The need for private sector companies to become more efficient with their resources post-crisis has led to a significant uptick in the hiring of consultants over the last three years. Every member of the Big Four is adding to its roster, as are consultancy firms like Bain and Capco.
But not all consultants work with private companies. Federal, state and local governments are dealing with similar cost and risk pressures facing private firms. They too need the help of consultants.
PricewaterhouseCoopers maintains a large public sector practice that’s growing alongside all its other practice areas. While the work is similar in many ways, public sector consultants need different skill sets and, perhaps more importantly, they need to believe in the mission.
We caught up with Scott McIntyre, PwC’s global and U.S. public sector leader, to talk about the group’s hiring plans and what they are looking for in prospective candidates. PwC’s public sector unit currently has nearly 100 openings in the U.S. as well as many more overseas.
Do you have any specific hiring projections within the public sector practice for the coming year? How do they compare to last year? How many entry-level vs. experienced hires?
We project hiring will be approximately 12% higher than last year with about 70% of our candidates being experienced professionals and the rest campus hires and recent MBA graduates.
Tell us a bit about what the group does. Which agencies do you work with (state, local, federal)? Are employees onsite?
The engagements we perform for the government are characterized as commercial contracts in the parlance of government contracting. This means that we are providing our public sector clients with similar consulting and business advisory services to those we offer to our commercial clients. Whether we are working with federal, state and local, or more multilateral clients, we are essentially working with government executives in operational or strategic areas like supply-chain optimization, cost-reduction, human capital and program management. More often than not, our professionals are on-site with their clients, including occasionally working in austere environments where our public sector clients sometimes have to execute their missions.
What type of resumes/skill sets do you tend to look for? Is it helpful to have worked in the public sector?
We look for people who present a combination of strong native intelligence, analytical abilities, applicable experience and work ethic. Specific skills we are seeking today include accounting and financial statement audit experience, industrial and systems engineering and information technology strategy. Between 30 to 40% of our new people have prior experience in or around the public sector, but more important than having worked in the public sector is having the skill set to meet our clients’ challenges as well as a real sense of commitment to our clients’ public-sector missions. So, for example, if someone has a great background in either health informatics or supply-chain management that is applicable to public health, then we want those candidates to also have a strong attraction to the missions of various health agencies, NGOs or aid organizations addressing public health challenges. Virtually all of our public sector clients have a distinctive mission, so finding people who really want to make an impact in different areas is really important to PwC and to our clients.
How has the work changed since the recession?
The nature of the challenges that our clients face has changed since the financial crisis in that most government agencies are doing more with less. Budget constraints, government employee retirements, and expanded mission profiles all create challenges for effective public sector management. Anyone delivering consulting services to this sector really does need to show a return on investment and real value.
How big of an effect has the government shutdown had on the unit?
The government shutdown certainly had an impact to our business and the utilization of our consultants but it was a great opportunity to show our commitment to our people by getting everyone involved in productive internal projects.
Do candidates need a security clearance?
Much of our work with governments involves either resources from PwC’s commercial businesses or professionals coming from disparate commercial, industrial backgrounds, so fortunately a lot of our work does not require security clearances.