9 Qualities Interviewers Look For In A Candidate

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

Interviewers often look for nine major qualities in candidates: intellectual horsepower, communication skills, maturity, body language, drive, well-roundedness, leadership skills, ability to present, and general awareness.



1. Intellectual Horsepower


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Interviewers often look for nine major qualities in candidates: intellectual horsepower, communication skills, maturity, body language, drive, well-roundedness, leadership skills, ability to present, and general awareness.



1. Intellectual Horsepower



This should already be evident from your resume, exam scores, and research papers. They may probe further into your intellectual horsepower during an interview, but this generally comes up during the case interview.

2. Communication Skills



The second skill set is communication skills. You don’t have to be the most eloquent person in the room, but should speak clearly with a palpable energy level. This is important because in front of a client you must be clear, crisp, and convey your point in a confident manner.

3. Maturity



One of the most important aspects of consulting is the ability to handle different situations, which comes from maturity. Maturity can be displayed in the interview by the way you communicate, your body language, and conduct.

4. Body Language



Body language encompasses almost everything—from your handshake to posture to eye contact. Make sure you come across as confident, calm and poised. This means you shouldn’t fidget with your hand and hair or shake your legs during an interview.

5. Drive



An associate needs to infuse enthusiasm into a project, have a hunger for knowledge, and have drive across the board. You might ask how you can display your drive in an interview. Drive comes through in your body language and the way you talk about your work. Use an example of when you’ve gone out of your way to do something, whether working for a nonprofit or playing a sport while balancing studies.

6. Well-roundedness



Well-roundedness is combination of the above factors. Consultants pride themselves on being “all-arounders”—- they can crunch numbers, but also have great communication skills. An interviewer looks for someone with diverse interests and extracurricular activities. For example, I just worked on a case where we needed chemical engineers who knew how to clean the internal surfaces of certain boilers. Different issues and cases come up, which is why consultants recruit people from diverse backgrounds.

7. Leadership skills



Consultants look at every new candidate as a possible partner, so being able to display your leadership is extremely important in the interview. Let’s talk about the misconception that leadership means managing other people and delegating other tasks. Leadership is about taking initiative and doing something out of the box that hasn’t been done. The ability to take risks and rise to a challenge are also important. Leadership can come in many forms and is not just about managing people. You can show this by giving examples of going above and beyond in extracurricular or job requirements.

8. Ability to present



Some consulting firms have a round where they ask you to present your analysis following a case interview. They often ask you to make a quick PowerPoint presentation or show some slides. This often happens at the post-MBA level and happens less often at an associate level. You need to know how to talk through numbers and analysis confidently to communicate effectively to the other consultants and later clients.

9. General Awareness



General awareness goes a long way in consulting interviews. You don’t know your interviewer's background or interests. Find a cord to connect you with the interviewer to become the theme of the interview. I’ve connected with people based on my interests in rock music, renewable energy, and politics. You don’t know what will help. It’s a good idea to read up on key events happening in the world and develop a perspective on some important issues from legislation to Twitter. This will help bring more flavor and engagement to your interview.

The key to cracking the fit interview lies in connecting with your interviewer. It’s important to gage body language and assess how the person is actually reacting to your answers. If the interviewer takes a keen interest in what you’re saying, engage him or her in the conversation. But if the interviewer doesn’t seem interested, it’s best to cut the topic short and jump to the next question. The key takeaway is to keep checking for feedback and develop a rapport with your interviewer.

My final piece of advice is to read up informally on a couple things consulting firms look for in their candidates. At Parthenon, we have a tagline: smart, nice, and driven. Believe it or not, we do evaluate people on these three criteria. Find the two or three adjectives that define a consultant in a particular firm and display that side of your personality in the interview to secure the job.
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