My Consulting Coach: How to Make it in Consulting

Will B

So, you like the sound of the other posts on the blog and want to get into consulting? Well, it’s easier said than done. The cut for consulting is more severe than pretty much any other profession. In this article, My Consulting Coach bring you some top tips.

Top firms start with an exceptional applicant pool and select only 3%.

So, how do you get yourself into that 3%?

Of course, you are going to need the best grades, and ideally all the work experience that you can muster. But that’s not very useful to say if you are applying right now.  You can’t go back in time, after all. How, then, can you maximise your chances of landing a consulting job?

Well, we’ve asked MyConsultingCoach for some advice. MCC is a UK-based start-up, which started in Cambridge a few years ago and remains largely staffed by Cambridge graduates. The objective of the company is to open up access to top management consulting firms by teaching hopefuls the key skills they will need to get and then thrive in the job.

The first cut is the deepest…

A lot of consulting hopefuls skip ahead to worrying about interviews.  They don’t appreciate that more than 50% are cut at the application phase.  There is a tendency for strong candidates who would expect an interview in most other professions to simply fire off a generic CV and use almost identical cover letters across all their target firms.

With consulting, though, this isn’t going to work.  Nobody can expect an interview at all – let alone with that level of effort.  CV’s are going to need to be re-written for consulting. There is a particular expected format and a relentless focus on how you can demonstrate you have the relevant skills via tangible achievements. You can read MyConsultingCoach’s free resume guide here for a lot more on how to do this.

The demands on consulting cover letters are particularly high.  Ideally, they will be the product of as much research and networking on your part as possible, with each final document being unique and highly specific to the firm – and indeed the individual office – you are applying to.  Again, MyConsultingCoach has an extensive free guide to help you out.

Case Interview – the Main Event

Of course, a good application won’t let you walk into a job on its own. The big firms are increasingly using reasoning tests like the McKinsey PST to wade through their huge applicant pools. (The McKinsey PST is an automated, usually online, test.) However, the most difficult stage in the consulting selection process will always be the case interview.

Nobody simply strolls in off the street and casually aces a case interview somewhere like McKinsey, Bain or BCG. Getting through is going to require significant preparation, learning how to solve cases and practicing until you are a case-cracking machine. You really can’t start soon enough.

A whole industry has grown up around preparing candidates for case interviews. In general, this industry re-cycles the same generic frameworks which have been doing the rounds for decades. The only thing that changes over time is how slick the packaging is and how bold the promises are about “easy” ways through.  Candidates are encouraged to take each case they are given and force-fit it to one of the fixed frameworks. However, this is a risky way to do things, for a very simple set of reasons:

  1. The cases you get in interview are typically based on real projects your interviewers worked on recently.
  2. Businesses bring in consultants precisely where problems are not soluble by standard methods.
  3. Therefore, the cases you get in interview are unlikely to be tractable using generic frameworks.

Addressing this issue is where MyConsultingCoach began. The site dispenses with generic frameworks entirely. Instead, everything is aimed at encouraging you to approach cases the way working consultants do in practice.  This means focusing on fundamental consulting presentation skills so you can address each case on its own merits. (For example, using the MECE principle in your consulting presentation.)

This requires hard work and will stretch you.  However, this way of tackling cases is much more reliable in practice and shows your interviewer that you think and approach cases like a consultant. You can read more on this theme here.

Getting jobs in management consulting by demonstrating that you have the fundamental skill-set required to be a management consultant might seem trivially obvious, but this approach from MCC has been a highly disruptive one in the interview prep sphere. More recently, it has seen the firm get noticed by a whole raft of universities and business schools across the globe, who are tasking us to prep their management consulting hopefuls.

Enough about us, though. Let’s get back to the point of this post.  Getting you that job! The single key takeaway here is that you shouldn’t take any stage of the selection process for granted. Every stage is crucial – from your CV onwards – and every stage going to reply a lot of thought and hard work from you. In short, the process of getting into consulting is hard. You will have to set aside some serious time (we recommend 10 hours on your CV and an average of 50 hours in interview prep) and do your due diligence. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise – especially if they have something to sell!

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