5 Interview Questions for Consultants

A key to landing a consulting job is to answer interview questions with specific examples of previous challenges you’ve addressed and a sound demonstration of your ability to tackle projects, solve problems and think quick on your feet. Of course, the right answers alone won’t get you the gig, but they could make you a memorable candidate.

Colorful LaptopHere are some of the questions you should be ready for in your interview.

What types of projects do you typically work on? Describe two of your last big projects. 

  • What you should say: Be as specific as possible. Don’t just talk about the technologies that were used, but go into you were brought in to kick off new projects or if you usually work on improving existing ones. Also, explain each project’s purpose or goal, what it’s being used for, and how it impacted the business. Use data that illustrates your success. For example, you could say, “In my most recent project we migrated 5,000 mailboxes. I was responsible for the full architecture and design of 2500 of them.” Be sure to note the environment and specific technology you used
  • Why you should say it: The details of your past work help employers develop a deeper understanding of your work’s results. That tells them not only how well you understand how all the pieces go together, it helps recruiters market you and your resume when the time comes for you to find your next opportunity. Also, describing previous projects in this way proves that you understand the client’s environment.

How many clients do you average at one time? How do you juggle them and make sure you’re not spread too thin?

  • What you should say: Again, use details. Tell the interviewer about your previous clients and demonstrate your understanding of their lines of business and how your work helped end users accomplish what they set out to do, whether that involved analyzing reports or buying consumer products. If you’ve interacted with individual lines of business within a company, explain how you approached that and how you came to understand everyone’s needs. For some recruiters, the ideal consultant has one or two clients. That reassures them that you’ll have time to take on extra projects and meet your deadlines.
  • Why you should say it: If the employer’s a large corporation, it will undoubtedly be involved in a number of businesses. That means you may work with different clients and users with a single project. With the question, interviewers want to see that you’ve worked to understand the client’s business and how the project fits the needs of their end users.

How do you keep track your progress during a project in order to ensure you’re achieving the client’s objectives?

  • What you should say: Talk about which project management tool you’ve used to stay on task. Describe how you also work with spreadsheets or whatever other applications you like to make sure you meet your deadlines and communicate with the team and other groups that may be involved. Don’t answer with anything like “I follow the project manager’s lead.”
  • Why you should say it: Your expertise with different tools along with your ability to communicate could end up being relevant skills recruiters can use to market you.

Walk me through the life cycle of a recent project from start to finish. What results did you achieve? What went well and what didn’t?

  • What you should say: Provide specifics on the different part of the project you were involved in and show the interviewer what you delivered as an individual. Don’t just describe what team delivered. In explaining difficulties, be honest, but turn your answer into a positive by describing what lessons you learned along  the way.
  • Why you should say it: This is a chance to talk about obstacles that you overcame and how your worked through them. It provides insight into your problem-solving skills. Clients know projects don’t always go the way you want them to, and they want to see your ability to provide solutions when things are going badly, and how avoid making the same mistake twice.

Describe a time when you dealt with a difficult client. How did you make the relationship work?

  • What you should say: Talk about how you put personal differences aside and achieved your goals by forging a relationship where you could work together despite any difficulties. Give an example, such as you how explained to a client that accelerating deadlines and managed work out a compromise.
  • Why you should say it: Sometimes candidates will say they’ve never had a difficult client, or at least they start out with that position. But remember, difficulties aren’t always about personalities. Sometimes they can about technologies you had to learn in order to complete the project. Whatever the issue was, answer it honestly and detail how you overcame it.

In compiling these questions and answers, we spoke with Channing Donald,  recruiting manager at Signature Consultants, and Tino Cohee, senior staffing manager for Winter, Wyman.

If you have other suggestions for questions contractors might hear and how they should be answered, add them in the comments below.

One Response to “5 Interview Questions for Consultants”

  1. All of my consulting work has been done under a non-disclosure agreement. That prevents me from detailing anything about past consulting projects. The only things I can talk about are of the most general, non-secret generalities that aren’t really interesting, and even those few things have sometimes caused the interviewer to find fault. One such incident was a project that had a requirement to use a compiler for language ABC instead of the industry-standard language was DEF. There wasn’t a DEF compiler available that targetted the processors involved, and the customer wanted to go to a higher-level language for the firmware in an existing controller card family for better maintainability than an obscure assembly language nobody wanted to use. My interviewer said I should have insisted the customer use different hardware. That of course wouldn’t have gotten me the job.