One of the questions that seems to come up pretty frequently is, what’s the difference between first rounds and final rounds?
In this context I’ll define first rounds as the first in person interview (if applicable) and final rounds as the final in person interview.
My answer, based on experience (both my own and other people’s), is that it really depends on the company.
First off, most consulting firms won’t bring you in for multiple in person rounds anyway. The only ones that do are either boutiques or MBB. If I had to speculate as to why that is I’d venture that:
1. Boutiques want everybody who works at their firm to vet you.
2. MBB uses recruiting as a way to build their brand (as discussed in this article), so they’re willing to spend the extra money.
So, I think that it’s reasonable to conclude that:
1. For most mid sized consulting firms, there’s only one in person interview round (and probably multiple phone rounds). The format of these interviews depends on the firm, though most have at least one partner (part owner of the firm) involved to make a decision.
2. For MBB, there are multiple in person interviews. The main difference between first and final rounds for them seems to be the lack of structure. In final rounds, many of the interviewers go off script (whatever it is for that particular firm) and do / ask whatever they want. So, you might end up getting a candidate led case for a firm that only does interviewer led cases or you may get resume based questions for a firm that only does behavioral questions. Basically, just expected the unexpected.
There’s more difference in interview styles between firms than in between rounds. My advice would be to find someone you know who’s interviewed recently at the firm you’re going in for and just ask them.
But, I’d always be prepared for your interviewers going off script, especially in a final round interview. Make sure you can answer any type of:
1. Resume based question.
2. Behavioral based question.
3. Interviewer led case.
4. Candidate led case.
…and you should be fine.