Overview of the Management Consulting Summer Internship – from Recruiting to guaranteeing a Return Offer


Summer internships in management consulting are tough to find because there are so few. Some companies have just begun to expand their internship programs (eg, McKinsey) and some don’t hire summer undergraduate interns (eg, smaller boutiques). However, landing one is incredibly valuable – you get a trial period to determine whether it’s the right career path for you, and it sets you ahead of the pack for full-time recruiting (assuming you either didn’t receive an offer to return or wanted to test the field).

The recruiting process

Similar to the full-time process, summer recruiting typically begins in January/February at college campuses for the undergraduate and MBA levels. Expect a standard succession of information sessions/mixers/company presentations, then resume and cover letter screens, then multiple rounds of interviews focused on fit/personality and case studies.

The process may be less rigorous than full-time (eg, one fewer interview round, less challenging case studies) but the competition is equally tough.

What if consulting firms don’t recruit for summer interns at your school?

You have 3 options:

  • Find contacts at target firms through your school’s alumni database. Get in touch with them to learn more about their firm and express interest in working there
  • Find contacts at target firms through your school’s career center/career development office. This is typically alumni-based as well, but the career officers may have additional resources (eg, headhunter/recruiter databases)
  • Submit resumes and cover letters through each company’s online application process – not all firms have these. Big ones like McKinsey and Accenture definitely will, but you may need to get creative with smaller ones like Katzenbach and LEK

In this situation, your best bet is to network, network, network. Friends, family, university alumni, try to build connections to your target firms and dialogue with those people. That’s the best chance you’ll have of recruiters and HR taking a serious look at your resume

Further reading: What if consulting firms don’t recruit at your school

The goal of summer internships

To receive a full-time offer! Everything you do over the summer should be geared towards helping you reach this goal. In the process, you’ll learn plenty about the job itself and even if you decide management consulting is not for you, options never hurt.

The standard summer internship structure

You’re assigned to one project that should occupy your entire summer (ranging from 10-14 weeks). There is a very short training period (1-2 days) after which you’re expected to function like a regular consultant – complete with your own workstream and deliverables.

You’ll have several “managers” – someone junior (such as an early analyst or early associate) as well as the standard team leader/engagement manager. There will be an endless stream of social events – designed to help you network with the rest of the office and the fellow “summers“.

How to ensure a return/full-time offer

  • Do your work well. This is an absolute must. Doing your work well comes down to three things: #1, understanding directions and clarifying when you don’t; #2, checking and double-checking and triple-checking your work; #3, expressing your opinions often. Participation is critical to a consultant’s job, and if you don’t speak up, you won’t move up
  • Network, network, network. The more senior consultants that you meet at the firm, the better your chances of receiving a fulltime offer. Strike up conversations based on shared backgrounds, career goals, personal hobbies, whatever!
  • Build a strong relationship with your team leader/engagement manager. They have the biggest influence on your return offer prospects. Create one-on-one time with your manager – setup weekly coffee times to discuss your work, get advice about the job, and so forth
  • Ask for continual feedback. This is a great way to not only improve your business skills, but to build rapport with your colleagues and managers
  • Impress the lead partners. There are usually several partners who are closely involved with your project and client. Through the summer, you’ll have opportunities to get in front of them – whether that’s presenting a small piece of your work, or chiming in during brainstorming and team sessions. Capture these opportunities – the sooner they know your name and the more times that you impress them, the better your chances of landing that valuable offer

By now you should be aware of the importance of networking throughout your summer internship if you want to receive that return offer. Our Networking Bible will help you navigate the tricky world of networking and highlight tips and people that you should focus on building a relationship with to strengthen your case.