Case-study interviews are used during the recruitment process for management consultancy roles. They are based on real-life situations (case-studies) that might come up on the job. By putting candidates through their paces in these case-study scenarios companies can see how they might respond in real-life. How a candidate answers the question can determine whether they have the right skills and mindset to become a management consultant.
What do management consultants do?
Management consultants are involved in providing objective advice, expertise and specialist skills with the aim of creating value, maximising growth or improving the business performance of their clients. They are primarily concerned with the strategy, structure, management and operations of an organisation. Consultants can assist by identifying options with recommendations, providing additional resources and/or the implementation of solutions.
Management consultancy industry overview
The Management Consultancies Association (MCA), expects that management consultancy will grow by 13% in 2023 and 12% by 2024. According to the MCA Member Survey 2023 report, this can be put down to the trust in management consultancy during times of economic uncertainty and also the increase in businesses’ need for consultancy services in the areas of:
- digital and technology
- cost reduction
- sustainability and achieving net-zero goals.
When it comes to consultancy, large companies, particularly those in the financial sector, offer a variety of opportunities.
The types of companies you can find in management consultancy:
- The big 4 (Ernest & Young, Deloitte, PwC, KPMG)
- The strategy big 3 (BCG, Bain & Co, McKinsey)
- Boutiques (e.g. Marakon, Teneo)
- In-house corporates (e.g. American Express, Airbus, Citibank, Deutsche DHL, IBM, Google)
- Small start-ups /freelancers
Other examples of management consultancy firms include Accenture, Arthur D. Little and Oliver Wyman. There is a list of consulting firms at Consultancy.uk.
It is worth noting that management consultancy is a highly competitive career. The culture is generally of high expectations and long hours.
What skills are looked for:
The following skills are in demand for management consultancy:
- the ability to work as part of a team
- interpersonal and communication (both oral and written)
- creativity and innovation
- problem-solving and strategic planning ability
- analytical skills
- the ability to cope with pressure and challenges
- commercial awareness and understanding of business environments
- entrepreneurial drive
- leadership abilities
Several management consultancy firms have shared information (including videos) on what they look for when recruiting:
During the case-study interview, the management consultancy firms are looking for someone that is personable, has good mental arithmetic and can think on their feet. They want to employ people who can look at the bigger picture, in terms of coming up with a logic-led solution to an organisation’s problems.
In essence a case-study interview is a role-playing exercise. Consulting firms place a lot of weight on the case-study, as it allows them to judge how logically and potentially persuasive you will be in front of a client.
As you are working through a case, the interviewer is looking for:
- Good listening skills
- Enthusiasm, strong social and presentation skills
- That you organise the information you present clearly and develop a logical framework for analysis
- Curiosity and that you are asking insightful, probing questions
- That you quantify your response
- Creative thinking
- That you state your assumptions clearly
There are many resources (both written articles and videos) that are widely available to help in your preparation for the case-study interview. You can find some of these resources below. It’s advisable to practice as many of the case-study interviews as possible. N.B. If you are a student at university, you should be able to get some practice interview support from your university careers service.
- The forage is a site that offers free ‘virtual internships’ and there are some internships run by management consultancy firms that will give you an idea of the type of work these firms do. This provides good in-depth practice that can help with your case-study interview technique.
- YouTube Victor Cheng videos
- 2020 Haas Career Summit Case Interview by LEK Consulting
- How to Ace the Deloitte Consulting Case Interview: A Case Example + MCO’s 6 Tips
Videos showing an example case interview:
- Bain & Company (example 1)
- Bain & Company (example 2)
- OC&C Strategy Consultants Case Interview Example
- Case interview secrets – Victor Cheng
- Case in Point – Mark Cosentino
- Vault guide to the case interview – Mark Asher
CV advice/templates for management consultancy:
It’s not uncommon for entry-level CVs for management consultancy to be only one page in length. However, do check requirements from the employer. For further advice see:
Gaining work experience
Internships offer you the opportunity to test-drive different occupations and work environments, develop new skills and begin to build your future network of business contacts. An internship, on your CV and in an interview, sets you apart from other candidates without internship experience. Indeed, former interns often receive higher entry-level salaries and continue to earn more, even after five years of employment.
Here are some places to look for internships:
- Management Consultancy internships – Inside Careers
- Bain and Company
- How to get a consulting internship - targetjobs
Aimed at university students, insight weeks give you a short opportunity to participate and find out more about what management consultancy do. Below are some examples:
- Summer vacation scheme - experience what life as an Accenture consultant is really like.
- Deloitte Spring virtual careers events - interactive workshops, presentations, etc.
Networking is developing and making use of personal contacts with a purpose in mind. It can be used to find people who can recruit you or find out more about a job that you might be interested in.
You can use LinkedIn to grow your networks by connecting to people that you know. They might have further connections that may be helpful to you.
LinkedIn can also be a great place to research people within organisations that appeal to you as well as to grow your own knowledge of the potential employers who exist.
Finding a job
Here are some websites, aimed at recent graduates, for looking for jobs:
- Business, consulting and management jobs - targetjobs
- Management consulting jobs – Inside Careers
- Top Consultant
- Bright Network - application deadlines for graduate schemes in consulting
- Prospects - consulting graduate schemes
If you are a career changer wanting to pursue a career in management consultancy, then you may find that you can use your skills so that you can enter at a stage that is beyond that of joining a graduate scheme. You would usually require at least three years' experience post-graduation in an area within which you have a specialism.
Specialisms could include, for example, experience in the worlds of healthcare/medicine, IT, human resources and sustainability.
Undertaking further management or consultancy training in the form of postgraduate degrees, professional qualifications or short courses is not always necessary but can increase your career potential. It can improve your employability and boost your business knowledge. You could consider courses such as a Master’s in management or international business, or a more specific subject, such as IT, marketing or human resource management.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced qualification designed for those with business experience wishing to progress to a senior level. MBA courses are highly regarded by employers, but the cost and reputation of programmes can vary widely.
Key links and resources:
- Institute of Consulting - a professional body for all consultants and business advisers. This website includes a definition of the profession, an overview of careers in consulting, details of qualifications, training and career development.
- Management Consultancies Association (MCA) - the MCA represents the consultancy industry to its clients, the media and government. The website has a Careers FAQ page, industry information and news, member directory and links to UK and worldwide consulting bodies and business schools.
- International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMCI) - global association of national management consulting institutes from around the world. Has a directory of national associations.
- Management Consulting Journal - keeps UK consultants informed with news, trends and IT supplier updates.
- Applying for a job in the consulting industry and The most popular consulting firms in the UK for graduates - advice from Consultancy.uk.
- How do I get into consulting as a graduate? What the graduate job involves, how to apply, salary information and more - advice from Targetjobs.
- How to break into Consulting (McK, BCG Deloitte, Accenture,...) - advice from Cleverism.
- Consulting mag - keep up to date with industry news, ranking of consulting firms and vacancies.
For more information on the sector see:
- Business, consulting & management sector overview - Prospects
- Business, consulting and management sector overview - targetjobs
- The mini-guide to big careers: consulting (targetjobs)
- Financial Times list of top consulting firms.
If you would like to see how closely your aptitudes, interests and personality are aligned to a management consultancy career, then you can complete a Morrisby Profile.
Lisa is a registered careers practitioner with the CDI. She has worked as a careers consultant in the NHS and the university sector. She has also trained in Leadership Coaching and is a Certified Associate member of APECS (the Association of Professional Executive Coaches and Supervisors).