Most people’s mental image of the typical job interview involves a quiet room, a table and some chairs, and a small group of people asking questions of a job applicant. In the consulting world, entry level candidates must not only have a strong educational background, but the social skills necessary to interact and communicate with clients and stakeholders in a variety of settings and situations. Screening for these capabilities requires a departure from what most people expect of a job interview, and boutique consulting firm Oliver Wyman has turned to using social events as part of its hiring process.
The firm’s interview process generally involves three case studies, including one before a panel of consultants, with a group social event held prior to the final interview to assess candidates’ soft skills.
“We invite the candidate to a relaxed, social event like a lunch or after-work drinks before the final-round interview. During this event, we observe how they interact with peers and candidates, and how they engage with the Oliver Wyman consultants, partners, and support team. We want to understand how they interact in new environments,” said Ed Emanuel, an Oliver Wyman Partner and the firm’s market leader for Australia and New Zealand. “It informs how well a candidate can read a room and react accordingly to navigate the situation, which is likely what they will experience with clients.”
The firm’s case study assessment is intended to test a candidate’s ability to understand and prepare an approach to solving a new challenge. While it does not assume industry expertise, candidates must be able to perform simple mental arithmetic and articulate a proposed approach to solving the problem. Oliver Wyman is highly selective in hiring, seeking candidates with strong academic performance who are active in non-academic activities such as charities or social groups, and have participated in work-related activities such as an internship.
While the firm’s approach may select for problem-solvers with strong communication skills and the ability to interface with a wide variety of stakeholders, it may also run the risk of leaving behind neurodivergent candidates who are less likely to be comfortable with social gatherings, but may possess unique skills that could contribute to the firm’s capabilities. Firms such as Deloitte and EY have been focusing on making their hiring practices more inclusive; whether or not smaller firms will follow suit remains to be seen.