Consulting Firm Culture: How To Assess And Address It In Interviews

by Jaineel Aga

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

To find out a firm's culture, most consultants will tell you to actually talk to consultants.

You need to ask them questions and through those conversations, you have to be smart enough to gauge what the culture is like.

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To find out a firm's culture, most consultants will tell you to actually talk to consultants.

You need to ask them questions and through those conversations, you have to be smart enough to gauge what the culture is like.

Most students tell me that after talking to a few consultants each for 15 minutes, they're able to assess the general culture of a particular company or office. Some firms are "alpha males," very snobbish and competitive, and some people do very well in those environments. Other firms are laid-back and jovial, but might not be challenging enough for others. There are the firms that have a lot of travel. Or a lot of local work.

All of these things make up a company's culture, and it's important that you've done thorough research and spoken with enough consultants - particularly at the junior levels like associates or analysts - to understand whether you'd fit in.

Some people, either because they're competitive or because they feel a compulsion, will adapt their own behavior and personality to fit into whatever company they're interviewing for. It's not a bad strategy, because sometimes it'll work out, at least in the short-term, and you'll get that job offer.

Make sure you understand what a typical day in the life of a consultant in that particular office is. A typical day in the life of a BCG Mumbai consultant is very different from that of a Parthenon SF consultant. Although the underlying principles are the same, at the end of the day, what you have to do to  "deliver" in Mumbai is very different than what you deliver in San Francisco. This disparity is for a number of reasons: lack of data availability, importance given to work life balance, type of managers and work styles.

You'd be surprised how much company culture you can learn-- both implicitly and explicitly-- in those 15-20 minutes of talking to a current consultant

Now that you understand how to assess a company's culture, be prepared to address it in the fit interview. You'll likely be asked questions like "Why are you interested in our firm?" and a big part of answering that is talking about the culture!
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