I had a really hard time preparing for consulting jobs in the social impact space. Unlike its much popular corporate counterpart, social impact consulting hardly has easily accessible resources for aspirants to prepare. Now that I have undertaken quite some research and have made it to my most preferred job, I thought this research would be worthwhile for others. This is my motivation behind writing this article, and in fact, co-founding Impact Connect with Ayushi.
Following is a documentation of my recruitment preparation at Samagra Governance, an Indian governance consulting firm. This may be useful for other social sector consulting jobs. At the point when I am writing this, I am just a few weeks into my job at Samagra. Therefore, by no means should this be considered an “insider information/ advice”. As stated, it is only a documentation of my recruitment preparation. The only additional detail that I have provided pertains to my reflections on the whole process and the corresponding suggestions I might have.
ROUND 1: Written Application
Among other basic details, this round specifically requires you to share your CV and LinkedIn profile link as well as answer two questions in 200 and 300 words. Both the questions are available on the website. You will be tested on the relevance of your answer, strength of your argument and your ability to articulate your point simply, clearly and comprehensively (basically, like a consultant).
Be clear on why you want to join Samagra and how you will contribute if you join. For this, thoroughly go through their YouTube videos, website and LinkedIn page. Understand how doing this kind of work in this particular organization will help you achieve your larger goal. After undertaking desk research, get connected to an employee on LinkedIn or elsewhere, and clarify your doubts. Ask them about the culture and professional development opportunities too.
ROUND 2: Concept Note
In this round, they share a broad problem statement on e-mail and you are given 90 minutes to submit a well-structured two-page (approx.) long concept note. The problem statement closely resembles their projects that they have explained in detail on their website and YouTube page. You will be tested on your structured writing skills and time management.
Clearly understand the fundamentals of MECE problem solving and apply them in your answer. Make a list of some essentials that your concept note must cover. Obviously, use them according to the context. Once this is done, understand the purpose as well as structure of a concept note, to know exactly how you’d like to present it. One advice for any professional write-up is to think about your prospective reader and make it relevant and insightful for them. Most importantly, do not waste 90 minutes on research. Think and write!
ROUND 3: Telephonic Interview
This is a technical round where your problem-solving skills are tested over an almost 40 minutes long telephonic conversation. The prompt generally varies according to your experience, but most likely tests your quantitative skills, structured problem solving and clarity of communication.
Unfortunately, not many case studies specific to Samagra kind of problems are not publicly available. However, Dalberg case studies will be useful in understanding how to apply the MECE framework in your answers. Solving problems is not enough, articulating them well is also tested. Bridgespan case interview videos make for a good resource to practice that. Other than this, practicing market sizing, and other regular consulting cases will be helpful in brushing up your quantitative skills. Finally, during your interview, make extensive notes. In most cases, you will be asked to summarize your recommendations. Focus a lot on making your recommendations practical.
ROUND 4: Personal Interview
This is just a final go-ahead from the Founders after carefully re-examining what has already been tested in the telephonic round - structured problem solving, clarity of communication skills and quantitative aptitude. In my case, it involved two conversations - one with the founder (75 minutes) and another with the co-founder (15 minutes). Most of it was a deep dive into hypothetical problem statements, with last few minutes reserved for my general background.
This round is not significantly different from the telephonic round in terms of preparation. Just that, in this case, you will be probed deeper into the answer. Along with this, knowing why you want to join Samagra, your strengths and weaknesses and other general HR questions will be useful.
Other general pointers/ suggestions:
- In the case interviews, you will be supported in arriving at your answer. For entry level positions, interviewers’ objective is not to see how well you solve problems on your own. They want to see how well you can do with some guidance and handholding. Do not see the interviews as tests; rather see them as auditions by the interviewers to see whether they’d be able to work with you or not.
- Practice a lot! You cannot substitute practice with passive reading. I gave 3 mock interviews before the telephone round.
- Be genuinely interested and show that on your written application. If your written application reads like it can be directly copy + pasted for any other company’s application, then it is too generic to make the cut, in most cases. This is where talking to Samagra employees will help. You will be able to ask Samagra specific questions and see what might be of interest to you. Also, do not waste your call time with the employees in asking questions that can be easily answered through online research.
- Generally being aware of social sector infrastructure - ASHAs, Swachhagrahis, welfare schemes and players etc. - will be helpful in solving your problem. IDR is a good place to start exploring the sector.
- Since Samagra works on systemic transformation projects, being acquainted with Mckinsey’s four box change model will be useful.
Hope you find this article useful. If you have more specific questions or if you think we can add something to this article, please share your thoughts with us on mail or through our LinkedIn page. If you are starting out your career in the social impact space, you might find it worthwhile to check out our LinkedIn page. All the best!
- Shivam Shukla, Associate, Samagra Governance