So, you’re asking yourself, how do I get into consulting after my MBA? It’s a valid question. There are a lot of things to like about consulting. The work is stimulating, the people are extremely smart, the exit opportunities are some of the best and of course, you can’t forget all the points and miles you get to earn from travel! But the life of a consultant is not all glamorous, the hours can be long, and the demands of the job are significant. Although the path to consulting post-MBA is a tried and tested path to be sure, it is also one that requires a lot of introspection and hard work. Before even thinking about the process to get into consulting, you need to first understand what management consultants do. Let’s start there.
What Is Management Consulting?
Put simply, management consulting involves teams of people who work together to solve problems for clients that they couldn’t (or sometimes don’t want to) solve on their own. So, what exactly does that mean? Well, maybe an example will help.
Your client is an automotive technology company with a network of 15 manufacturing facilities. They believe that this is too large, but they don’t have anyone at the company who can confirm that suspicion. Additionally, they are extremely busy with day-to-day operations and don’t have the resources necessary to figure out whether their manufacturing footprint really is too large. To make the challenge even tougher, assuming the footprint is too large, they don’t know how they change it since their entire supply chain depends on their manufacturing capabilities. To solve this problem, they reach out to you, a management consultant, and ask for your help.
As a consultant, you will work side by side with the client to understand this problem and all the context necessary to start trying to solve this problem.
What would you do?
First, you and your team will develop a hypothesis. In consulting, this is called a “hypothesis driven approach” and is how most (if not all) management consulting firms operate – they begin with the end in mind. In this example, a hypothesis might be: “We believe that your manufacturing footprint is too large and is likely outdated. As such, there is likely an opportunity to shift manufacturing down from 15 facilities to 5-7”.
Next, you’ll perform a variety of quantitative and qualitative analysis and try to prove your hypothesis right (or wrong). Using the prompt above, you may want to start by seeing how many products are made and if there are 5-7 facilities that could support the existing operations.
Once you’ve come to a conclusion, you’ll present your findings to your client and make a recommendation. If you find, for example, that there are 6 facilities that are strategically located in a way where production can be maintained, you might recommend that the company undergo a full transformation where they shift existing production from 15 facilities down to these 6.
To be clear, the example above only represents one example of a problem management consulting firms would try to solve. However, the typical approach of forming a hypothesis, performing rigorous analysis to prove your hypothesis right (or wrong) and then recommending a plan of action to solve the problem, is something consulting firms do over and over again. The problems consulting firms solve are vastly different and consist of all different industries and functions, including operations (like the example above) and mergers and acquisitions.
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Is Management Consulting Right For You?
So now that you know a little more about what consultants do, is it right for you? To start, I believe when answering the question of whether management consulting is right for you or not, you must take an introspective approach. What is it that you are looking for? Do you want a typical 9 – 5 job with repetitive tasks that allow you to work alone from your desk? If so, management consulting may not be the right fit for you. If you’re looking for a highly variable career path wrought with exciting opportunities that require you to problem solve and think creatively on a day-to-day basis, then consulting might be a good fit for you.
At the end of the day, there is only one person who can answer this question, and that person is you. You should start by outlining your personal and professional priorities and compare those to the job of a management consultant and if the two align, management consulting is likely a good career fit. The career of a management consultant can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be a grind for those who don’t truly want to pursue this path.
How To Get Into Consulting Post MBA
If you’ve determined that management consulting is the career for you, the next step is understanding the process for landing the job. So how do you get into consulting after MBA? The most traditional recruiting path is to obtain a summer internship between your first and second year in an MBA program. But there are several ways that consulting firms recruit.
Summer internship recruiting for MBA candidates starts as early as late August or early September, which is roughly when students start school. The process involves three steps. First, the firms come to campus and begin networking with all students that are interested in consulting. Second, the firms move to smaller, office-focused events, some of which are invite-only and some of which are open to all students interested in a specific location. Last, is the interview phase, which includes both behavioral and case-based interviews. Let’s walk through each in a bit more detail.
When the process kicks off, the firms will come to campus and hold large networking sessions that include a firm overview presented by the recruiting team. This typically happens in late-August or early-September and is open to all first-year students who are interested in recruiting for management consulting summer internships. For students, the objective during these sessions should be to start meeting some of the recruiting team members and to start learning the differences and similarities of each firm. For example, McKinsey might talk during these sessions about their global culture and highlight some of their many affinity groups. Importantly for recruits, this is an opportunity to start to better determine which firms are going to be a priority for your recruiting journey.
Although networking continues throughout the process, the next step is for firms to start to segment candidates into office-specific networking and event circles. For example, Bain Chicago might send out a group of Chicago folks to your campus and host a small cocktail hour and dinner for candidates applying to the Chicago office. For students, this is an opportunity to learn more about the office-specific culture and to meet people who work in the office of which they are applying. More importantly, however, this is also an opportunity to find a “sponsor,” which is simply someone at the firm who is willing to advocate for you when interview selections come out. Having a strong advocate in your chosen office can go a long way toward being selected to interview so take these events seriously and bring your best networking self!
Last, but certainly not least, is the interview phase. Typically, firms will reach out three weeks to a month in advance to inform selected candidates that they have been chosen to interview. Interviews typically happen in early- to mid-January, which means you can expect interview decisions just a few weeks before Christmas. At this point, some of the firms you are interviewing with will have full-time employees reach out and offer to do mock interviews with you. Though this is non-evaluative, you should take full advantage of this opportunity to make a great impression. These will be specific, firm-tailored interviews as well so this is your chance to see first-hand what an interview might look like at a place like McKinsey, BCG, or Bain.
Once you wrap up the interview process, firms typically get back to you with offers or rejections in one week or less with some responding as quickly as 30 minutes after the interview is complete. If you’ve taken the necessary steps we outlined on how to prepare, you’re probably in good shape and should celebrate! If you had an off day during your interview or just didn’t quite prepare enough, don’t fret. A common way people break into consulting is through second year recruiting, which is for a full-time role and happens at the beginning of your second year as an MBA student.
How To Prepare For A Case Interview
Before you can land that coveted position at your favorite consulting firm, you must learn how to prep for the notorious case interview. Let’s start by talking about the basics.
Most case interviews have a relatively standard format. You’ll start with a case prompt that presents a business question or problem. You’ll then be expected to present a framework for how you would approach the problem before you move through some sort of data analysis, which could be provided verbally by the interviewer or could be a chart or table that they show you. Either way, you’ll likely need to do a little number crunching and determine a potential solution based on this work. At this point, there is typically a brainstorming session where you and your interviewer will work together to talk about other potential solutions before finally wrapping up with a recommendation to your client.
It’s important before you really start practicing that you understand well how cases are structured. We recommend starting with our case interview prep guide. Once you have the basics down, you need to get some reps, so start casing! But remember, this isn’t a quantity game, it’s a quality game – quality reps are far more important than brute forcing your way through a huge quantity of reps. For high quality reps when practicing cases, we have three best practice tips for you.
Identify case weaknesses and address those in one-off practice. If you realize early on that mental math is challenging for you (it sure is for me) then work on mental math outside of a mock case setting. This principle can be applied to just about any part of the case whether it’s frameworks, exhibit clearing, or recommendations.
Do lots of different types of cases. If you spend all your time working on profitability cases, you’ll probably get really good at those. But what do you do then if you get a market entry case on game day with your dream job on the line? You need to do mock cases in a variety of industries across a variety of different business problems. Don’t get stuck doing what’s easy, keep pushing yourself by trying new types of cases!
Building off the last point, make a tracker that shows what industries you’ve done, what types of problems you’ve mock cased and who you’ve cased with. If you’re a first-year MBA student, you will probably case with many of your classmates as well as many different second-year students. It’s important to diversify who you case with since you won’t be casing with your roommate when you interview for your dream job. Track all the statistics of your case prep journey to ensure you are properly diversifying your studies.
Landing a job at a top management consultancy is an incredible accomplishment and the career itself can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. However, the saying that good things don’t come easy holds true here. These jobs are competitive and tough to come by for a reason. We believe that if you use the tips and tricks in today’s article, you will be well prepared for anything these firms can throw at you. As always, we wish you the best of luck in your search and hope that you found this article helpful.
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