Consulting Interview Questions: 17 Detailed Examples

You are contacted for an interview at a top consulting firm – or more ideally for a consulting candidate, you are in the months-long preparation stage, looking for a way to nail every possible question the interviewer might throw at you.

Your best solution is to follow the true consulting spirit – break the questions down into a few manageable types, and one-by-one learn how to handle all of them. 

What are the consulting interview questions?

Questions in a consulting interview come from both candidates and interviewers, which aim to assess an aspiring consultant's capability and simulate actual social situations a consultant may meet in real consulting work.

However, while we can generalize and categorize some of the most encountered questions, there are so many things that an interviewer or even a candidate can ask in the interview. To ask and answer all those questions, you must do more than just stick to some frameworks - You must think, speak, and act like a real consultant in the interview.

Four common types of questions in consulting interviews

In case interviews, there are four common types of questions:

Keep in mind that these cannot cover all possible questions in consulting interviews. Some of these questions are quite generic (such as the ice-breaker questions), and senior/experienced consultants are more likely to ask unpredictable questions. A candidate has to think, speak, and act like a consultant to score good points with interviewers.

What interviewers look for in interviews

While different firms and consultants have different questions and wordings, in general, they will try to find five core attributes of a potential consultant in a candidate: Problem-solving skills, Leadership ability, Achieving mentality, Business/Industry background, and Technical skills. 

Problem-solving skills, Leadership ability, and Achieving mentality are usually more valued. Every word you say must reflect at least one of these three attributes, while the whole interview must showcase that you have all of them.

  • Problem-solving skills: The whole consulting industry exists because consultants can break down business problems better than anyone else, so this one is a must-have. 

  • Leadership skills: Getting a bunch of experienced people (your clients) to do something they do not want to do is never easy. Additionally, consultants usually work in teams - leadership here is about influencing people rather than getting nominated as the class monitor.

  • Achieving mentality: The problems are always big and challenging with tight deadlines. Do not even think about work-life balance here; you have to go all out. 

Meanwhile, Business background and Technical skills are less required but would be very good for a candidate to possess. These two gives great bonus point, so show them as much as possible. 

  • Business background: This is not required for prospective consultants; however, business knowledge is essential to excellent performance in case interviews. Luckily, it’s something you can learn, and most concepts used in consulting interviews are only at basic or intermediate levels.

  • Technical skills: These skills are required for specialist positions, such as at McKinsey Digital. However, the required expertise or technical knowledge will be informed before the interview, so do not worry too much.


Part 1: Ice-breaking questions

At the beginning of a case interview, three common ice-breaking questions are “How are you doing”, “What do you think about the office?”, and “Tell me about yourself”. Those are the classic ice-breaking questions, basic social interactions, something people do everyday. Yet, countless candidates messed this part up. 

The biggest problem here is anxiety – when under stress, even the most basic actions may become very challenging. Below, we will dive deeper into those three questions and some tips to overcome them. 

“How are you doing?”

“How are you doing?” - A typical question, but under the stress of a case interview, many candidates can only respond with a dry and nervous “I’m fine”. 

Just a “I’m fine” is a conversation-stopper here. Some interviewers only ask this question as a courtesy, but other experienced interviewers can use this to assess your client interaction – which is essential in consulting.

Ideally, your answer should be detailed, positive, and reciprocal (the last one means you should ask them back). This is how you make a good first impression and keep the conversation going - a consultant is expected to perfect everything from the start to the end. 

This is how you could answer it:

“I’ve had a nice breakfast just outside this office, so today has been a great start. What about you – how are you today?”

“What do you think about the office?”

Answers to this question should follow the same rules as the previous one. Remember to be sincere - blatant flattering does not make good impressions.

Preparation is simple – pay attention to your surroundings when you enter their office. Consulting firms appreciate people who can notice the small but important details.

Here is an example answer:

“I like the way this building uses glass to maximize natural lighting. It must really be easing on the eyes, I prefer that to artificial lights. Is it the same for you?”

“Tell me about yourself”/”Walk me through your resume”

Here’s when things start to get serious – a slow transition to the fit interview part.

The most common mistake for candidates in consulting and in general is to ramble without any focus. Interviewers want answers relevant to the job and the firm in particular, not a 10-minute recital of everything you’ve done since high school.

And because this is a consulting interview, you should organize your answer clearly and make it MECE – use a Present-Past-Future structure can help a great deal. Focus on only 2-3 key points in your resume, and try to have a “so what” strongly connecting your profile with the firm – in this case, showing that you have the three necessary attributes, and that consulting aligns well with your future plans.

Here is an example answer:

“Surely. To introduce myself, I’d like to talk about 3 things: 1. my current job, 2. my past working experiences, and 3. my plans for the future. Is that okay for you?”

[the interviewer nods]

“Thank you. So for my current job, I am […] In the past, I also worked as […] As for my future career, I plan to […] which leads me to apply for the position of Business Analyst at your firm. As being a good analyst requires […] I believe my experience in […] would make a great addition to the projects.”


Part 2: Fit/Behavioral interview questions

Read more: Consulting Fit Interview/ McKinsey PEI

Fit/Behavioral interview questions check whether your qualities, motivations, and personality fit the firm’s culture by assessing the necessary skills and personality traits based on your behavior in past situations, along with other questions on your motivations or personal side.

Motivation question

Interviewers ask these questions to help them rule out lazy candidates who can’t bother to research about a firm/a job, or people who jump ship at the slightest chance. Therefore, your reasons must be unique, specific, authentic, and appropriate. 

Unique means the answer is unique to your plans and preferences, while specific means it’s only applicable to the firm you’re interviewing for. Authentic means it should be factual, and you back it up with a source - for instance, you said you asked a few consultants, and they said the same thing, not something you’ve just made up.

And lastly, be appropriate - not every reason is suitable for an interview – for example, everyone wants a high salary and good exit options, but do not suggest you are “just in for the money then bail out in two years”.

Additionally, it must be structured – and preferably MECE. A simple trick to structuring your reasons is to number them, for example: “I decided to apply to join McKinsey because of three reasons: 1. […] 2. […] 3. […]”

Experience question

This is a behavioral question, and it appears in every consulting fit interview. Interviewers ask for your experience in a situation you have encountered to assess the qualities, motivations, and personality traits to see whether the candidate can fit in with the firm. Therefore, this question gets the highest priority in fit interview.

The key to nailing experience questions lies in powerful and convincing story-telling, which consists of three steps:

  • Lay down the content base: Select 3-5 “extraordinary” stories in your personal and professional life, then gather all related details.

  • Form the story plot: For each story, remove the unimportant and technical details; enhance the rest to reflect the qualities most important to consulting (leadership, achieving, and problem-solving).

  • Refine your style: Practice telling those stories until you see people listening to you attentively; the point is to create a charming, unique and natural style for yourself – good storytellers always have their styles.

Everyone has their own stories, and considering the time and space constraints of this article I won’t post a detailed story here. However, in my Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, I discussed in great length about how to craft a powerful PEI story, using my own example.

Hypothetical situation question

A hypothetical situation question asks for a situation you might encounter in a real working day. Together with the experience question, an interviewer uses this question to assess the qualities, motivations, and personality traits to see whether the candidate can fit in with the firm. 

However, this type of question is not very popular in fit interviews, even though it appears a lot in online screening aptitude test

Below is an example for this kind of question.

“You are a supervising manager. You want to profile the performance of your workers based on certain criteria. Which of the following criteria would you consider as best and worst to choose for the task?”.

1. Amount of paperwork processed per week.

2. Socializing habits.

3. Rate of compliance with administrative decisions.

4. Level of participation in non-formal corporate activities.

Personality question

Unlike the experience question or hypothetical situation question, the personality question is far from tricky. Interviewers usually ask this question to explore who you are as a person. The most important tip for this kind of question is: 

Be yourself.

This is an opportunity for you to show that you’re an interesting person (in a positive way), and that you demonstrate consulting attributes (achieving/leadership/problem-solving) in everything you do. For example, if you have a passion for paragliding and have some excellent achievements with it, then you can answer the question like this:

“I love paragliding. It’s not just the joys of flying that get me – but also the research and strategy involved before and during every flight. I believe analytics is one of my strengths as a pilot – which helped me win a SEA championship in 2019.”

Beware of follow-up questions.

Whether you are introducing yourself, explaining your application, or showing your extraordinary achievements, the interviewer will always have follow-up questions to determine the authenticity of your story. Consulting interviewers are highly skeptical and fact-based.

That means you have to know your stories/resume inside-out and outside-in. Predict the possible weak points and the likely follow-up questions and prepare your answers in advance.

Do not freeze and panic if you encounter an unexpected question –  real management consultants must always remain calm in front of their clients.


Part 3: Case interview questions

Case interview questions ask the candidate to solve a business problem. Those questions are the most challenging part of a consulting interview, testing problem-solving and other “soft” skills required for a successful consultant. They include: 

  • Conventional case questions: Common questions that appear in every case interview

  • Assisting questions: Answers for those questions can become useful add-ins for candidates to explore the case. Only for a few candidates that the interviewer is interested in investing more.

  • Curveball questions: Hard questions. Only for a few candidates that the interviewer is interested in investing more.

In a candidate-led case interviews, where the candidate moves through the problem-solving process with the interviewer only as the “case operator”, the questions are seamlessly integrated into a gradual flow. 

However, in interviewer-led cases where the interviewer commands the problem-solving process, the questions are more disconnected but usually belong to the same case. You might have to use the insights from one question to answer another.

Read more: Case Interview 101

Conventional case questions

Conventional case questions aim to assess the critical skills of a consultant: clarify, structure, estimate, analyze, and synthesize. They appear in every consulting case interview. Candidates should expect to encounter many question types, including:

  • Framework/Issue tree question

  • Market-Sizing question

  • Guesstimate question

  • Business valuation question

  • Chart-insights question

  • Value proposition question

  • Information question

  • Business math question

  • Solution-finding question

  • Elevator pitch: Usually asked at the end of the case interview part, this means you have impressed the interviewer enough to get this far.

  • Brain teaser: This was once very popular in case interviews but is now gradually fading from its fame.

The question and answer examples are streamlined for demonstration purposes. A real case interview has a much smoother transition and requires more complex issue trees/calculations.

Type 1 - Framework/Issue tree question

Read more: Issue Tree / Case Interview Frameworks / MECE Principle

To answer the framework/issue tree question effectively, you need to understand the consulting problem-solving fundamentals, master some important case interview frameworks, and thoroughly grasp the MECE principle.

For example, you encounter a hypothetical case of a fictional firm called “Eagle Aviation”. 

Eagle Aviation produces manned airplanes for military and civilian use. Although the firm remains a major player in the market, it has seen some serious decline in revenue in the last five years, leading to profit loss, so they called in your team to address the problem.

And the question is, “What factors would you consider to address our client’s problem?”

Here is one way to answer the question. Remember to draw out an issue tree and point to it as you speak, as it gives a better presentation effect. 

“To address the root cause of Eagle Aviation’s declining revenue, I would break the revenue down according to their market segments and use data to pinpoint where the problem is coming from.

For Eagle Aviation, there are two main segments: ‘military’, and ‘civilian’. The military often buys two types of airplanes – “combat”, such as fighters, and “non-combat”, such as cargo planes. On the civilian side, there are also two types: “commercial”, like large airliners, and “non-commercial”, for personal use.

Type 2 - Guesstimate questions

Read more: Market-Sizing & Guesstimate Questions

A guesstimate question requires you to make an educated estimate of a vague and obscure number. It aims to see if you have a structured approach to solving problems. Accuracy is appreciated but not crucial for the answer.

To make such an estimate, follow these four steps:

  • Step 1: Clarify all unclear terms in the question

  • Step 2: Break the number down into 3-5 small, easy-to-estimate pieces

  • Step 3: Estimate each piece using math and background knowledge

  • Step 4: Consolidate the pieces to arrive at the final result

Example: “How many tennis balls can you stuff inside an airplane?”

A good answer should be like this:

“Thank you for the interesting question. Before I can answer it, I would clarify three points to make sure that we are on the same page:

  • The tennis ball is of the normal size.

  • The airplane is a small commercial airplane, like a Boeing 737

  • “Stuff inside the airplane” means inside the main tubular frame or the fuselage – spaces in other parts such as the wings do not count, and the frame is completely empty, without any equipment or furniture. 

Does these sound good to you?”

<the interviewer agrees>

“It’s great to see that we can agree on the important details. To answer your question, I would need to break it down into small components for easier estimations, so can I have a minute?”

<the interviewer agrees, and the candidate uses the timeout to draw the issue tree>

“To know how many tennis balls we can stuff inside an airplane, we would need to estimate the volume of the tennis ball, and the volume of the fuselage.

  • The average tennis ball is about 130cm3 or 0.00013m3

  • The typical small commercial airplane will have a tube-shaped fuselage about 40m in length and 2m in radius, which makes about 250m3 of volume.

Combining these figures, we can conclude that we can stuff roughly 1,900,000 tennis balls in a typical small commercial airplane."

As you can see, the candidate in the above example always uses round numbers and tries to structure the answer as much as possible. The former will help your brain process calculations faster, while the latter will help the interviewer follow your answer and make a good impression that you have a “structured” mindset. 

Also, remember to perform your calculations quickly and mentally (you do not want to bore the interviewer to death while you do the math).

Type 3 - Market-sizing questions

Read more: Market-Sizing & Guesstimate Questions

A “market-sizing question” is a subtype of a guesstimate question. Hence, the approach is the same – structure gets the priority, not accuracy – except here, you need more business intuition.

Again, you use the same four steps as with guesstimate questions: (1) clarify, (2) break the problem down, (3) estimate each piece, and (4) consolidate. 

Example: How much Earl Grey is drunk in Britain each year?

A good answer should be like this:

“Thank you for this very interesting question.

Before diving into the estimations, I would like to first clarify a few terms to make sure we are both on the same page regarding the important details. There are three points I would like to clarify:

  • Earl Grey tea is any tea marketed as such, regardless of the ingredients.

  • British people consist of inhabitants of the UK.

  • The consumption is measured in tea cups.

Do you agree with me on these assumptions?”

<the interviewer agrees>

“It’s great to see we understand the question the same way. I’d like to take a few moments to gather my thoughts and draw up my issue tree – so may I take a timeout?”

<the interviewer agrees>

<candidate draws this issue tree>

<start presenting>

“Thanks for your patience.

Now, to estimate the consumption of Earl Grey tea by British people on a typical afternoon, I’d like to break it down into three determinants – the population of the UK, the number of tea cups each UK resident drinks in an afternoon, and the chance of those cups being Earl Grey.

For the population of the UK, I’d take a rounded number of 65 million. Considering that UK people are very famous for their love of tea, I assume about 80% of the UK population drinks tea, which means there is 52 million tea drinkers in UK. Each of these 52 million people drinks one cup of tea in their afternoon tea meal. 

Earl Grey is among the top five popular teas in the UK, and I estimate this group to take up 50% of all UK tea, considering so many other types in the market. The chance of an afternoon tea cup being Earl Grey is 10% - this number is taken to simplify the calculations.

Combining these numbers, I estimate that on a typical afternoon, British people consume 5.2 million cups of Earl Grey tea – quite an attractive number for any business operating in the tea industry.”

Type 4 - Business valuation question

A business valuation question requires you to estimate the monetary value of a business. This is a blend of guesstimation/market-sizing, math, business, coupled with some basic finance knowledge.

There are three ways to estimate the value of a business:

  • The NPV Method: Take the net cash flow generated by the business, and discount it to the present to account for time value of money. Basically “this company is worth X dollars because it gives me Y dollars over Z years”.

  • The Net Assets Method: Take the total assets of the business and minus its liabilities. In essence, “this company is worth X-Y dollars because it owns X dollars and owes Y   dollars”.

  • The Market Method: Take one index of the firm (which can be stocks or anything depending on the industry)and multiply it with an industry multiple (the value of one unit of the said index). In other words, “this company is worth AxB dollars because it has A traffic and each traffic is worth B dollars”.

Example: How much is MConsultingPrep worth?

A good answer should be like this:

“Thank you for the interesting question. Since MConsultingPrep is an established firm within the consulting prep niche, providing stable income for its shareholders, the NPV method should be the most suitable for this website.

For this I would like to know the expected cash flow from MConsultingPrep, and the market interest rate – if this was a real project I would interview the client CFO and perform press search for these insights […]” 

Type 5 - Chart-insights question

Read more: Consulting & Case Interview Math

These chart-insights questions are among the most popular questions in case interviews because consultants run through mountains of charts and tables daily. Chart-reading is covered in our Comprehensive Math Drills along with mental calculations and case math.

One key note here: always add at least one “so-what” to your answer – to a consultant, data means nothing without implications. 

Example: What do you see from the following chart?

A good answer should be like this:

“Thank you for this very interesting piece of data. From this chart I can see a very steep rise around March 11 in the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases – from a negligible number to about 2,800 per million in just 5 months, along with a steady rise in the number of confirmed deaths to about 70-80 per million; both changes started around March 10-11. 

There are two implications from these data: (1)These sudden rises can be explained by events occurring in early March, and (2) if we can keep the number of cases low, the threat from COVID-19 will remain minimal, considering a mortality rate of only 2%.”

Type 6 - Value proposition question

A value proposition question requires a candidate to propose values that the client can use to sell their products.

The most common mistake for this question type is to list out values straight away – it makes you sound less structured and less insightful. For this question type, you can use a “double issue-tree” – essentially a table with customer segments on one axis and proposed values on the other.

Example: “What will a customer consider when buying a high-performance laptop?”

A good answer should be like this:

“Thank you for the interesting question. To answer this question in the most MECE and insightful way, I would first segment the customers into High-End, Mid-Range, and Entry-Level according to their budget, then assess their preferences on three proposed values: Performance, Design, and Build Quality […]”

Type 7 - Information question

An information question asks if the piece of data you use is obtainable in the first place. In real consulting work, data is not always available – client team members may refuse to cooperate, or there’s simply no data on the subject.

There are many kinds of information sources in case interviews/consulting works, but I’ll divide them into primary and secondary sources. 

  • Primary source: You must research yourself (or pay someone to do it for you), such as customer surveys or mystery shopping. 

  • Secondary source: You use the results of others' research. You can get these from the client, your consulting firm, or third parties such as market research firms or external industry experts.

For these questions, you need to structure your answer as much as possible and explain why you choose certain information sources over others.

You can find out more about these sources and how to cite them in real case interviews through this free Prospective Candidate Starter Pack, which contains a glossary of data sources in consulting. 

Below is an information question example.

Example: “How do you find out a local customer’s preferences when buying a laptop?”

A good answer should be like this:

“If this was a real project, I would find industry reports to gain an initial understanding of the market trends, and in case I needed more and deeper insights, I would try to contact a local industry expert.

The former method is quick and widely available but everyone can gain access to industry reports – including the competitors – and the information is not too insightful. Industry experts, on the other hand, can give unique insights that are not always accessible.”

Type 8 - Business math question

While math questions in business are not as complicated as the math back in school, they require you to be quick and accurate with mental math, familiar with large numbers, and basic business concepts. You also have the pressure of a high-stake interview, and it is easy to make mistakes when under stress.

Try to “calculate out-loud” – these math questions can take quite a while, and it is bad to leave long periods of silence.

Type 9 - Solution-finding question

To answer a solution-finding question, you need to structure the answer and deliver it top-down. Yet, many candidates still make the mistake of delivering solutions bottom-up without structuring them first.

If you can’t think of a more relevant way to segment your solutions, group them into short-term and long-term ones. It helps you brainstorm more thoroughly and makes a good impression on the interviewer.

Example: “What solutions do you suggest to our client to recover the lost revenue?”

A good answer should be like this:

“To address the root cause of our client’s revenue problem, I suggest 2 long-term and 3 short-term solutions. The long-term solutions are 1 […] and 2 […]. The short-term ones are 1 […], 2 […], and 3 […]”

Type 10 - The “elevator pitch”

An “elevator pitch” question simulates a hypothetical situation where you must deliver the most important answer within an elevator ride to the client.

For your pitch to “pass”, it must be solution-oriented – the client CEO is busy, so they have no time for a full presentation. Just throw out the most critical conclusions first, any questions can wait.

So how do you present your solution to the client CEO in 30 seconds? Below is a good example:

“Mr CEO, it’s been a pleasure to work with you on this interesting project of […]. Through rigorous research, we have identified the root causes of [problem] to be: 1 […], 2 […]; here are the solutions we recommend to address that problem: 1 […], 2 […]. We would be more than happy to continue with you in future projects to implement those solutions.”

Type 11 - Brain teaser question

Read more: Brain Teasers

Brain teaser question is invented by Google. This question type used to be popular in interviews at consulting and tech firms, until Google themselves found out brain teasers were only effective for confusing the candidate and making the interviewer feel smart. Nonetheless, brain teasers might still appear in your consulting interviews.

Most brain teasers are trick questions (excluding one type – logical brain teasers) – and while people say answering these questions depend on pure luck and innate skills, they can be categorized and prepared for in a systematic way – as laid out in this article. Brain teasers do not take much effort to learn, so spend some time to prepare for them – just in case.

Example: “How do you put a giraffe inside a fridge?”

Answer: “Open the fridge, put the giraffe in, close the fridge. Nobody says how big the giraffe or the fridge is.”

Assisting questions 

The interviewer asks assisting questions to suggest possible approaches, data and insights, or to stop the candidates from going the wrong way. This is similar to suggestions from clients or superiors in an actual project. Answers for assisting questions can become useful add-ins for candidates to explore the case. 

Those questions usually come to a few candidates that the interviewer is interested in investing more, so this might be a good sign that the interviewer is interested in you. Therefore, if you encounter an assisting question in the case interview, you are expected to make a good answer and use the new information effectively. 

Curveball questions

A curveball question, as the name suggests, is a tricky question where the interviewer aims to see how a candidate can handle this stress test and come out successfully. This question is similar to real-life situations where a consultant encounters complicated problems, pushy bosses, unfriendly clients, etc. 

Those questions usually come to a few candidates that the interviewer is interested in investing more, so this might be a good sign that the interviewer is interested in you. A good handle of this curveball can help you score a homerun - a total success in the interview. 


Part 4: End-of-interview questions (to ask the interviewer)

You are now the interviewer. And the interviewer has become the interviewee. It’s your turn to ask them about their job, and their firm.

You SHOULD ask well-thought questions informed by prior research, presented in a structured manner, and supported by equally poise follow-up questions. It shows that you really care about the job, that you did your homework, and you have the necessary mindset for the management consulting job.

Below is a good example:

“Before I applied, I talked to [name of consultant] who used to work at [name of office]. He told me that consulting requires two main skill sets, which he calls “substance” – basically the research and analysis work – and “people skills”. I believe these two skills sets do not contribute equally in one’s performance, so I have two questions:

  • In this particular office, how much each of these skill sets contributes to high performance? Please quantify it into rough percentages if possible.

  • In the case I get the offer, which skill can I focus on beforehand and during the first project? I am a fan of the 80-20 principle, so I want to identify the best leverage to improve my performance at the job.”

Then here is how NOT to do it.

“Would you mind telling me what skills are important for this job?”

This sounds like you’ve done no research and just asked the question for the sake of not staying silent.

The further you advance in the lengthy interview process (with higher-level consultants), the more unpredictable the situation can be. To prepare for such situations, you need to master the fundamentals of the case interview. Such fundamentals are covered in our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, as well as this free comprehensive guide.

Once you master the principles of the case interview, it’s time to practice a real-life case interview! Schedule a meeting with former consultants who have interviewed thousands of candidates. They have the insider knowledge to help you ace an interview.

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