The field of consulting has grown in popularity among Georgetown students in recent years. Because the field offers prestige, a wide variety of work environments, a predictable hiring process (and the peace of mind that comes with it), and is open to graduates from all majors, consulting is an industry worth learning about.
What is consulting?
Consulting is a broad term that, in its most basic form, is the work of solving business problems. Employers from the private, public and social sectors hire consultants to help them increase efficiency and revenues, reduce spending, or help plan for future success. Consulting is a team-oriented and relational profession that requires you to work with others on project or case teams to build rapport with clients, understand their needs, conduct due diligence, and offer recommendations for change and implementation. Consultants often work on projects for 3-to-6 months at a time and many firms require the work to be done on the client site Monday through Thursday, which often involves intense travel.
Among the reasons Georgetown graduates cite for why they enjoy working in consulting are the exposure to senior-level executives, the ability to gain in-depth knowledge on a variety of subjects, and the sense of fulfillment they receive from the work.
What are the various types of consulting?
1. Management/Strategy Consulting Firms
Management consulting firms provide strategic or operational advice to organizations in a variety of industries. The top three management consulting firms are often referred to as “MBB,” or McKinsey, Bain and BCG. Other major management consulting firms include A.T. Kearney, and L.E.K. Consulting.
2. Big Four-Affiliated Consulting Firms
The Big Four firms--Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG--who each have robust accounting practices, have ramped up their advisory offerings, providing strategic business and operations services to many of the same clients served by the MBB consulting firms.
3. Niche/Boutique Consulting
Boutique consulting firms typically specialize in a particular industry, process or type of consulting. Types of boutique consulting firms that have hired Georgetown students in the past include:
- Public Sector Consulting - Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting, PwC, EY, The Bridgespan Group.
- Human Resource Consulting - Towers Watson, Mercer LLC, Aon Hewitt, Huron Consulting Group, ZS Associates, Deloitte Consulting
- Healthcare or Pharmaceutical Consulting - The Advisory Board, Amundsen, an IMS Health Company, Health Advances
- Litigation/Economic Consulting - Cornerstone Research, Charles River Associates, Edgeworth Economics, Navigant Consulting, NERA Economic Consulting, Berkeley Research Group, LLC, Analysis Group, Inc.
- Financial Consulting - Oliver Wyman, FTI Consulting, First Manhattan Consulting Group
- Information Technology/Operations Consulting - Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, IBM, SAP, Capgemini
What skills do I need to be successful in consulting?
Consulting firms seeking entry-level talent are open to undergraduate students from all academic backgrounds who possess business acumen, are well-rounded individuals, have strong communication and critical-thinking skills, and have demonstrated leadership ability. As you consider whether you have what it takes to be a consultant, here are some other important skills you might need:
- Interpersonal skills
- Problem solving
- Team player
- Analytical mindset
- Intellectual curiosity
- Comfort with ambiguity
- Desire to make an impact
How can I gain these skills required to be a consultant?
Many of the skills needed to be a successful consultant are skills that you can acquire in many different ways. First, consider your classes. In what ways have you demonstrated your ability to work as part of a team or had to apply an analytical framework to a problem? You can develop your leadership competencies by participating in student organizations or, sometimes, through service-oriented work. Internship experience can also be valuable. Given that consulting internships are competitive and can be few in number, any professional internship experience that allows you to develop the skills you see above would be valued by consulting firms.
What are the roles and career paths in consulting?
There is a linear progression of development in the consulting industry and the career paths are similar across the industry. However, it is important to know that firms have different titles for the various positions. You can expect the follow position titles, in sequence:
- Summer Intern (current undergraduate student, summer before senior year)
- Consultant/Analyst/Associate (entry-level position post-graduation)
- Senior Consultant
- Team/Project Leader
How do I get a consulting internship?
As an undergraduate student, there are a small number of opportunities to work at a consulting firm as a summer intern. Many firms are unable to hire a large number of students given the nature of the work, but securing an internship can be an extremely valuable experience. A consulting internship lasts approximately 10 weeks and provides exposure to the life of a consultant. Interns are often staffed on one or two projects over the course of a summer and learn the lifecycle of an engagement. The ultimate goal of a summer internship in consulting is to perform well and learn as much as you can, with the hope of receiving a return full-time offer.
If you, for whatever reason, are unable to secure a summer internship at a consulting firm, do not worry. Many who work in the field had no prior consulting experience before joining full-time. Most firms in the industry hire graduating seniors to join as entry-level talent.
What are the recruiting timelines for the consulting industry?
Consulting firms generally follow a structured recruiting process for the hiring of interns and full-time entry-level talent. Many of the larger firms recruit at a select group of colleges and universities in the fall (September - October) for full-time entry-level hires and in the spring semester (January - February) for internships.
At Georgetown, many of the consulting firms participate in the on-campus interview program. The process typically begins in the first month of the semester, with a presentation for students to hear from company representatives and do some networking. Applications are then submitted through Handshake and on the company’s website. Once the firms have selected candidates there are a few rounds of interviews. The first round, often held on campus, is comprised of a behavioral or fit interview and a case interview. The subsequent round(s) generally include multiple case interviews at the company office.
It is very important to do your homework on any consulting firms you're interested in and it is never too early to start the research process. As you attempt to distinguish among the many opportunities that exist, consider the primary type of work done by the firm. Also consider include how the work is performed. Is there travel involved? How are projects staffed? What is the composition of a project team? Will you be staff on one project at a time or multiple? What is the average project length? Finally, you should learn as much about the culture of each firm. Figure out what elements of culture are most important to you and use those to find your fit.
Consulting applications general include a resume, cover letter and transcript.
Employers often tell us that to be successful in consulting, it is not enough to be smart, you must also practice and prepare for the interview process.
Case Interview Preparation
To get started preparing for case interviews, see the case interviewing section of our website.
Behavioral or Experience Interviews
It is important to know that behavioral or experience interviews are just as important to a consulting interview as the case interview. This is the firm’s opportunity to learn about your interpersonal skills, hear how you have handled difficult situations in the past, and conduct their “airport test” – the test of whether or not you are someone they would want to spend hours upon end with you on an airplane.
How can I connect to Consulting Professionals?
Georgetown Networking Opportunities
- LinkedIn – Georgetown Alumni Search (You'll need to be logged into LinkedIn to view these search results)
- Georgetown University Alumni Career Network
- Association of Management Consulting Firms
- Association of Professional Communication Consultants
- Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA)
How can I continue learning about consulting as an industry?
- Consulting Magazine
- Kennedy Consulting Research & Advisory
- Management Consulted
- McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey Quarterly
- Vault Guide to the Top 50 Management and Strategy Consulting Firms, 2014 Edition