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.
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:
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:
You'll need to pass a CV (or resume) screen to land a consulting interview. My top 3 tips for building a CV that will do this:
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