“Don’t Come Unprepared Just Because It’s Not a Job Interview”

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Our latest informant works at an international consulting company.

Our latest informant works at an international consulting company.

We asked a business management consultant to give us tips on how to impress HR—and how to avoid horrible mistakes when hunting for a job.

To ensure honesty, we’ve granted anonymity to this informant, who has spent several years at a major international consulting company and has helped guide hiring decisions for consultants (usually recent MBA graduates) and for associates and analysts (usually recent bachelor’s degree graduates). Here are his/her thoughts, as told to Aaron Weber.


We try and quantify everything we do to get the most objective evaluation, and that includes our hiring process. We have a pretty specific list of things we evaluate. It covers:

  • Academic performance and reputation: We’ll look at both college and grad school.
  • Demonstrated impact of your accomplishments: We use the mnemonic STAR: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. If your résumé doesn’t point out specific situations, tasks, actions, and results you’re proud of, then you’re going to have a hard time getting our attention.
  • Career trajectory: We want a series of promotions and increasing responsibility.
  • Employer reputation: If you’ve worked at a great company, even if it’s in a different industry, that’s a plus.


Directly relevant experience is not as important as some people think it is. The key is to be able to explain how your experience is still useful.

You want to be able to say, “I haven’t worked in telecommunications, but my internship at the widget factory did teach me a lot about demand forecasting that would apply to a lot of the challenges in the industry today.”


We also look for “intangibles” or “grit”—some indication that the candidate has overcome adversity and gone above and beyond in their work or their life (started an organization, championed a cause, that kind of thing). The cover letter comes into play most in this aspect of the evaluation.


I’ll use all the information I have about you to evaluate you. If we chat at a recruiting event, if I get a referral from someone else, or if we meet for coffee just because you’re interested in the consulting business, I’m going to use that as part of an evaluation. Don’t come unprepared just because it’s not a formal job application interview.

Good test scores, a good GPA, and good schools will get you high marks, but a negative direct interaction can knock you out pretty quickly. And yes, being friendly, prompt, and prepared will help overcome weaknesses in the other metrics.

Have a question for a hiring manager that you want an honest answer to? Leave it in the comments.

(Photo: jacopast)

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