re excited about next steps, allows the hiring manager to re-engage with you, thereby making you more memorable too. This small act can place you front of mind during their refection time on candidates they’ve met.
How to Ace the Case interview
Most strategy interviews will have a case interview as part of the process. Some love case interviews and other are terrified of them. PREPARATION, however, is key!
There are many different types of questions you may get in a “case interview”. We often find that for industry roles, the case part of the interview is a small part and it may only be a market sizing exercise. This is increasingly common these days.
Other case interviews are more comprehensive and aligned with the case interviews one would expect to receive if interviewing at McKinsey, Bain or BCG. They require:
- How many golf balls can you fit in a Boeing 747?
- How many wedding dresses are sold in India every year?
With market sizing the interviewer is mostly looking for the structure and approach you took to get to the answer rather than the answer itself, but it does test your high level numerical skills too. Ideally you should be in the ball-park, with approximately 20% margin for error. If you fail to share your approach and thought process when answering the question you are unlikely to pass. Having a structured, communicative approach, asking clarifying questions and being able to identify what drivers are behind such estimation questions is essential for a useful and convincing response.
We find hiring managers ask business case questions that are either current and relevant to them and a likely challenge they’ll face or have faced previously. Sometimes they like to ask a question that the candidate would never expect, possibly completely outside of the sector they’re in.
- The CEO of a cement company wants to close one of his plants. Should he do it?
- A top 20 ASX-listed bank wants to lead its industry and believes improving customer experience is the best way of achieving this. How would you test this assertion? Does it have merit and if so how would you go about it?
In this type of case question, you will be assessed on your ability to ask probing and clarifying questions, providing an appropriate structure/framework, identifying and prioritising your drivers/ levers based on commercial outcomes, outlining your analytical thinking and your ability to make client-friendly pitches. Your analytical thought process, how you structure and prioritise your answer is often more important than arriving at the correct answer.
Be guided by the interviewer as you may be going down the wrong path. They will often try to steer you back on the correct line of thinking. Listen for these subtle hints, they are NOT trying to trick you. DON’T be rigid either by ignoring their effort to help you, often they are also assessing your ability to adapt to change as a measure of both adaptability and creativity in problem solving.
Please always remember to prioritise your drivers in the most commercial way as this too can be a stumbling block for many candidates.
There are two different types of business case interview, Candidate-led and Interviewer-led.
This is not common, but it can happen. In the extreme, the interviewer rarely intervenes, and the candidate will lead the approach, from structuring the problem, drawing frameworks, asking for data, synthesising findings to proposing solutions. This format can be difficult for beginners, but it does allow you control over the case. For more advanced candidates, this can be comfortable as methodology is emphasised over results.
On the other extreme, the interviewer controls the process. He or she has the candidate work on specific parts of the overall problem and sometimes disregards the natural flow of the case. The game here is not to solve the big problem, but rather to solve each question and each mini-case perfectly. The evaluation is done on a question by question basis with each question building on the last and assessing key skills along the way. The interviewer is looking for a level of insightfulness, business intuition and commercial acumen with both quantitative and qualitative drivers required.
We find our clients use a combination of these case preferences across the board. Some candidates can be caught off guard when a client does an extreme version of the Candidate-led scenario. The trick here is to remain calm, be kind to yourself and take ownership of the process. Oftentimes it’s this leadership quality they’re looking to test over and above the actual case result i.e can you function with limited information, work your way through it while at the same time holding the gravitas required to lead others through the problem. It may also be indicative of the type of environment in which they operate.
Victor Cheng is an authority on case interview prep and we recommend anyone facing a case interview to go to his website to practice. We have found time and again that those candidates that prepare do significantly better than those who don’t. Not preparing for a case interview IS preparing to fail and will not only leave you feeling frustrated with yourself but also your recruiters too.
Here is some information on different frameworks and structures you might want to familiarise yourself with.
Salary Guide 2019
In the past few years we have seen strict salary bandings in most major ASX listed businesses, however this year we are finding that many hiring managers have put cases through to raise these bands when hiring the best consulting talent into their business units. The war for talent is real, and whilst there are many reasons a candidate will take a role, salary is a very important factor. We have seen some top tier candidates obtain offers above market rates at the more senior level when moving into industry, however we always urge candidates to take a holistic view of the company and the role.
We are often asked for traditional salary information by our clients who are looking to benchmark their own teams against the market. We feel this is a good idea as salaries can change and you want to ensure you retain your top performers who have been loyal. They are undoubtedly being approached by your competitors and you want to reduce their options to leave. Having this information to hand at performance review time is also very useful for both the manager and the consultant.
These salaries are base only – not including superannuation or bonus
Top Tier Consulting Salaries
The top tier management consulting firms pay pretty well and up to a certain level consultants can expect a commensurate level of base salary compensation if moving to industry. This changes at the Executive Manager level. Above this level companies will rarely offer parity. Decent bonuses can we achieved and vary at each level
Partner $380k +
Associate Partner $280k-$380k
Executive Manager $190k-$260k
Project Leader/Manager $150k-$200k
Senior Associate /Consultant $130k-$170k
Business Analyst /Associate $100k-$140k
Big 4 Consulting Salaries
Salaries in the Tier 2 or Big 4 consulting firms usually can be matched when candidates take a role into industry. We find some consulting firms, we deems as underpaying their consultants in the market for the title they hold. Bonuses are generally minimal.
Partner $280k plus
Director $190k -$250k
Associate Director/Senior Manager $140k- $180k
Manager $110- $150k
Associate/Consultant $75k- $120k
In-house consulting roles in Financial Services
With most of the Financial Institutions fighting for the same talent, this has pushed up salaries a little in recent years. They pay better bonuses that the non-Financial Services players in general. A Executive Manager/ Junior Director can expect circa a 30-45% bonus.
Executive General Manager/Senior Director $300k +
General Manager/Director $250k-$340k
Executive Manager/ Junior Director $180k -$250k
Senior Manager $140k-$170k
Senior Consultant/Manager $110k-$150k
Associate/Consultant $90k- $120k
In-house Consulting Roles in non-Financial Services
The major players in this space are the telco’s, retailers, airlines and to some extent the energy/infrastructure organisations. We find bonuses generally slightly lower in these organisations.
Executive General Manager/ CSO- $330k plus
General Manager/ Principal/ Head Of $250k-$340K
Senior Manager $160k-$220k
Senior Consultant $100k- $140k
Associate. Consultant $80k-$110k
For further specific information please contact us directly.