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Deciding which consulting firm to apply to

Which consulting firm should you apply to?

Most consulting firms offer their graduates an exciting mix of training, travel (pandemics permitting), project work, early client contact and increasing responsibility, but there are of course differences between firms. Find the consulting employer that suits you best.

Does training continue as you progress through the firm? Do secondments and sabbaticals matter to you?

Not sure which consulting firm you should apply to? Consider the elements that will affect you the most. There are five key areas you should consider before sending off your application(s). 

1. What sort of work does the consulting firm do?

Some consulting firms will specialise in a particular service, or function, such as strategy, and some will focus on a particular industry. Increasingly, many will operate across a variety of both. Do you have a preference? Would you like your graduate programme to keep your options open and give you a broad experience, or would you prefer to work somewhere where you can specialise sooner? 

2. How much travel will your job involve?

Most consulting firms will require you to do some travelling, although this has of course not been possible during the Covid pandemic and it's likely that going forward virtual client meetings will become more common practice. In normal times, travel is often cited as a reason graduates find the profession so exciting. To understand your clients’ businesses, you’ll usually need to spend time at client sites, working closely with clients and colleagues in your team. However, some firms require less travel than others. Additionally, for some, travel will be primarily UK based, whereas others will take you almost anywhere in the world. Roland Berger, for example, tells its candidates: ‘Over 75% of our work includes cross-border challenges.’ OC&C Strategy Consultants, on the other hand, is known to require less travel than other firms. It’s very much a case of personal preference – try to find a firm that offers you the travel experience you’ll be comfortable with. 

3 .What opportunities will you be offered?

Is it important to you that your company will give you the chance to do a sponsored MBA after a few years? Is there a specific style of training or qualifications you’re looking for? All the firms advertising on TARGETjobs offer excellent training programmes for graduates, but there will be differences between them. A smaller firm may not be able to offer the range of training options that a larger firm may be able to, for example. Plus, think of your future: does training continue as you progress through the firm? Do secondments and sabbaticals matter to you? What is the promotion structure? 

4. What sort of reputation does a firm have?

Some firms have global reputations and/or are recognised as leaders in their fields – how much does this matter to you?  Some have a reputation for offering really great job security – Oliver Wyman, for example, stresses that it is looking for ‘future leaders’ rather than ‘two-year employees’ – whereas others have an ‘up or out’ policy. The best way to discover a firm’s reputation is to speak with its alumni and read the business press.

5. Will a firm’s culture be right for you?

It can be more difficult to discern a firm’s culture from the outside, than, say, its training opportunities. But you can get a ‘feel’ for a firm by attending employer presentations and speaking with representatives at careers fairs. Consulting involves long hours working within a team, so do you feel you connect with the people you have met? Would you feel comfortable spending long hours with them? You can also get a good sense of a firm’s culture through its social media channels: accorording to the Cibyl Graduate Research 2021 survey, 88% of students interested in consulting careers use LinkedIn (60% use it to find out about company cultures)… if this isn’t you, perhaps it should be.

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