“Prestige” is often quoted as the most important quality recruits consider when ranking the top consulting firms. Unfortunately for students, perception on campus can differ substantially from reality in the marketplace. Moreover, prestige alone is a poor metric to judge your likelihood for success at the firm, development opportunities available, type of work to be performed, and overall happiness to be had.
Rather than follow the herd, we encourage that recruits focus on four key traits when making their unique list of the best consulting firms:
- Personality Each of the top consulting firms on campus has a unique reputation. Bain & Company is known to be “fratty”. Deloitte Consulting is large but has a niche for everyone. Boston Consulting Group favors academics and PhDs. McKinsey & Company tends to attract more I-banking types. Ignore these stereotypes, and get to know the recruiters as individuals. In particular, listen carefully when they speak to why they chose their firm. The most common answer heard is “the people”. But what exactly about the people? Are their managers good mentors? Are the partners down-to-earth? Do their peers challenge and support each other? By focusing on these questions, you can decide for yourself which firm has the personality that best fits your interests.
- Working Style Does the firm have an “Ivory Tower” approach, where recommendations are delivered from afar without much junior-level interaction with the client? Or does the firm a proponent of the “boots-on-the-ground” mentality, where Monday – Thursday are spent elbow-to-elbow with clients of all levels? By quizzing your recruiters on the specifics of their client engagements, you can better identify each firm’s modus operandi and determine which suits your strengths.
- Services Provided This is likely the biggest misconception on campus in regards to management consulting. Recruits often believe the top consulting firms are pure-strategists, working exclusively with the C-suite. In fact, the largest firms such as McKinsey, Deloitte, Strategy&, and Accenture have massive operations devoted towards strategy implementation. With global scale and a corps of specialists, these firms fight to land multi-year engagements worth tens of millions of dollars. On the flip side, smaller firms such as BCG, Bain, or LEK often play to their reputation as strategy specialists, targeting a smaller but lucrative piece of the market. Consider your goals as a professional when determining what interests you more. Is operational experience important to you as an aspiring entrepreneur? Or is high-level strategy the right track to secure a spot in the C-suite of a major corporation?
- Freedom to Pursue Interests Put simply, does the company dictate your work, or are you free to pursue the industry, service, or geographic area of your choice? Consulting firms have drastically different policies on this topic, which is why it’s important to analyze each company on its own to find the one that best meets your needs.
Keeping these characteristics in mind and conducting your own research at recruiting events, you can develop your own list of the top consulting firms based on what’s most important to you. Once that list is finalized, the team here at Consulting Interview Coach can customize your plan to ensure your case interview, behavioral discussion, resume, and cover letter all align to meet your job placement goals.