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Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 10:47 am
by Dave Jensen
Hi -- Yesterday we had a wonderful post from someone who had the kind of "chat room" name that we don't allow on the forum. I asked that person to change the chat room name and we got into a sort of philosophical discussion about our forum etiquette, and this person "opted out" of her post. I want to apologize to the poster for pressing that rule so hard as to lose her interest in us entirely. Because her intent was straight from the heart and only to help out our forum members, I am reposting the message myself, below. There is nothing here which identifies this person and it is presented in its entirety,

Dave Jensen, Moderator (PS - Ever seen the Seinfeld episode about the "Soup Nazi"? Sometimes, in enforcing that "Chat Room Name" rule, I feel like the Forum Nazi. However, I can't see how a professional discussion could proceed with "BigBoy66" giving career advice to the "GermInator." If you have feelings about this one way or another, click on my email link and let me know. (Unlike the Soup Nazi, we are not resistent to change here).


I recently received an offer from McKinsey, but haven't actually started yet. In my job search, I focused on the major strategy firms, so I know most about them. I never looked into the smaller, specialized houses (I'm sure there are some good ones in biotech/pharma); recruiting/interviewing may be handled quite differently by them. You are correct that management consulting firms hire PhDs (and JDs, MDs--McK calls them APDs, advanced professional degrees; it's not an industry-wide term, but I'll use it here) in significant quantities. McKinsey seems to be leading the way with half of new hires being APDs. A good consulting firm will offer significant introductory training and professional development opportunities, wiping out the performance differences between MBAs and APDs in less than a year.

Recruiting season for the big firms is based on the academic calendar, with application deadlines in early fall, interviews in late fall/winter, offers extended in winter and start dates in spring/summer.The interview process is very standardized, though some firms have different paths for MBAs and APDs (so you're not actually competing directly with MBAs). By all means, contact friends/alumni at a firm in which you are interested; they may be able to help you pass the resume cut, but you'll be on your own after that. Most firms accept academic CVs,but I would take the time to convert your CV to a resume. It indicates your sincerity and, more importantly, allows you to highlight different skills and accomplishments. I used WetFeet's Killer Consulting Resumes as a guide.

Interviews are a combination of the case and more conventional personal experience formats. As an APD,you definitely need to practice case interviews, especially if you're targetting a company which does not have separate paths for APDs and MBAs. The book San recommends is good; I also used a Vault guide.You absolutely must simulate the experience; reading the book is not good enough. Have a friend interview you or find someone else who's interested in consulting and practice together. Don't spend timememorizing generic structures. Instead, use your own problem solving style; after all, these firms are hiring APDs because they don't want more MBAs. It seems to me that the personal experience portion of the interview is often overlooked by candidates,much to their detriment. The case is a test you have to pass, but being engaging, enthusiastic, articulate is what actually lands the job. Think of a really good story from your past for each of the qualities important to consultants--leadership, teamwork, problem solving, personal impact, etc.In addition to the few books already mentioned, I found the Vault message boards to be extremely useful throughout the application and interview process. For some reason, managment consultants seem to be particularly active on these boards. Good luck!

Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 12:11 pm
by San
Great post. I went through the same process (with McK) although I did not join the Firm (I choose to join a Big Pharma instead). I competed directly with MBAs but everything else I believe was the same. My only suggestion is to take the online application very seriously. They will go through the CV and your assays very carefully so you need to make a very strong case to stand out. Also, if your PhD is not in a quantitative field (eg not physics) you need to practice GMAT style exercises because they will want to assess your confidence with numbers. Cases are the main thing during the interviews (3 interviews before an offer) if you don't crack them you will never go through. You don't need to know a lot about the business you don't even need to solve them correctly but you need to show a good analytical ability and most of all a structured way of thinking. When you are preparing the interview practice with a case-study buddy, it helps a lot. Don't waste time memorizing business school jargon or 5-forces model frameworks, if you are an MD or a Life sciences PhD you will sound phoney. Be confident, articulate and calm after all it is only an interview..

Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 7:33 pm
by Val

Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 7:43 pm
by Dave Jensen
"Also, I would suggest to put an example of an inappropriate chat name into the disclaimer, e.g. "BigBoy66". This will make it much easier for people to understand what you mean by saying "inappropriate name"

Thanks Val, good suggestion, we will implement.


Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 12:32 pm
by Melanie

Anyone interested in management consulting should check out McKinsey's Insight Healthcare program. I think applications are due very soon for this year (if not already).

I had the opportunity to participate in their program last year--and it was EXCELLENT. It's for MD or PhD candidates (postdocs too) and they provide you with an all expenses paid weekend long retreat (Thursday-Sunday). During it, they give you all kinds of information about McKinsey, consulting, and divide you up into teams to simulate a case (i.e. what you would be doing day to day as a management consultant). It was incredibly valuable--I chose not to pursue management consulting based on it but others who participated did. Either way, it definitely will give you hands on experience (or what can be done in a weekend) to see if it's what you would expect.

Management Consulting - Interviews and Prep

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 11:57 pm
by PYJ
I am a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. (in Life Sciences) at a leading US public university. Following completion of my Ph.D. (within the next 6 months to a year), I am interested in pursuing a career in Management consulting. The posts in this thread certainly provide interesting and informative advice & resources on the general application procedure and interview format for these positions. I have been researching these resources for a couple of months now, but I think I still need some specific advice on transitioning from the Ph.D. track to consulting. In particular, I am looking for someone experienced to provide feedback on my resume, coverletter and essay. Also, unlike most management programs that are more or less comparable in their format, Ph.D. programs are diverse – between different fields (for example, Physical Sciencs vs. Life Sciences) as well as within a given field. Given this heterogeneity, are there any specific / objective criteria that recruiters resort to in order to identify potential candidates (i.e., those who get past the resume screening to the interview stage)? Any advice and/or suggestions from the forum will be truly appreciated!

Follow-up on Melanie's post

PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2006 12:02 am
by PYJ
Melanie: It was interesting to learn about your experience at McKinsey's Insight Healthcare program. Would you mind sharing information about your background, and how you went about applying for the program?
Thank you!