05 November 2014

The Career Management Center has put in place a series of bootcamps that give students in inside look into key career sectors from industry experts.

Last month, students had the opportunity to follow a multi-day Consulting bootcamp, full of presentations, case studies and insider tips from  former Executive Recruiter at McKinsey & Co, Nick Oak.

What does he advice students interested in a career with a top consulting firm? Below, we ask him a few questions on how best to prepare the competitive consulting application process.

How important is the preparation process for a career in consulting?

Without specific case interview practice I can categorically say the probability of a career in consulting are low – so very important; however, MBA students will often, realizing this obvious importance, over prepare by attempting to figuring out all “correct answers” via repetition.

This over fixation on practice alone is a huge mistake as consulting firms are evaluating candidates for their ability to demonstrate sound judgement and thinking that produces the right answers and not the correct answers themselves.

What kind of background/skills/qualities do big consulting firms look for in the hiring process?

This changes year to year and depends on the firms; however, let me provide the following list of attributes that standout:

-  Strong undergraduate experience

-  Outstanding professional experience before MBA

-  Competitive internship

-  Academic performance during MBA

-  Leadership:  evidence of leading people, groups and organizations

-  Extracurricular and community involvement

-  GMAT/GRE score

-  Networking, networking and networking

No one item above will get you an interview, indeed, it is the sum total of the consulting firms interpretation of your background that will answer if an interview will happen; however, most weaknesses can be overcome with diligent networking if you are able to find an advocate, especially a HEC alumni, at the firm of your interest.

What do people need to know about the case analysis aspect of the recruitment process?

The case should not highlight only their ability to do cases but should demonstrate they can leverage the learnings from the MBA program as a tool to strengthen and deepen their problem solving skills.  Also, the case is only half of the assessment as the behavioral interviews will need as much preparation.  Some firms will also have a standardized test which will need some attention although not as much as the case and behavioral.

What is important to know in order to succeed in consulting?

MBA students need to start the transformation process to grow now.  Everything they are learning will be useful if they successfully navigate the interview process and get a job as a consultant.  This evolutionary process starts by first applying the listening, thinking and verbalization skills in their classes and by collaborating to learn from not only the professors, but more importantly, from other students.

This deliberate cultivation of  their time at HEC will empower them to do well during the interview process and succeed during their tenure in consulting.  Some obvious issues to focus on are as follows:

-  Don’t pick the easiest answers.  Think critically about possible counterintuitive and unintended outcomes that are discovered by evaluating interdependence (we had examples during case practice).

-  Recast data to realize not only what it tells you but more importantly what it doesn’t say

-  Without listening carefully nothing else much matters.  Start by listening well to your peers.

-  Work on your verbalization and speak in a structure manner thoughtfully.  This means don’t speak quickly with the easiest and most obvious point that pops into your mind – take time to formulate a response that characterizes critical thinking and practice it daily.

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