ghSMART is a unique management consulting company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Focused on advising clients on talent management and leadership development issues, the firm focuses on solving problems on the “soft skills” side of the equation that often make the difference between organizational success and failure. ghSMART Consulting offers interesting opportunities for professionals interested in working with business leaders on these kinds of questions. ghSMART careers span the traditional consulting tiers and offer you the chance to build an expertise in management assessment. Pursuing a career with ghSMART is certainly a unique path to follow, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a less attractive one. Let’s dive into the firm’s background and culture and review the interview process.
Table of Contents:
- ghSMART Key Stats
- ghSMART History
- ghSMART Careers
- Practice Areas
- Office Locations
- Career Path
- Exit Opportunities
- ghSMART Culture
- ghSMART Interview
- ghSMART Assessment Questions
- ghSMART Salary
ghSMART Key Stats
- ghSMART Website: https://ghsmart.com/
- ghSMART Headquarters: Chicago, IL
- ghSMART Number of Employees: 125
- ghSMART Number of Locations: 23
- ghSMART Chief Executive: Geoff Smart
- ghSMART Revenue: ~$21M
Our discussion of ghSMART consulting begins with a brief ghSMART history lesson. Founded by Dr. Geoff Smart in 1995, ghSMART was established in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Smart’s goal was to build the premier firm in the emerging field of leadership assessment.
To understand the underlying culture and DNA of the firm, it’s helpful to cover some background on Dr. Smart himself. A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Economics, he subsequently attended Claremont Graduate University where he earned a PhD in Psychology at the young age of 25. He is the youngest person to earn a PhD in the history of that school. He even received a letter of recommendation from legendary business theorist Peter F. Drucker. The underlying methodologies and approaches to leadership assessment that empower ghSMART’s business were originally conceptualized by Smart during his PhD studies.
Offering a three pronged approach to leadership development, ghSMART made its mark on the consulting world by focusing on the then burgeoning field of leadership assessment. Moving from the analysis of personality traits to data-driven insights on the effectiveness of business leaders and managers, ghSMART has made pioneering contributions to leadership assessment. ghSMART is built on educational insights, research, and experience.
ghSMART has almost two dozen locations in the United States and the United Kingdom. Building on its business leadership assessment beginnings, ghSMART is now known for offering a psychographic approach to leadership strategy. Through ghSMART consulting, executives and business leaders are given access to a highly specialized team of PhDs, MBAs, and industry professionals who work towards offering creative solutions that enable business leaders to accomplish both long- and short-term organizational goals.
While consulting is the primary field of interest for prospective ghSMART employees, there are several types of ghSMART careers that might be of interest to students and professionals researching the firm. Consultants at ghSMART primarily work with clients to conduct management assessments and address leadership or business strategy issues by designing quantitative solutions to problems that are often treated only qualitatively.
ghSMART’s overarching focus is helping firms ensure that:
- Their leaders have the right priorities
- They have the right leaders in place
- The internal and external relationships exist to drive results
A typical engagement may consist of helping to reshuffle the C-suite of a large company or helping a PE firm build a recruitment strategy for a group of portfolio companies. But in the end, it will always come back to optimizing talent.
Although there are no specific ghSMART practice areas outlined on the company website, the case studies on the website can be used to infer what types of projects consultants tend to work on. These ghSMART case studies reflect the primary ghSMART industries and clients served by the firm:
When CEOs decide to retire, a process of transition, recruitment, and new capability building occurs. ghSMART often plays a role in this process.
A PE firm might hire ghSMART to evaluate the talent base at its portfolio companies relative to its growth plans and strategies for those companies.
A PE firm might hire ghSMART to execute a talent strategy. This could involve advising on who should fill what role, who should stay with the organization, and could also include recruiting for key roles.
ghSMART claims its data driven approach to assessing potential external and internal hires is 80% accurate in sourcing the right person for the right role.
The firm also works directly with business leaders to help them understand and optimize their strengths, weaknesses, and overall approach to management and leadership.
ghSMART often works with entire executive teams to help them optimize how they work together to achieve shared objectives.
As a consulting firm which specializes in executive leadership, the company is comfortable advising clients in a wide range of industries. ghSMART serves clients across industries, including healthcare and medicine, pharmaceuticals, investment management, manufacturing, and professional and financial services. The firm has a mix of public, private, commercial, and government clients.
There are multiple ghSMART office locations across the continental United States (and one in London as well). U.S. office locations are:
- Atlanta, GA
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Cambridge, MA
- Charleston, SC
- Charlotte, NC
- Chicago, IL
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Greenwich, CT
- Houston, TX
- Milwaukee, WI
- Minneapolis, MN
- New Haven, CT
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Richmond, VA
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA
- St. Louis, MO
- Washington, DC
For students and professionals looking to land one of the highly sought after ghSMART consulting jobs, you may need to wait until you’ve amassed a certain amount of consulting and general business experience.
A ghSMART career path begins with an introductory position as a consultant or Principal, and all the folks at the firm have robust professional experience (at least compared to many junior analysts at other consulting firms). As such, there are more Principals at ghSMART than any other role.
Unlike many other consulting firms, ghSMART does not have a large group of junior employees who are recent college graduates and who function in analyst roles. Almost all its clients are very senior leaders, many of whom are public company CEOs. And ghSMART is often advising them on their specific leadership weaknesses and areas of opportunity! This would be a difficult task for a recent college graduate. The firm seems to focus on two types of new hires: consultants, who often hold the title of Principal and possess >10 years of experience advising senior business leaders, or researchers, who have a PhD in Psychology or a related discipline.
Post ghSMART exit opportunities are meaningful and can be quite varied. And we’re not the only ones who think so – ghSMART is ranked #5 on Vault’s 2021 list of Best Consulting Firms for Exit Opportunities. With many ghSMART employees coming from other top consulting firms, one of the primary ghSMART exit opportunities is pursuing work in the non-profit sector or at other high level consulting firms, like McKinsey, Deloitte, or Bain & Company. In addition, the in-depth knowledge and experience that you will gain in executive leadership, talent management and management assessments can lead to opportunities in upper-level management (usually HR) in any one of the companies or industries you’ve consulted. Other opportunities involve entrepreneurship, research, writing, and teaching leadership development.
Below is a short list of previous employees that can be identified as ghSMART Notable Alumni. You’ll notice that a career in human resources or talent management is a common theme. By reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of these former ghSMART employees, you can also gain knowledge about ghSMART exit opportunities, or what types of careers might open to you after working at ghSMART. Many former ghSMART employees start their own consulting companies or move into higher level leadership positions in the industry of their choice.
As a reflection of the ghSMART mission and values, ghSMART culture is known for its commitment to diversity, equity, and the well-being of its employees. ghSMART employees and executives also reinforce that the company works to maintain an environment that offers work/life balance and positive relationships between leadership and employees.
Aspects of the ghSMART culture that employees enjoy include paid vacation, a remote working environment, and multiple opportunities for upward mobility and career growth. ghSMART is also unique in that it is 100% employee owned, and all employees have the option to be compensated partly in stock, and then to buy and/or sell their shares. This creates a unique “we are in this together” environment that differentiates ghSMART from other consulting firms.
Some knowledge about the ghSMART culture is necessary for acing the ghSMART Interview. Since ghSMART is a consulting firm which specializes in leadership assessment, the interviews are extensive in their exploration of a prospective applicant’s personal and professional history. ghSMART interview questions work through a complete history of the applicant, from childhood to college and beyond.
Some examples of ghSMART interview questions can be found here: Mock Questions. In addition, the ghSMART website offers information on how to prepare for the ghSMART assessment. On the company website, it is suggested that ghSMART assessment preparation should include taking notes about your past professional experiences, roles, as well as noting key dates and names of people with whom you have worked.
ghSMART Interview Process
After making it through the initial ghSMART interview and working through the ghSMART assessment, prospective applicants move on to the next step of the process. Dr. Geoff Smart, the CEO and founder of ghSMART, is known for his research and writing on leadership assessment, hiring top employees, and the interview process.
Therefore, much of what you need to know about the ghSMART interview process can be found in “Who: A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. This book includes multiple conversations with business leaders and industry professionals on how to successfully hire and retain highly talented workers.
Due to its focus on hiring high quality employees, ghSMART utilizes the rigorous and extensive TopGrading method. Prospective ghSMART employees are taken through a series of screening interviews, the ghSMART Assessment, a case study, as well as reference interviews and peer interviews before being hired at the company.
More information about the ghSMART interview process and the utilization of the Topgrading method can be learned from ghSMART Principal Bruce Elder. Overall, ghSMART uses its interviews and case studies to assess both the emotional (EQ) and intellectual (IQ) intelligence of prospective applicants to find high performing team players.
ghSMART Assessment Questions
As part of the ghSMART interview process, potential candidates will not only go through multiple interviews, but also the SmartAssessment. Therefore, it is helpful to review the ghSMART assessment questions on the company website. Most ghSMART assessment questions focus on past professional experiences and how they have influenced your personal growth and development across roles.
It’s helpful for prospective ghSMART applicants to create a timeline of their employment history with key roles, relationships, and lessons learned. The SmartAssessment questions are extensive, and this segment of the ghSMART interview process can last anywhere from four to five hours. It will also be helpful to practice your talking points with a friend or expert coach.
According to Glassdoor, the average ghSMART salary for Principals “can range from $163,233 to $280,361”. The average ghSMART salary for the role of Consultant has a similar six figure range. In addition to the ghSMART salary, employees are eligible for bonuses and commission pay based on performance.
Check out our salary guide to compare the ghSMART salary to many other consulting firms.
Unlike other major consulting firms, ghSMART focuses less on targeting undergraduates to find potential employees and more on recruiting individuals with post-graduate education and professional or research experience, such as PhD’s, MBAs, and MAs. Therefore, students and professionals that are interested in ghSMART should focus on pursuing post-secondary education opportunities which are relevant to leadership strategy and assessment, such as graduate level training or research in business, finance, and the social sciences.
As a company which is committed to racial equity and diversity, ghSMART has chosen to recruit, train, and hire an increasing number of leaders of color. The main goal of existing ghSMART diversity programs is supporting and enacting anti-racist methods and cultural norms within the workplace and the consulting industry. And, while ghSMART doesn’t offer diversity programs targeted to students, undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing a ghSMART career will still find it useful to take part in a summer internship or diversity program at another consulting firm to boost their resume.
ghSMART is one of only a few top management consulting companies with a clear focus on executive leadership and talent strategy. With teams of employees across the US and the UK trained in psychological and intellectual assessment, ghSMART offers multiple career paths and opportunities to work with a diverse team of leadership experts. Students and professionals interested in pursuing one of the many available ghSMART careers should also note that the annual average ghSMART salary is competitive within the market and offers many fringe benefits and bonuses, including partial firm ownership.
For those pursuing a career path at ghSMART consulting, there are several steps required to make it through the ghSMART interview process. This includes interviews that feature unique ghSMART assessment questions, case studies, references, and the SmartAssessment. Any experienced consulting professional or academic with an interest in leadership, talent development or management consulting would do well to consider ghSMART careers relative to other options in more traditional, broad-based management consulting environments.
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