I Want To Work In … Management Consultancy


What is management consultancy?

Management consultancy is "The service provided to business, public and other undertakings by an independent person...in identifying and investigating problems concerned with policy, organisation, procedures and methods, recommending appropriate action and helping to implement those recommended."
Management consultants provide objective advice and expertise that will identify options for the organisation, and suggest recommendations for change. They may advise on: organisational structure and development; production management; marketing, sales and distribution; personnel management and selection; systems analysis and design, and economic and environmental studies.
This is a very popular career choice for students, but is not easy to get into as a new graduate. You will need a strong academic background; good numeracy, analytical and communication skills, confidence, determination and a strong interest in business. It is also common to move into consultancy after building up expertise in areas such as HR, finance, systems, production, marketing or operational research.

Job profiles

Background to working in management consultancy


These include specialist consultancy firms, management consultancy divisions of chartered accountancy firms and IT consultancies such as IBM and Accenture.

Getting In  


Many management consultants use interview techniques which aim to test your logical, analytical, numerical and problem solving skills. These include:

Market sizing questions

Typically, these involve making good and justified guesses about quantities. They evaluate your analytical skills and your ability to think on your feet and remain calm under pressure. They are also known as Fermi problems, after a physicist known for his ability to make good approximate calculations with little or no actual data to go on. 

These may seem impossible to answer, but the skill in answering these questions involves making reasoned guesstimates. For example, to answer the question about piano tuners, you would need to estimate:

The interviewers will not be looking for a precisely accurate figure but for an approach that produces an estimate that sounds reasonable.
“How to estimate and What You Really Should Know”

Case study questions

These assess your problem-solving skills, business acumen, initiative, creativity and confidence by presenting you with a business problem of the type that you would be dealing with as a consultant. Typically, you will be given background documentation to read through, asked to produce a brief summary of the key issues and to make recommendations, and then to discuss these with your interviewers. Be prepared for the interviewers to challenge your conclusions: they will want you to justify your decisions and argue your case.

How to select the right person for the right job

Put one hundred bricks in a ten by ten rectangle on the floor of a closed room with an open window. Then send two candidates into the room and close the door.

Leave them undisturbed in the room for two hours, then go back into the room to analyse the situation. 

  • If they are counting the bricks, assign them to the Accounts Department.
  • If they are recounting them, assign them to Auditing.
  • If they have messed up the whole place with the bricks, assign them to Engineering.
  • If they are arranging the bricks in some strange order, assign them to Planning.
  • If they are throwing the bricks at each other, assign them to Operations.
  • If they are sleeping, assign them to Security.
  • If they have broken the bricks into pieces, assign them to MIS / Information Technology.
  • If they are sitting idle, assign them to HR.
  • If they say they have tried different combinations, but few bricks have been moved, assign them to Sales.
  • If they have already left for the day, assign them to Marketing.
  • If they are staring out of the open window, assign them to Strategic Planning.
  • If they have thrown all the bricks out the window, assign them to Business Process Re-engineering.

And then last but not least, if they are gossiping with each other and not a single brick has been moved, congratulate them and assign them to Senior Management.

Accenture gave me a case study about a medium sized family run business with 30 shops who had profit problems. I was asked to say how I would turn it around, what services Accenture could sell to the business and whether the business could be saved?

My case study was: You are working for Accenture and have to speak to the CEO of British Airways about how Accenture can help them. What would you discuss?

Feedback from University of Kent students

“Brain teasers”

These may seem completely off-the-wall but test your lateral thinking skills, creativity, logical reasoning and resilience. Don’t panic, and take a moment to think through the question. Ask any questions that you like to clarify the situation. It’s better to think out loud than to sit in silence.

You are in a room with three light switches. Each controls one of three light bulbs in the next room. You must determine which switch controls which bulb. All lights are off. You may flick only two switches and enter the room with the light bulbs only once. How would you determine which switch controls which light bulb?

The power has gone out in your hotel room and it is pitch black. You have 11 white socks and 10 black socks in your suitcase. You must put on a matched pair of socks, or you'll look terrible at your presentation! How many socks must you take out to be assured of a matched pair?

(Answers at www.vault.com/blog/interviewing/interview-questions-practice-brainteasers)

If all else fails, a “cheat” answer might work – at the very least, it shows chutzpah! For example, you could just say “I would use the light from my phone to check what colour my socks were”

Other questions

You may also be asked questions about your competencies, your commercial awareness and your motivation.

Competency questions. Commercial Awareness Questions.
When I take a long time to finish, 
I am slow.
When my boss takes a long time, 
he is thorough. 

When I don't do it, 
I am lazy.
When my boss does not do it, 
he is busy.

When I do something without being told, 
I am trying to be smart but
when my boss does the same, 
he takes the initiative.

When I please my boss, 
I am apple polishing.
When my boss pleases his boss, 
he is cooperating. 

When I make a mistake, 
I'm an idiot. 
When my boss makes a mistake, 
he's only human. 

When I am out of the office, 
I am wandering around. 
When my boss is out of the office, 
he's on business. 

When I have a day off sick, 
I am always sick. 
When my boss has a day off sick, 
he must be very ill. 

When I apply for leave, 
I must be going for an interview.
When my boss applies for leave, 
it's because he's overworked. 

When I do good, 
my boss never remembers.
When I do wrong, 
he's an elephant: he NEVER forgets!

Motivational questions

Tips from interviewees


Last fully updated July 2016