So you want to be a management consultant? Unfortunately, millions of others decide the same thing every year. The management consulting recruiting process is one of the most competitive processes in the world. With so many candidates vying for limited spots, it can often seem impossible to know how to get into consulting.
That’s where we come in! At Management Consulted, we have helped thousands of candidates go from candidate to consultant. See below for our 5 essential steps to take in order to break into coveted management consulting roles.
How To Get Into Consulting
1. Determine Your Entry Point
The first step to landing an offer at a top consulting firm is figuring out your entry point. Typically, there are three main ways to enter into consulting: after your undergraduate degree, after a graduate program, or as an experienced hire. Depending on your current set of experiences, you should determine which entry point makes the most sense for you.
We want to address how to get into consulting after undergrad. If you’re still working on your bachelor’s degree, you have two opportunities to recruit for consulting: a junior summer internship (right before the start of your senior year) or full-time opportunities. In the U.S., the recruiting cycle for the former occurs at the start of your junior year, while the latter occurs at the start of your senior year. If you are outside of the U.S., check your school’s historical recruiting timeline or reach out to your Career Services office.
B. Advanced Degrees
Entering consulting after graduate school, specifically after MBA programs, is the best-known way to get into consulting. Many of the top consulting firms also hire JDs, MDs, and graduates with other advanced professional degrees.
Getting an MBA at a Top 10 business school will be one of the best paths toward a career in consulting, with roughly one in three MBA students entering the industry. The Big 3 Consulting firms and the Big 4 Accounting firms recruit heavily from MBA programs and save spots specifically for these students. Once you are in business school, recruitment for your summer internship will occur right after winter break of your first year.
C. Experienced Hires
Consulting firms also love to hire experienced professionals who have a background in a variety of fields. The top consulting firms hire experienced professionals on a rolling basis throughout the year, but conduct a burst of full time hiring every spring (March-May). Be sure to prepare for the case interview as you apply, as you can be called in for an interview with very short (i.e. 1 week) notice.
2. Construct a Consulting Specific Resume and Cover Letter
If you’re just getting started on the recruiting process, it is imperative that you construct a resume and cover letter that is built for consulting. These two documents will be important tools as you network, applying for positions, and even when interviewing.
See our Complete Guide for Consulting Resumes and our Ultimate Guide for Consulting Cover Letters for detailed advice on how to prepare these crucial recruiting documents. For those of you wanting to leave no stone unturned, purchase our editing package today. Our MBB team will transform your documents to help you put your best foot forward for consulting applications.
3. Start Networking
The importance of networking holds true whether you are trying to join after an undergraduate degree, an MBA, or even without much experience. To make a long story short: you are 80% more likely to land an interview invite after getting a referral from a current consultant at the firm. Firms interview those who have passed the informal screening process conducted during networking. Whatever you do, do not apply blindly through a firm’s online application portal.
Speaking with consultants inside your target offices is a must. Below are some recommended questions to ask when gathering information about your preparations. Keep in mind that a good networking call or meeting involves multiple topics (both personal and professional), so don’t limit your networking to the types of questions below.
- What have you enjoyed so far in your consulting career? Have there been any negative aspects?
- Now that you’re in consulting, what do you think helped you the most in preparing for consulting recruiting? Would you do anything different?
- What resources were most helpful for you during your recruiting preparations?
- What is the best advice you have for those who are working towards getting into consulting?
- After this call, do you feel comfortable referring me for XYZ role?
Begin to reach out to your college alumni and professional networks, or begin the cold networking process.
4. Build up Professional Experience
To have a shot at the top firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and Deloitte, you should aim to have several professional (or internship) experiences before applying. Having a high GPA or stellar extracurriculars will not be enough.
Consulting firms don’t require you to have consulting experience; they value diverse perspectives. However, the common denominator is that firms are looking for candidates with proven track records of excellence.
Regardless of the industry you are gaining professional experience in, you should strive to work at brand name firms. Consulting firms screen resumes for strong brand names because they prove that candidates have completed competitive interview processes before, and so are much more likely to do so again. Additionally, you will also work on challenging workstreams and build a stronger set of skills that could be transferable to consulting.
5. Prepare for Interviews
To get into consulting, interviews will always remain the last step. For consulting interviews, there are always two things to prepare for: behavioral (fit) and cases.
Behavioral – Fit Interviews
Consultants will dig deep into your background and motivations to make sure you are a good fit for the job and firm culture. At some firms – especially in the later rounds – entire interviews will be behavioral-focused.
To perform well in behavioral interviews, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use the information you’ve gathered from networking – Think about all the discussions you’ve had with consultants and create a list of what you like and dislike about consulting.
- Be authentic in your responses – Consultants have interviewed many candidates and can spot a canned or disingenuous candidate right away. Use your own words and experiences to display your passion and interest for consulting.
- Tell stories – Consulting interviewers are just like any other people you’ll meet in that they love a good story. Keep your answers interesting and thoughtful in order to be a memorable candidate that stands out from the sea of applicants. Canned 3-part responses won’t get you very far.
Business Case Style Interview
It should come as no surprise that you’ll need to crush case interviews in order to land a job at the top consulting firms. Case interviews are a proxy to see if a candidate will be a good consultant.
There are so many tips for cases that we could provide. In fact, we already have. See our Case Interview: Complete Prep Guide to crush consulting cases. For brevity’s sake, here are some high level tips to keep in mind:
- Prepare early – The recruiting seasons will come by quicker than you think, and it will for most other candidates as well. Make sure you stay a step ahead by practicing cases as early as you can.
- Get comfortable with mental math – Quite often, mistakes in calculating your numbers can be the difference between a successful or nerve-racking interview. Keep your mental math skills fresh by practicing through our free online drills.
- Quality beats quantity – The best way to prepare for McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte cases is expert feedback that drives at the heart of your weaknesses. Practice out-loud to best simulate the interview environment, and if you don’t have expert partners to work with, work with our MBB coaches..
Breaking into consulting is a lot of work! But if you follow these 5 steps on how to get into management consulting, you are already on the right path. Do your homework. Practice out-loud. Start early. And get expert feedback to accelerate your progress. For in-depth help work with us via our Black Belt program – it’s built to deliver accelerated progress, and 60% of our Black Belts land offers at Top 10 firms. Go crush it!