Consultants provide expert advice, insight and solutions for businesses. Consultancy covers a range of concerns and can include Management Consultancy, Strategy, Economic and Sustainability. Consultants are required to drive a business forward - with fresh eyes and a ruthless approach, they are essential to getting the best out of a company.
Graduates interested in pursuing a career in Consultancy may want to consider applying with one of the major global Consultancy firms like PwC, Deloitte, Capgemini or CGI. Most of these companies will have a specialised area of interest, with a specific graduate scheme to match. Applicants accepted onto these schemes can expect to receive excellent training in a certain area.
Management Consultancy is one of the main career paths for graduates considering Consultancy, and it is a broad field. Management Consultants are responsible for finding and addressing reasons why a business may not be growing, and making suggestions and changes to remedy the issue. The role usually involves reviewing businesses, practices, functions, processes, staffing and the whole operation in general.
How to get a job in Consultancy
Consultants are often outsourced to companies to help implement changes which will make the business more productive and cost effective. Graduates considering Consultancy as a career must be sharp, intelligent and innovative thinkers capable of transforming a business or coming up with solutions. Consultants have to be team players, as they often work on projects with other Consultants, and must be hard working and prepared to travel.
Candidates should display the following:
Consultancy is a lucrative field, and therefore very competitive. Consultants need to be switched on and aware, with the ability to comprehend a business or issue quickly. Candidates need to prove themselves to be sharp and intelligent individuals.
Applicants should have a 2:1, as well as outstanding A Level results. Some areas of Consultancy will also require a related degree such as Economics, Business or Management, with specialised areas such as IT Consultancy often preferring candidates to have a specialised degree, such as computing.
Ability to work as a team
Team work is essential to success in Consultancy. Candidates can show evidence of team working skills in a variety of ways, ranging from highlighting team sports to degree projects that required working in groups.
Graduates shouldn't worry about overselling their accomplishments. Employers are often impressed by sporting achievements, especially if an applicant can demonstrate that they gained skills such as delegation, cooperation, compromise and the ability to listen, evaluate and make a decision for a group.
Drive and flexibility
Consultancy requires results, so candidates must have the drive to achieve and the ability to think on their feet. Employers will want to see evidence of times when a candidate has had to push themselves to achieve a target or goal.
A key part to any role in Consultancy is being able to understand what will make a company viable for commercial success. Commercial Awareness is vital in this capacity.
Confidence and an analytical mind
It is not enough to just understand what makes a company successful, Consultants must be able to devise and implement changes which will drive a business towards greater profits. This is done through analysis of company procedure, expenditure and staff roles. An ability to think analytically is fundamental for any applicant, as is the confidence to address a system and improve upon it.
Excellent numeracy skills
Many fields in Consultancy require excellent Maths skills, including Finance, Banking, Economic, Insurance and Risk.
Graduates must display a proficiency in writing reports, analysing data and comprehending financial complications, and should have decent maths qualifications as well as some experience in financial management.
Ability to build and foster relationships
Consultancy involves working with clients for extended periods of time and establishing long term relationships. For that reason, communication and people skills are fundamental to success in Consultancy. Candidates must demonstrate an ability to build rapport and the confidence to take charge.
Consultancy Case Studies
…the key thing is trying to make a business more effective. Whether it's trying to solve the issues and challenges or helping them identify what the problems are and providing them with solutions…
The Employer - Anthony Takyi (Student Recruitment Manager - PwC)
Name: Anthony Takyi
Job Title: Student Recruitment Manager - PwC
University: Aston University
Course: Managerial and Strategy studies
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
We have a list of ten core competencies for any candidate that applies to PwC. They are quite similar to anything you'd see at a large employer, things such as team working skills, drive, determination, developing each other through coaching and focusing on client service.
In particular to Consulting there are a few that really stick out. Firstly, it is about commercial awareness, what's going on in the business world, thinking of a story that interests you and thinking about how other consultancies apply to your organisation. It's also worth thinking in the shoes of clients and consultants, what kind of service do you offer, how will you offer a valuable service to that organisation.
Another thing is to work in is high performing teams, really think about your team working skills. Especially how you work with others who might be from different backgrounds, thinking about different situations you have found yourselves in and how you've adjusted your communication stance.
One last thing to think about is being personable in an interview scenario. I know lots of people like to prepare heavily but that can sometimes come across as over-rehearsed. This is something they should stay away from and make sure they have that level of engagement and vigour in the way questions are answered. There's also that passion for Consulting, why you want to come work in the industry and the employer you've chosen. One of the things we include is a motivational question, finding out why you want to go into Consulting and what you know about Consulting and consulting at PwC.
Can you talk us through the application process?
The first stage of the application process is an online application. This is a basic application form; including education, background, work experience history and on there is a box where you can enter some additional information. It's always good to use that box add something, say it is different societies or you've been to open evenings and insight days. There are a couple of online psychometric tests, which we ask candidates to complete. Numerical reasoning and problem solving tests, for some there will be a verbal reasoning test involved. Also there is a short personality questionnaire.
Then there is an interview with the recruitment team over the phone, which lasts around 45 minutes and with competency based questions. From that there is an assessment day based at a PwC office with paper versions of numerical reasoning tests, problem solving tests, a short report writing exercise and a group exercise. The final stage of the process is an interview with a senior member of the consulting team.
For Strategy Consulting, during the online stage you will be asked to submit a CV and covering letter. In that covering letter you really need to think about why you're interested in strategy consulting and why at PwC.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?
In each of the processes there are certain things that stand out. In the most initial stage of the process, on the online tests, it is knowing you have a Maths A level, and thinking you'll ace the psychometric testing and not putting in the preparation for it.
When it comes to the interview stage it is about thinking about each question and what they are trying to get out of you. For instance, one of our competencies is about leading towards a company's success. Lots of people hear the word lead and then give answers about leading teams not giving insight into how they've gone about supporting a team or working as a highly effective team.
Another thing is not doing enough research about the company itself. They need to scratch beneath what they see on graduate recruitment websites. For instance, delving into what kind of Consultancy work the company does. They can come across thought leadership papers written by the firm. They need to get an idea of where the firm is going and work that has been conducted.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the sector?
Conduct some research and understand what Consultancy is about. Lots of people have a preconceived notion of what it is about, when the reality can be quite different at times. Read as much you can, try and attend insight events, speak to people at careers fairs and try to gain as much knowledge as you can. At PwC there is the opportunity to speak to recruiters online and they then can get a first-hand view of what it is like. Also at each stage of the process candidates should be aware and prepared for the exercises.
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
Once they come into PwC they have quite a long induction, around eight weeks. So by the time they get round to the job, they've had quite a lot of training and should feel comfortable moving into that Consultancy sector. This is with support from mentors, buddies and coaches. The main challenge then is working in the team not thinking these people know more than me, it's a fresh pair of eyes on any problem. Having the confidence to air your thoughts and then finding a different direction in terms of adding value to a client.
The Employee - Jer Lau (Associate Management Consultant - PwC)
Name: Jer Lau
Job Title: Associate Management Consultant - PwC
University: Monash University, Australia
Course: Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Business information Systems
Graduation Year: 2011
How did you find your graduate job in Consultancy?
I applied from Australia so it was a little bit harder for me. Being so far away was logistically quite difficult for things like the phone interview, technical difficulties more than anything else. I had to really prepare for my interviews because I didn't live in London or the UK so basic commercial awareness of what was going on in the market had to be prepared for.
For this preparation I looked at their website, found out what the company was looking for and made sure that I could draw on all my experiences and activities that I'd been involved in, whether it was a part time job or university clubs that I was involved in.
Why do you think you were successful at PwC?
My biggest advantage that I had was my application was a bit unique. My degree in the UK was quite different. In addition to that, I didn't do a summer internship at a big corporate company or even have corporate experience. I did do two months in a procurement company in a Marketing Coordinating role.
However, it was definitely my other extracurricular activities outside university that made me a strong candidate. I was founder of the IT society of the university called Wired at Monash and worked part time over the summer at Calvin Klein Jeans for six and a half years in different areas of the business. So developing those experiences outside of the classroom gave me a lot to talk about in the interview.
What sometimes people forget is that it is not about having corporate experience other soft skills can develop through working in a café or in a call centre. It was just being a bit different and unique that made me successful.
What do you actually do?
Management Consulting is quite a dynamic environment. It's hard say what I do on a day to day basis because it is always changing. What the key thing is when you're on a project, whether it is internal or external project is definitely to trying to make a business more efficient and more effective. Whether it is trying to solve the issues and challenges that the business is facing, or helping them identify what the problems are and providing them with solutions and recommendations. You do often get a chance to help a client implement those recommendations so you do get the chance to work with the client closely on a day to day basis.
What skills do you need?
Part of being a Consultant is being able to review and assess a client's business. This can be to read the people in their environment. A lot of technical skills, at our grade, aren't the biggest thing you need to do your job at the moment. A lot of it is about the softer skills, talking to clients, engaging with clients and listening to what their problems are and capturing that. At this stage it is about being more of a listener then you can apply the technical skills to that.
What is the best thing about your job?
I've moved a 24 hour flight away from home. What I mean by that is I like change. I do like that part of my job is always having to meet new people, meet new challenges and deal with that on-going change. You do sometimes get put on longer term projects. At the same time when you do go to a new client you do have to adapt your own style of working. There is a big people part too, you're not sat at a desk nine to five, you're out there meeting people.
And what is the worst thing about your job?
Initially I found it challenging when I realised how quickly I had to adapt. I don't want to contradict myself, when I said I liked change, but it's something you have to get used to. The worst thing about the job is sometimes you go through peaks and troughs. You do have to do your long hours.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I think I will still be consulting, perhaps going out into the industry, but at the moment I am happy consulting with PwC indefinitely. I think it is a great company to work for in terms of opportunities overseas.
Something in my ten year plan is to do a secondment. It could be going to a developing countries, maybe in South America, or go back to Australia.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to PwC?
Definitely prepare for the application process. There is lots of information on the PwC website. Also, there is lots of information out there on how you can draw on your experiences. Which leads to my second piece of advice, don't ignore any of your experiences. I have worked in a number of part time jobs while at school and university, when someone has been travelling, all these things can help someone become a stronger candidate.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with PwC, please take a look at their minisite.