Every so often, I like to publish some of the questions that I’ve received from readers and my responses to them. Today’s questions relate to where a consultant should live, visa sponsorship and Accenture. Please click on ‘Read More’ to find my responses.
A few candidates have asked me recently about what they should wear to their consulting interviews so I thought it might be helpful to write something on this topic.
The answer is simple- if you're applying to a top tier consultancy you should dress as smartly as is possible for interviews. Men should wear a suit and tie. Women should wear the female equivalent (i.e., a suit or some other equally smart business wear).
The consulting interview process is thorough and to get a job at a top consulting firm you'll probably need to go through 4 or 5 interviews across multiple rounds.
Most of these interviews will involve both a case study and a series of questions about you and your achievements and motivations (i.e., personal 'fit'). When I was interviewing candidates at McKinsey in London, I spent about 25 to 30 minutes on each part.
It's important to note that the case study and the personal 'fit' part of your interviews are equally important. To pass an interview, you'll need to meet the (high!) bar on both parts. I've been in plenty of decision meetings where a candidate has aced a case but flunked the personal fit part of an interview- these candidates were always rejected.
So, what can you do to make sure that you sail through your fit interviews? My top 5 tips are below:
The management consulting recruiting process is tough and very thorough with ~200 candidates competing for each place at some firms.
I've written previously about the different stages of the process and there's a lot of information available on what candidates can expect. However, there's much less information out there on what happens 'behind the scenes' and how consulting firms come to their decisions on who to hire.
Here I outline the three crucial behind-the-scenes stages of the recruiting process that you should know about. The below is based on my experience at McKinsey in London- other companies or even offices may have different processes but I'd bet that they're all pretty similar.
I talk regularly to people who are trying to break into management consulting. One thing that's almost always apparent is, unless they've worked in consulting previously, most applicants have no idea of what their typical day will be like if they land a job and become a consultant.
I can empathise with this because until I joined McKinsey in London, I had no idea of what my life would be like either (as it turned out, I worked a lot but learned a lot too).
To help anyone who might be in the same position, I've laid out below what a typical Monday at McKinsey looked like. It's based on the last project I did at McKinsey, where I was the Engagement Manager on a team serving a client near London.
0700: Wake up to my alarm going off. Lie in bed for a few minutes feeling pleased that I'm not serving a client outside of the UK- early morning Monday flights are the worst. Grab a quick shower and try to spend a few minutes afterwards talking to my wife about our plans for the day
Most top consulting firms use some type of aptitude test early in their recruiting process to filter out candidates.
The specific details of test will vary by firm, but they share some common features. In general, they will all:
The recruiting process for top consulting firms is long and thorough and very, very competitive.
One of the most common requests I receive is to recommend resources to help prepare for the consulting recruiting process. My standard response is to recommend the 3 books that helped me immensely when I was applying:
These books are all widely available at a minimal cost. In general, I would recommend caution before buying any of the expensive, 'proprietary' materials available (i.e., I've heard of some case interview resources that can cost thousands of dollars)- I didn't meet anyone at McKinsey who admitted to finding these useful..
There's no 'magic bullet' that will guarantee you a consulting job. The only thing you can do is make sure your CV is as strong as it can be and practice, practice, practice your fit and case interview skills. These resources, and a good practice partner, will give you a great chance of doing that.
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One question that readers have asked me a few times is ‘how can I make a transition to MBB from a ‘Tier 2’ consulting firm?’
I wish there was an easy answer to this. Unfortunately, there’s not. It is (obviously) possible to move laterally from another consulting firm to MBB- I can think of several of my ex-colleagues at McKinsey who did this, one of whom is now a Partner- but it’s difficult.
From looking at the background of these people, I can see a few trends. They all either:
There are many good reasons to become a management consultant and as a result, the top consulting firms receive hundreds of applications per place.
However, despite this most consultants only stay in the industry for a few years. The average tenure at McKinsey is well known to be only around 2.5 years.
Why is this?
There are many good reasons to become a management consultant including the promise of interesting work and good remuneration.
However one of the best things about working as a management consultant is that it opens a huge number of doors for the future because the:
I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm