Is Consulting Boring?

Will B

The biggest criticism of consultants is that they aren’t actually all that intelligent and creative.  Really, they’re just very good at following instructions. 


Firstly, anyone familiar with the industry will know the myriad frameworks used for solving cases.  These include Porters’ Five Forces or the 4Ps, which can be applied to multiple scenarios. Most consultancies use these.  For the sake of simplicity and transparency, they ask their consultants to always follow at least one of them on any project.  All that the robo-consultant does is roll out this ready-made solution. 

That being said, there are also consultancies who pride themselves on their off-the-wall approach.  They encourage their employees to seek novel solutions. PA Consulting is a good example of one of these.


A second pressing critique of the consulting world is that it is very homogeneous.   Consultants almost all come from high-profile universities and in the UK, the industry is saturated with Oxbridge graduates.  Perhaps only barristers’ chambers are more Oxbridge-heavy.  In addition, because business schools supply so many consultants, they have all been through similar learning trajectories.   

This limited set of schools and styles that consultancies look for is highlighted perfectly in one of Bain’s recruiting videos:

The reason for this focus is that compared to other industries, there are fewer useful pieces of experience that qualify you to be a good consultant.  An aspiring lawyer who went to a good but not great university could become a paralegal.  An aspiring investment banker could become an accountant. 

There are fewer comparable ways into consulting. That means your educational background is the prime credential in the eyes of recruiters.   Of course, people do transfer into consultancy after working in industry or retail.  However, these employees tend to specialise immediately as opposed to pursuing a generalist track. 

This allows consultancies to recruit primarily on the basis of academics.  There is no technical knowledge that you would require for another financial services interview.  Recruiters assume that someone with a great degree and good personal skills can be trained into a consultant.  This reinforces the reputation of a rather un-diverse ecosystem of robo-consultants.

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