We teach you how to tell the perfect story in your consulting interviews!
Management consultants use an effective tool to bring their messages across: storys. Storytelling is one of the key skills that every strategy consultant at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain needs to master to increase the effectiveness of their work. Consultants use stories to pack their analyses and recommendations into a powerful message and drive change.
That is why the ability to sell stories well is assessed in personal fit consulting interviews. For that matter, we have developed the SCORE framework based on our on-the-job experience as well as discussions and coaching with 100s of applicants.
The SCORE framework enables you to best prepare and present compelling top-down stories to your audience. The focus of this article is on the delivery of the story (how to say). The content (what to say) is equally valuable and is covered in a separate article here.
Top-down communication to set-up the story
Whenever you tell a story, start by summarizing it in three key sentences. Every sentence should add value. Refrain from empty words or sentences.
Give each story a poignant headline to create a memorable anchor. Then convey the key message in three sentences:
- Situation – what was the situation like?
- Complication – what issues did you face?
- Resolution – how did you overcome them?
This short introduction provides background and sets the tone and stage for deeper discussions. You work both for yourself and the listener or interviewer. You break down the story into individual parts and the listener can ask targeted questions. Depending on the questions, you can highlight certain parts of the story or of your heroic acts 😉
Dive into your story using the SCORE framework
If the interviewer is fine with your short summary and wants to hear more, use the SCORE framework to tell your story.
The SCORE framework is especially useful when you want to prepare and think deeply about all aspects of a situation. It provides an anchor for a natural flow of explanation and thought during an interview.
Let’s look at a real example:
Julia is asked by her interviewer to talk about a specific situation where she demonstrated leadership skills.
She answers: At my previous employer we had to present a strategy document in front of the board (SITUATION). My boss got sick the day before and was not able to direct and structure the work for us, which could have resulted in a bad situation for my department (COMPLICATION). I took over from her, guided the team and we prepared a stellar presentation for the board on the next day (RESOLUTION).
The interviewer will be intrigued by this short prompt and ask for details. Now Julia can go into the SCORE framework. The focus should be on her role and what she did to solve the situation, the remedial action!
She says: We had an important bi-annual board meeting scheduled, which my boss was driving. I had one work stream to prepare, as did all 5 other product managers on the team (SITUATION).
The crucial day before the meeting, my boss got sick, which initially put our work to a grinding halt. She structured and coordinated our work, helped with problem-solving and integrated all our workstreams into a final presentation (COMPLICATION).
If we would have stopped at this stage, we would have presented a non-aligned 80% version, leaving out crucial details of our progress and success. This would have reflected negatively on our team and each of us individually. The result would have been budget cuts in our department for next year (OUTCOME EXPECTED).
So I had to step in and fill the role of my boss. First, I had to calm down the team, one person specifically who freaked out. I held a short pep talk to improve everyone’s mood and motivate the team. Then I took 30 minutes in private to devise a strategy. I met the team to redelegate tasks with me basically taking over the role of my boss, whereas I distributed the final tasks of my workstream to two other colleagues. Lastly, I scheduled two problem-solving sessions to align during the day and next morning. They were happy that someone took the lead and stepped up. One colleague was kind of confrontational, so I had to pull him in a 1-on-1 to discuss his concerns and mediate a conflict with another team mate. I integrated all aspects of the presentation throughout the day as I was receiving each individual’s input and wrote speaker notes for each of them. At the end of the day, I had to coach one colleague on my model so she could get the right output (REMEDIAL ACTION).
On the next day, the team had a stellar presentation in front of the board and was able to answer all questions and challenges we received. The budget for next year was actually increased. We were all super happy and I took the team out for drinks in the evening (END RESULT).
The interviewer will tell you quite soon in which direction your story should go and what parts you should focus on. The SCORE framework is extremely useful in this case. Be aware that at firms like McKinsey and during the Personal Experience Interview, interviewers will go very deep into each situation and ask very specific questions such as “What did this person say?”, “How did this make you feel?”, etc. Be prepared to talk about all aspects of a specific situation.
If you have prepared just a few sentences or bullet points per item, you are well prepared for even the most daunting and specific personal interview questions. You will know what you are going to say at the right time without sounding rehearsed.
A good tool to prepare your individual stories in an organized manner would be the following matrix. Draft it in Excel to collect and prepare your stories.
Finally, rehearse your answers with friends and peers. Let them play an active role and ask for tricky questions to simulate a real-life interview situation.
How we can help you to get a job in top-tier consulting
If you want to learn in great detail how to ace the case and personal fit interviews, check out our 40-part Ready-for-McKinsey interview academy, which is also applicable for Bain interviews, or our individual and private coaching sessions. 9 out of 10 candidates who go through our 1-on-1 interview coaching get the offer.