Internships and placements

How to get a consulting internship: top tips

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

We asked consulting interns at OC&C Strategy Consultants, NERA Economic Consulting, McKinsey & Company, Oliver Wyman, Roland Berger, EY-Parthenon 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. Here are their tips.

How to get a consulting internship: top tips

At first glance many consulting firms can look the same, but narrow down what makes each unique.

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.’
  • 'I think it was a combination of my academic performance and being able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the application of economic principles on real world problems during the interview process.'
  • 'I’m studying a highly logical and quantitative subject, and in my cover letter I showed an active interest in both the firm (mentioning clients, hierarchical structure and charitable work) and consultancy... I also think my extracurricular activities such as being rowing captain, studying mandarin in China and doing university access work, etc – showed I was well rounded.'

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.’
  • 'Try to get a real sense of what is different about the firm you're applying to. At first glance many consulting firms can look the same, but narrow down what makes each unique. You can do this by attending presentations and speaking with people working at the firm you're interested in.'
  • ‘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.’
  • 'Talk to careers fair reps to understand the company ethos – it does vary! Research the firms, do what you can to show an active interest and practise case studies!​'

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.’
  • 'I was surprised by the wide range of issues on which clients seek my employer’s expert economic advice. This variety is one of the key appeals of consulting as it allows you to explore new areas and acquire new skills continuously.'
  • 'I was treated as a junior consultant, not as an intern, and was impressed by the great atmosphere of collaboration. Everyone is always willing to help, even if they are on different projects, unlike many of the banking stories I have heard from friends!​'

​How can interns turn their internships into full-time roles?

  • 'No one is expecting you to know everything when you start... the important thing is to have a really positive attitude and ask for help when you need it. Be engaged and a little bit keen!'
  • 'Be yourself during the internship and approach every task with a positive and enthusiastic mindset even if you feel a little overwhelmed.​'

Next: search relevant graduate jobs, schemes & internships

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