Richard Stewart is the founder and managing director of Mindbench, a specialist recruitment firm. Richard is a regular speaker at industry events about management consultancy
Consultants aren't necessarily expected to be business "gurus": The idea of management consultants is not necessarily to be the "gurus" or to know more than the people in industry who are themselves experts. Its more to bring certain specialist skills to particular areas of the business which need improvement and provide an objective outside view. While someone with two years of consulting experience might lack commercial awareness or in-depth industry knowledge, they could be great at Excel or analysis and provide valuable input this way.
Consultants are really needed because they can get either better or faster results than the company or department can internally. This is done through their specialist skills and the focus that they can provide by having specific objectives and project timeframes. People inside the business maybe too focused on the "business as usual" and need the energy, focus and skills of management consultants to help move the business in a different direction or improve its performance.
An extensive screening criteria is used by larger management consultancy firms: It is quite rare for people with a 2:2 to go into the larger management consultancy firms at a junior level because of their extensive screening criteria. However, we do sometimes see CVs of more experienced people who have proved their capability in industry and then joined a consulting firm.
Consulting can be very demanding and people use it as a way of accelerating their career: It is true that consulting, particularly strategy consulting, can be very demanding in terms of time commitment and often involves lots of travel. Also, many people see consulting as a way of getting accelerated development and learning before going into a line role in industry. It is probably better to start in consulting than try and join later since it is harder to join a consulting firm later in your career.
Anthony Takyi is a graduate recruiter for the consulting and financial advisory departments at PwC. PwC's consulting activities cover strategy, economics and management consulting alongside a range of financial advisory services
Good candidates can come a cropper with under-prepared interview questions or a lack of company research: Competition is fierce for graduate roles and there are lots of individuals applying to firms with excellent academic credentials. I've been screening candidates over the past week and a number who academically are exceptional struggle with psychometric testing or have failed to provide a well thought out answer to our screening question. In past experience individuals have failed to present an individualised covering letter that demonstrates what an individual knows about the sector or why they want to work for the firm. When it comes to interviews, remember you are assessed against a range of competencies (in most large firms) so you need to be aware of what the key skills that the firm you are applying to looks for, and you need to provide some well discussed examples of this. In terms of improving your employability skills I strongly advise looking to attend open days that firms run and other skills session so that you can get an in-depth picture of what firms look for.
It's not all work and no play: Work life balance is a very important factor of a career in consulting. There are times when you will be working long hours as a project reaches it deadline, however at PwC many of our consultants are involved in community and social affairs. We are keen to recruit individuals who are well rounded and don't just live to work.
Grad schemes aren't just for people fresh out of university: A number of people come into consulting and join graduate programmes as career changers, not just individuals fresh out of university. At PwC the key skills we look for from candidates are that you have the desire to enter the profession and can display the skills we regard as essential to be a good consultant. Last week an offer to join the firm's consultancy business was made to an individual who had no relevant work experience and was working in a bookshop in a small town having completed university a couple of years ago. The candidate was able to display all the base skills we look for.
Sudhir Chaturvedi is vice president and the Europe head of the manufacturing business unit at business consulting, IT and outsourcing company Infosys. Sudhir is a specialist in global sourcing and is a speaker on business strategy
Consulting differs from industry jobs you may have had: People who are considering moving from industry to consulting roles have many transferable skills and are highly sought after. They have deep industry knowledge, proven analytical skills and 'real world' execution experience. The main difference in a consulting role is that people need to adapt to being an adviser. This requires a change in mindset where one needs to be seen as a problem solver who advises people on the best options and then works with them to achieve their objectives.
One also needs to be able to abstract their knowledge and experience in a way that can be leveraged by multiple clients across multiple industries. You will also have far less time and in some most cases far less information and will still need to come up with compelling ideas. Team working skills will be tested as one works with different teams on every project. Strong communication skills (not just presentation skills) are required for dealing with various scenarios across various clients. Hopefully, some of this gives you a flavour for what would be required to be successful as a consultant.
Programme managers are in demand at the moment: Also consider programme management roles where wide skillsets and deep execution experience will be very useful to firms such as ours, who are assisting several companies in large change programmes within their organisations. There is a high level of demand for programme managers right now, as many companies in the private sector seek to change their business models to be able to gain most from the demand from emerging markets and the rapidly changing competitive scenario.
Sustainability is also a popular area: Sustainability is one of the hottest areas for advisory services today. You have a choice between sustainability boutiques and think tanks at one end to large consulting companies at the other. The key thing that clients are grappling with today is turning their ideas in this area into reality, such that it is not seen as mere greenwash.
Kalpa Shah is the recruitment manager for Deloitte Consulting
You might end up spending part of the week away from home: As most consulting firms tend to deploy people on to the client's site, this means that there is an expectation for individuals to travel when necessary. A lot of firms apply the 345 model, which means three nights away, four days per week and the fifth back at the home office - therefore spending the weekend at home.
Check out all the advice from the Q&A here.