Nick Wang is currently an MBA candidate at University of Chicago's Booth School of Business and an expert coach at RocketBlocks.
In this post, we'll hear about how Nick prepped for his consulting interviews, what worked and what didn't, and the advice he has for candidates who are in the thick of the interview process.
I went to Washington University in St. Louis for undergrad, majoring in Economics & Strategy and Finance. After graduation, I worked at Capital One in Washington DC for ~4 years as a Business Analyst.
As a BA, I analyzed data to make recommendations on various business problems for the company – similar to consulting, only I implemented the recommendations I made after getting approval. Sample problems include conducting A/B testing to determine the best type of digital messages we send to customers and creating a new fraud defense suite for all credit card transactions using historical data.
I also did some nonprofit consulting on the side as well: I helped a local performing arts theater determine its short and long term revenue strategy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The summer before business school I interned at a startup that sold flower kits and hosted flower arranging workshops; I was able to contrast my time at a major multinational corporation with a startup still getting on solid ground.
I pursued Consulting as my post-MBA role because while I enjoyed the type of work I was doing at Capital One, I wanted to get a wider exposure to everything: industries, projects, teammates, and solutions. The faster-paced work environment that client-facing work demanded also appealed to me, as I’d be able to develop more professionally.
I recruited for consulting at Booth and interned at Bain & Company in their Boston office Summer of 2022. I was in their Private Equity Group and worked on two due diligence projects, helping assess a healthcare client and a commercial software client.
I mainly followed the directions of Booth’s consulting club: Management Consulting Group (MCG). That entailed editing my resume and doing coffee chats in late September/early October to learn more about the companies and assess how I’d fit in with them.
The coffee chats are the first step in getting an interview – you share your story/background so they can assess your fit with their firm (some firms like specialties, some prefer generalists) and they talk about their firm culture so you can evaluate how good of a fit they are for you. Even though they’re all consulting firms, there are genuine differences between each one. My mentality wasn’t to eliminate firms based on these chats, but moreso internally rank them so as to direct my future prioritization (if I had conflicting events, who to try and network more with).
I didn’t do much prep before I came to campus – I did some of the pre MBA consulting programs but didn’t get too much from them. I do know some of my classmates who were recruiting for non-Chicago offices found it more helpful to connect with employees in their target offices ahead of time, but I felt that on campus recruiting offered me enough touchpoints.
I did 42 cases and ~10 behavioral sessions, split among 2nd year classmates, firm reps, and my 1st year classmates.
I’d say each week prep time ranged from 10-15 hours a week, split between casing, reviewing cases, doing drills, and writing out/practicing behavioral stories. This was in addition to doing networking with firms (depending on the time of year), which added hours as well.
When I’d case with classmates/firm reps and get feedback, I’d notice trends in the feedback I was getting (talked too quickly, insights too surface level, etc.). I’d focus my time on those and incorporate that into my practice. For practice, I did a variety of drills to shore up my weak points.
For communication-related skills, I’d replay cases in my head and redo my answers, focusing specifically on how I spoke rather than the content.
For case-specific issues, I’d use RocketBlocks drills and go through casebooks that my friends told me had the practice I was looking for (heavy on charts, math, etc.).
Reviewing cases after I did them.
I think people can get into the cycle of doing cases solely to pump their numbers up and “check the box”, but in reality I found case review to be way more effective than simply doing more cases.
Spending time digesting what I did wrong and what issues are specific to that case vs. a common problem really helped me identify what I had to work on in future cases.
My casers gave me so much feedback on every part of the case that unless I dedicated time to reviewing each piece specifically, I’d inevitably not remember most of it. I didn’t even have to agree with what they said, but the act of reviewing and confirming/rejecting their feedback helped me be intentional in determining my casing ability at each stage.
The last couple cases I did. I fell prey to the checking the box syndrome, when in reality what I should have been doing was more “case starts,” where I’d do the intro/framework of the case and then stop and review it.
At some point everybody starts to feel the cases are a blur, and there’s definitely diminishing returns in learning; however, there’s this pressure to keep prepping over the holidays since there’s so much time available.
Once I pivoted to doing case starts, I felt refreshed and was still learning. The case starts were just enough practice to make me feel fresh, but didn’t burn out my brain with the intensity of a full case. In addition, I was able to churn through more cases and learn about more industries/problem types.
Honestly, I felt quite confident. I knew I was a good caser and could definitely get along with my interviewer. I felt a bit shakier on my behavioral responses for some firms, but thought that they were good enough that my casing ability could carry me through.
I thought I applied for a consulting firm, but I got an email from HR two days after the deadline saying that I didn’t actually apply. It said on my end that I did apply, but I never got confirmation on the firm’s side that the application was received.
I followed up but didn’t get a response and naively just assumed that it would all work out (not the brightest response after spending 2 months networking with this firm to leave this stage out of my control).
Fast forward to interview invite dates and I didn’t receive an interview. Was it because I actually didn’t apply? Or did I and I just wasn’t selected? I’m not 100% sure but it was definitely the worst thing that happened to me.
I’d say a couple things:
This is probably the one thing I’d recommend recruits figure out as much as possible before recruiting season starts, over all the casing/math/behavioral prep.
The consulting club and firms will provide plenty of resources on that, but nobody knows how you tick in this stressbox like yourself.
You need to know what your preferences, learning techniques, and priorities are. Do you function better with more drills, more cases, or more case reviews? How do you handle stress? Do you need to have guardrails against losing sleep, over/undereating, or not exercising?
Everybody is on their own journey and has their own background. Maybe the classmate who did <10 practice cases just gets casing, while the classmate who’s done 60+ has no business background and needs to fortify that area more. Some people schedule send emails immediately after coffee chats, while some people do it at the end of the night as a therapeutic activity. Whatever works for you is what you need to do, and while you’ll learn a lot about what helps you thrive during recruiting, introspecting on it beforehand will definitely help.
Find your “inner circle.”
This was probably one of the most stressful period of my life, and there was absolutely no way I would’ve been able to do it on my own.
Early on, I made friends with other consulting recruits and truly leaned on them throughout the process. That ranged anywhere from casing each other, offering a stress outlet in text messages about events, and giving honest intel on what interviews/invite-only events we’d received.
While we were technically competing for the same spots, we never saw it that way. It’s not sustainable to view everybody that way; ultimately I wanted my friends to get offers just as badly as myself and would do anything to help them achieve their dreams. Be honest and open with them and if you’re lucky like I was, they’ll be your friends for the rest of business school and beyond.
Real interview drills. Sample answers from ex-McKinsey, BCG and Bain consultants. Plus technique overviews and premium 1-on-1 Expert coaching.