Are You a Job Applicant or a Consultant?

If you are looking for a job in the  consulting field, check out our MBA Job Openings page.

I just got through reading an article by Liz Ryan from Bloomberg Businessweek entitled, 5 Out-of-Date Job-Search Tactics.

While I consider all five points she discusses as important, I found one point profound enough to make me want to expound upon it.  Liz states, “You should act as a consultant and business advisor during a job search.

While this sounds simple, think of the impact this will have on the interviewer and on your confidence during the interview. By mentally changing your role from ‘supplicant needing a job’, to that of ‘an expert willing to impart knowledge and help the interviewer solve a problem’, you are subliminally changing the interviewers perception of you from a person looking to get something of value (a job), to a person able to give something of value (your expertise).

Consider the following situation:

You go out in the morning to start your car. When you turn the key a horrible noise that you’ve never heard before comes from under the hood. So you take it to your local mechanic to find out what the problem is.

When you pull in, the mechanic directs you where to park your car and takes down your information. Next he starts asking you questions about the noise. You answer the best you can. The mechanic then directs you to the waiting room while he inspects your car and figures out what the noise is.

Throughout that whole process you were the ‘supplicant’ and the mechanic treated you as such. You came in ‘needing’ your car fixed. But you came in without knowledge of what the problem was. The mechanic, on the other hand, was ‘acting as a consultant‘ by finding out what your needs were and providing solutions to you. And this is what you should be doing in the interview, finding out what the hiring manager needs and showing that you can fill that need.

What Does ‘Acting as a Consultant’ Mean?

I have read a lot articles that give advice on what you should do during interview. Here are some of the common tips given that I’m sure you have also already heard:

  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Back up your statements with concrete examples.
  • Be yourself.
  • Show your passion for your career.
  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Do your research on the company/job.
  • Exhibit confidence.
  • Show that you are really interested in the job.

This is all good advice but can you tell me exactly how to “exhibit confidence” or “show your passion for your career?” You can come up with examples on how others have done it, but how do you do it given your unique talents, skills and history? Simply put, act as a consultant.

Once you get into the mindset of  helping the interviewer with their problem, it changes your mannerisms and demeanor. You are automatically enthusiastic because you have the answer to their issue and can show them the solution. Your passion for your career shines through, giving the interviewer a positive impression of you. You exhibit confidence because you are no longer “in an interview”, you’re solving a problem using your expertise in the subject at hand.

Confidence is incredibly important during an interview. Confidence often conveys competence. By acting as a consultant and treating the interview as if it were a consulting job, you are focusing on your area of expertise, demonstrate your knowledge and offering solutions.  Focusing on what you know will innately make you more confident and relaxed.

From my person perspective I have retrospectively seen how acting as a consultant can work in interviews.  Two of the interviews I had back when I was searching for a job demonstrate the power of  ‘acting as a consultant’.

The first interview was for a job where I met 90% of the qualifications and the job matched nearly everything I wanted in a job. This was one of my first interviews and I was less confident and  more nervous. While my technical skills matched what they wanted, my interview was mediocre. I answered the questions and showed I had the skill to perform the job but I didn’t clearly demonstrate my passion for the work or my ability to solve their problems. As a result, I wasn’t called back for the job or another interview.

In the second interview, I met about 60% of the job requirements . The 40% I did not meet was in an area of my field that I had not explored. During this interview, my approach was completely different than the interview with the previous company.

The driving reason the company was hiring for the position was expressly stated during the phone interview. This gave me time in between the phone interview and the face to face interview to research the problem the company was having and demonstrate a workable course of action that I would take.

The interview went smoothly and I was able to present solutions to their problems. I was able to overcome missing 40% of the job requirements with confidence and by presenting solutions to problems before I was even employed at the company. The end result is that I received and accepted a job offer with them.

Simply put, acting as a consultant can be defined as demonstrating your expertise by solving a problem.

What ‘Acting as a Consultant’ Does Not Mean

Acting as a consultant does not mean being overbearing and controlling. Your goal is to show that you can solve the interviewer’s problems, not to take over the interview. What you want to do is to use the opportunities that the interviewer presents to show what you can do for them but follow their lead in the interview process.

You also do not want to come across as a know it all. As I said earlier, the interviewer is the one who directing the flow of your interview. Let them tell you what they need and once they do, provide them with the answers they are looking for from your experience and the research you have done.

Don’t walk into the interview and tell them what they want.  Let the interviewer tell you what their issue or need is and then provide a solution. This doesn’t mean you can’t steer the conversation to a point where it is appropriate for you to present a solution. Just make sure they are expecting to hear a solution before you present it.

Acting as a consultant is a state of mind more than it is a definable set of actions. By putting yourself into that state of mind, you will tend to become more relaxed and confidant, which will show in your interview. You will sound more natural and stand out in the interviewer’s mind as someone who is capable of filling the companies needs.


If you are looking for a job in the  consulting field, check out our MBA Job Openings page.

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Rick Biederer is the owner and operator of

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