This will be the first of a series of posts on how to get a job in management consulting. You can find the remainder of this series of posts in the Getting In category. We encourage the readers to submit their question about recruiting in the forum, we review and answer the posts periodically.
There are three typical points of entry to the profession:
- Undergraduate level
- MBA or other advanced degree level (JD or PhD)
- Industry hires
This post will cover undergrad level recruiting:
1. Undergrad level recruiting
In most firms, this would be the entry level analyst position. Depending on the firm, the number of undergrad hires may vary a lot. Some firms rely heavily on the analysts while others have a higher percentage of MBAs.
The firms get more and more selective with their prestige, top firms usually hire a small percentage of their applicants. For example McKinsey receives about 50,000 applications per year. They have about 8,000 consultants worldwide. On average, the industry attrition rate is 20-25%, which means they would need 2,000 consultants per year. Hence, their estimated acceptance rate would be somewhere around 2,000/50,000 = 4%.
Good credentials are key to get interviews: Good school (top 20 program), good grades (3.3+ GPA), top standardized test scores. Any major can apply and it is not a big factor in selection for a generalist track.
Most firms run an organized recruiting process in the selected campuses. The campuses are chosen based on their ranking, e.g. top firms only run recruiting in top 20 schools. Proximity is a factor as well, since client staff (e.g. consultants themselves, not HR folks) run campus recruiting. So, if a top program is nearby an existing office, it is usually easier to support it. Most big firms have offices in all big cities so, coverage is usually not a big problem. The programs usually start around late fall and end around February. They include several events, such as informational sessions, case workshops, company chats, and of course the interviews themselves.
Make sure you submit your resume for the campus recruiting on time, firms either announce deadlines on their websites or through your school’s career services.
It is also critical to attend all the events of the firms that you are targeting. Make sure you at least go to the firms website to be able to ask intelligent questions and show your knowledge. Going to these events serves two purposes:
- You demonstrate your interest, make sure you sign in to the attendance sheets, talk to consultants, follow up and thank them via email. They will keep track of this data, it is good to show your interest, it counts in the selection process, although not as much as your interview performance
- You get to know the firms: An inevitable question in interviews is “Why our firm?” and you better have an answer that shows that you know something about their firm that is distinct from other firms. The presentations you go to and the conversations you have in these sessions give you valuable ammunition to play back in the interviews, make sure you take notes. Also, different firms have different cultures, so you may get a sense of the culture in a firm and decide whether it fits you or not
Once you submit your resume, if you get past the filter, you will have one or two round of interviews. Each round will have two to three interviews. You will meet people at different levels and the interviews will include discussion of your background, some brain teasers and sometime case questions. The case will be simpler than a MBA level case but you are supposed to demonstrate your analytical skills and judgment.
The upside the consulting interviews are more standardized than other interviews, so practice pays off and with enough practice, it is not hard to shine in these. The downside is most of your fellow students are aware of this fact, and they will prepare, so make sure you prepare well.
The decisions are usually pretty fast, some firms decide on the evening of the day of second rounds and calll candidates. Offers are somewhat standard, with little room for negotiation of salaries and perks.
What if your dream firm does not recruit at your campus? Well, then you need to submit your resume through the online systems. It may also make sense to contact the recruiters in the offices that you are interested in and ask what the best way to apply would be.
However, your best bet would be through a referral, find a consultant in that firm (the higher the level the better, a partner would be best). This ensures careful evaluation of your background and makes sure the resume lands in the right person’s desk. It is usually to good have a reason or a distinguishing factor to emphasize for your application. Then the person who refers you can say “I know we do not recruit from XYZ school, but I think we need to consider this person because of such and such” so make sure help them with articulating your value proposition.
If you attempt is successful, you will most likely get a phone intervew, this would be a 30 minute to 1 hour conversation about your background, why you want to join and potentially a simple case or some brain teasers. Second round would be in the office you are applying to, probably three to four interviews. Again, the decisions will likely be shortly after the interviews.
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