I stumbled upon your site via a local headhunter’s interview brief – fascinating trove of information in a world that I’ve touched but not lived in – a.k.a. management consulting.  On the other hand, I’ve been a general manager/head of operations for some highly specialized technology companies.   So this smallish consulting firm is interested in talking to me regarding their automotive practice; this has been my domain for all these years.

Should I anticipate they will run me through the typical format you allude to, i.e., estimation math, riddles and management/fiscal case-studies?  Do you have some suggestions regarding how to prepare for this?  I have an advanced degree in engineering, and have hired/fired MBAs, but have no formal academia in this field. Would appreciate hearing your suggestions.

All the best, and keep up the great work!

My Reply:

With the boutique firms, it is much harder to predict what they will ask, as there is greater variance amongst the more specialized firms.

It will depend on two factors — the background of the firm’s founding partners, and how they organize their roles internally.

If the partners are all ex-Top 3 consulting firms, then 90% of the time they stick to what they know and use a similar interview process as is described on my website.

In addition, at the Top 10 firms, it is expected that all partners and senior consultants are strong problem solvers and salespeople.  As you move into the Top 100 firms, sometimes they will split the roles differently — where the partners are really only salespeople, and the junior people are the problem solvers.

In these firms, it is possible to move into a senior consultant / near partner level role if you can bring in clients, generate revenue and manage a team — and the strong problem-solving skills aren’t as important.  In these situations, they’re less likely to ask case interview type questions, and more likely to assess the breadth of your network in the industry, team management skills, sales experience, etc.