Ms Sreelatha Challa from IIT Kharagpur has previously done an internship with L.E.K. Consulting as a Summer Associate and also got a PPO from the L.E.K. Consulting. Communiqué IIT Kharagpur interacted with her on the interview process and the strategy she adopted for its preparation. Here, we present you a glimpse of the brief interaction we had with her. We thank her for spending her valuable time with us for the same. So, Sreelatha, What was the general interview process for the companies you interviewed? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
Well, I did not sit for many companies during my internship process. Amongst the few were L.E.K. The general interview process for companies is CV submission, then GD, and then PI. Since this is a management consulting company, we had preliminary screening by CV shortlisting after which we had a workshop followed by rounds of buddy sessions and case interviews. We participated in about 3 buddy sessions per person and 2–3 rounds of interviews each. The workshop conducted for two days was very useful where the seniors explained the interview process, what case interviews entail, preparation practices, etc. In the interview process, we had case questions, guesstimates, and HR rounds.
Could you please list down questions were you asked in the different rounds? Puzzles, technical questions, any other discussion in general that you think will prove to be helpful for students.
Typical questions of case interviews can be divided into three parts: one is guesstimates which are estimation questions on various topics, the second is a typical case interview and the third is a personal interview. An estimation question is solved using analytical skills and superficial assumptions. The aim of the interviewer is to check your analytical skills and finding out numerically an estimate of a particular number related to a category. For example, they could ask you something as simple as to estimate the number of smartphones in India. One can the following simple process to go about it: what is the population of India, then segregating the population based on say rural-urban localities, gender, age, income groups, internet penetration in different areas and in general phone penetration and usage penetration. So, the idea is you have to understand which factors play in your calculations at what stage and the goal is to arrive at the number of smartphones. The above is an example and there can be varied questions here: the number of petrol pumps in a region, the number of leaves in a forest, etc. Number two is the case interview. There are two types of case interviews that people typically ask at an undergraduate level: one is a simple profitability case, so in a profitability case, for example, say a company XYZ is facing a decline in profit in the past two to three years, so your problem statement is to identify why. The interview is a very interactive discussion where you ask your interviewer questions and they provide you requisite details to help outline and narrow down your hypothesis to arrive at an answer. The interviewee is advised to follow a structured flowchart and ask the relevant questions at different stages and try to outline what factor/s is causing this decline in profits. Usually, case questions are followed by suggestions as to how we can overcome the given problem. These are extremely dependent on the candidate itself and a good analysis with further segmentation can get you brownie points! The second type of question is a market entry case. Say a company XYZ wants to enter the retail industry or a company operating in XYZ country wants to enter the market of another country. The interviewee analyses different aspects including the barriers of entry, mode of entry, profitability, risks, etc. and presents a solution. Again, this is a very interactive interview where at each step you ask the interviewer the right questions and streamline your hypothesis.
What are some of the FAQs in most companies that you faced and think students must definitely prepare for? More specifically, in the context of HR rounds.
In the PI section for L.E.K. Consulting, the aim of the questions is to get to know the interviewee better. Topics of discussion include past work explanation, extracurricular activities, motivations, achievements, etc; Since consulting firms hire from all departments, a few aspects for the students to note: Understand each and every aspect of your previous experiences — you should be able to explain it in the most granular way possible — details, impact, etc. So, CV preparation is very important. Besides this, questions include career goals, expectations from this internship, motivation to be a consultant, knowledge about consulting, why do you think you are a good fit for this industry, and so on.
What are things students sitting for placements next year can do from now until December to maximize their chances of getting through a company in this sector?
So the first and foremost thing I can say is that you have to start preparing from as early as possible because case preparation can take about one to two months. There are a few steps you can follow. The first thing is to start preparing your CV as off-campus placements start very early on the campus and before your summer vacation gets over you should be ready with your first draft. Proceed to get it checked by as many seniors as possible, preferably in the industry, department, seniors who know you to optimize it so that you can present it in the best possible way. The announcement of the interview process happens only 10–15 days before the schedule. So you have to start preparing as early as you can. Material for preparation is easily available — Drive folders with relevant books and useful websites. Any senior who has undergone the process can easily point you to them. One starter useful resource is Victor Cheng’s videos. They give a brief overview before you can take up case interview books. Preparation is better done in groups of 3 to 4 people. Join efforts with your friends, preferably with diverse opinions. A diligent schedule of mock cases and guesstimates can help you keep track easily. As I have mentioned before, case interviews are very interactive. The interviewer and the interviewee have an active discussion with each other so when you prepare for interviews it’s best to replicate this process with your friends.One person can be an interviewer, second can be an interviewee and the third person in the case group can be a passive audience who can note down and tell you what points you can improve upon. I would also suggest people record your interviews and iterate on improvements in presentation, vocabulary, etc. So in this way you can conduct mock interviews amongst yourselves and improve your performance! Focus on improving your analytical skills and speed in maintaining multiple trains of thought. More practice can help familiarise you with a variety of questions and boost your confidence in the interview process.
How did your preparation for technical rounds evolve once you were shortlisted?
Since there are no technical rounds in consulting, one useful tip is to reach out as many seniors in the industry and schedule mock interviews and guidance sessions with them.
Anything else that you would like to share with the students?
It’s very good to see many juniors interested in the field of consulting. An internship at such a firm is a very valuable experience. So start preparing early and join in efforts with friends. Reach out to people if you have any questions and ask for feedback and develop your skills. Feel free to reach out to me or any other senior who can help you. All the best!
Thank you Sreelatha for giving your precious time for this interview to Communiqué IIT Kharagpur. I hope your interview will help students in their future endeavors.