An interview with Karim Chehayeb, who joined BCG as a consultant in 2017. Prior to joining BCG, Karim completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at MIT and was active with the Consulting Club at MIT. We ask him about his decision to become a consultant and the interview process.
Q) When and how did you decide on choosing consultancy as a career path?
I started seriously looking into different career options during my 4th year at MIT. After considering different potential options, I found that becoming a consultant would be the best next step in my career. The biggest differentiator was the potential for significant learning.
Q) In what ways are being a consultant similar to being a PhD student?
As a consultant, just like a PhD candidate, you're actively working on solving a problem. The processes and skills you use are similar in both situations. For example, translatable skills include structuring problems by forming hypotheses, executing required analyses, acquiring data to back your conclusions and recommendations, and communicating internally (case team / research group) and externally (client / research community).
Q) In what ways do they differ?
The biggest differences concern the duration of the projects and the required depth. In a research setting, one would need to consider all the details in the problem to ensure the results withstand the rigorous scientific review process. In consulting, the level of depth is primarily dictated by timing and resource constraints. As a result, the analyses need to be only as deep as is necessary to answer the question within the available time.
Q) How did you start your interview preparation?
I started by reading about the job and the consulting interview process. I found caseinterview.com to be helpful. I also attended a few recruiting events during the Spring of my 4th year.
Q) How did you practice for case interviews?
After getting the right context and a good sense of what a successful case interview looked like, I started practicing with fellow students who were also applying. I had around 4 people I practiced with regularly. It's important that whoever you practice with is also serious about applying and you're not always practicing with new people. I also found that giving interviews is helpful to learn to see things from the interviewer's perspective. You can use that to learn from what others are doing well/not so great.
Q) From an interviewer’s perspective, what aspects about the candidate do you look for during the case interview?
In the case interview, the interviewer is trying to learn how you approach and think through business problems. The interview is structured such that it replicates the different components of a client engagement, but at a much higher level. Multiple skills are tested in the case interview, such as structuring, analyzing, synthesizing.
Q) How did you practice fit interview questions?
I looked online for a set of typical fit questions. After checking a few, I started seeing a set of themes repeat (e.g., leadership, teamwork, resilience). I remembered and wrote down (in a structured format. e.g., STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result) a number of past experiences that could be used to demonstrate that I had the experience the interviewer would be looking for. I practiced these a few times and made sure the time I took to answer wasn’t too long or too short. It's also helpful to remember all the details even if they don't feature in the short version to be able to answer any questions the interviewer might have.
Q) From an interviewer’s perspective, what aspects about the candidate do you look for during the fit interview?
In the fit interview, the interviewer is looking to get a sense of the interviewee's experience and past impact as well as whether they'd be a good fit for the company. Interviewers are looking for candidates they'd feel comfortable sending to a client and representing their team and firm.
Thank you Karim, for taking the time to answer our questions and give back to the Consulting Club at MIT