This page has been written by Paul Brown
, the relevant Careers Adviser for this occupational area. To see how you can meet Paul, or any of our advisers, go to our website to view how and when you can meet them.
Management consultancy is a popular career choice and the attractions are easy to recognise: varied, challenging, well paid work which offers privileged insights into a range of businesses; and a working culture which is usually genuinely dedicated to the training and development of staff. The downside of consultancy’s attractiveness is the level of competition as well as the very demanding selection criteria which firms apply in order to recruit people of the quality which their work and clients demand.
There is excellent information on this sector and current trends and developments on the Inside Careers Management Consultancy Page and in their Inside Careers Management Consultancy Guide which is available from the Careers Centre. The Prospects website also contains good information on roles in Management Consultancy. Also have a look at the Targetjobs Management Consulting site.
Consultancies recruit candidates who can demonstrate the following:
- consistently high level of academic achievement
- ability to think in a logical, structured way but also open to new knowledge and interpretations
- capacity to work effectively in teams and to get on with a wide range of people
- entrepreneurial business sense
- high levels of IT competence, especially in Excel
- capacity to learn quickly and the enthusiasm to want to learn and develop
- excellent communications skills
- high levels of motivation and energy
- quantitative skills (often A level or Higher Mathematics)
- individuality, self-confidence and presence
- languages can often be advantageous but not at the expense of any of the above
Range of Jobs
Consultants work on projects or cases where their work may fall discretely into one of the roles identified below or may span two or three of them. The work is conducted in teams and, typically, the entrant is described as an analyst: typical tasks are to gather and interpret data, build computer analysis models, support the work of more senior colleagues and to gain a general understanding of different methodologies. Many firms hire analysts with the expectation that they will work with them for two or three years and then leave to go to a business school, often on a sponsored basis, or to employment elsewhere. The largest consulting firms have strengths in all areas of work but smaller firms often command the highest fees in their areas of expertise or sector knowledge. Consultancy is a relatively small area of work and it is not hard, using the resources referred to below, to establish the leading players and recruiters in each segment of the market.
The largest consultancy practices would lay claim to offering a full range of services encompassing all the different roles identified below. However firms do vary in their relative strengths and there are many smaller niche players who predominantly focus on particular market sectors for clients and offer a more limited range of services. The Institute of Management Consultancy (IMC) identifies four main types of consultancy firms:
| Generalist Firms|
| Strategy Consulting|
| Offer a wide range of services from strategy consulting and human resources to IT and outsourcing on a global basis. Many of these firms grew out of audit firms or IT companies, eg:
|| Offer strategic advice to companies on a project-by-project basis, eg: |
| Human Resources Consulting|
| Niche Firms
| Offer specialist HR advice on areas such as personnel policy, job evaluation and industrial relations
|| Often set up by an experienced consultant with an area of expertise; these are smaller practices specialising in certain industry or business sectors. Usually recruite experienced hires.
Also remember that there are internal consultancy roles offered by many large organisations. These are often, but not always, offered to experienced hires.
How to get experience
Recruiters for strategy consultancies may be less concerned that applicants have had relevant work experience, whether directly in consultancy or in relevant industries, than are operations or IT consultants. However, you do need to show business awareness. Work experience opportunities are advertised form October onwards: some firms wait until January before providing details.
- Management consultancy is an area where it is possible to gain an internship and this can often lead to a graduate job with the same company. Have a look at our website for vacation placements, a few consultancy firms (such as Accenture) will advertise their internships with us each year.
- Consult websites such as Target Jobs for a wider range of internships.
- Regularly check RateMyPlacement for relevant undergraduate placements and internships.
- Not all consultancies offer work experience placements. Demonstrating business or project experience, however acquired, will always increase your appeal. If you cannot find work experience within consulting, commercial work experience can also be valuable. Similarly, evidence of entrepreneurial activity is also desirable experience to have, so forming a new society or running a large scale event is great experience.
- The St Andrews Summer Internship Scheme is a good way to get valuable experience that you can apply to the field of management consultancy
How to find a job
Many of the strategies will be the same as above:
- Have a look at our website for vacancies, some consultancy firms (such as Accenture) will advertise their opportunities with us each year.
- Consult websites such as Target Jobs and the other links below for information on applications and deadlines. Most firms advertise in first semester and select in the period December to February.
- Download the free guide from Top-Consultant: The Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms
- Visit the Careers Centre to take away the Target Guide to Management Consultancy, (also available online). This has useful information on employers, application details and deadlines.
- Have a look at our events to see when consultancy firms are going to be in St Andrews and Edinburgh and use these as opportunities to network with employers.
- If there are certain employers you are interested in, browse their individual websites for up to date information.
- Don't underestimate the value of making speculative applications or the importance of networking. Also use the Careers Alumni Network, a database of St Andrews graduates who have volunteered to offer careers information to existing students.
The more established firms generally advertise their vacancies for graduate positions in September or October with closing dates in November and December. Some recruit all year round but it is better to apply early in the cycle. Smaller practices may advertise at any time of the year.
The Selection Process
This is typically in three parts: the written application, first interview(s) and assessment day. You need to be aware of how you are expected to present yourself at each stage and what the recruiters are looking for. Firms bend over backwards to explain their procedures to you: they genuinely want candidates to show themselves in the best possible light, so read the brochures and other literature carefully. Many firms have representative examples of case studies, which are a key element of assessment days, on their websites. Practice of case studies is essential to improve performance. It is difficult to over-emphasise the efforts you need to make to show that you can think about business problems as a consultant would. The Careers Centre has numerous books which provide advice and examples.
All that has been said above confirms the demanding standards in all round abilities which consultancies are looking for. It is sensible, therefore, to consider what possible areas of employment would attract you if your consultancy applications are not successful. You may want to talk this issue through with a careers adviser. Consider making applications to less competitive fields as well. Remember that consultancies recruit experienced hires with three or more years of other sector experience on a regular basis, so you can always build towards a job in this sector.
Case Interview preparation
Register with caseinterview.com to gain free access to case interview training videos, articles and handouts and a case interview tips email newsletter, written by an experienced consultant. An excellent resource.
These websites contain vacancies in management consultancy:
- Consultancy Links: Incorporates detailed advice and tips on the applications process, a comprehensive directory of consultancy firms and guidances on graduate schemes
- MCA: useful UK searchable database
- Top Consultant: very useful newsletter and vacancies
Key Links and Resources
Careers Centre resources
- Case in Point - Complete Case Interview Preparation (Highly recommended. This book can be purchased via Amazon).
- Case Interview Secrets - Victor Cheng
- Crack the Case System: Complete Case Interview Prep - David Ohrvall
- The Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms (download for free from Top-Consultant.com
- 25 Top Consulting Firms
- Ace Your Case IV - The Latest & Greatest - WetFeet
- Management Consultancy
- Target Management Consulting
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview 2008
- Vault Guide to the Top 25 Consulting Firms - European Edition
General Management Consultancy Information
Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines