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.
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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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:
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.
Management consultants at all levels are paid well. As a consultant, you'll be able to lead a very comfortable life and provide comfortably for your family.
However, until you reach senior levels, consulting is not extravagantly paid. Consultants at all levels are paid less than their equivalents in financial services (e.g., banking), despite also working very long hours and travelling more.
What does this mean for you? If you’re primary aim is to become as rich as possible as quickly as possible, consulting is not be the right career for you. Go and become an investment banker or work at a hedge fund instead. If however, you’re not solely money orientated, there are plenty of good reasons to become a consultant instead of a banker.
What does this mean in number terms? Below are my estimates for what you can expect to be paid as both a junior and senior consultant in 2014:
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:
I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm