How to Ace an Accenture Interview – and Why You Want To (Or Not)


firm profile

ACCENTURE CONSULTING

Today we’re turning our attention to one of the world’s most humongous consulting firms – one that often gets lots of attention but mixed reviews from the consulting crowd. We’ve asked the question – why is it that Accenture, the mega consulting and technology services firm – attracts such polarized opinions? With Accenture beating down the door of colleges and universities across the globe, we know you – a prospective consultant – want to know – is starting your consulting career at Accenture a good idea?

Our short answer is this – it depends on what your end goals are. If you have a highly technical background, a real passion for Six Sigma, Lean methodologies or operational efficiency, or an advanced degree without a lot of business work experience, Accenture is a tremendous place to start your consulting career. If you’re interested in consistent 4- or 5-day-a-week travel (they call it 100%), you’ll be right at home at Accenture. If you want to work for a globally recognized brand name – maybe you don’t have one on your resume yet – you should apply and work your tail off to get the interview and offer.

If you’re shooting for MBB, however – then no, Accenture is not the optimum place to start your career. You’re shooting yourself in the foot by accepting an internship or offer at the firm. Why? Accenture has many different business units and the firm’s brand image is largely dominated by its technology consulting arm. Instead of Accenture, you’re better off trying for another launching pad – at a consulting firm that will prepare you for MBB like Deloitte or Booz & Company or a Fortune 500 firm – or investment banking.

We hear from our readers all the time, and some of you are some consulting hopefuls whose resumes don’t fit the MBB profile – either because your grades are A/B-average, you didn’t attend a target school, or you’re pursuing a consulting position later in your career. What’s the option for you if MBB is off the table?

Enter Accenture – a great place for late bloomers to start their consulting careers. With a large global footprint and a client list that extends to 92 of the Fortune 100 firms and more than 75% of the Fortune 500, Accenture offers an excellent foray into management consulting for those of you who want the benefits of consulting but don’t realistically have the profile for a pure strategy firm.

We are excited to reveal our firm profile for Accenture – with many of the pros and cons of working for one of the world’s largest consulting firms, and plenty of info that will prepare you for an upcoming Accenture interview. Enjoy!

ACCENTURE CONSULTING KEY STATS

Accenture Consulting Website: https://www.accenture.com/us-en
Accenture Consulting Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland
Accenture Consulting Employees: 17,000 consultants
Accenture Consulting Locations: 56 countries, 200+ cities
Accenture Consulting Chief Executive: Mark A. Knickrehm
Accenture Consulting Revenue: $3.8B
Accenture Consulting Engagement Cost: ~$300K

ACCENTURE HISTORY

Heard of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen? Accenture originated as the firm’s business and technology consulting division back in 1953 when GE asked Andersen to automate payroll processing and manufacturing. The two sides of the company co-existed just fine until 1989 when Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting became separate units – and Andersen Consulting was forced to pay Arthur Andersen a significant portion of its profits every year.

Tension over the profit-sharing arrangement increased through the 1990s and came to a head in 1998 when the two divisions entered a litigation war. Three years later, the two parties finally settled, each going its own way. As part of the arbitration settlement, Andersen Consulting was required to change its name. The consulting firm became Accenture in 2001.

ACCENTURE ORGANIZATION

Although Accenture’s headquarters lie in Ireland, much of the operational administration occurs in New York and Chicago. The company’s management consulting division is headed by Group Chief Executive, Sander van ‘t Noordende, who joined Accenture in 1987 and became partner in 1999.

Strategy work at Accenture is executed at a lower-level than what you’d experience at MBB. Whereas an MBB consultant will work with C-level execs on the overall performance of the company, an Accenture consultant will work with department heads or directors to influence one particular operational area of the business.

Typical Accenture projects focus on efficiency, cost-cutting, and operations management, as opposed to market growth and development. The scope of your work as an analyst or consultant at Accenture will always be defined by the scope of the project you’re assigned to — if your client projects are focused on supply chain and not strategy, then you’re not going to get much strategy experience. However, you’ll have lots of opportunity to get your hands dirty – from generating business cases to managing a project office to actually supervising the engineers for implementation, Accenture works on the front lines.

Practice areas

The practice areas at Accenture reflect the operational nature of consulting projects at the firm:

Industries

When it comes to industries, Accenture covers the gamut. From aerospace and defense to media and entertainment, the firm has taken on performance improvement projects for clients in 40+ industries. If you’re prepping for a foray into consulting and want to network effectively, approach someone from Accenture who works with an industry in which you have experience – the firm is very siloed and some practice areas are much more aggressive with hiring than others.

Office Locations

Accenture has local offices in over 120 countries across the globe. While they have a strong presence in the US and Europe, their largest operation is in India, where they have more than 70,000 employees working across 7 cities.

Career Path

If you’re joining Accenture with hopes to transition to purely strategic consulting at some point, think again. As an unwritten rule, MBB doesn’t directly hire former Accenture consultants. You’ll have to spend another couple of years obtaining your MBA or working at an in-between firm to eventually break into McKinsey, Bain, or BCG because your brand will be so associated with technology that the Top 3 firms will think you’re not able to zoom out to the big picture. If you’re considering a multi-step process because MBB isn’t right on your horizon, we recommend to our clients to bypass Accenture and shoot for an in-between firm or advanced degree right away. Even an internship with Accenture, in this case, could brand you as a technologist and hold you back.

However, if you’re not concerned with pure strategy – perhaps you’re looking to consult in a specific technical area where you have expertise, e.g., SABRE, Six Sigma – then Accenture is a great fit. Say you have a technical background in systems integration, or a Ph.D. in industrial engineering. Accenture is an excellent place for highly specialized experienced hires to launch their consulting careers, and it all starts with the interview.

Now to the nuts and bolts. Undergrads are hired in as Analysts, while MBAs are hired in as Consultants. The career path from there continues on to Manager, Senior Manager, Managing Director, and eventually Partner. The Accenture website has a virtual game that takes you through their career ladder – try it for fun.

Internships

Intern pay and training at Accenture are on par with other consulting firms, but from a branding perspective, an internship at Accenture will be considered strongly second tier. Keep this in mind as you’re applying for summer internships in future seasons.

While starting base salary at Accenture comes in a few thousand less than at MBB firms, which is to be expected, salary and benefits are fairly comparable to starting offers at other tier 2 firms. Here’s the kicker, however – and a contributing factor towards the firm’s high attrition rate — Accenture’s salaries don’t accelerate as fast as those at other firms. Instead of a 10-20% pay increase YOY, Accenture’s figures hover around the 4-5% range, meaning a lot of analysts leave after putting in their first year.

In general, we’ve noticed that Accenture consultants don’t usually approach their positions with a long term perspective. You’ll rarely hear an Accenture analyst genuinely say, “I plan on working here and growing my career for the next 8 years!” like you might find at Bain. You’re more likely to find that Accenture consultants use their time with the firm for the training and experience, then move on to another position that’s more lucrative and less stressful. Be ready for the question in an Accenture interview – they want to know that you aren’t just using them for the experience – but explain that you’d be open to staying, but open to other options after a few years as well. (It will sound more believable.)

Despite the downside, it’s obvious that Accenture is making an effort to retain their top talent, offering programs like Career Counselor – where new consultants are assigned a mentor who helps them manage their career, training, and project assignments; the Institute for High Performance – a small group of Accenture professionals leading the development of the company’s research; and the Capability Network – a subset of Accenture consultants from key locations in Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America who work in teams to provide international expertise in support of local projects.

Exit Opportunities

Leaving the management consulting practice at Accenture may come early on, or after several years with the company. You’ve got lots of options waiting for you once you’ve decided to pursue other opportunities – the most prominent of which is finding a position within the larger Accenture organization. With 260,000+ employees in 120 countries, you’re bound to find something that interests you.

If you’re set on leaving Accenture to pursue a strategy consulting position, pursuing your MBA would be a smart choice for undergrads. If you go back for your MBA, focus on landing a pure strategy summer internship – your re-branding effort will pay off! If you already have your advanced degree, put your efforts into landing a consultant position with another 2nd tier firm that does feed MBB – like Booz or Deloitte.

Like Deloitte (but less likely at MBB), Accenture actually invites its alum to return to the firm later in their careers – the company even has a dedicated Alumni Recruiting Team to handle applications from returning Accenture consultants – so make sure you leave on good terms.

ACCENTURE CULTURE

New hires at Accenture fit the typical consulting profile – type A personality, well rounded, outgoing, etc. – and perks and travel at the firm fit the profile as well. Long hours, nice benefits, and 4-days-a-week travel characterize the Accenture experience. Firm culture, historically, is not as strong as it is, say, at Deloitte, where you’re likely to spend time with your coworkers outside of work. For instance, you’d be a lot less likely to grab a drink with your teammates after work at Accenture than you would at Deloitte or Bain. It’s just harder to establish a one-firm mentality inside such a ginormous, distributed firm.

This disconnectedness flows over into firm loyalty as well. Accenture consultants don’t think of themselves as an Accenture person, like a “Bainee” or “McKinseyite” would. They’re a consultant who works for Accenture, and they don’t necessarily bleed Accenture red. Given the large size of the company, it’s no surprise that Accenture has a challenge maintaining a cohesive culture like smaller firms do.

Because client projects are typically focused on efficiencies and optimization, consultants at Accenture are usually passionate about the details. They’re used to dealing in the operations world and have fun with processes, flowcharts, and procedures. Someone who likes to dwell on the big picture isn’t going to function as well there.

ACCENTURE CONSULTING INTERVIEWS AND RECRUITING

For soon-to-be grads, first round interviews are held on campus or over the phone during the fall recruiting season. This first round is really a screening round to weed out anyone who isn’t a fit (even if you’re technical, you still need to have a high EQ) or doesn’t make the grade on legit business area understanding. Remaining candidates are invited to a second round interview, which is usually held on campus or in a local Accenture office. Interviewers use the second round to test your case interview skills and situational responses. In fact, the Accenture case interview is largely situational – “what would you do in XXX scenario?” – and while it might be less prescribed than a McKinsey interview, a structured answer still wins the day. In the final round, you’re given another set of interview questions and a chance to meet analysts and consultants from the local office.

Networking your way into a position at Accenture is not hard to do, if you’ve got the right education and experience. First of all, the firm hosts info sessions and career fairs at dozens of schools across the US. Access their events calendar to find out when they’re coming to your school and make sure you drop your consulting-ready resume at their booth.

Secondly, set up your LinkedIn profile and search for Accenture employees in your network. LinkedIn shows over 197,000 Accenture employees, so the likelihood of you knowing someone who knows someone at Accenture is pretty high. For tips on planning your approach and delivering your elevator pitch, read The Networking Bible.

Accenture offers an online Career Coach for applicants – an interactive program with video and a quiz, that helps you with career planning, networking, job searching, and interviewing at the firm. It’s a good intro to the company; however, don’t expect it to give you any insider information.

Experienced professionals with specific industry knowledge are welcomed at Accenture. For instance, if you understand health care systems in the UK, or you’re an expert in oil & gas infrastructure management, you would be an incredibly valuable asset to the firm. You won’t be able to rely on your technical skills alone, however. Accenture recruiters look for relationship skills as well.

At the end of the day, Accenture consultants focus a lot less on growth and performance and a lot more on productivity and operations. If your daily passion is saving companies money or increasing throughput, you’re going to fit right in at Accenture.

Accenture Salaries

Are you an undergrad, MBA or intern who’s interested in working at Accenture, but you don’t know how much you’ll make? Check out our latest Management Consulting Salaries post to find out!

Target Schools

Accenture’s MBA target schools are:

Diversity Programs

Networking inside diversity groups is an excellent way to make connections with a local Accenture office. Diversity group representatives provide a direct contact to working consultants with a shared interest or background. Accenture offers diversity groups for the following:

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  • NewToThisIndustry

    Hi, I am an current rising senior at a target school interning at Accenture for the summer. I just want to first say that I find your website extremely helpful and I appreciate the resources. Judging by the article, it seems like doing the internship might have been a mistake for my goal of getting into MBB. Is there any way to salvage the situation for the upcoming full time recruitment?

    Thanks! :)

  • ACN MC Manager

    Great article! If I am already a manager within Accenture’s Management Consulting group, would you recommend a move to Deloitte’s Technology group as a Sr Consultant? When applying for MBB down the road, does it matter which group I was in while at Deloitte?

    Thanks,

  • Guest Consultant

    That would be a career devastating move, in my opinion. Taking a demotion and moving to a peer firm within a “technology” group is not what is going to interest MBB. It also ruins your career progression if MBB doesn’t work out (let’s be honest…most people can’t get into MBB which is why it is so sought after in the first place).

    Your best bet is to get a MBA but as a Manager you already have a few years under your belt and you may be too experienced to get hired at MBB after an MBA. Do you really want to go to MBB as a consultant after two years of school? You would be doing some serious backtracking just to work for one of those companies.

    I think your ship has sailed at MBB if you are already a Manager elsewhere….

  • Guest

    Really appreciate the insights!

  • bussinessQuant

    Great article! Really reflects my experiences there well. I was attracted to the consulting world after graduating because of the glamour (and I had the CV to get in), even though I’d consider myself rather as a expert type than a typical consultant. I had interview invitations from MBB but decided to go for Accenture MC instead because I liked their ‘real work’ mentality better than the high-level strategy stuff. After one year, I moved to the Supervisory Authority in my home country (small western european country) where I now do what I like best (build complex models). Now I’d love to just stay there, but our board is seriously considering job cuts, so I might find myself on the market sooner or later (about two years after joining). So how do you think an MBB firm or OW would look at those experiences if I were to apply (I’d think of consulting a bit as a means of positioning myself again for another job of the kind I currently have, so I think a new firm will add more flavour to the CV than going back to ACN)? I reckon that the lack of international experience will be a big issue, given that I am at home now – do you think a 3-6 month stint outside Europe, maybe working as a contractor at a foreign regulatory body or just backpacking will be sufficient to remedy this?

  • businessQuant

    ^ correction: the supervisory authority _for the banking system_

  • ACN_fella

    This is a brilliant article! Objective and very truthful. I’ve been at Accenture 2.5 years so far, and can attest to most of the info on here. The paragraph on loyalty (or lack thereof) is particularly true; I have yet to meet someone who proudly said they work at Accenture.

    I will add that Accenture is also a great place to be if you want to move into project management type roles in the future; Accenture does taint you with technology but they are also great at managing execution (once MBB places the recommendation).

  • MC Team

    You’re right – you’re facing a bit of an uphill battle now. You have 3 things you can do to get started – 1. If at all possible, get on a project that is as strategy focused as you can – something involving building a business case (and with minimal technology focus). 2. Start networking! Prepare insights (the site should be helpful with this) about how it is relevant to move over so you can share with people who will be your advocates. 3. See if you can help a start-up this summer with strategy so you can add that to your resume to round it out a bit. Hope that helps!

  • jennyrae

    It’s hard to tell exactly what to recommend because you’re so vague, but we’ll try! Your best shot is for a consulting position in the country you’re working in, and the best way in is through networking; you’ll know how good your chances are if you ask someone who is in the firm directly. If you have a great CV/cover letter that messages key important themes to them, you’ll be set up to be recommended internally. If your networking efforts are bland or your CV is too technically focused, your efforts will fall flat. Over-invest on preparing your message (because ACN isn’t the most relevant so you have to compensate), go personal, and let us know how it turns out!

  • J acn

    I currently work in Accenture’s strategy practice and we’ve seen high numbers of our people go to MBB. Accenture’s strategy practice is very small and getting an offer from the strategy practice is distinct from an offer into the general management consulting practice. If you’re at Accenture already and want to move to MBB I would suggest your first aim should be to get experience with Accenture’s global strategy team (although quite a small team of around 100).

    I would say I’m proud to work with Accenture’s strategy practice. I’ve been there for almost 2 years now and have worked on over 15 strategy engagements, advising CEOs of FTSE 100 companies on key issues (such as potential acquisitions, customer propositions and technology investment). I have been able to work across all 5 of our industry groups and have worked directly with CEOs, CFOs and government leaders.

  • AJ

    It surely does. I have been there and done exactly that. Now quitting Deloitte back to AMC. I say stick to AMC and then try getting into the strategy pool and take it from there.

  • Harry

    For an employee with a year experience working in Finance in the Enterprise workforce, what advice would you have to best position yourself for a transition to Accenture Strategy?

  • wharton consultant

    This article is very misleading. As you’ve pointed out, Accenture is a massive company. But rather than focus on specific operating groups such as the strategy practice (as you did with Deloitte), you chose to paint the Accenture experience with the broadest of strokes. As others have attested to, those in the strategy practice routinely work on growth oriented projects and move on to MBB. Sure, if you are in the technology practice or spend a significant amount of time dealing with system implementations, MBB won’t hire you but that has much more to do with your experience than the name of the your company.

  • George Famutimi

    Based on this, I obviously shouldn’t go for Accenture as a bridge to MBB unless I can guarantee that I’ll get in, excel, and maybe get my MBA covered by them right?

  • Rajeev Narsimhan

    Hey everyone, this is an interesting article. My views have slightly changed having read this. I have recently graduated from University College London in Msc Management and have job offers from Pwc ( IT Risk Assurance), Accenture ( Management Consulting ) and KPMG ( Deal Advisory) . My aim is to break into the MBB because of which I am considering Accenture as its a Management Consulting role. I picked the Accenture role purely because it was MC as opposed to the other two options. Would working in IT Risk Assurance or Deal Advisory still open the MBB doors for me ? As it stands I have to respond to the KPMG offer on Monday as the role starts on 5th October. Furthermore, I have requested Accenture to consider me for a Strategy Consulting role with the view of entering the MBB. Any advice from you guys will be valuable .

    Thank you !
    Raj

  • Gonzalo

    I am an undergrad and received offers from PwC Advisory and Accenture Strategy. Both in Chicago. Could anyone help me out with pros and cons? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Alex Pharr

    This article is not at all reflective of Accenture and was clearly written by someone who has never worked there. It doesn’t make sense to compare all of Accenture as one group. Instead, the article should focus on each of the business lines (Strategy, Consulting, Technology, etc.). For comparison against MBB, only Accenture Strategy is applicable and the authors should ideally get the perspective and insight of actual Accenture Strategy consultants.