CQConsultalks| Chandar Siddharth| LEK Consulting

Chandar Siddharth
Intern at LEK Consulting

Interviewed By:

Mr Chandar Siddarth from IIT Kharagpur has previously done an internship in L.E.K. Consulting as a Summer Associate and also got a PPO from L.E.K. Consulting. Communiqué IIT Kharagpur interacted with him on the interview process and the strategy he adopted for its preparation. Here, we present you a glimpse of the brief interaction we had with him. We thank him for spending his valuable time with us for the same. So, Siddarth, What was the general interview process for the companies you interviewed? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.

So, during my CDC internship process specifically for Consulting, I had only interviewed with L.E.K. and it is the only firm that comes to the campus for CDC internship. I interviewed with only this and I got selected for the internship. There were two rounds specifically. In order to qualify for these two rounds, you have to upload your CV on the portal. The first basis of shortlisting is CV shortlisting so they look for the points in your CV in the first stage. After shortlisting, about 20 to 40 people are selected depending on the quality of the CV’s. Then these selected people go for the first round. The first round is usually a guesstimate round, it’s a common consulting interview process where you are asked to estimate something. For example, the number of cars in India or it can be estimating the number of taxis in a city like Mumbai or it can be the number of ping pong balls you can fit in a room and so on. So, there is a set process as to how you arrive at your answer and that’s a guesstimate round for about 15 to 20 minutes. It is largely problem-based, there are not many HR questions in the first round. The second round was a case interview. A case interview is something which is a very common round in consulting-based interviews. This round involves business problems that your interviewer asks you and you discuss with your interviewer to potentially arrive at a solution at the end of the interview. A lot of things matter in a case interview, your analytical skills and your communication skills are the most important in my opinion. Those were the two rounds specifically that I had to be the part of in order to get selected for the internship.

Could you please list down questions that were asked in the different rounds? Puzzles, technical questions, any other discussion in general that you think will prove to be helpful for students.

Interviewing for a consulting firm is not like interviewing for any technical firm. There are quite a lot of differences. Firstly, you will not be asked simple questions which you can answer in two-three lines. Like in technical rounds you might be asked how to write the shortest code for a particular sort of problem or how to solve a particular linked list problem, what is the best algorithm to do so etc. Something like this is asked, multiple questions having short answers. But this doesn’t happen in consulting interviews. What ends up happening is that the entire interview consists of one problem. The conversation may last up to 40 or 45 minutes. For example, they can ask you that a random shoe company like Nike or Adidas has seen losses in a particular quarter of the year let’s say particularly in Asia. They will ask you to find out why and what you can do to improve revenue for the next quarter. Now, this is how broad the problem statement will be. So, it is like doing a case study live one on one with your interviewer. So what you will be doing is you will be looking for different areas where there could be potential problems as to why the revenue was falling, why the company was facing losses and then you will finally zeroing one or more causes for the problem and you would use your creativity and common knowledge to find out potential solutions that you can implement to get rid of these problems over the course of time in the next quarter. This entire process will take a lot of time because there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to finding out what is actually causing the problem that your client has. There is a systematic way to proceed from like top to bottom. We usually call it ME-CE(Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive) which means you are looking at different aspects of the cause and these aspects are exclusive from each other like you are not looking at the same thing over and over again. Together all of these things, these multiple parts are exhaustive. The idea is to go down to the depths of each potential cause and find out where the problem is. So, the problem statement can largely vary from interviewer to interviewer. It really depends on the interviewer as to what they have prepared to ask. It takes nearly 20 to 45 minutes, sometimes even up to an hour.

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.

So especially for consulting, HR is not a separate round usually unless it’s very close between you and somebody and there might be an extra HR round or something like that. The usual purpose of HR in a technical company or software development profile is to find out how good you are in communicating and how good you will fit into a team. This is what is evaluated in the HR round. But since the nature of the consulting interviews itself involves a lot of communication, this is sort of integrated into the process itself. So, a consulting interview, mainly, a case interview will have a lot of emphasis on analysing and evaluating your communication skills as well as part of the interviewer’s job. So, the interviewer is looking at how good you are at communicating as well. So that is something, that is evaluated as the part of the case interview itself and that is precisely why there isn’t a need for an extra HR round. However, in your case interview round, they might have a conversation with you before or after the case for let’s say like 10 or 15 minutes just to get to know what kind of a person you are. This is usually considered to be the HR component of a consulting interview. This is not very long, usually kept very brief and it involves things like what is your motivation behind applying to consulting or why do you want to get into consulting or why specifically X or Y or Z firm, why do you want to apply to our firm and general questions like what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, show us an example of a leadership quality that you demonstrated in the time in college and also the questions pertaining to your CV that you submitted before, so they might ask you questions from you CV. For example, if you did an internship at an ABC company, then they might ask you to explain any problem or crisis that you solved during your internship at ABC company. So, the HR part of the consulting interview itself is very brief and maximum lasts for about 15 minutes and as I said most of the questions of these questions are standard ones and the subjective ones could be the ones from your CV.

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?

In the present kind of scenario (considering COVID-19 pandemic), there is a lot of uncertainty in the market, in general, in the job industry specifically. Consulting is not a sector this is a personal informed opinion. Consulting is not a sector that should be massively affected because it employees highly trained professionals and have a limited number of employees. It basically functions on the number of employees it has and it is not a mass recruiting firm like it does not recruit thousands of employees in a particular country like how a technical firm would need. So, it should not be an industry that is affected massively, however, what will be affected is the timeline of the interviews and timeline of the recruitment process this particular year. Usually the process for consulting interviews, specifically for placements happens much before December. It happens around the month of July, August and September. It can move a little forward or backwards so it can start from August and go on to September, October or it can be July, August and September. This is the usual case but this year I think it will be further extended by quite a bit. It might start as late as October or November and might coincide with the actual placement process that happens in December. So, the major companies that come for consult placements are Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Company, EY Parthenon Group and specifically L.E.K. Consulting Group in the context of IIT Kharagpur. These companies currently because of COVID-19, they may not be able to carry out their recruitment process like they usually do. The consult timeline would be pushed back quite a bit. So, what students can do right now since they have a lot of free time, they can prepare for case interviews. This is something they can do because of extended summer vacations as well. What they can do is they can prepare for case interviews really well right from the get-go. So usually, students end up coming back to campus and forming their case groups and start preparing for the case interviews. You need somebody else to prepare with, you can not prepare by yourself because one person places the interviewer and the other person place the interviewee and it’s mutual so if I and X person form a case group, I’ll be the interviewer for one case and they’ll be the interviewer for one case, so we’ll do it alternatively so that both of us can practise. In the present situation, because of social distancing, we can not do it in person, however, we have access to skype and other platforms, we can do it online and we have a lot of time right now. As the consult timeline is going to get postponed you will have more time to prepare well so that’s a good thing. Practice is a sure short way to clear the case interview. The more practise you have, the more likely you will do well in the interview process itself.

How did your preparation for technical rounds evolve once you were shortlisted?

In my particular case, it was the internship season so I was not sitting for placements. My year was the first year, L.E.K. Consulting decided to come for internships. There was no concept of pre-final year’s preparing for consulting before. So usually the final years have formed the case groups and were preparing for consulting interviews simply because consulting interviews only happened for placements, not for internships. However, in my year L.E.K. decided to come for CDC internships. I was not very sure about my shortlist itself. So, once I had known that I had got shortlisted based on my CV, I had formed a case group. It was pretty late, but I had formed a case group then and I prepared pretty rigorously for about 2 weeks doing cases with that person before the interviews started. So, in those two weeks, my preparation was solely focused on gearing myself up to do really well in case interviews and guesstimates. I practised many case interviews and guesstimates with my partner from multiple sources. As I said in my answer to the previous question right now there are about like 5 to 6 months before you get to have your interview, so if you are really looking towards consulting and you think your CV has a good chance of getting shortlisted then you should definitely start preparing now.

Anything else that you would want to share with the students?

So consulting is not for everybody. It might look like a very interesting or very happening field but it comes with pros and cons. Make sure you research about what consulting is and whether it is something that would suit the kind of a person you are because you may not end up liking it after you get into it so this is the thing I really want to tell students. At least if somebody wants to explore consulting they should try doing an internship in consulting before getting placed in consulting directly because once you get placed it’s your job, you can’t change it at least for a year and if you don’t like it, then you won’t be happy and this is not something you will look forward to. So, what I would say is talk to seniors who already worked in consulting and find out whether it will suit you or not, another way as I said, go for an internship first to see if it suits you or not. All consulting firms irrespective of whether it is for internships or placements, the first step is CV shortlisting, so make sure your CV is made really well. The chances of getting shortlisted are directly proportional to how your CV is. Once you get shortlisted, start preparing well for the interview.

Thank you Siddarth for giving your precious time for this interview to Communiqué IIT Kharagpur. I hope your interview will help students in their future endeavours.

Thank You

Back to list