First-round versus final-round interview days: should you expect anything different in your final round interview relative to your first round interview?

Once you pass your first round, you’ll find yourself thinking about whether to do anything differently to prepare for the next round of interviews.  The reason that consulting firms have multiple rounds of interviews is to manage the cost of their recruiting process by having a screening round conducted by more junior consultants to reduce the volume of candidates that the firm partners have to spend their time interviewing.  Otherwise, the consulting firm intends to apply the same criteria and frameworks to testing candidates throughout their process.  They are still intending to test for the same problem-solving skills and soft skills.

That means that your final round does not differ from the first round, except that your interviewers are more senior and that the decisions made on your candidacy at that point are irreversible (meaning that a “pass” in the final round results in the firm committing to you whereas that is not the case in the first round).  The implications of the second point on irreversibility means that the bar or the standard applied to measure your performance in the final round will be higher because the firm has to commit to you at that point.  First-round interviewers, when they pass a candidate, are passing the buck to the partners and the office who conduct the final round interviews on that candidate so they will subconsciously let things slide a little more.  Recognizing the greater importance of the final round, consulting firms require a greater number of interviews in the final round than the first round. 

What does this mean for you and how should you prepare differently in between rounds? 

  1. Since you know that you need to get even better, I recommend that you get in touch with your first-round interviewers to ask their feedback and advice for how you can improve based on their impressions of you.
  2. Brace yourself for more of “stress” interviews. They are even more likely to occur with more senior interviewers.
  3. Prepare to ask different kinds of questions of these more senior interviewers, such as about their industries or their roles on internal committees leading their firm. You can get their biographies from your recruiter earlier than you could for the first round.  Also, listen to them introduce themselves for indications of client-focus and internal firm-building committee work.
  4. Mentally and physically prepare for a longer day of interviews

how the final round of case interviews will be different from the first round and how to prepare

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