At the time I applied to a top-five global consultancy, my knowledge of management consulting had some gaps, but what I did know encouraged me that the opportunity was a great fit.
The management consulting recruitment process is rigorous. I submitted a resume and transcript online, had a one-hour phone interview with a senior manager, then a final-round in-person interview with behavioral and case-study components, and then received my offer.
Here are my tips for successfully going through the management consulting interview process:
The life of a consultant isn’t for everybody. Take the time to think if consulting is right for you, just as much as you take the time to prepare for your interviews.
Unlike many interviews where you’re asked about your experience and skillset, my consulting interviews questioned me more around my preparedness and desire to constantly travel for the job and take on client-facing work that could require long hours. Think about this in advance.
Once you reach the interview stages, odds are you have the aptitude for the role; it’s now about assessing your stamina and readiness for the lifestyle that comes with it management consulting.
The major management consulting firms are recruiting powerhouses, so once you start interviewing you won’t fall through the cracks. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes and you need to be one step ahead of the curve in case they do happen.
For example, my recruiter emailed me information for a webinar to help me prepare for my case-study interview. However, he sent the email after the webinar had already happened! I avoided panic because I had started prepping well before the last-minute email. I may or may not have gone down a long, dark hole of mock case videos on YouTube.
Even when you’re hired as a consultant, you’re not automatically guaranteed consulting work, that is, staffing on a project. Honestly, my knowledge of managing consulting was maybe a five on a 10-point scale before getting hired, so this was something I learned after the fact. It’s also one of the distinguishing factors of consulting life.
Your role is basically split between “off” and “on the bench” hours – whether you’re actively on a client project or looking to get staffed on the next. Getting assigned to a project, and being a successful consultant in general, involves networking. This is especially key as a new joiner without previous projects to speak to.
Even before day one, I was messaging and hopping on calls with current consultants who spoke with me about their experiences and always offered to connect me with people who may need an entry-level analyst on their team. I see this all boiling down to talking to as many people as possible and having patience.
With a lot of planning and a little luck, I arranged a position almost two full months before starting. My company was even generous enough to offer me a selection of three different months to start.
I used that time to exercise and focus on my health, spend time with friends and family, and launch a website I had been working on for a long time. While I know such an extensive period of time before starting your new job might not be attainable for everyone, it can be really valuable if you can squeeze in even a couple weeks to travel, take on a personal project and make sure you’re clear-headed before jumping into the world of management consulting.
Sara Leeds is an incoming management consulting analyst in the Consulting Development Program (CDP) at a top-five global consultancy and the founder of Profesh, a website providing job search strategies and career advice for students and young professionals.