Covid has adjusted consulting firms’ hiring practices. Firms – across levels and functions – are hiring more candidates in 2021 from non-traditional backgrounds. Why? There are a couple of reasons:
- Virtual recruiting has evened the playing field for students at non-target schools. Firm recruiting teams can no longer travel to target campuses. Therefore, they have more time to connect with students from outside the target school ecosystem. In addition, it becomes more difficult for target school candidates to stand out without in-person connections happening.
- Firms actually care about diversity. Much has been made about how consulting firms are great places to work for women, LGBTQ+ consultants, and other underrepresented groups. However, consulting firms also care about diversity of background, and the different perspectives that come to bear inside of project teams as a result. As we move into 2021, consulting firms are figuring out that the top talent they seek doesn’t just reside in Top 10 MBA programs.
For all of the longstanding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the management consulting industry (including on salaries), this one has been especially underreported: the consulting recruiting process has been democratized. So, who stands to benefit the most?
Winners From Covid’s Effect on Consulting Recruiting
Non-Target Students (Undergraduate and MBA)
As recruiting teams spend less time on the road, they have more time to chat with students from outside of the traditional target school apparatus. This past year, we saw an increasing number of non-target students receiving offers across firms – from MBB to Big 4 to Boutique. In fact, at the MBA level, the “market share” of top schools in major markets is slipping, as MBAs from programs like McCombs (University of Texas at Austin) land offers in cities like Washington, DC and Atlanta.
So, what do you do if you are not a target school for a particular firm or office? Network! You’ll need an advocate inside of your target office to maximize your chances of getting an interview. Once you’re through to the interview rounds, however, you’re on an even playing field with everybody else. It’s all about your interview performance at that stage, not your relationships. Start your prep with our Case Interview Complete Prep Guide.
Specialized Master’s Students
As Specialized Master’s have exploded in popularity over the past decade, so too has the interest of these students in consulting. Now, consulting firms are beginning to take note. The biggest opportunity for MS students is at the Big 4, with scattered hiring at MBB and boutiques. As a Specialty Master’s student, you have the best chance of breaking into a highly analytical practice area or role, although more MS students every year are obtaining generalist roles.
Note: Specialized Master’s students recruit for the same positions as undergraduates.
PhD & Other Advanced Degree Candidates (ADC)
Years ago, top firms recognized the untapped talent pool in non-MBA advanced degree programs, and introduced the Bridge programs as a result. Not only do McKinsey, Bain and BCG run a dedicated ADC recruiting program, but many top boutiques (especially in the life sciences) do as well.
This pipeline of talent has only increased in importance to firms in the past decade, as PhDs, JDs, MDs and other advanced degree candidates make up a larger proportional share of full-time hires in the industry than at any other time in history. This has mostly come to the detriment of 2Y MBAs who recruit (or re-recruit) for full-time roles in the fall, as there are typically less seats available once advanced degree candidates have completed their process in July/August.
Note: Non-MBA advanced degree candidates recruit for the same full-time positions as MBAs.
Subject Matter Experts (SME)
As the business world continues to evolve, even once pure-play strategy consulting firms have increased the scope of their offerings to include implementation, digital, human capital, and other types of consulting. In fact, these other segments of the market offer a much larger revenue opportunity than strategy does.
As a result, almost all consulting firms have increased their hiring of Subject Matter Experts to staff up sector and function-specific practice areas. If you have a demonstrated expertise in a particular industry or function, you have a better chance of breaking into management consulting than ever before!
Management Consulting as an industry continues to grow at a double-digit CAGR. As a result, the past decade has seen both an explosion of new entrants into the market and the consolidation of mid-sized players to better compete at the top end of the market.
What does all of this mean? There’s a bigger demand for consulting services than ever before, and therefore a larger demand for talent inside the industry. This is good news in terms of consulting hiring! Consulting firms, including McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, have been forced to move outside of their traditional hiring sandbox and recruit talent from more diverse backgrounds.