Fit/Behavioral Interviews - A Crash Course

brj's picture
Rank: Senior Gorilla | 806

A few weeks ago I finished interviewing for MBA consulting internships and wanted to capture some of my thoughts while they're still fresh. There are lots of good resources for case interviews available, but most of the truly great advice I received for behavioral interviews was from personal connections. Below is my overview of tips for succeeding in the process. This is meant to be thorough, and reflects my experience through 20+ interviews. That said, it is likely not exhaustive, and I welcome any additions or comments you can provide. I'll add sections or elaborate, as appropriate.

Acing the case is table stakes; lots of people will do it. Unless you show some amazing creativity, the case is unlikely to be the differentiator in a decision round. Also, in a combo fit/case interview, the behavioral portion is usually first. If you make a good impression and develop rapport here, the interviewer is much more likely to help you during the case. If they've decided in the first 5 minutes that you seem smart, that little arithmetic error during the case may be considered a fluke rather than indicative of an underlying analytic weakness. Finally, "fit" evaluation continues through the case. Don't turn off the conversational ability and charm just because the case starts.

You should approach fit/behavioral prep with the same precision that you do case prep. Either devote some full sessions with case prep partners to working on behavioral questions or (my preference) ask each other 2 fit questions before every case, and be brutally honest with feedback.

Background/Resume Walkthrough - Dial-in a cohesive 90 second resume walkthrough that focuses on the positive motivating factors behind every transition (school to job, job to better job, most recent job to grad school). E.g. "I went to school to design cars, but after one internship I realized I liked interacting with clients directly and pursued full-time roles with a sales bent. In that role, I develop solid sales skills as well as gaining exposure to a, b, and c. I wanted to continue honing those and branch out to focus on x, y, and z. I sought a new role/promotion which provided that opportunity..." Be deliberate. Every move you made should have a reason (preferably that you initiated). Don't be negative. Never say you left because you were bored or "wanted to try something new."

Basic Questions - Why do you want to do consulting? Why this firm? Why are you a good fit? Tailor these answer for each firm and practice the hell out of them.

Desirable traits - It's not hard to figure out the questions you'll be asked. They usually take the form of "Tell me about a time when...you dealt with a difficult client/you led a team/you persuaded someone/you were a good teammate/you failed/you faced a challenging situation." Here the trick is to answer the right question. So many people get dinged because they try to fit a leadership story to the team question or a weakness story to the failure one. Ideally, you can come up with 6-8 stories that cover the 30-40 basic questions, with only slight modifications. Don't wing it. For every potential question, map out the story using the SOAR framework. Describe the Situation (10-15 seconds), Obstacle (10-15s), Action (60-75s), and Result (15-30s). Stories for these questions should be 1.5-2 minutes long and focus only on what's important.

Be specific - Even if the interviewer asks you to describe your leadership style or for you top 2 strengths, you should hear "Tell about a time when..." and answer with a real example. "I lead by doing and exhibited this when I [faced this situation][that was challenging because stuff][so I did some other stuff][and it worked out like this... and I learned this for next time].

Delivery - I said you should practice the resume walkthrough and your SOAR stories to the point of having them memorized, right? Well, don't spout them out as a canned response or let your eyes light up with that "ooh, I know the answer to this one" look. The stories should sound like they are thoughtful and come very naturally like you're telling them to a colleague at happy hour. If you don't use pretentious language in normal conversation, don't do it here. Draw the interviewer in; they should have followup questions not because you're story isn't clear, but because they want to know more.

Questions - At the end of the interview (typically), they will ask if you have any for them. Don't say no and, if you've been networking for 3 months, don't ask about things you already know or should (staffing model, industry mix for that office, travel model, training, etc.). If you have real questions that need clarification, go for it. Also, consider your audience. Questions about timing or logistics for the next round should probably be directed to the recruiting coordinator, not your interviewer. I like to lead with "tell me what you're working on now." If it's interesting, you can easily fill 5-10 minutes just talking about their current or favorite project. It's also a good place to show off your knowledge that the pharma industry is consolidating due to firms having to make larger bets on R&D (I made that up) or whatever you read in the latest WSJ or Economist.

Final thoughts - Every interaction counts. If the firm has consultants greeting candidates in campus interview suite or in a conference room, don't blow them off because you're so focused on your "real" interviewer. These people provide feedback too. Firm handshake, confident introduction, lively conversation. This isn't hard; they're not there to grill you. Don't be a potato. Last, but not least, send a followup email the same day thanking your interviewer for their time.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask about anything I didn't cover.

Comments (21)

Apr 26, 2014

Great info, thanks. Receive any curveball questions during behavioral portions? Could you provide any detail on what tier of firm or type of work you landed on for the summer?

Apr 26, 2014
graham2829:

Great info, thanks. Receive any curveball questions during behavioral portions? Could you provide any detail on what tier of firm or type of work you landed on for the summer?

I really didn't see many curveball questions. I had several friends that had superday interviews (both rounds, 4 interviews, same day) and were asked the same behavioral question by at least 3 interviewers. This is tough, because you're expected not to repeat stories (even in multiple round format) and if you're lucky, you will have two stories that are relevant to each question. They were scrambling. I had absolutely no brain teasers, and only 1 or 2 "how would you think about this" market-sizing ones that clearly fit in the context of a case.

I had first rounds with with MBB/Bz/D, finals with 3 of those, and pulled out of several first rounds with other firms because I had already accepted an offer from MBB. The role is a generalist one.

    • 1
May 21, 2014
brj:

Final thoughts - Every interaction counts. If the firm has consultants greeting candidates in campus interview suite or in a conference room, don't blow them off because you're so focused on your "real" interviewer. These people provide feedback too. Firm handshake, confident introduction, lively conversation. This isn't hard; they're not there to grill you. Don't be a potato. Last, but not least, send a followup email the same day thanking your interviewer for their time.

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask about anything I didn't cover.

I couldn't agree more. I was working a career fairish type of thing for the credit union I used to work at and we had one person that was the 'greeter' who saw the people when they walked in, took their name down, let them know who they were interviewing, etc. His job was to screen people. If they walked in and weren't wearing a suit, gave a terrible attitude, that sort of thing, he would just tell them to leave. It was pretty awesome to hear the stories he had after that day was over.

May 21, 2014

As someone who also interviewed for consulting internships and will be going to MBB this summer, this information is spot-on.

From my experience, it's also worth noting the differences across MBB:

1) McKinsey - Longest behavioral interview (~15 mins). Each interviewer will dive into one story in detail.
2) BCG - Shorter behavioral interview (~10 mins). This is more of a typical behavioral interview (multiple different questions requiring different stories).
3) Bain - Shortest behavioral interview, especially during first round interviews (~5 mins). The questions are similar to the ones BCG asks.

    • 1
May 21, 2014
kingfalcon:

3) Bain - Shortest behavioral interview, especially during first round interviews (~5 mins). The questions are similar to the ones BCG asks.

True for first rounds; however, it should also be added that there is an entire interview dedicated to fit in the final rounds.

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May 21, 2014

I guess it depends. My second-round interviews were exactly the same as my first-round interviews (minus the written case of course).

May 21, 2014

Really great post. SB'd!

May 21, 2014

It also depends on the office. My interview formats for a given firm sometimes varied from those of my classmates. I had a dedicated fit interview in my Bain final. I *think* Bain does the written case in most US offices, but BCG only in a few. McK PEI is standard as far as I know.

May 21, 2014

Great post, awesome stuff. In terms of follow up emails, I personally just make sure to follow up within 24 hours of the interview, not necessarily the same day. Just a personal preference since I like to take my time and come up with a less rigid and more personal thank you for each interviewer. Really minor detail, but great post.

Alright, Alright, Alright...

May 22, 2014

For most of my interviews, calls inviting me back (after first round) or with offers/dings (after final round) came at 9-11pm the same day. I wanted thank you's out before then.

For general networking events, 24 hours or end of following day are fine rules. When (not if) one slips through the cracks, it's usually better late than never. That said, if you let one go two weeks or something, you may be dead to that person regardless.

May 22, 2014

Interesting. I never heard back this quickly when I was offered a job or dinged. Maybe I should adjust my rules next time I interview. Thanks for the heads up.

Alright, Alright, Alright...

May 22, 2014

Were you doing undergrad or MBA recruiting? I can't speak to undergrad recruiting, but the MBA recruiting process is very regimented. That may explain some of the differences we are seeing here.

May 22, 2014

I completely agree. For interviews, if you're going to send a thank you email (which you should), you absolutely need to send it the day of the interview since results are often communicated that evening. For general networking follow-up emails, my rule was 24-48 hours.

May 22, 2014

Great post! I'd agree with the follow up comments mentioned above, the thank you notes/emails should be short and sincere.

obscurity is forever, and so is interest

May 25, 2014

Last, but not least, send a followup email the same day thanking your interviewer for their time.

Does this apply for banking interviews too (ugrads)? I find it a bit eager beaver to send such an email and never heard of this practice before.

May 25, 2014
smashzR:

Last, but not least, send a followup email the same day thanking your interviewer for their time.

Does this apply for banking interviews too (ugrads)? I find it a bit eager beaver to send such an email and never heard of this practice before.

Are you asking about not sending an email at all? Your interviewer is spending an hour, or more likely an entire day + travel to come meet you and your classmates. A brief email thanking them for their time and for sharing some of their experience with you is just common courtesy.

May 25, 2014
brj:
smashzR:

Last, but not least, send a followup email the same day thanking your interviewer for their time.

Does this apply for banking interviews too (ugrads)? I find it a bit eager beaver to send such an email and never heard of this practice before.

Are you asking about not sending an email at all? Your interviewer is spending an hour, or more likely an entire day + travel to come meet you and your classmates. A brief email thanking them for their time and for sharing some of their experience with you is just common courtesy.

I am talking about just summer internships, when you are invited to a first-round at a BB office.

May 25, 2014
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