Negotiating A Job Offer: What Consultants Can and Can’t Do

Negotiating a job offer is always a tricky task. You don’t want to ask for too much and ruin your reputation before Day 1. Yet, at the same time, you don’t want to be compensated less than what you are worth.Negotiating-An-Offer

If you find yourself in a position to negotiate a consulting offer, there are a few options you can consider. However, the extent to what you can ask for depends on your previous experiences and situation.

Coming From Undergrad

You may be coming out of your undergraduate or business school years and heading straight into consulting. The short answer is that you will not have any negotiating power.

Let’s face it, you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Regardless of how great of a candidate you are, there are thousands of candidates willing to take your place for the same pay. Even if you have an offer from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, you will not be able to leverage your offers to negotiate for an increase in compensation at one of the other top firms.

There is good news, however! Your compensation will still be extremely competitive and on the higher end compared to most of your peers. Management consulting is an extremely challenging industry to break into. So we suggest not focusing on pay and instead on your professional development. You have the rest of your career ahead of you to think about making money!

Experienced Hires

When coming into consulting with experience, you have some leverage depending on your background. As an overarching rule, the more senior your starting position is, the more you wiggle room you have to ask. Below are four main options to consider when negotiating a job offer.

1. Ask for a Higher Position

Top consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG have well established salary structures. These entrenched structures are inflexible before the partner level in order to ensure equitable compensation. This makes each firm a well-oiled machine with less complications.

As a result, you can negotiate for a higher starting position if you feel that your previous experiences make you overqualified for your offer in hand. For instance, you can negotiate an offer to Project Leader instead of Senior Consultant if you feel your experience warrants it.

Of course, with this higher position comes additional expectations, so ensure that you have done the due diligence to understand what you are asking for.

2. Push for Faster Acceleration

Especially if you received an offer during off-cycle recruiting, you can negotiate for a faster acceleration to your next position.

At consulting firms, promotions occur at set times during the year. Do your research by speaking with consultants at the firm to determine these dates and negotiate for faster acceleration to the next promotion. For instance, you can ask that you be promoted from Project Manager to Principal in 6 months instead of 12 months.

3. Ask for More Upfront Spend

There are mainly two ways to negotiate for higher upfront compensation.


If you are moving cities for your job, it’s reasonable to ask for a relocation bonus or one that’s higher than the one already provided. Be prepared to provide solid reasons for the costs incurred while moving to back up your request.

Signing Bonus

Though signing bonuses are usually pretty set and standard, you can ask for an increase if you feel you are being underpaid. If you have had previous jobs, leverage your previous compensation to ask for a higher signing bonus.

4. Ask for More Base / Bonus

The most common thought that originally comes to mind when negotiating a job offer is asking for an increase in your base salary or bonus. As previously stated, since consulting firms have established hierarchies and compensation structures, this is difficult to achieve without either asking for a higher position or pushing for faster acceleration.

However, especially if you are taking a large pay-cut to join the firm, leverage your previous compensation as you ask for an increase in your base or bonus. Make sure your ask is reasonable and that you do your research before you start the negotiating process.

Related Content:

Filed Under: consulting recruiting