4 Attributes You Need to Get Hired by a Top Consulting Firm

4 Attributes You Need to Get Hired by a Top Consulting Firm was originally published on Vault.

As an MBA student aspiring to become a management consultant, specifically in the financial services industry, I had the opportunity to attend several information sessions organized by management consulting firms. In these sessions, management consulting firms showcased their organizational capabilities and culture, and highlighted their recruiting process for business school students. In those sessions, the firms often described their recruiting processes and selection criteria as holistic. Below are four attributes that will help your candidacy to come across as more holistic.

1. Intellectual curiosity

Management consultants typically work with clients for brief periods before moving on to a new client or even a new industry. And they’re expected to quickly get up to speed with the client’s business. The process of moving from one client to another and tacking new problems will only appeal to you if you consider yourself inquisitive or intellectually curious and enjoy the process of learning. Management consulting firms look for tangible examples from your personal and professional experiences where you took risks in navigating through the “unknown” and successfully embarked on an uncharted territory. Your superior academic performance, especially if it encapsulates a diverse and multi-disciplinary coursework, would also give you credibility in demonstrating your intellectual curiosity.   

2. Analytical aptitude

Management consultants are hired to solve clients’ most challenging and pressing problems—be those market penetration strategies or M&A due-diligence. Newly minted consultants get to learn and experience an exceptionally structured approach to problem solving. Management consulting firms want to make sure that you will not only survive but also thrive in such an environment, and that’s why they look for validation of your analytical acumen in your candidacy by having you participate in case interviews—where you get the opportunity to crack an abridged version of a real-world business problem and offer meaningful insight within 45 minutes.

Management consulting firms also take your performance in standardized tests such as GMAT into consideration, and often ask for your standardized tests scores as part of their employment application processes. Finally, if you have successfully completed analytically challenging coursework such as quantitative finance or econometrics and earned superior grades, management consulting firms would like to know about them as well.  

3. Communication and leadership skills

A key requirement to be successful in the management consulting industry is the ability to present ideas that are backed by data with utmost conviction and clarity. Your ability to demonstrate your executive presence during your behavioral and case interview process will significantly elevate your candidacy. Management consulting firms are less interested in the details of your day-to-day activities and job responsibilities from your professional experience, and more interested in the impact you created while undertaking those responsibilities. And that’s why they look for tangible examples of leadership experience in your candidacy across your professional and extra-curricular activities. Remember that leadership experience is less about the “title” you held at an organization and more about the “impact” you created at the organization.

4. Unique perspectives and organizational fit  

How do you perceive the world? What motivates you? What are your aspirations? Are you passionate about client management? What kind of corporate culture you find most appealing? These are some of the questions that management consulting firms probe, albeit implicitly, during your behavioral interview. A management consultant is never an army of one—usually at least three to five management consultants work together as a team in support of a client engagement. Do you embrace teamwork and thrive in a collaborative environment?

A final note

Recruiting in management consulting is competitive, with so many MBA students aspiring to take the plunge. The recruiting process and selection criteria is holistic, and the key to success in the process is to genuinely communicate your value proposition and demonstrate how you aspire to establish a symbiotic relationship with the firm.

Recipient of the Presidential Award from The White House, Vibhu Sinha is an intrapreneurial and bottom-line driven senior management professional with experience in leadership roles across banking and capital markets. He has advised institutional clients on corporate strategy, idea generation and pitching, financial planning and analysis, M&A, investor relations, and ESG. Vibhu developed his acumen in Behavioral Psychology at Harvard University as part of a master's degree program. He also earned an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson.