We’ve had a record amount of graduates interested in consulting recently. So much so we’ve decided to demystify what it takes to get into some of the top-tier consulting firms. Consulting is a rigorous career. Certainly not one for everyone. It demands a lot of your time, energy, and intellectual capacity. It is also deeply rewarding intellectually, and financially, and sets you up well for a career in whatever industry you may want to move to afterwards.
In writing this, we’ve endeavoured to be honest and reflect current hiring trends as we’ve seen first-hand from our grads. That being said, consulting is itself an enormous industry. Though the top tier firms (Bain, BCG, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, McKinsey, PwC) are the most often heard about, they are the most difficult to get into. You also do not need to work for one of these to enjoy a career in consulting.
If you are interested in consulting and would like help making an action plan – contact us. We’re in the business of helping you put your best foot forward and can help prepare you for applications.
1: Work hard, study hard, and do well
This idea will appear throughout this article. Consulting is the business of specialist advice. Without deep subject matter expertise, first-job graduate consultants then need to be smart and hardworking. They need to know how to do quick, deep research, consolidate and generate insights, and communicate those effectively. Achieving good results in school and university is the first and most important factor employers look for. It’s the best proof they have to weed out those skills. For the top tier firms applications without a 1st will mostly be passed over. Getting into top-tier firms requires dedication and years of advanced planning. But as the field becomes more competitive, it’s crucial you have a strong academic record to be a strong candidate for any consulting firm.
2: Get into top tier unis
This is important for certain firms, not consulting generally. Top-tier firms hire their summer interns and new hires directly from select universities. They will advertise and host information sessions on those campuses. So, in keeping with working hard and achieving good results, being at the right institutions can also be critical. Now the big caveat: this is not absolute. You can still get into McKinsey or Bain without having gone to Oxford or Harvard. But the majority of graduate intake at these firms come from universities like these.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re at one of these institutions, congratulations. Even better if you are hoping to be a consultant.
If you are not, then see below for how to close the gap. Spoiler: there are ways around it.
3: Secure internship(s) during uni breaks
Work experience. The catch-22 of ‘entry level’ employment. Hiring managers want it, now more than ever. Summer internships are the answer at the pre-grad level. This is also crucial to open doors later on. Perform well and stand out in your internship and you will have connections to reach out to when you’ve graduated. Even better if the internship is with the firm you’d like to work for. If you’ve worked for a consulting firm during university you’ll have a much easier go of it in your post-grad applications.
This is also where those who are not attending top-tier unis can close the gap. You can secure an internship from any university as long as you have the grades.
➡️ Read: How to get a Consulting Internship
4: Liberal Arts
An apt description for many entry-level consultants is something along the lines of: well-educated, accomplished individual otherwise lacking professional direction; wants to achieve more, be intellectually challenged, and be financially rewarded, is adaptable and willing to be moulded. To this end, there are certain degrees that flag to employers this personality: economics, history, political science, liberal arts. Well-rounded and aware of current events, not looking to specialise right out of university.
Of course, consultants operate in every industry. If you have a specific passion, say medicine or computer science or environmental science, by all means study and follow that passion. There exist entry level consulting positions in these areas too – your application will just be that bit more specialised.
5: Keep up your maths and logic problem-solving skills
This is a heads-up and helpful tip. Application assessments and first-year grunt work at consulting firms include a lot of calculations, albethey fairly easy. Making sure you have quick mental maths helps a lot. These assessments also expect you to do quick logic problems, estimations, generalisations, and other informed guesswork problem-solving. Here’s where studying in the humanities can let you down: keep up your mental maths from school and you won’t have to catch up in the preparation for your interviews.
6: Practise now
Actually, more on these application assessments. Practise them now. Do this before you submit your application for internships. These are readily available online. Knowing the kinds of questions they will ask you is critically helpful. Practising them and improving your performance even more so. There is a fluency to this type of problem-solving that can be achieved with regular practice and it is that kind of level your employer will be trying to get you to achieve when on the job. Doing this ahead of time will help you ace assessments and stand out to hiring managers.
7: Polish up your CV, cover letter, LinkedIn
When you are at the application stage the standard documents apply. Get your CV polished, have a sharp cover letter at the ready (however these are increasingly not a part of consulting applications), and make sure your LinkedIn is up-to-date and professional. These are the face, smile and handshake of your application – make the right first impression.
8: Determine what type of consultant you’d like to become
As a graduate consultant, you’ll gain exposure to various industries such as financial services, government, healthcare and more. Most companies that hire graduate consultants offer different consulting pathways. Some common specialist consulting practices include:
- Management Consulting
- Strategy Consulting
- Economic Consulting – read our post on economic consulting graduate schemes
- Technology Consulting
- People Consulting
9: Know which companies offer graduate consulting jobs
Here are some companies that offer consulting graduate schemes:
- Accenture – Consulting Graduate Programme
- PwC – Consulting Graduate Jobs
- KPMG – Consulting graduate schemes
- Deloitte – consulting early careers
- EY – Consulting Graduate Programme
- Bain – Graduate Recruitment
- McKinsey – Consulting jobs
- Capgemini – technology and business consulting
- Allen & Overy – Consulting Graduate Programme
- FDM – Business Consulting Graduate Programme
How to become a consultant: summary
The route to securing a graduate role in consulting is rigorous and it benefits from being prepared. The main focus of this article is demystifying the conditions with which most land roles at the top tier consulting firms. But you don’t need to work for one of the Big 4 to enjoy being a consultant. The tips above will be relevant for many consulting goals at whatever stage of the process you’re at. If you think you would like to be a consultant but remain unsure, give it a good long thought. It’s a demanding, albeit intellectually rewarding, line of work.
If you want help bettering your chances – get in touch today.
Featured image: Andrea Piacquadio