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Consulting Applications: Complete Guide

We get asked general questions about recruitment all the time by students and graduates. How does recruiting work in consulting? How do I get a job in consulting? When do applications open? This article should provide a comprehensive answer.

First, check out McKinsey’s recent video on the application process for 2020.

Clue – it might be virtual.

The Process

Getting a job as a management consultant is a pretty hard gig. Especially without an MBA or Master’s Degree. In fact, it might just be the hardest graduate job to get a hold of. There are usually only 20-30 graduate jobs at top consultancies compared to hundreds at a top law firm.

  1. You need a perfect CV and cover letter. We can help with that. At the best consultancies, about 10% get past this initial document screening stage.
  2. You then need to pass the application test. This will be remote. It typically comprises some maths, logical comprehension and psychometric profiling. Some of these are easy and most look and feel roughly the same. Some are excruciatingly difficult and require individual preparation.
  3. Finally, the interview stage. This will be across at least two days. On each day, you will have at least one ‘case interview’ and personal fit interview. For more on these two, check out our case resources.


For almost every big consultancy, applications open in September. In 2019 most of the top firms opened their application windows on September 1st.

This coordination is not by accident. They want to move fast to get the best candidates, lots of whom will have multiple MBB offers. In fact, their interview windows also usually line up in consecutive weeks. It has often been the case that McKinsey go last and they will almost certainly ask if you have any other offers.

Offer-holders are generally set to start their jobs in the following September. Offer-holders sometimes have the opportunity to delay this for a full calendar year or to start in January or March. Most firms have just two start dates during the year, but remember, everyone applied in September. They did interviews through the autumn and probably heard at some point in early spring. Of course the internship window is slightly later, but regardless, that friend who suddenly got a job over Summer definitely got it via the backdoor!

On this note, as the websites say, it is important to get your application in early. It is true that some consultancies do recruit on a rolling-basis, but in reality most do a set of interviews after applications have closed. It is important to apply early just so that you get your documents to the top of the pile. If a firm wants 100 interviewees, they will stop looking through CVs when they have got 100 good candidates. There are a vast number of stories about firms just halving the number of applicants; they know they will have enough good ones, regardless!

Pre – Application

It is important to remember that before the application window opens, and during the period it is open, firms will be hosting all sorts of opportunities to get ahead.

At target universities there will be all sorts of workshops, networking events and dinners. Historically, if you can get yourself onto one of the firm’s dinners and make a good impression on multiple people, you are likely to be earmarked and possibly fast tracked to interview. This is probably dying out and happens less than it used to, although in banking it remains prolific.

Even if you don’t get moved straight onto interview, don’t worry. Your attendance and interest will probably have been noted. When you do come to writing your cover letter and arriving at your interivew, do not be afraid to name drop or recount your conversation. It is impressive that htis happened and you remembered names etc. Avoid doing this if you have forgotten someone’s name – it looks like you made it up! For more on how to do this, check out our cover letter advice here.

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  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.