Many candidates who are applying for consulting roles spend all their time preparing for case interviews — and they completely forget about the fit interview.
Importantly, if you don’t impress your interviewer in the fit interview, you won’t make it through the recruitment process.
So in this article, we’ll teach you how to prepare for and ace the consulting fit interview.
What is a fit interview?
A fit interview (sometimes called a behavioral interview or personal experience interview) is a 15-20 minute interview that assesses whether you have the soft skills and experience to be a good consultant, and whether you’d be a good cultural fit for the firm.
Fit interview questions are focused on skills and experience, and require you talk through real-world situations where you have demonstrated them.
The fit interview generally occurs as part of your first face-to-face interview. This means that it’s during the second stage of the recruitment process, after the screening test.
The first 20 minutes of the interview cover the fit interview and in the last 40 minutes you will be asked 1-2 case interview questions. Scores from the fit interview are then combined with those from the case interview to evaluate your overall Interview score.
What does the fit interview test?
The fit interview tests your soft skills and past experience, including things like:
- Communication skills: Whether you can communicate complex topics clearly, whether you can tell a compelling story, and whether they would feel comfortable putting you in front of a client.
- Teamwork skills: Whether you have experience working in challenging team environments and whether you could be a highly contributing member of a consulting case team.
- Leadership skills: Whether you can rally people around a shared goal, whether you can negotiate the challenges of different personalities, and whether you have the presence to inspire action.
- Motivation to be a consultant: Whether you have a detailed knowledge of the role, whether you show a strong interest and desire, and whether you would be compatible with the challenging life of a consultant.
- Motivation to join the firm: Whether you show a clear interest in the specific firm that you’re applying for and whether you’d be a good cultural fit for the firm.
In addition, some firms look for other attributes:
- McKinsey: Whether you have personally made a significant impact in whatever you focus on, demonstrate entrepreneurial drive, and have the skills to solve complex and ambiguous problems.
- BCG: Whether you demonstrate technical experience in the role that you’re applying for, and have a strong grasp of work and time management.
- Bain: Whether you show self-insight of your strengths, weaknesses, and potential contributions to the team.
How to prepare for a fit interview
Step 1. Find your example situations
The first thing you need to do is find your example situations. You want to have 5-8 different situations that you can recite from memory.
A good example situation is one that is both:
- Highly compelling: It’s the best demonstration of the particular skill that you have. Don’t settle on the first thing that comes to mind, spend time thinking about the best example you have.
- Versatile: It’s a situation that you can use to illustrate multiple skills. For example, one example situation might demonstrate both leadership and communication skills.
Step 2. Practice linking situations with skills
When the interviewer asks you a fit interview question, you need to be able to quickly determine which example situation that you want to talk through.
If you get this wrong, you’ll find yourself trying to adjust the story to the question on the fly — and your interviewer will see right through this.
One thing many people overlook is practicing the ability to quickly identify which of your 5-8 example situations you should use for the fit interview question you have been asked.
To do this, map your situations with the example questions below, then randomly present yourself an example question, and try to identify the situation as fast as possible.
Step 3. Practice reciting your example situations
Next, you need to refine the way you talk through your example situations.
You need to ensure that you can balance:
- Compellingness: Your story is powerfully illustrating the skill that the interviewer has asked about.
- Clarity: Your story is easy to understand.
- Conciseness: Your story doesn’t go into any unnecessary detail.
You should start by writing out your stories and practice reciting them to yourself. And once you’re confident, you should ask your friends or family to ask the questions in a mock interview.
Importantly, your mock interviewer should ask probing follow-up questions to test that you can think on your feet and talk through the example situation in more detail if required.
There’s no way to prepare for every possible fit interview question you may be asked. However, there are some common questions that come up regularly, including:
- Why do you want to be a consultant? (see our guide to the “why consulting” question here)
- Tell me about an instance when you had to think on your feet
- Describe a situation where you had to persuade someone to achieve an outcome
- What was the most unique and creative way that you solved a challenging problem?
- Tell me about a situation where you failed at the task and how did you respond?
- Tell me of a time when you had to deal with a difficult person on your team
McKinsey sample questions
McKinsey’s fit interview is called the Personal Experience Interview.
The unique thing about McKinsey’s PEI is that they prioritize depth over quantity. While other firms tend to look at the quantity of experience or the number of varied workplace situations with which you’ve dealt, McKinsey searches for a deeper understanding of one situation that brought out the best in you and made you an asset.
McKinsey provides a few sample questions on their interviewing page, including:
- Explain a challenging situation you encountered when working with someone with an opposing opinion (personal impact)
- Talk about a time when you worked to achieve something that was outside your comfort zone (entrepreneurial drive)
- Share an example where you effectively worked with people of different backgrounds (inclusive leadership)
- Discuss a hypothetical client scenario to help us understand how you structure tough, ambiguous challenges, identify important issues, deal with the implications of facts and data, formulate conclusions and recommendations, and articulate your thoughts (problem solving)
- Revisit a time when you experienced a significant change or encountered an ambiguous situation and shares the actions you took to adapt to the new circumstances (courageous change)
BCG sample questions
BCG’s fit interview is called the BCG Behavioural interview. BCG doesn’t provide any sample questions on the behavioral interview page. However, they do give some guidance on the structure of the questions:
- How have you done this task in the past?
- Describe a time when you…
- Share an example of a situation where…
Bain sample questions
Bain’s fit interview is called the Bain Experience Interview. Bain share a number of sample questions on their experience interview page:
- Why are you interested in Bain?
- What experience are you most proud of?
- What experience do you wish you could do over, and how would you do it differently?
- What is a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year?
- What is an example of a time when you showed initiative and leadership?
- What aspects of your internship did you especially enjoy?
- What aspects of your internship did you like less?
- What do you most like to do in your free time?
- What attributes would you bring to a case team?
- Describe a role where you changed the direction of a team. How did you do it?
How to answer fit interview questions
It’s important that you structure your responses to fit interview questions.
You should apply the top-down communication method. This means that you start with the answer and then follow by explaining the rationale behind that answer.
To do this, you can use the A-STAR method. A-STAR stands for Answer, Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
- Answer: Provide a one or two sentence answer to the question. This helps the interviewer understand exactly what story you are about to share.
- Situation: Provide a brief overview of the situation and any context that is needed to understand the story better. Try to keep this section as short as possible because it is not as important as the Action and Results sections.
- Task: Describe what you were asked or required to deliver or achieve. Again, try to keep this section concise because it is not as important as the Action and Results sections.
- Action: Explain what steps you took to handle the task or to meet the goal or objective.
- Result: Describe the outcome that your actions had, quantifying the impact and effect you had on the organization. You can also describe your key takeaways from this experience and how it impacted or influenced you as a person.
In addition to having a mental database of example situations that you can use to answer fit interview questions, you should also:
- Use good example situations: This is obvious but often overlooked. Don’t settle on the first example situation that answers the fit question “well enough”. Spend time thinking about your experience and finding the most compelling situation that you can.
- Use example situations that cover multiple skills: You should try to find example situations that show multiple skills and attributes, and then tailor them during the interview. For example, have one example situation that demonstrates both leadership and communication skills.
- Always be structured: Applying structure to complexity is a core consulting skill. Show that you already have that skill by structuring your situations so that they are easy to understand and follow.
- Be concise and don’t waffle: It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds. You should only talk through the detail that is required to demonstrate the skill that the question is asking about.
- Use genuine example situations: It can be tempting to create or exaggerate example situations. Don’t do that, your interviewer will know and they will automatically exclude dishonest candidates.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm: It’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. Be friendly, smile, and enjoy the experience. The interviewer is looking for somebody who they want to work with.