How to Answer “Tell me about yourself” in a Case Interview

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Last Updated on January 29, 2024

When answering the question “Tell me about yourself” in a consulting interview for McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, it’s important to provide a brief overview of your professional background and qualifications. This is your opportunity to highlight your most relevant experiences and skills and to show how they make you a good fit for the job. You should also mention any notable achievements or accomplishments, and explain why you are interested in the position and the company. Keep your response concise and focused, and avoid going into too much detail about your personal life.

It is important to note that these types of questions are more common in BCG and Bain interviews compared to McKinsey interviews, as McKinsey follows its Personal Experience Interview standards.

Why are interviewers asking this question?

This introduction question is one of the most frequent consulting fit interview questions you have to expect during your interviews. For interviewers, it’s a simple and flexible approach to start the conversation. It helps them to gather information about you (remember that their main objective is to learn enough about you to assess your suitability for the consulting career), while it helps you to ease into the interview before the more difficult questions around personal fit or the case interview starts. In that sense, it acts as an ice-breaker question.

Still, do not take this question lightly. Your response to this question will determine the interviewer’s initial assessment of you and establish the tone for the entire conversation that follows. Make the most of this opportunity and present your key selling points.

During my years as a consulting interviewer, I’ve always emphasized the need for candidates to be both authentic and strategic in their responses. A partner and mentor once told me, ‘In a sea of qualifications, it’s your unique story that creates the waves.’ This really stuck with me. I believe it’s not just about listing your achievements; it’s about weaving a narrative that showcases your journey, motivations, and how they align with the role you’re aspiring for. Remember, it’s your personal story that often leaves a lasting impression, setting you apart in this competitive world.

Insights from a senior interviewer at one of the MBBs

The 5 rules when answering fit questions

“Tell me about yourself” is a common question that is often asked in consulting case and fit interviews. Here are some tips for answering this question in a case interview:

  1. Keep it relevant: While it is important to provide some background information about yourself, try to keep your answer focused on the skills and experiences that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
  2. Use specific examples: Rather than simply listing your skills and experiences, use specific examples to illustrate your strengths and achievements. Storytelling is key!
  3. Focus on your consulting skills: In a case interview, it is especially important to highlight your analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as your ability to work effectively in teams.
  4. Keep it concise: While you want to provide enough information to give a sense of your background and experience, try to keep your answer concise and to the point.
  5. Practice: As with any job interview, it is important to practice your answer to the “Tell me about yourself” question beforehand. This will help you feel more confident and comfortable when answering the question in the actual interview.

Overall, the goal when answering the “Tell me about yourself” question in a case interview is to provide a brief, relevant, and concise summary of your skills and experiences that showcases your fit for the consulting role.

A sample answer for the “Tell me about yourself” question

Read the sample answer for one of the most common consulting interview question:

Four stations on my resume led me to be here today. First, my academic journey as an MBA student at Harvard Business School honed my analytical and strategic thinking skills, laying a solid foundation for a career in consulting. This education, combined with my passion for finance and consumer goods, uniquely positions me to understand and address complex industry challenges.

Second, my professional path began at Johnson & Johnson as a financial analyst. Here, I delved into detailed market analysis, driving a noteworthy 10% increase in operational efficiency over one fiscal year. This experience sharpened my ability to decipher financial data and transform it into effective business solutions.

Third, I progressed to a supply chain management role at Apple. Leading diverse teams, I played a critical role in streamlining supply chain processes, resulting in a 30% reduction in logistics costs. This period was crucial in honing my skills in operational management and effective team coordination.

Fourth, at Procter & Gamble, I led a product innovation project. My strategies for market research and product development resulted in a 25% increase in consumer engagement in targeted demographics. This achievement not only emphasized my creative marketing approach but also my capability to foster product growth in competitive markets.

Combining my academic background with a progression of increasingly strategic roles, demonstrates how targeted my career has been towards a position like this. My journey reflects not just a series of jobs, but a deliberate path towards consulting, where I can utilize my analytical skills, industry insights, and innovative thinking. What excites me about this opportunity, particularly at your firm, is the chance to apply my extensive background in a way that drives significant change in finance and consumer goods sectors, aligning perfectly with your firm’s areas of expertise. With my proven track record and commitment to continuous improvement, I am confident in my ability to assimilate into your dynamic team and contribute to groundbreaking solutions that set new benchmarks in the industry.

This response exemplifies a highly effective approach to communicating in a consulting interview. The candidate’s structured narrative, moving systematically through key stages of their career, makes it easy for the interviewer to follow and understand their professional journey. Each segment of their answer is thoughtfully chosen to demonstrate how their experiences align directly with the requirements of the consulting role they are pursuing. By clearly linking their academic background and successive professional roles to the specific demands of the position, the candidate not only showcases their relevant skills and achievements but also their strategic understanding of the role they aspire to. This targeted communication style is exactly what interviewers look for, as it reflects a candidate’s ability to organize and present information in a clear, concise, and relevant manner.

Look through your resume and create an engaging pitch like this!

Practice your answers

Practicing your response is a great way to get the timing right. It allows you to fine-tune your answer, making sure you include all the key points in a way that’s easy for the interviewer to follow. Think about including a couple of memorable achievements or experiences that really demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the role, and try to present them in a story-like format for better engagement. This approach will help ensure that you provide a comprehensive yet concise response that effectively communicates your value to the interviewer.

Common variations of “Tell me about yourself”

It’s vital to listen for any variations on the “tell me about yourself” question that you could hear because you want to make sure to answer the right question without rambling.

If the interviewer doesn’t ask you to describe yourself right away, they might ask one of the following queries:

  • “Walk me through your resume”
  • “Tell me something that’s not on your resume”
  • “What is unique about you?”
  • “What experience of your resume are you most proud of?”
  • “What experiences made you apply to our firm?”

Tailor your answers to the individual question, either giving a broader overview or highlighting specific ideas. As with every personal fit answer, always keep it structured, top-down, and authentic.

Avoid the most common mistakes

Summarizing my experience as an interviewer, there are 4 key mistakes that people make when asked to introduce themselves:

You are underselling yourself and your achievements. Consulting interviews are not the time for understatement and modesty. Your interviewers want to see all your successes and achievements. Avoid leaving out important details of your story that make you shine in the best possible light. I regularly find that my clients do not like to brag about their experiences, e.g., having received an award because of their efforts and ingenuity, while these things are exactly what interviewers are looking for.

You are providing a detailed summary of your resume. Consulting interviewers want to hear stories, not just a recap of your resume. Introduce yourself based on the 3-4 key experiences of your resume and how they have led you down the path of consulting, highlighting relevant skills needed along the way, all nicely packed into a credible story arc.

You are focusing on the wrong things. Tell me about yourself is asked in a professional context, hence talk about professional experiences and not your hobbies and interests. Some interviewers might be interested in the latter but this would usually not be a top priority at the beginning of the interview and also be phrased differently, e.g., “What are you passionate about outside of work?”

You are not engaged and confident. One of the most common issues we encounter as interviewers, not just in response to the “Tell me about yourself” question but across both fit and case interviews, is a lack of enthusiasm. Demonstrating enthusiasm is vital in a consulting interview. It not only creates a favorable initial impression but also conveys your genuine interest in both the role and the firm. Moreover, it is indicative of the effective communication and interpersonal skills that are indispensable in consulting. Enthusiasm goes beyond mere interest; it reflects on your ability to solve problems, collaborate with teams, and align with the firm’s culture – all attributes that are highly prized in the consulting industry. It distinguishes you from other candidates, projecting confidence and a positive mindset. These qualities are not only crucial for standing out in an interview but are also key components for a successful and enduring career in consulting. It’s important to remember that your enthusiasm can significantly influence the interviewer’s perception of your fit for the role and the organization.

You are not talking about relevant fit elements. One common oversight is neglecting to link personal experiences directly to the consulting role in question. It’s vital that your response goes beyond merely listing past accomplishments. It should clearly articulate how these achievements render you a suitable candidate for the consulting position at hand. To enhance the relevance of your response, weave in keywords and phrases from the job description. Place emphasis on the transferable skills and attributes highly regarded in the consulting world, such as problem-solving capabilities, analytical acumen, teamwork proficiency, and effective communication skills. Aligning your experiences with the specific requirements of the consulting role not only strengthens your application but also showcases your understanding of the role’s responsibilities and challenges. This approach effectively positions you as a well-informed and aptly qualified candidate for the position.

Your answer is either too long or too short. Finding the right balance in the length of your response is key. If your answer is too long, you risk losing the interviewer’s attention. On the other hand, a very brief response might not give a full picture of your qualifications and enthusiasm for the role. Your goal should be to provide a clear and focused answer that covers your career path, highlights your relevant skills and experiences, and shows your genuine interest in the consulting field. It’s important to include enough detail to showcase your strengths but without overwhelming the interviewer with too much information.

You have no answers prepared. Once asked, you should not deliberate too much or ask too many clarification questions. Rather, present your prepared answer authentically in a structured and top-down manner. If you want, ask the interviewer at the end if you have answered their question or if they want to dig deeper into a particular element of your answer.

Learn more about consulting fit interviews

If you want to learn more about consulting fit interviews, check out our detailed article that covers all elements and fit questions you have to expect as well as our SCORE framework to prepare and answer them.

You can find the article here. Consulting Fit Interview: The Only Post You Need To Read

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