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.
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:
Management consulting is competitive. Top consulting firms receive many thousands of applications each year. As a result, the consulting recruiting process (outlined here) is lengthy and very thorough.
On average, top firms receive about 200 applications for every one offer they make. The diagram below summarises your odds of getting through each stage of the process- it's based on talking to people involved in the recruiting process at different firms and my own experience in interviewing.
My view on this is not the standard one. If you're applying to a consulting firm in Europe, I do not think that networking or 'knowing' the right people will significantly improve your chances of getting a job at a first or second-tier consulting firm.
Networking with current consultants has two benefits:
Consulting is a tough industry to break into. You'll be competing against a lot of smart people for each job. This means that firms can be picky about who they hire and the assessment process is very thorough.
In general, to land a job offer, you need to pass 4 stages (and these stages are the same irrespective of whether you're applying for a business analyst or an associate position):
1. CV screen: Most consulting firms ask for a CV and cover letter. This is good news as it makes it easy for you to apply to a large number of consulting firms without investing too much time (click here to see my tips on writing a CV for consulting)
2. Aptitude test: At most firms, some kind of aptitude test is the next step in the process. These test verbal and numerical reasoning and are designed to assess potential, not knowledge. This means that they are difficult to prepare for but it's helpful to familiarize yourself with the type of question asked by completing a couple of practice tests
I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm