How to get consulting jobs from an engineering and/or technical background

This is the first of our series on entering consulting from “non-business” backgrounds – future posts include entering from liberal arts/humanities degrees and non-MBA grad schools

It’s very common for engineers to be interested in consulting – a professionally demanding, well-compensated job which opens many doors in business and beyond.

Another popular field is finance. Read more on the differences between consulting and finance here

As an engineer – whether that’s electrical engineering, computer science, civil engineering, or any of the other quantitative and analytical fields – you may have the following concerns:

  • You don’t have enough business experience on your resume
  • You don’t understand the consulting industry sufficiently
  • Recruiters won’t give you a fair shot since they assume you have no people-skills – preferring numbers and analytics
  • You don’t have any recruiting preparation – in particular, how to tackle consulting interviews and case studies

In this post, we’ll address each of the above concerns, discuss what strengths you should market and develop, and share tips that will serve you well during the management consulting recruiting process.

What options are available as an engineer?

What are your strengths as an engineer?

  • Quantitative/analytical skills – applicants that have strong analytical capabilities are at an advantage. These skills are helpful with modeling (financial, operational), statistical analysis, and just basic analytical reasoning
  • Success in a “tough” undergraduate major – generally speaking, engineering majors are tougher to complete – there’s more work involved and the academic content is more complex. Having a strong GPA in an engineering major shows recruiters that you work hard to accomplish your goals

How do you mitigate perceived weaknesses as an engineer?

In the order listed above:

  • Business experience – if you’re still in college, find business-related summer internships and part-time jobs during the school year (provided you can manage the workload). If you’re not, tailor your resume to focus on skills and experiences that consultants look for, such as people-leadership, quantitative impact, and entrepreneurial initiative
  • Insufficient understanding of management consulting – it’s your responsibility to learn as much as you can. Check out Management Consulted; email us with questions; read the Vault Guide to Management Consulting; network with contacts in the industry
  • Recruiting biases against engineers – you can counter this by focusing on the following: presentation skills (practice interviews as much as you can); have a strong story about why you want to enter the industry; show a clear understanding of business news and current events; highlight your people-skills and teamwork/leadership experiences in resume and interviews
  • Insufficient recruiting preparation – like the second point, it’s dependent on the time and effort you invest; we offer a coaching service that you can look into; read this article and follow its advice

Think you have what it takes? Ready to break into consulting? Our Consulting Interview Bible is packed with strategies and tips to help you prepare for one of the hardest interviews of your life. Learn about the fit questions that you might face or frameworks for cracking the case interview.

  • kunal

    You’re a Rock Star! … thats what i can say after reading most of your posts…. I bumped into your blog accidentally and then could not stop reading for next few hours….

  • kgao

    Thanks Kunal for your comment. Glad to see that you’re getting a lot out of it. Cheers.

  • Hitesh Sahni

    Do firms like Accenture, CSC etc. also come under the category of consulting firms. Is it the same if I do an internship or get a job there? Thanks.

  • Kevin

    Yes. It really depends on what you mean by “is it the same”. Accenture is a great firm and one that will provide a great career and great skillset. Everything depends on your ultimate goal or longer-term career objectives.

  • anjali

    hi….thanks for all the efforts you have put in to tell us so much..its a great source and inspiration! im due to start my masters in computer engineering..i wanted to ask you something, do you think that after doing my undegraduate and masters in computers, would it be feasible for me to persue consultancy right after i complete my masters?
    hoping from a reply from your side..came to your blog accidently, and have been glued to it since morning..cheers !

  • Ali

    I have master of science in aerospace/mechanical engineering with 4 years of experience (GPA 4.0). Currently I’m perusing my MBA (GMAT 650) at USC as a part-time student. My goal is to switch career upon graduation (2012) and move into mamanegment consulting.
    My question is the following: given my experience/credentials, what should be my strategy within the next two years to reach my goal?