How To Intern At A Top Management Consulting Firm

Being selected for a management consulting internship is the most effective way to break into the management consulting field at the top-tier firms. Top consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, and AT Kearney have the common practice of hiring most of their interns as full-time consultants. Internships are a great way for you and the firm to make sure the fit is right. As an intern you will be working with consultants on cases and will know if the company culture, workload, and various commitments are right for you – all without having to make a long-term career commitment.

Management consulting firms hire interns at the end of their junior year or at the halfway point of their graduate program. The top firms, such as BCG and Booz actively recruit at the top universities and colleges by working closely with the institution’s career services office. Pay careful attention to the management consulting firm recruiting schedule and know when they plan to be on your campus; they rarely hire for internships at other times of year. In other words, when they come into town, this is your best opportunity. Most firms make their campus visits in the fall and winter. Most hiring that goes on during the rest of the year is for mid-career professionals changing careers or jobs.

The firm will arrive on your campus and conduct some informational sessions talking about the company, the internship process, and what it’s like working as a consultant. After that, interviews will be set up for students who are interested. The interview process will be highly challenging in order for the management consulting firm to see how you stand up under pressure against other equally qualified candidates.

Be prepared to flex your problem-solving, business, and analytical skills during the interview. In addition, you need to substantiate claims that you have the characteristics the firm seeks in its candidates. That’s not to say you should act like some consulting robot, but you will want to do some research on the management consulting company’s website to see what characteristics they look for. For example, McKinsey looks for consultants that excel in the four main areas of problem solving, achievement, relationship building, and leadership. It will be important for you to show the interviewer how you have exhibited those qualities with concrete examples rather than telling them.

The interviewers use the case study method during the interviews, which requires you to think quickly on your feet to come up with plausible solutions using analytical thinking. To do your best in the interview practice analyzing case studies from business textbooks as well as publications like the Wall Street Journal. The top management consulting firms have sections on their websites with sample case studies you can study as well.

Even without top-tier university credentials, you can differentiate yourself and earn an internship spot with a leading consulting firm – just be prepared to work harder to get your name out there. Be proactive in calling your target consulting firms to find out where their regional recruiting events are taking place and plan on attending. Since you do not have the pedigree of a top-tier or Ivy League institution you will have to stand out among your educational peers in terms of coursework, grades, and leadership. You need to leverage all of the opportunities your school offers by networking with business professors and alumni who work at some of these firms.

An internship at a management consulting firm can certainly set you off on a great career path. The business training, networking, and additional skill set you pick will last a lifetime. Good luck!