Career in Consulting – Guidelines from an IIM Ahmedabad Graduate

#Throwback: Originally published in 2015, this article is still relevant if you are considering a career in Management Consulting.

Every year in consulting is like three years in the corporate world – may it be the learning, the number of clients you deal with, the sheer volume of cases, the long work hours, the enormous responsibility entrusted to you, or simply your growth as a person: you grow at least thrice in a consulting job. Rajat Shaw, an alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad who interned with a consulting firm, provides valuable insights into the world of consulting.

What are the first steps towards getting into a consulting career?

The top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain and AT Kearney recruit from IIM A, B, C, L and ISB. So, your first goal towards realizing your Consulting dream would be to get into one of these colleges.

However, beginning your career at an Analytics firm and then switching over to a Management Consulting firm is also a valid option. The major difference between the two is that in Consulting the problems will be more unstructured compared to Analytics. These problems are usually open-ended and require more thinking than merely running the numbers.

There are several other excellent consulting firms that provide very specific solutions and work only in niche sectors. There is Technology Consulting with firms like Cognizant and Infosys Edgeverve, Operations Consulting with GEP Consulting, HR Consulting with Hay Group, etc.

To get into those, try to align your goals with the b-school they recruit from and plan your MBA accordingly.

What do Consulting firms look for in a candidate?

Academic consistency: high percentages in Boards and solid Graduation scores. However, it doesn’t mean they won’t look at your profile if one of these is out of place. They consider other points like previous work experience and co-curricular achievements too. Spikes (outstanding achievements) in other areas and extra-curricular activities are considered as well. Essentially, a well-balanced profile is the pre-eminent factor for getting into a shortlist.

For people with work experience, consulting firms try to ensure that a candidate has been performing consistently and contributing significantly in his previous job. So, bringing out your strong performance at work in your resume is important. Consulting firms work in a myriad of sectors, so they appreciate work experience in most sectors and judge them on an equal basis. Your performance in your job is of paramount importance.

How can you prepare for a Consulting interview?

The skills required to ace consulting interviews are primarily two-fold:

  • – Good communication skills and the ability to articulate your ideas well.
  • – Ability to think logically and structure your thoughts and ideas well while analysing a problem.

It is also necessary to be aware of the current affairs in the industry and general news around the world.

What are the types of questions asked in Consulting interviews?

The most important aspect of a Consulting interview is the Case-based approach to problem-solving. These are business decisions that need to be taken on a general basis. They test your ability to seek the correct information, structure your thinking and ask the right questions to get to the solution.

A famous type of problem is the Guesstimate. For example, they might ask you to estimate the number of marriages in India in a year. The other popular type of problem is an actual business decision case, like: a restaurant is witnessing a dip in profitability, and you need to figure out what the reasons could be and suggest steps to improve the situation. Here, you need to ask for relevant facts needed to arrive at a solution and they judge your thought process.

To practice such cases, there are several books available, such as ‘Case in Point’. You can find hundreds of guesstimate problems online as well. Case preparation requires a good understanding of basic management frameworks and then practising in groups.

Do consultants prefer a particular UG background in candidates?

Not really. It’s just that the proportion of engineers in an average batch of MBAs is so high, that you invariably find the proportion of engineers in consulting firms high as well. There is no discrimination based on your UG background or based on the college you attended. It is a false notion that consulting firms recruit only IITians.

What sort of work do management consultants actually do?

As a management or business consultant, you are expected to design the approach to solve a problem, think of relevant analyses to be performed, derive insights from those analyses, and finally recommend a feasible solution.

Specific types of consultants may have different roles as per their expertise. Like Analytics Consultants are expected to actually devise new methods of working on available data and identify patterns. Roles in consulting firms are more strategic in nature compared to pure analytics roles in firms like MuSigma or ZS Associates.

How to tell if you are a right fit for Consulting?

If you enjoy open-ended questions that are strategic in nature, don’t mind dabbling in data and identifying trends, and like to travel and meet new people, consulting is a right fit for you.