Advice on office selection for consulting firms

I have been hearing and reading many misconceptions about office selection for consulting offices and I know a lot of you are applying or deciding right now, so I wanted to share the perspective I've developed.

I will focus this post primarily on MBB offices in the US since that is where my experience lies, but I am guessing that the same insights apply to Tier 2 firms.

It's important to note that your office location does matter. However, this is not about prestige as some on this site like to suggest. Rather, it is about what your experience will be like at the firm you're at.

If you really care about prestige, the major offices for any firm are New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Sometimes Boston gets thrown in the mix, so I'll mention that here for impartiality. These are all flagship/major offices for all of MBB and probably every other global consulting firm as well. Between these three, you've checked off the prestige box enough that it doesn't matter which one you specifically go to. Other offices like Los Angeles, Seattle, etc., while perhaps slightly less competitive, are also very well-regarded.

Regional offices like Atlanta/Dallas/Houston/etc. are a bit less prestigious for those who care. The reason I'm writing this post though is that it doesn't really matter that these are slightly less prestigious to college kids. These offices are likely to attract some more semi-target/non-target people, but that won't affect your experience, unless it's somehow creating a culture that you dislike. The same exact exit opportunities will be available to you if you are not performing below the rest of your AC/A/BA class. Plenty of top applicants from HYPS end up at these offices to stay close to family or because these offices have the work they enjoyed. This type of reasoning is why the office you work doesn't impact your exit opportunities, regardless of where you went to school. Different offices do different work and there's plenty of reasons to have picked a certain location. I say this despite my own experience with MBB San Francisco. 

Given that the opportunities at the offices are the same, you should pick your location based on the type of work you want to do and where you would like to be living. If you really want to work in energy, go to your firm's Dallas office, for example. Based on your firm, you can also have some flexibility with this. Bain staffs the most locally through a home office model that allows you to build camaraderie with those on your team, while McKinsey offers you the flexibility to work across the country regardless of home office. BCG offers some benefits from both models, which creates both camaraderie but also offers quite a bit of flexibility. With the latter two firms, your office selection does matter slightly less. That said, if your school only recruits into one office for a firm, you likely have less flexibility with choosing here. 

TLDR: Office choice does matter, but not because of prestige.

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Comments (16)

  • Prospect in Consulting
Nov 1, 2020 - 1:07pm

Might be less competitive with respect to other offices, but a partner that leads recruiting at a southern MBB office during a sell weekend referenced the acceptance rate this cycle for that office was 0.7%.

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  • Consultant in Consulting
Nov 12, 2020 - 9:59am

I largely agree but will caveat your post by saying that McKinsey's global staffing model makes office choice less important from a purely project selection standpoint. Even if you're in Atlanta, you could end up on a project in Dubai with a Partner from Amsterdam, and Juniors from Singapore. BCG and Bain have a more regional/hybrid model so it matters more in that case. That's why a fair amount of French people that don't get into McKinsey Paris aim for Casablanca and then transfer internally.

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Nov 12, 2020 - 10:39am

Yeah I agree you get a lot of the same types of opportunities, which is why even if New York, San Francisco, and Chicago are more "prestigious" larger offices, that's not a huge factor to focus on because it doesn't have an incredibly tangible impact on your experience at McKinsey or exits.

  • Consultant in Consulting
Nov 12, 2020 - 5:43pm

Sometimes Boston gets thrown in the mix, so I'll mention that here for impartiality.

This is misleading for Bain and BCG, given they literally have their HQ's in Boston. The Boston office isn't one that is thrown in the mix only "sometimes" - contrary to your claim of "impartiality", it's one of the most competitive offices for those two firms. Moreover, I've never once heard that it's considered less prestigious than Chicago - maybe NY or SF

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Nov 12, 2020 - 7:04pm

I work in SF so I'm pretty impartial here. I do think competitiveness is driven more by demand for living in the city than it is by where the HQ of an office is. For example, the Spotify HQ is in Sweden or something but obviously NYC is its main office for demand.

Chicago (universally acknowledged as a top office as well) and Boston (also a top office) are comparable to NY and SF for prestige and opportunities in my experience and my friends' experience at other MBB offices. It's more of a threshold you need to reach to be considered a "top office" rather than some ranking of prestige even among top offices. It seems like you missed the true point of my post here though, which was to say that these labels don't really matter and you shouldn't pick based on that alone. 

  • Summer Associate in Consulting
Sep 15, 2021 - 11:32pm

Exactly my thought. I know first hand that Boston is a huge client hub for both Bain and BCG and both sell a crazy amount of work. I know second hand from someone in recruiting that the acceptance % for Boston is only second to NYC for one of Bain/BCG where I work. 

Nov 12, 2020 - 10:08pm

Be careful trying to apply for "easier" smaller office to break in for full time - oftentimes these offices fill up all or most of their entry level hires from their intern classes so you will just shoot yourself in the foot and not even get an interview.

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Nov 21, 2020 - 12:57pm

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