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To get hired at West Monroe Partners, prepare for an interview marathon

Madeline Skaggs hangs out with Chicago’s top headhunters and in-house recruiters to hear about their tricks, their trade, and what it takes to get a job at companies like LinkedIn, Dyson and Edelman. This week, she sits down with Julie Meyer, senior HR and recruiting manager at consulting firm West Monroe Partners.

Marathon interview

For Meyer and her team, a good first impression doesn’t do much. She controls for the allure of a bright smile by piling on the data points. After two phone interviews, West Monroe invites candidates to spend a half day at the office, where they undergo four more interviews, back-to-back. “We believe that broad base of interviews gives us a holistic view of the candidate and allows us to make smart hiring decisions,” Meyer says. The most telling is the technical interview, when Meyer asks potential hires to demonstrate their skills — whether writing code or managing a supply chain — on a white board. “The way that they carry themselves and communicate their expertise in that type of interview is a great indicator for us of how they’re going to be at a client site,” she says.

Blog power

Many recruiters say that candidates need to demonstrate sincere interest by preparing beforehand. Kraft expects you to learn all about their new products, while e-commerce provider Cleverbridge wants you to follow them on Twitter. Before interviewing at West Monroe, you should become close friends with its blog. “When candidates ask about a project that we’ve highlighted on our website or that we’ve blogged about, that is a great indicator to us of the candidate’s interest level,” Meyer says. Meyer and her team put a lot of work into interviewing, so she gets miffed when candidates don’t do the same. “We do not want to hear generic questions where if the candidate had spent five minutes on our website they would have found the answer.”

Driver’s seat

With an interview process that’s as intensive as West Monroe’s, it should be clear that the firm doesn’t consider itself a stepping stone to bigger and better things. By the time candidates land a gig with them, they should no longer be soul-searching for their place in the world. “We’re looking for specific examples of skills they’d like to develop and where they see the trajectory of their career,” she says. When candidates can’t articulate where they want to go and how they want to get there, that’s a serious put-off. “It’s in those instances where we feel comfortable screening them out of our process because we’re looking for very driven and career-oriented individuals.”

Fake it till you make it

In the consulting world, finding the answers is the easy part — it’s figuring the question that poses a challenge. “Tell me about a time when you were on a project that you had no knowledge or experience on and may have been in over your head.” Meyer isn’t trawling for weakness, but examples of self-possession. “That type of question allows the interview team to be able to assess their confidence in being able to work through an ambiguous problem,” she says.