Contrary to popular belief, most management consulting firms do not recruit candidates who have prior work experience in the consulting field. Rather, consulting firms seek out candidates who demonstrate skill sets that will enable these individuals to be molded into strong consultants. These skill sets consist of a few key qualities that the recruiting process hopes to identify:
Business sense and the ability to solve problems analytically
The ability to evaluate a complex business problem, deconstruct it into distinct primary and secondary components, and infer the direct and indirect relationships between those factors.
Working in front of senior management, and as part of a team,is a matter of routine in the consulting field. For this reason, firms look for applicants who possess the ability to communicate effectively, delegate responsibility, and lead large teams and projects under constrained timelines. In order to effectively accomplish this, one must have an attitude that includes taking on ownership and accountability, resolve for participating in difficult dilemmas, and sense of calm and collectiveness under high stress situations such as answering tough client questions.
Consulting is the ultimate team based profession. In addition to working with your peers, you must be able to effectively navigate and work with large organizations whose members often have competing and conflicting agendas. Moreover, 95% of your workday will be spent with at least one or all of these individuals, day in and day out. Therefore, consulting firms are looking for individuals willing to go the extra mile, work well under pressure, and are generally speaking enjoyable to be around.
Due to each project’s different components and varying nature, consulting requires strong interpersonal communication skills. Firms look for applicants who possess energetic and inspiring characters, a love for working with people, and a strong ability to form interpersonal connections. The common test among American consulting firms is the “airport test”: Would I be comfortable being “stuck” with the applicant for six hours in an airport? In other words, would I be fine grabbing a beer and chatting about life, family, etc for 6 hours? If the answer is yes, the applicant has passed the “fit” stage.