A management consulting internship is a foot in the door to a full-time consulting career and also an excellent way for you and the hiring firm to assess whether you fit in with the firms culture. Top-tier firms, like Bain, McKinsey, and AT Kearney, are well-known for grooming their interns for future career management positions. Internships offer the ideal opportunity for working side by side with full-time consultants on real cases while becoming accustomed to the company culture, workload and the level of dedication required without having to commit in the long term.
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 institutions career services office. You must be actively engaged in knowing the dates when management consulting firms are going to be on your campus because they rarely do any off-cycle hiring. In other words, seize the opportunity to meet them when they come into town. 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 consulting firm conducts informational sessions on campus and talks about the firm, the internship process and describes the work of being a consultant. After that, interviews will be set up for students who are interested. The interview process is difficult because it gives the management consulting firm the opportunity to vet through potential 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. Thats not to say you should act like some consulting robot, but you will want to do some research on the management consulting companys 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!
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