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.
Of course, this doesn't factor in those who are interested in consulting but don't apply because they 'self-select' themselves out of the process (i.e., they never submit an application because they don't believe they stand a chance). As a real-life benchmark, I conducted about 50 candidates (both first and final round) during my time at McKinsey in London- 4 eventually received job offers.
How do the number of applications for consulting internships compare to this? The number of applicants per place for internships is as high, if not higher, than the number applicants per place for 'full' jobs. A large part of this is that the big consulting firms tend to offer only a small number of internships.
What does this mean for you? The big drop-off at the CV screening stage means that it's essential that you spend the time to make your CV as strong as possible before applying. It also means that if you've got through to the first-round interview stages, you should feel good about yourself- you've 'beaten' at least 10 other candidates for your spot. Finally, it means that if you get through to final-round interviews you've done very well and your odds of landing a job offer are about one in three.
Consulting is a tough industry to break into and the best firms receive hundreds of applicants per place. However, with the right profile and with some hard work on your interview skills and the right resources, it's definitely possible.
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I'm a ex-McKinsey London EM who recently left the Firm