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:
Management consulting, like banking, has its own hierarchy of job titles. Here, I outline the different roles in a management consulting firm that you can apply for.
It's worth noting that these are 'front office' consulting roles only (I plan to cover non-consulting roles at a later date) and that these titles are McKinsey specific- although most other consulting firms have equivalent roles, with slightly different titles. If you're curious about what you'd earn at each level, have a look here.
Business Analyst: The most junior team members, business analysts (BAs) have typically just finished an undergraduate degree and are entering the workforce for the first time. A minority of BAs will have had some work experience, but this is usually not substantial.
BAs normally work at McKinsey for 2 years, after which they leave to either complete an MBA, take a job in industry or join or found a startup. Those going to MBA school are often sponsored by the Firm, on the condition that they return afterwards and work as an associate for 2+ years.
Some of the best performing BAs are asked to stay at McKinsey as a Business Analyst for a third year with the option of transferring offices (not all of them accept this offer) and the very best ones (about 5%) are offered direct promotion to associate after they complete 2 years.
In addition to the four skills I wrote about previously, your consulting interviewers will be assessing your 'softer' skills and how you present yourself in general. Some ways in which you can build a favourable impression include:
What's this? Every month, I'll be answering a selection of your questions. If you'd like to submit a question, please E-mail me or use the contact form here. I edit the questions I receive to shorten them or protect anonymity.
Q1. Chances at MBB
Q2. Avoiding consulting travel
Q3. Private vs. Public sector clients
Q1. I have a postgraduate degree from a top 5 UK university and have been working at a small energy consultancy for about 6 months. I want to move. Do I stand any chance of getting a job at McKinsey, BCG or Bain? - JS, UK
Reading between the lines, I think this reader is worried about whether spending such a short amount of time in his current role will negatively impact his chances at MBB.
I can reassure him that as long as he's performed well in his current role (i.e., he's not being fired
Once you've decided that you definitely want to be a management consultant and have researched what you'll be paid and the hours you'll be working, you need to figure out which firms to apply to.
I divide consulting firms into 4 groups:
Once you've made it through the CV screen and aptitude tests, the next step in the consulting recruitment process is case interviews. To pass a case interview, you’ll need to demonstrate four key abilities that a management consultant needs (you'll also need to demonstrate 4 key 'softer' skills). These are:
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:
Are you deciding between a career in consulting or one in banking? The video below (made by bankers) gives some surprisingly insightful reasons on why you should pick one over the other.
Highly recommended viewing!
I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm