Working for a consulting company is a trending topic, while in the 60s you could only hope to be a consultant after many years spent in a specific field, today, the world of consulting has evolved and with its theory and concepts, many young professionals can embrace a consulting carrer with no experience at all.
Rather than experience, consulting companies are welcoming the fresh mind and motivation of young professionals.
What are consulting firms doing to recruit the right candidate? How is the selection process like for a consulting job position? What are the skills consulting companies are looking for? But most importantly, what should a candidate know before to enroll into a consulting job position application?
This is what we will discuss today with our candidate, T.R, we will use his initials to respect anonymity as T.R is currently applying for a consulting job. He shares his experience and feedback in an interview on the recruitment process for consulting job offers. T.R is a young man, freshly graduated, arriving on the job market and more specifically the consulting job one, with this interview, we will understand that there are things to know and mistakes to avoid when applying for a consultant job position.
1. For which consulting companies did you apply so far?
There is a famous term in the consulting industry: The big 3 or the MBB, those terms represent the 3 most famous consulting firms that I have targeted for my own application. That is to say McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company. I have prepared for those firm expectations. Next to the Big 3? I also applied to EY-Parthenon, Roland Berger, SIA Partners, Eleven Strategy. I went also for 1 job offer that seemed very interesting but on the opposite side of the companies I was initially targeting, it was an internal consulting job for “La Banque Postale”. In the consulting industry you can be an external consultant, meaning you would go working on client site or an internal consultant, in this case you would be advising the company for which you work for and that was the case for the job position of “La Banque Postale”.
2. How do you select the company to which you apply?
I mostly choose the company based on the reputation, the ranking, the quality of the company in its field as I am mostly interested in strategy. The industry of consulting is highly competitive so it would be easy to apply for all job offers but it is also very important for me to verify the company work ethic and what they offer to their employees. This is something I am verifying by trying to connect with other consultants. The consulting companies often organize events to connect and learn more about their environment. Currently, those events are organized online, but to me this is a good way to understand if the company environment will fit my personal expectations.
3. Where do you find the job offer from the consulting company? Are they centralized?
The consulting job offers are mostly found on the consulting firm websites themselves. In most cases, you could find some jobs on LinkedIn or Job Teaser for instance, but I felt this was more a window than a place to actually apply. From my experience, consulting firms require to apply on their websites. They have their own platforms. In general, I submit my application as a spontaneous one and I don’t wait for a specific job offer to come in. In most cases I am called back by HR to do a phone interview.
4. Can you tell us about the recruitment process?
In most cases and for the company I applied to, the recruitment process was very similar. First, you apply online, either on a job search platform or on their website and if your resume fits their expectations, the HR department will call you to do a phone interview, this is some kind of a crash test, a quick phone interview to understand if you have the minimum requirements (degree, communication skills and motivational speech).
Then, it often takes 1 to 2 weeks to receive a response, negative or positive. Once you are selected you get invited for the first round. Sometimes, I would have 2 interviews combined in 1. The first part of the interview will have a numerical test where I will need to answer analytical questions based on graphic, datas etc. The time to answer is usually very short (around 40 minutes) and it is very rare that a candidate can answer all questions in time. I understood this by checking in with other people I knew in consulting. The type of test may vary based on the company but you usually have a first screening test.
Once this is done, you will enter the second part of the interview. It is for you to answer questions; some are just common interview questions like can you introduce yourself but here they would give you a time limit (2 minutes for instance).
Right after, you will need to work on a case study. I recommend you to practice and train yourself. A great website for this is https://www.preplounge.com/en but each consulting group has its own preparation, this has become a side business. This specific selection process is particularly made for candidates without working experience.
5. Can you tell us what happens if you are selected for the second round?
Usually it takes between 1 or 2 weeks here as well to hear back from the consulting company. In case you are selected for the second round, the same interview will take place, but with higher management representatives from the consulting company. I will need to reintroduce myself, go through some common interview questions and work on a different case study again. This type of interview can happen up to 3 times from my experience. The case study is a big part in the recruitment process of a consulting job position.
Some companies you are applying to are quite old, do you recognize your generation values? Do you feel those companies are aligned with the current young professionals generation?
From what I have experienced, those consulting firms try to keep up with modernity and try to align with the concept of millennials to remain attractive. I believe the main reason being the working conditions are not very optimum, in most cases you will be working very long hours which is contradictory with what our generation is fighting for.
6. What are the advantages of working in a consulting company?
To me the advantages are first the salary, when you work in one of the biggest consulting firms you can expect to start having a bruto salary from 50 000 (10 000 from bonus), but this type of high-pay check is rare when you have no experience in the job field. Another advantage is in normal time the opportunity to be working for various customers, this is combined with a large amount of time spent traveling. I also feel that the prestige of working for a big consulting firm is something to consider as an advantage, gaining rapid experience and learning from the best.
7. Are the interviews always in English?
It seems that the biggest part of the recruitment process is done in the country language. However, speaking English is a prerequisite for this type of job.
8. In order to be selected, what do you place forward in your application?
Few years ago, having done one of the best schools in the country would have given you a reserved spot to work in the best consulting companies. Unfortunately or fortunately, this is no longer the case, consulting companies are looking for different candidates who can demonstrate high level of soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, networking etc. In my application I emphasize on my 18 months of internship, at the University I took extra classes on the consulting industry. I also put forward my international experience and I try to emphasize and demonstrate my soft skills through few projects I led during my University time.
9. What type of skills is a consulting firm particularly looking for?
The top skills I believe were needed in my conversation to be demonstrated were always the same, first, being able to work independently, but also being able to work very long hours. Then, I would say they are looking for leaders, they want people to be inspiring and have this sense of leadership in their behavior. They are more and more interested in the things you have done around your education or experience if you have any, like sports, volunteering, any side activity or initiative can really help your application for a consulting job. Another important skill would be to be well informed on the latest news and be up to date with what is happening in the economy, geopolitics and who is making the news in the business world.
10. During the recruitment process, did you have unexpected questions?
Once, I had EY parthenon asking me the following question: “if not EY company, in which Consulting firm would you go?” I was very surprised and I answered BCG because from what I knew they were sharing the same type of company culture, so I did my reasoning around this argument. They expected me here to balance my reasoning between flattering the company but without making them feel this would be my first choice as a company to work for. Beside this question, I am often asked very common job interview questions, so this is worth being prepared.
11. Based on your research, what seems to be the best consulting company to work for when it comes to work life balance?
At the moment, it seems that BCG is working hard on having a positive reputation about improving their employees work life balance. They have the reputation to have enough bandwidth to complete assignment so their employees don’t need to work crazy hours but they also have internal planning tools to encourage people to take breaks. I also see they offer their employees sabbatical time. Some employees would even get their sabbatical time fully paid. Though I think not everyone gets this privilege; they work hard on their image.
12. Any possible mistakes that someone applying to a consulting job should be avoiding?
Yes, I think everyone should know that each company has its own vocabulary and the mistake that can easily be made is to apply for a too high level. In this case, you would be rejected and will have to wait 1 year before to enroll into the application process again. You should be careful about the company vocabulary for any job position.
The other mistake would be to come unprepared to a case study or believe that the most common interview questions can be easily answered. I have seen people mastering the case study but being incompetent on the most common job interview questions. While the case study will demonstrate mostly your hard skills, the most common job interview questions will be the moment, where you show your soft skills. Don’t miss out on this part. It is as important as the case study.
We want to thank T.R for sharing his experience with us; we hope this will help you make the decision if you are wondering whether or not you should embrace a consulting career.
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