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Getting work as a consulting intern: top tips

We asked consulting interns at OC&C Strategy Consultants, McKinsey & Company, Oliver Wyman and L.E.K. Consulting to tell us about how they got hired. Each of our interviewees was offered a full-time job at the end of their internship. We also asked what surprised them most about consulting during their internships – forewarned is forearmed, after all! Here are their tips.
McKinsey attracts some wonderfully wacky people!

What made your internship application successful?

  • ‘Speaking to as many people as possible to assess the characteristics of successful candidates – such as enthusiasm, love of problem solving and curiosity – and letting these shine through.’
  • ‘I think my strong numerical skills, work experience in a wide range of areas, and ability to structure thoughts and communicate relatively clearly ticked the right boxes.’
  • ‘Being very focused on working in consulting and specifically not applying for summer internships in other areas was my strategy – this enabled me to focus and improve my interview technique as the process went on.’

What are your top tips for approaching case study interviews?

  • 'Don't be afraid. The case study interview was challenging for me as I had not had much prior exposure to answering business-focused questions. However, I enjoyed the challenge, which encouraged me to believe that I would enjoy being a consultant.’
  • ‘The case studies are extremely thought-provoking and intellectually challenging, but I think, ultimately, if it’s a field and a job you’ll enjoy, the interview experience is wholly comfortable, manageable and enjoyable.’
  • ‘Acknowledge the fact that there are multiple ways of approaching a problem.’

What advice would you give to students looking for consulting internships?

  • ‘Go for it if you have a genuine enthusiasm for the sector and for working on a variety of commercial issues. Show that you are comfortable using your initiative and, most importantly, have an open mind when considering how to tackle a problem. Consulting firms aren’t looking for hands-on experience of the corporate world, but they are looking for people who are able to consider different ways of coming up with an answer.’
  • ‘Learn to structure and communicate all your thoughts in groups of three. Also throw yourself into every extracurricular activity you can, with all the passion you can.’
  • ‘Spend time studying examples of where a consultancy has tackled a client problem and work out how each step taken helped answer the critical questions. This will help you to prepare for case studies and work out whether the problems encountered daily in consulting are ones you enjoy tackling.’

What surprised you most about consulting?

  • ‘Some consultants aren’t corporate at all. McKinsey attracts some wonderfully wacky people!’
  • ‘The incredible variety the job can provide has to be seen to be believed – each project is different, but also each day across the eight weeks was very different and meant that I was constantly learning new skills, including dinner party skills!’
  • ‘Before starting I worried that there would be lots of corporate buzz-phrases and working long hours for the sake of it. These concerns were very quickly put to rest. The work was focused on problem solving rather than fitting pre-made solutions, and corporate jargon was nowhere to be heard.’
  • ‘I was impressed by how meritocratic consultancy seemed to be, and the fact that there was a lot of scope for junior team members to contribute real value to the case.’