Interview: Hannah Knight about her preparation towards becoming a consultant
Q) Can you introduce yourself for the readers please?
Hello! I am a PhD student in Biological Sciences. In the 2015-2016 academic year, I was one of the vice presidents of APDCC.
Q) When and how did you decide on becoming a consultant?
The process of deciding to go into consulting took me a while. Over the years in graduate school, I started becoming more interested in business & industry, and I heard from friends that consulting could be a good opportunity. I decided to apply for consulting jobs while I was working on a pro bono consulting project through APDCC; it was really fun working on that project, so I figured it could be a satisfying career path as well!
Q) How did you begin your preparation?
I began by getting involved in the club, including participating in some projects and attending some case practices and executive team meetings. I also took the MicroMBA class and followed up a couple introductory business classes at UCSD Extension.
For the uninitiated, the top consulting firms also conduct boot-camps or short immersion programs for selected candidates. This allows potential candidates to work closely with real consultants in real office environments and case situations. In addition to giving an up close and personal view of the consulting life, this also gives an insight into the different firms, their office culture, personal fit etc. To get into these immersion programs, applications begin in summer and it typically involves a 2-3 stage selection process including resume/phone interviews, aptitude tests and case interviews. Some of the most popular ones are “McKinsey Insight”, “Bridge to BCG”, “Connect to clearView” and “Advance into Consulting”.
With respect to the Immersion programs:
Q) What were the ‘connect’ programs that you applied to?
I applied to all four immersion programs.
Q) How many and which all did you qualify for?
I attended McKinsey Insight and Bain Advance into Consulting.
Q) What was your experience with Bain at Advance into consulting? (What was the professional experience and office culture?)
Advance into Consulting is a one-day introduction to Bain. We had the opportunity to learn more about the firm, brainstorm about one project in small groups, ask questions of a panel of consultants, and meet current consultants over dinner.
Q) What was your experience at McKinsey Insight?
(What was the professional experience and office culture?)
McKinsey Insight was a really fun program that took place over the course of 3 days. Everyone at McKinsey Insight Healthcare had a background in the life sciences, and it was a mix of PhD students and medical students. We were split into teams to tackle a mock project under the direction of a current consultant. As part of our work on the project, we conducted interviews, put together a presentation, and participated in a mock client meeting. There was also quite a bit of social time and a ton of opportunities to learn about consulting and about the firm. It was a great experience!
Q) How do you think the “connect” programs help you in your preparation?
The immersion programs that I attended did not focus on interview preparation. However, it gave me a much better idea of what consulting actually is, which was useful for my own decisions about whether/where to apply.
Q) Did you find any significant differences at the different consulting firms?
No comment (hard to say because AIC was so short).
Q) What would you recommend people to focus on if they want to get into the immersion programs? How much should the focus be on life-sciences, if any, and how should people prepare for that?
Spend some time working on your cover letter and your resume (which will be different from an academic CV). That allows you to put your best foot forward and saves you some time if/when you submit full-time applications later.
Q) Are there any differences between preparing for the different internship programs – BCG/Bain/ClearView, etc?
After submitting the resume, McKinsey asked us to take an online assessment (similar to a standardized test) and then do a phone interview with a “mini-case,” whereas Bain issued an invitation without any additional interview step. Other than preparing for the phone interview, I did not do any other preparation.
With respect to the full time applications:
Q) What was your recruitment process like for the full-time role?
I did first round and final round interviews at McKinsey, Bain, and ClearView.
Q) How did you practice for case interviews?
I started by going to APDCC case practice, and then I did a lot of cases with friends. I also looked through some of the case interview resources available online, such as Victor Cheng’s YouTube videos.
Q) How did you practice fit interview questions?
I made a list of different stories and experiences that I could imagine myself talking about in interviews. I also found some lists online of common interview questions and thought about my answers to those questions. I also practiced a little bit with some friends who were also interviewing.
Q) What were the best and worst parts of your entire preparation process?
The best part is doing cases, and the worst part is doing cases! Practicing case interviews can be really fun, especially when you pair up with a friend or when the case goes well. It can also be stressful because you bomb some cases (but it happens to everyone!).
Over all general questions:
Q) What was your experience with the different consulting firms?
All of my interviews were pretty fun! There were some slight differences in the format between firms, but on the whole, every interview day was a good experience.
Q) What were your observations about office culture in big firms vs smaller, more boutique firms?
No comment–I don’t feel qualified to answer this.
Q) What was your experience in working with generalist firms vs. specialist firms?
No comment–I don’t feel qualified to answer this.
Q) Based on all your experience, what would you recommendations be for future applicants? What are the do’s and the don’ts?
Before you submit your applications, try to do some networking–reach out to people who work at the firms you want to apply to and go to info sessions or networking events. For the actual interviews, I would definitely recommend practicing cases, but don’t neglect your preparation for the fit/experience portion of the interview as well. It’s really important!
Q) What were your biggest challenges in the whole process? What were the things you did right and what (in your opinion) did you do wrong? If you were to this again in an alternate universe but could carry the knowledge – what would you do differently?
My biggest challenge was dealing with the stress of the interview process. It’s a nerve-wracking experience! But ultimately, feeling stressed doesn’t help at all so it’s better to keep a calm, optimistic mindset as much as possible.
Q) Thanks a lot to Hannah for taking the time out to answering our questions and for all your work with the club last year…
Hannah Knight is a graduate student in the UCSD Biomedical Science Program. She was also the Vice President of APD Consulting Club in the 2015-2016 academic year. Hannah is now close to finishing her Ph.D and will be joining ClearView Healthcare Partners in the coming year.