September 28 2019 - Did you know that the average job interview lasts for approximately 40 minutes? It might not sound like a very long time, but you'd be surprised by how much information can be communicated during that period.
Not only is hiring for an ordinary position difficult in its own right but hiring a consultant can prove to have its own set of challenges.
So, do you want to find the best consultant possible? Use these consulting interview questions to make sure you find the best candidate.
Consultant Interview Basics
The interview process can sometimes last as long as 22 days, from receiving consulting resumes, to screening applicants and then setting up the interviews themselves.
Before we dive headfirst into the interview questions themselves, there are some basics that we'd like to cover.
The interview process is as much about preparation as it is about improvisation. The more you prepare, the less likely you will have to improvise though.
In most cases there are two groups of questions that get asked in an interview:
- Those asked by the interviewer to the consultant.
- Those asked by the consultant of the interviewer.
As the interviewer, you need to be prepared not only for your consulting interview questions but for ones that may be directed at you.
Consulting Interview Questions
The types of consulting interview questions can be put into six major categories. Keep in mind that interview questions are not always directly related to the position and job description itself.
The purpose behind an interview is to get a sense of the person, a feel for their personality and views as well as their capability and skills.
1. Personal or Character Questions
Start with getting to know the person. These are the best questions to determine the personal or cultural fit of the consultant to the company. It would be unfair to continue past this stage if it is obvious the consultant would not fit in.
For example, a consultant from high standards or process-oriented sector (perhaps military) would quite possibly not fit in with a highly agile software company.
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- What would you say is your primary and most successful focus area?
- Have you consulted for more than one customer at a time?
- Have you had to face an ethical dilemma and how did you manage it?
These questions can be added upon in a more direct manner, for example, you can consider asking your consultant how he works within a team and to give an example of both a time that they displayed exceptional teamwork and an incident that they did not enjoy a teamwork environment.
2. Behavioral Questions
Asking the consultant how various work situations have been handled in the past is very valuable.
For example, you might be asked how you have handled an issue with a problematic supplier.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client, what did you learn and what would you have done differently?
- 2. Can you briefly describe how you would go about starting to resolve a difficult situation perhaps with a staff member?
- What tools do you prefer to use to track productivity, for example, how would you assign a staff member work, track the progress of that work and how do you keep track of your own progress during a consultancy assignment?
The purpose of behavioral questions is to see how a potential consultant deals with stressful situations, particularly if the position you're filling is one with tight deadlines.
3. Scenario Questions
Posing a scenario for the consultant determines how great their logic to solve problems is. In this series of questions, you'll need to be fairly broad with your potential scenario, you don't want your candidate to feel like they're solving a real problem you may currently have.
- How would you go about exposing a large, complex technical challenge to your customer?
- How would you handle conflict or disagreement with management?
- How would you handle shifting scope or work?
You could also ask your candidate to give examples of scenarios that they may have already been through. Ask them about a time that they had to adapt to a changing project or scope of work, and to give you detail.
4. Questions a Candidate May Ask You
The consultant needs to be given the opportunity to ask the interviewer some questions. Just like the interviewer may determine that the consultant won't fit the consultant might also de-select this an opportunity.
Additionally, the consultant may have asked questions during the interview in the interest of clarity.
Here, as the interviewer, you'll need to be prepared with a list of frequently asked questions. Ensure you've re-read the job post and fill in any gaps in the information that the consultant being interviewed may need clarity on.
For example, the job advertisement may say, "Flexible hours available," your interviewee may need clarity as to whether these hours are completely determined by them, or are there a minimum set of on-site hours required.
5. Questions About The Now
Both you and the consultant may have questions that pertain to the present situation within and around the business.
- What are the most important factors in the situation you are facing and can you share the history of the situation?
- In your opinion what is the biggest challenge in the situation we have discussed?
- Do you have any idea what may have caused this?
- Have you tried to resolve the situation if so, can you describe what you did?
Be prepared to answer some of these questions if you need to, and allow them to ask some of you. It also doesn't hurt to ask in this section for opinions on current trends within your industry, and the applicant's opinion on these.
6. Questions About The Future
This section is also a two-way street. As the interviewer, you'll want to know how forward-thinking your applicant is!
And they may want to do the same as you.
- Earlier you described the current situation how would you see the situation change in the future?
- If you could change one thing quickly, what would that be?
- What are the measures of success you would place on me, the consultant?
- At what point would you consider the situation resolved?
- Have you considered that over time reality shifts and the needs of the company and customer are quite likely to shift as well?
An interviewee might want to understand your business' vision and mission for the future, to clarify whether their future with your company may be a long-term one.
Consulting Interview Success
You're prepared for your consulting interview questions now, you've got your checklist and you shouldn't be caught off guard when starting your interview process.
As the interviewer though, remember, sometimes it's a good thing to go with your gut. What you see on paper might not always be what walks through the door, and what walks through the door might not be amazing on paper but show extreme potential.
Read our other article on hiring the right people, or browse our resources for more interview tips.
Successful Onboarding: Strategies to Unlock Hidden Value Within Your Organization
Mark Stein and Lilith Christiansen
The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals
by Shawn A. Smith, Rebecca A. Mazin
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