Why Consulting? How to give an Exceptional Answer

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

  1. Why interviewers ask this question

  2. How to give an exceptional answer

  3. Dos and Don’t - examples

Why interviewers ask this question

One of the key components of any interview is the “why” question. Consulting is no different.

Our candidate interview data shows that “why consulting?” was asked in 80% of in-person or 1-2-1 interviews. It is one of the few questions that you can expect to come up with a high level of certainty.

Given how common the question is, a good answer can be the difference between receiving an offer and not.

Across multiple applications with various firms, it is likely you could be asked this question numerous times - at different stages and by different interviewers. So it is important to have a solid structure for your answer.

To be able to structure your answer correctly, it is important to understand why you are being asked.

There are four reasons interviewers ask the ‘why consulting’! question:

  1. Test your knowledge of the role

  2. See what you know about the firm

  3. Understand your enthusiasm for consulting

  4. Aptitude for the work

Knowledge of the role

First and foremost, they want to check your understanding of the role and company you have applied for. Consulting firms want candidates who understand what the job entails; the soft skills, the hours, the travel etc.

Knowledge of the company

They also want candidates to have some prior knowledge of their firm. Every consulting firm has its own unique culture and you ought to be able to demonstrate some understanding of this.

Enthusiasm for for consulting

As in any interview, showing genuine interest for the position is a must. Mostly because working with people who enjoy their job is much more fun.

In addition to this, it is common for graduates to start their career in consulting and leave after a few years; the difficult lifestyle due to the travelling, long hours, and up-or-out policies mean that consultants can get burnout. Also, it is widely known that there are great exit opportunities for consultants.

Another thing to consider is if you don’t have genuine interest in consulting, it is likely you will not succeed. It is a competitive environment that requires hard work; lack of interest will result in underperformance and a short career.

Aptitude for the work

‘Why consulting’ is one of the first questions you will be asked in an interview. This gives the interviewer a chance to get a first impression of you and see how you tick.

Often candidates spend large amounts of time preparing for case interviews. Though these give interviewers a good sense of your abilities, they can be practiced quite extensively and can give a somewhat distorted view of the candidate. Your answer to this question is more real and gives the interviewer a chance to get to know you better.

The ‘why consulting’ question is an opportunity to show your aptitude for consulting; consultants should be able to explain complex ideas clearly and concisely. A good candidate should be able to demonstrate this skill in all parts of the interview process.

How to give an exceptional answer

Whilst the question is not as predictable as a case interview question, you can still prepare an exceptional answer ahead of time. Considering how often you will be asked the question it is sensible to prepare an answer or at least the key components of an answer before your interview.

There are four things you should consider when preparing for your interview:

  1. Clear structure

  2. Examples to support your answer

  3. Firm specific points

  4. How to be persuasive

Clear structure

When giving your answer, it is important to structure it well. A good interview answer is similar to a well structured essay. First you need to state your argument and then provide the evidence to support it.

For example - The first reason I am interested in consulting is the variety of the projects.

This will give your interviewer a clear understanding of one of your motives for consulting. You should then support this reason with evidence e.g. you enjoyed the variety of topics in your degree.

Then you should repeat the process for another 1-2 reasons as to why you are interested in consulting in particular.

Examples to support your answer

You need to consider how you will back up your reason; as mentioned above, you should not list reasons without substantiating them. You need to give examples and evidence.

For example - I recently discussed your [project] with [consultant’s name] at a networking event.

She explained the project step-by-step and the results which were achieved through their work. This project was of particular interest to me because [give your reason] OR What interested me about this was [...] OR This re-confirmed to me that consulting was the career path for me because [...]

This example shows that the candidate has done their research, understands the company, has a genuine interest in the industry, and can present a clear argument. Of course, you do not need to use this answer verbatim but hopefully this will give you a clearer sense of an appropriate answer.

Firm specific points

Knowledge of the firm you are applying for is incredibly important. Each firm has their own unique culture which they are proud of. They want you to be able to fit in with this culture as well as understand it. This research, time, and effort will show the interviewers that you are invested in this role and excited about this opportunity.

Nearly all of the larger firms will have recruitment events. Go to as many of these as possible but go with a purpose. Network and learn about what makes this firm different and bring this to your interview.

If you can’t go to recruitment events, try to find someone you know or alumni from your university. You would be surprised at how many of them would be happy to have a quick 10 minute chat with you about what it is like to work at their firm.

How to be persuasive

Part of being a consultant is the art of persuasion; the ability to persuade clients that your ideas are valid and they should adopt them. With the ‘why consulting’ question, you have the chance to persuade the interviewer that you are right for the job.

Being persuasive can be shown in various ways. Being engaged when answering (through tone of voice, language) is a good start. Another way you could do this is showing a clear logic why you are right for the job.

This may seem obvious but make sure your reasons are logical and specific to consulting. The ‘why consulting’ question isn’t just about consulting, it is also asking ‘why not other career paths’. Make your arguments persuasive.

Dos and Don’ts - Examples

The reasons why you want to go in consulting might not necessarily be the reasons you should say out loud. While they are not incorrect answers, they will not align with what the interviewer is looking for and so should be avoided.

  • Some examples of reasons that you should not give are:

  • to make a lot of money x

  • don’t know what else to do x

  • I want to have the firm’s name on my CV x

  • It will look amazing on my CV x

Some reasons that will land well with the interviewer are:

  • I have a wide range of interests

  • I have lots of different interests and I would like the chance to learn more about all the different sectors your firm is involved in. ✓✓

  • I would like to do high impact work

  • I want to work on high impact projects and get access to the kind of projects which your firm works on ✓✓

  • I would like have the chance to work with interesting people

  • I would love the opportunity to work with the high performing and interesting people who work for this firm ✓✓

  • to work in an environment that rewards hard work

  • to work in an environment that creates opportunities and value to clients’ businesses. ✓✓

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