The FAQ is a collection of basic questions people have (about consulting, the site, our backgrounds) as well as a central place for questions that we’ve answered through emails and posts. If you’re looking for a particular answer, Ctrl-F is your best friend.
1. I know nothing about consulting. How do I learn more?
You’ve come to the right place, my friend. First, read the following articles:
- Management Consulting and the Consulting Industry 101
- Day in the Life of a Management Consultant (client version)
- Management Consulting versus Investment Banking
- Top 10 Resume Tips
- Top 10 Interview Tips
- Overview of the Management Consulting Recruiting Process
Then, subscribe to our RSS feed. We post regularly about management consulting topics.
If this hasn’t quenched your thirst, feel free to contact us with comments/questions.
2. How do I know if I want to do consulting versus finance?
Our Consulting vs. Finance post should help you here.
How to get into consulting
1. What are minimum GPA requirements?
If your overall GPA is above 3.5, or your major GPA is above 3.6 – you should be fine for most “screening criteria”. If your GPA is under 3.5, you’ll need to have a strong resume and network your way to success.
2. I don’t have any business experience. Help!
Don’t panic. Plenty of successful consultants had minimal business experience when they applied. It may put you at a slight disadvantage, which is why the resume, cover letters, and interviews are even more important now.
- Demonstrating business interest and understanding, even if its not formal work experience
- Nailing the interviews, particularly the case study
- Showing a track record of success in your areas of interest and expertise
3. Do I need to attend these info sessions? And what do I do at them?
If you want to be ahead of the competition, yes. And read this for the answer to the second.
4. How do I prepare for the recruiting process?
Read this overview post on the management consulting recruitment process. Read business news regularly (Economist, WSJ, Fortune). Start refining your resume and practicing interviews. Get expert help if needed.
5. I’m not getting any interview offers. How can I change that?
Listen to interviewer feedback! That is clue #1. If they don’t provide it, actively follow-up with your interviewers. Fix what’s wrong. If you’re not getting interviews, your resume may be weak. Or you may not have the best access to recruiters and firms. Get a resume edit and perhaps sign-up for a coaching session.
1. Do I HAVE to be good at case studies?
Yes. Because if you manage to sneak by the recruiting process with shoddy case analysis skills, you can bet that weakness will become apparent on the job. On day one.
You can get better at case studies. It takes smart practice, and the right people to guide you.
The key to successfully tackling any case study question is to STRUCTURE YOUR ANSWER. Structure your answer in the right way, and the rest is history. Knowing how to do that comes down to familiarity with business principles, familiarity with case studies, and straightforward mental horsepower.
2. What if I mess up at some point (particular on a quantitative question)?
It happens all the time. Admit your mistake (“Wait a minute, that doesn’t seem right because…”). Take a second to regroup, and rewind to where you think the error started. Restate all the facts that you know, confirm those facts with the interviewer, and recalculate/rethink the question. If you still can’t figure it out, ask the interviewer about a particular piece that’s troubling you. They may be kind enough to help.
3. What are the firms looking for in fit interviews?
“Someone who I want to work with from 8am to 8pm” is how one McKinsey interviewer explained it to me. That means you are:
- A good communicator
- An effective hard-worker (note this means you not only put in the sweat, you do it in the right way)
- A positive, generally likable person
Fit questions measure where you fall in those 3 areas.
4. What’s the difference between 1st and 2nd round interviews?
Both interview rounds will have fit interview and case interview components. The 1st rounds will likely be less challenging, with less senior consultants. The 2nd rounds will be much tougher, and you’ll interview with senior consultants whom you’ll be working with should you get the offer.
5. I have a phone interview! How do I handle that?
See my post here. Not a huge difference from in-person, but make sure you have pen and paper ready to take notes.
6. How should I rank my office preference?
Some applicants like to “game” the recruiting process, applying to less popular offices in thinking that the interview process will be easier. My answer: it depends on which consulting firm, which office, which year. It’s a risky move because you automatically limit your upside (assuming the less popular office is not your first office choice).
7. I’m not getting any responses after my interviews. Should I follow-up?
If it’s been longer than 2 weeks, follow-up with the recruiter. These things can take time so be patient. Focus on your other job applications in the interim.
About the Management Consulted site
1. Can you tell me more about your background and how you broke into management consulting?
See the About page for background info. Our founder, Kevin, became a management consultant through the traditional recruiting process – extensive rounds of resume submissions and countless phone and in-person interviews. McKinsey was my top choice – it was a straightforward decision once I received the offer to join their New York office.
Prior to McKinsey, I’d spent time in derivatives trading for Credit Suisse First Boston. That was the only serious alternative for me, and one that I heavily considered before leaning towards consulting for these reasons.
Jenny Rae, our MD, was a non-traditional hire who broke in through networking (even though she completed on-campus interviews). She sailed through her Bain interviews and was given an offer on the spot in her final round and told she was the #1 candidate in that recruiting class.
2. Why did you start this blog?
Kevin had been helping prospective management consultants (friends, colleagues) for years with their resumes, cover letters, interviews, and recruiting questions. Given that experience (and the experience inside McKinsey helping recruit new employees and seeing how the hiring process worked), I decided to start Management Consulted to share the knowledge accumulated – and am looking forward to meeting others on a similar journey.
It’s an effective avenue for advertising my own consulting/coaching services. We have also released super-awesome case studies, interview guides, networking how-tos, and the like. All with the same aim – helping people become as prepared as possible for a career in the consulting industry.
3. Why did you exit consulting?
After 2+ years at McKinsey, it was time to move on. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart – the risk-taking, the ambiguity, the fast pace and the journey of creating something from nothing. I went into my McKinsey tenure with the mindset that entrepreneurship would come after my time at the firm. I spent the next two years learning as much as possible so I could take those skills and start my own company.
It was an incredible experience – there are a few things that really stuck out for me:
- The caliber of people was unparalleled. It showed me the “benchmark” that I need to meet in order to be successful in business. People were friendly, intelligent, ambitious, and willing to share their own experience as consultants.
- The training – both on the job and formal – was continuous and applicable far beyond management consulting.
- The responsibility from day one is stressful but immensely rewarding. Nowhere else is a recent college or MBA graduate with limited business experience given 3 months to get to par with senior executives who’ve pored over the same problems for decades. It really teaches you to focus on the things that matter.
4. Can you help me??
We’ve gotten many emails with questions about recruiting; requests to help with specific aspects of applications; and so forth. While we try our best to be helpful, we do have limited time and are booked solid during peak recruiting season. In addition, even for the people we do help, we can barely scratch the surface through email.
If you really have tons of burning questions or need my undivided attention, by far the best way is to sign-up for a personal coaching session. This way, we can give you our undivided attention and many people have said that one session was the difference between getting a job…or not.
Assortment of questions from readers
Note that some of these questions will overlap/be somewhat duplicative of answers from above. I wanted to centralize all the key questions I’ve answered in posts since I launched this site.
I’m a senior in college and applying to consulting firms full-time. Unfortunately, I have a really low SAT score from high school. Will this hurt my chances? Should I retake the SAT?
If your SAT score is below 1300, it could hurt depending on the firm. I would strongly recommend against retaking the SAT. There are better uses of your time. However, if you believe you can take it right now with no practice and score a 1500, no one will stop you.
If you have a low SAT, focus on the areas where you can make a difference – a great GPA will go a long way. Shoot for leadership positions in school, gain part-time work experience during school and recruit for quality firms over summer and post-college.
Same applies to GMAT. I’d think of 700 as your cutoff level there, and really 720 is the cutoff for top firms.
Since graduating from college/graduate school, I’ve worked in several jobs and have built a strong work resume. Unfortunately, my educational background is weak – I didn’t go to a “target school” and had a low GPA in my time. How much will this affect my chances?
I’ve received many people asking variations of this theme. Here’s my advice:
If you have strong work experience – world-class firms, multiple promotions, a record of accomplishment, leadership, and risk-taking – the most important thing for you now is not your undergraduate GPA, but how you can get your resume in front of recruiters and decision-makers. Unless you plan on going back to school and utilizing their recruiting channels, it will come down to networking. There are a couple sources I suggest you hit immediately:
- School and work alumni networks
- Extended personal network (friends and family)
- Headhunters – preferably the ones that don’t charge an upfront fee but work through referrals to specific firms
- Pounding the pavement – meeting consultants at industry conferences, tradeshows, career forums, etc
Your educational record will play a part in your overall candidacy, but a minor one. If you have 5+ years of work experience, those years will be the focal point of any interview and resume screen. Your goal now is to get that opportunity.
If you want more details, go right now and buy our networking course. It’s the best resource available on networking for consulting.
I’ve heard that some offices are “easier” to recruit for at big consulting firms such as Bain, BCG, Mckinsey, Booz Allen. Should I apply to the smaller, “easier” offices?
This myth is partly true, partly false.
It’s partly true because selectivity varies by office at GMCs. Smaller offices may prefer a weaker candidate who ranks them #1 and has a rationale for that ranking (eg, it’s their hometown, they’re interested in the region’s dominant industries) to a stronger candidate who doesn’t rank them at all.
It’s partly false because selectivity can vary significantly in the smaller offices year-to-year. Particularly in the current hiring environment, smaller offices may make offers in the low single digits (if any).
Here’s your takeaway: if you’re a very strong candidate, it won’t matter to which office you apply. If you’re a borderline candidate, you may want to give office preferences a closer look – but only if you have good personal and professional reasons to do so.
I missed the summer recruiting cycle here at XYZ university. What can I do now?
The short answer is that you’ve missed out on your best shot at consulting internships. Its worthwhile now to initiate contact with your school recruiting office, recruiters at consulting firms that come to campus, etc – and explain your situation in brief with a resume attached.
At the same time, I’d look into alternative summer employment options – while helpful, it’s not mandatory to have a summer consulting internship for full-time recruiting (there are very few of these to begin with). Rather, get a top job in a related field (banking, strategy for a Fortune 500, etc.) and get ready to network your arse off in the fall.
What should I do with my Facebook accounts? What about my blog?
Be careful when managing these resources. To be safe, remove all sensitive information and embarrassing photos. Even if you great control of privacy settings and your friend list, you never know how recruiters may wind up with potentially damaging information.
As to your blog – it can be a plus to mention that on your resume. At least a small percentage of the time, resume reviewers will visit your site. Make sure the content and site design are high-quality and leave a positive impression on visitors.
I’d be careful with tough-to-substantiate claims on your resume. If you state that you founded a private equity firm in college and a quick Google search for your “Rising Equity” PE fund shows a picture of 4 teenagers on a dumpy-looking website, you’re in trouble.
What’s the difference between first and second round interviews?
First rounds are broad in scope – used as a tool to make sure you reach a general bar in whatever characteristics that firm is looking for – typically some combination of analytics and communication skills. First round cases are straight-forward and cover general concepts (e.g., declining profits, expansion into new markets).
Second rounds are more particular, and focused on two things. One, probing any weaknesses that your first round interview may have shown, and two, ensuring that you’re a good fit in that particular environment/office. That’s part of the reason why first rounds are local (e.g., at your school) and second rounds are on-site (e.g., in the office that wants to hire you). In second rounds, you also meet and interview with more people and typically have contact points across the firm (e.g., with analysts, more seasoned consultants, and partners).
There have been some important changes in my life that I think firms will want to know. How should I update them (if at all)?
This is a popular question. My advice here is to only communicate updates when they are critical to decision-making.
Small GPA increases, school-wide prizes, new leadership positions – not important.
International awards and fellowships, brand-name firm internships – important.
In your update, you must not come across as arrogant. The best way is to send an updated resume to your firm recruiter contact with the following:
“Dear Sir/Madam, I wanted to send you an updated resume for my file. I recently received the Harry Truman Scholarship for public service and wanted that to reflect in my record. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!”
I’m still too young to apply for management consulting jobs but want to get a head start. What types of jobs teach you the skills that will be helpful in consulting?
Anything business-oriented where you can show the following things: ability to manage people and teams; capacity to learn sophisticated concepts; ability to drive measurable impact in your team/group/division. The firm’s brand-equity is important (eg, Goldman Sachs is more valued than Wachovia).
Also, we have increasingly received requests for lists of target schools. Subscribe to our email list and get our Consulting Roadmap – if you’re thinking ahead and choosing a college based on consulting prospects, you’ll want to go to a school the top firms recruit from.
After several years in finance, I’ve decided to transition into consulting. How do I start?
No direct experience here, but the parallel/experienced hire process is similar across professions. It’s best to have “internal champions” – those within your target firm that forward your resume to recruiters internally, write positive recommendations, help get the ball rolling. Headhunters play a role – but less so in management consulting than in private equity/hedge funds.
Reach out to your extended network and generate contacts. Talk to peers/colleagues that have made similar transitions. And keep me posted as this is one area we need to understand better and share with readers.
How do you find boutique consulting firms to see if they’re a good fit for you?
Tough question. Unlike investment banking, there is no centralized database of boutique consulting firms. They’re tough to define (since there are countless one-man consulting shops). The
Vault Guide to the Top 50 Management and Strategy Consulting Firms, 2009 Edition is a good start. Google Search is another resource.
Finally, there are many forums where you can receive advice (WallStreetOasis Consulting Cabaret and Vault Consulting Message Boards among them).
A reader recently posted data on their post-MBA salary/signing bonus offer at a major consulting firm. It’s lower/higher than the data in my consulting salaries post:
Please share on the post, as per below…
“I accepted an offer this year with a top Consulting Company (post MBA in June) for $115K base, 20% bonus, and $10K signing. Consulting companies are not offering starting packages this year as high as they did the in the past 3 years. I expect to catch up in the next few years as times get better.”
Are thank you letters necessary?
While in finance, they can be optional – I’d strongly recommend writing one in consulting.
Why? Because decision-making timeframes are typically longer in consulting; consultants have blackberries and continuous access to email; most interviewers appreciate the gesture and at the very least, it’ll keep your name in their minds for longer.
Will attending a top business school make it much easier to get into management consulting?
Definitely. Target business schools provide a level of access that you don’t get anywhere else. Given how selective the recruiting process is, your best chances of breaking into consulting happen in school.
If you don’t have that luxury but want to break into consulting, consider the following two elements when debating career paths: prestige and skill-development. Consulting firms respect brand-name companies, and they respect jobs where you learn a broad set of business skills.
What’s wrong with not including interests on your resume?
There’s nothing explicitly wrong. Including interests has no downside, and plenty of upside. So why wouldn’t you do it? It gives resume readers and interviewers an opportunity to understand you better, and there’s always the chance your interests will overlap with theirs. If that happens, it’s a huge boost to your chances (for instance, if you and your interviewer are both avid mountaineers).
How important is undergrad GPA for MBA recruitment? I have a 3.2 avg over all four years but a 3.7 over my final two years (got my act together). Is there anyway to spin this positively on the resume? I also got a 730 on the GMAT if that helps anything.
Undergrad GPA plus a variety of academic factors (e.g. major, transcript, etc.) play a large role in the admissions process. A 730 GMAT helps but won’t completely factor out the 3.2 GPA the first two years. The best way to spin this, if the issue arises, is to explain how the transformation in your approach to studies took place. Provide a good story, and then emphasize repeatedly the positive results that have come in the intervening years.
At worst, leave out your low overall GPA and only include the data that makes you look amazing. Firms will always tell you they want to see your GPA, but it’s because they want to trash your resume – don’t give them such an easy shot.
Is the nature of Pre-MBA experience important? Currently I work in the strategy/corporate finance department of a Fortune 500 company. I also moved up pretty quickly (only 2.5 years out of school, but promoted to Manager of Long-Term Strategy).
Definitely. Working at a brand name firm and being successful on the job (as shown by promotions, accomplishments, references) makes a huge difference in MBA recruiting (and consulting recruiting that is off-cycle or non-traditional as well).
I’m a senior graduating in May. I know that most firms have already done their recruiting this past fall, but unfortunately, I was studying abroad. Do you have a breakdown of how the firms recruit? Are there some firms that do their recruiting in Winter and Spring?
Most on-campus recruiting occurs in a concentrated time-frame (typically Fall for full-time, late-Fall and Winter for summer/internships). I do not have a specific breakdown of how firms recruit, but many will do recruiting on a rolling basis as well.
Your best bet is to contact your school’s career services office, as well as HR/recruiting contacts that you have at target firms. As mentioned earlier, online consulting applications are not the best way to go.
In normal years, you may still have a shot – certain offices and departments may be looking to meet headcount; yield rates may be lower than anticipated. In today’s economy, that’s a lot tougher.
The thought of applying directly to the McKinsey New York office, for example, from Sydney never crossed my mind. Is this possible?
The broader question here is the feasibility of applying to international consulting offices. Short answer is possible but tough. Long answer is it comes down to a variety of factors – such as if you’re a good fit for that region (language expertise? local work experience?); the quality of their local recruiting class. Typically if you list international offices on your application and are a strong consulting candidate, they’ll consider you for the office provided language is not a barrier.
Out of curiosity, do you have any confidence that public consulting continues? Seems like recessions are exactly the time those things will be cut back.
Given the nature of public-sector consulting (eg, federal, state, and local government consulting) – the size of the clients, the large pocketbooks, the long-term nature of most projects – there may be a slight decrease in demand but I’d expect a larger decline in private-sector consulting.
I got a certificate in business administration from an extension program 2 yrs after a PhD in Mechanical Engineering – should I mention the certificate first in the education section of a consulting resume?
The question about certifications/licenses/etc is a good one. In general, I’d list a few of the most relevant ones – business skills, project management certifications, etc. If it’s not a generally recognizable certification (use common-sense here), provide a short explanation.
That’s it, folks!
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