Why Consulting - Answering the Interview Question
Why go into consulting instead of the clearly superior investment banking?
Don't you travel an ungodly amount in consulting?
Bankers make way more money.
Aren't consulting exit opps roughly equal to those of a retail cashier?
Consulting tends to be an afterthought when people are considering a career, simply because it's not banking, but the reality is that consulting is a very solid career choice. Yes, you travel a lot. No, you don't make as much as investment bankers. But you have to ask yourself: are those two factors enough to turn you away from consulting at first glance? They shouldn't be, considering the factors that make consulting appealing: fewer hours, travel (it can be a benefit, especially to recent grads), sponsored MBA, tremendous exit opportunities, solid compensation, and more.
By the end of this page, you'll know whether consulting is for you or not.
Why Consulting - Interview Question
Before we get into consulting as a career choice, we need to indulge those of you who came here looking for an answer to the interview question, "Why consulting?".
First, what not to say in response:
- A desire to travel
- Good exit opportunities
None of the above give the interviewer any substantive reason to hire you. You need to speak to the specific functions of the job and tie that into your strengths. A particularly good answer will show your passion for consulting while tying it into your own story. Here are some good reasons to mention:
- You embrace responsibility and the chance to work with senior clients. You view it as an excellent learning opportunity.
- You enjoy seeing how businesses work and solving complex problems within organizations.
- You want to utilize your analytical skills in the business environment.
Again, you want to tie this into your story. How did you discover you wanted to pursue consulting? Did it happen in class, did a friend introduce you to it, or did you learn about it on a job shadow? Make it clear and cohesive. If you end up rambling you'll only lose points with the interviewer.
Travel in Consulting
Frequently cited as the biggest reason to avoid consulting, the travel in consulting might not be as bad as the world makes it out to be. Put yourself in the shoes of a recent college grad. Would you rather be (1) stuck in an office for 14 hours a day and 6 days a week or (2) traveling and working with senior clients on improving their business? Unless you have some major commitments, scenario two probably sounds far more appealing. Yet, so many people opt for investment banking (scenario 1) because they despise the idea of frequently traveling for consulting.
Different Types of Consulting
First things first, we need to clarify the different types of consultants. We hear all these labels being thrown around - management, IT, strategy, operations - but what do they really mean? Are there separate consulting roles defined by these labels?
Understand that consulting has become so diversified that the paradigm has shifted. It's less about management consulting compared to other types, and more about what exact type of consulting one does. Typical consulting roles are: strategy, HR, IT, operations, M&A, etc. While management consultants exist - the only "true" management consulting positions exist at MBB (McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting Group) - these positions are mostly classified as strategy consultants.
So, management (strategy) consulting positions only exist at MBB. What are the differences between these roles and roles like HR, operations, economics, and more? That question is of major significance, but it can be answered by looking at the spectrum we mentioned before. Strategy consultants fall on the management side of things, whereas everything else is more technical.
The better question is what's the difference between MBB and the rest of consulting?
For exit opportunities, MBB and tier two consulting firms have the same general exit opps. It's just much easier to find your footing as a competitive candidate with an MBB on your resume. Here are the most common exit opps @Christie Lindor" found when analyzing where her fellow consultants were going.
- Entrepreneurship (37.5%): Starting one's own business/becoming a freelance consultant.
- Graduate Studies (20%): Typically but not limited to business school.
- Lateral into Boutique Firm (15%): Move into a leadership position at a boutique consulting firm. These firms involve significantly less travel.
- Industry (27.5%):
They were all in either mid-management or executive leadership roles in 3 key industry sectors: 3 are in tech companies like Google or Amazon, 4 are employed at a large financial services firm like Goldman Sachs, and 4 colleagues have decided to go into non-profit/social enterprise work.
One particularly popular choice is moving into senior analyst/manager roles at F500 companies, especially from MBB. You can also transition into venture capital, private equity, or banking. The point is, there are plenty of exit opportunities available to consultants. The above four are simply some of the more common routes among consultants.
In general, exit opps for any consulting gig are going to be pretty solid because of the skill set you develop and the network you build with clients and coworkers.
Time to talk about what everyone really cares about: compensation. No, consultants do not make as much as investment bankers. MBB tends to pay around $90-100k, while the average at other firms is anywhere from $60-100k. As you might have noticed, pay varies a ton outside of MBB.
Potential consultants shouldn't look at all-in compensation comparatively and feel discouraged. Certain consulting firms (MBB among them) will pay for a part of your MBA if you return upon getting it. These offers typically involve a contractual commitment to work there for at least two years. In addition to the typical contractual agreement, there are other factors to consider when factoring this into your compensation.
Different firms may offer different deals depending on the situation. These are just some of the general factors that go into those deals.
MBB carries a prestige that other consulting firms lack. These three firms consistently feed their analysts into top business schools, management positions at F500 companies, and more.
That said, MBB aren't the only consulting firms with a degree of prestige. Plenty of tier two firms like Accenture, Booz Allen, and Deloitte will garner respect on your resume and make you a competitive candidate for business schools.
What Do Consultants Do?
There is no universal day-to-day for consultants because their days vary so much. That's a part of what makes consulting so appealing to many, the variability in day-to-day functions. As has been discussed before, a typical consultant's week consists of travel on Monday and Friday and work in between. Here's what a typical week looks like for a consultant who travels often, courtesy of @cvsdjs".
Mondays are obviously rough due to early morning travel. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are longer hours. Thursday flights home are around 5 pm, but you usually have work to do on the plane. Fridays are easy. Consulting firms have a lot of networking events and training, and you usually only have a few client-related calls. I rarely work on a weekend, but if I do, it's because I need to get something done for a Monday morning meeting. The travel takes a toll on some, while others really love it. I don't mind it, as I find it's actually sometimes more difficult to work on a local project in NYC (where I live) because it's difficult to balance personal life and work throughout the week, whereas when I travel, I get stuff done Mon-Thurs without distractions and then I get to enjoy Fri-Sun. Projects are typically pretty interesting, though you do have a few brutally lame projects along the way.
Of course, not every consultant is going to be traveling on a weekly basis. But most junior-level employees will be traveling quite often; that's how it gets its reputation.
Consultants help businesses solve their problems. Different types of consultants specialize in different types of businesses/problems, and then there's the management consultant who helps with strategy.
Is Consulting for You?
Now you know about the culture, hours, compensation, exit opps, etc. of consulting. You know what consultants do, and you know a little bit about their various roles, particularly on the junior level. But how do you know you'd enjoy the job? Here are some indications that consulting might be a good career fit, at least out of undergrad, for you.
- You enjoy collaboration.
- You want the prestige and career versatility that investment banking grants without the cons.
- You enjoy traveling.
- You want a career that blends analysis and communication.
- You're unsure/don't want to pigeonhole yourself.
If you enjoy being and working with people, then consulting just might be your cup of tea. As a consultant, you'll be working with your fellow consultants and senior clients on improving their business.
Maybe everything about investment banking appeals to you. It comes with undeniably great career versatility, but it comes at a cost. Notably, brutal hours and mundane work are two of the biggest turnoffs of investment banking. Consulting provides an alternative and avoids both of those cons. It has rough hours, but it's not nearly as bad as investment banking and it's work is much less monotonous.
This one is quite obvious but think about the last time you first walked in a new city. Even walking in a new city can be an awe-inspiring and surreal experience. If you feel this way, then what better job than consulting? Of course, you tend to get desensitized to the wonders of a modern city, but the joys of traveling and visiting new places are worth considering.
Don't be mistaken, for most, the traveling aspect of consulting loses its appeal very quickly and becomes arguably the worst aspect of the job. But certain personalities feel deeply satisfied when visiting new cities and towns. If you're one of those individuals, consulting could be the perfect fit for you.
Really, this applies to a lot of careers - investment banking is one of them - but it's just another way to identify if consulting is a proper fit for you. Consulting is a field hinged on both of these abilities.
Few people actually know what they want to do leaving college, and even fewer actually pursue what they focused on as a career. One of the many things that make consulting so great is that it offers a wide arrangement of career choices upon leaving. It's truly the perfect job for those who aren't entirely sure what they want to pursue. Few jobs offer as much versatility as consulting do once you've worked in the industry.
Interested in Consulting - Breaking In
Consulting is one of the most exclusive industries in the world, particularly management consulting. It's one of the best career choices for building a lucrative career because of the versatility it offers. But the simplest of mistakes during the interview will get you dinged; that's how competitive these positions are. Less than 1% of applicants get a top consulting job, which is why preparation is absolutely critical. The WSO Consulting Case Interview Guide is the only crowdsourced guide available, perfected by countless professionals to give you the edge you need.