Fast-paced, demanding hours, constant travel, challenging clients, good pay, stimulating environment, intense teamwork. These words describe the corporate culture of consulting. If that intrigues you, read on.
Competition for a spot at a top consulting firm is fierce; only a small percentage of those trying out will succeed in landing an entry-level position. Williams students, however, have done better than average in securing positions in these industries. It demands a stellar academic record, serious preparation, and extreme poise during the interview process.
Employers often begin recruiting for consulting internships and full-time positions very early in the fall but we encourage you to start early. Preparing for the consulting interview process is labor-intensive and takes time and practice.
- Read the Vault Guide to Consulting. (Vault Guides can be downloaded at no cost through this Williams specific link.)
- Attend on-campus employer information sessions. Be sure to watch Handshake for notifications about events and star your target consulting firms to get push notifications about them.
- Try your hand at some cases or watch them online:
- Get involved on campus! Kinetic, the Consulting Club, or Alhambra all off you a chance to try your hand at consulting and gain experience that you can put on your resume.
- Attend Career Center sponsored events such as the Consulting Career Trek or Case Interview Workshops offered by employers.
- Conduct informational interviews with young alumni who work in the field or students who have had summer internships. Connect with them through EphLink, the Williams LinkedIn page, and the Alumni Directory.
Sophomore year: Sophomore year internships in consulting are an option, although they are competitive and can be challenging to find. It's a good idea broaden your search to include internships in other industries that have a similar skill set and can be stepping stone positions for future internships.
Junior year: Apply for internships. Many companies make full-time offers to their summer interns so it could turn out to be your job search. Internships in consulting are highly competitive, don’t panic if an offer doesn’t come your way. Consulting firms fill a good amount of their full-time positions in late summer and fall of senior year.
Senior year: Attend on-campus information sessions sponsored by the Career Center, network, and apply for full-time positions.
ADVICE FROM EPHS:
“If you want to go abroad in the fall, go abroad. Whatever (slight) disadvantage you’ll have is completely surmountable by hard work and a bit of extra networking. Don’t miss out on a once in a lifetime experience just to get a job!” - Ben ‘19
“An internship or job in anything which has similar skills to consulting (e.g data analytics, presentation, problem-solving, client relations) will look very good on a future application. This does not even necessarily mean a business job. So long as you can show that you have developed transferable skills, I would say that anything is fair game.” - Prem ‘19
A TYPICAL RECRUITING CYCLE
Spring and Early Summer:
- Think about how to position yourself. If you’re a STEM major, focus on showing more soft skills. If you’re a Div 1 major, think about how to showcase data analysis and math. In general, focus on highlighting leadership.
- Attend employer information sessions or employer workshops sponsored by the Career Center.
- Work with the Career Center to polish your resume and cover letters.
- Begin informational phone calls to learn as much as you can about the company, the position, and what they are looking for in a candidate, etc. so that you can write the strongest application materials. The side benefit is that you will stand out as a candidate who takes initiative.
- Use EphLink, Linkedin.com/alumni, and the Alumni Database and speak with junior consultants to get a sense of what the firm is like in a lower-pressure phone call.
- Prepare for case interviews and prep for behavioral interview questions.
- Practice case interviews, first with your fellow students and then with alumni in the industry. EphLink is a fantastic tool to connect with alumni for mock case interviews.
Fall (September & October):
- Attend the Williams Job & Internship Fair, employer information sessions and coffee chats
- Submit applications
- First-round interviews (most likely on campus or by phone): typically two cases and a short fit interview
- Second round interview (at your preferred office or in Boston): typically two or three more challenging cases and a longer fit interview
Management consulting tackles problems faced by heads of companies. Questions might include “How do I deal with declining market share?” or “How should I manage operations in my organization?”
Strategy consulting is a subset of management consulting that deals more with high-level strategy as opposed to operations or implementation. It focuses on questions such as “Why did the company’s profits dip this year?” or “Would it make sense to acquire our competitor?”
Staffing models make a big impact on culture and help differentiate between management or strategy consulting firms. Some firms will be network-based, in this instance, you have to network with more senior consultants to be assigned to a case. Other firms are systematic, meaning that you have a person dedicated to staffing up cases who will meet with each consultant to discuss preferences before assigning them a case. Consulting projects are a team effort and how those teams are structured varies by firm or project. Global or national teams are made of members from different offices anywhere in the world, although most teams are grouped continentally (a U.S. or Canadian case will have mostly U.S. or Canadian based consultants). Regional or local teams are made of consultants based in the same region and will mostly work on cases in that region. Home staffing will create teams made of members from the same office, but the case could be based anywhere in the country.
Economic consulting firms advise corporations and government organizations regarding the intersection of business, economics, and law.
- Economic Consulting Careers, American Economics Association
- Top Economic Consulting Firms, Vault.com
- 19 Economic Consulting Interview Questions, Vault.com
Nonprofit consulting firms advise clients on fund development (fundraising and funding alternatives), governance, and strategic planning.
“Make sure to personalize email messages. Alumni and firm contacts will be much more likely to respond to you and take interest in your success if you make a case why they, specifically, would be helpful to you.” - Ben ‘19
“Have a script of sorts to follow for each phone call (a short intro of who you are/why you’re calling, questions to ask), and take notes.” - Caleigh ‘19
“I sent handwritten thank-you notes after each phone call. Someone who spoke at an info session remembered me because of it and thanked me for the gesture. It’s a small way to make yourself stand out. Be sure to send an email thank-you note after an interview, though, as decisions are usually made the same day as or a day after the interview takes place” - Caleigh ‘19
“The end of an information session can be very daunting as everyone rushes to the front to try and get a good word in. I would not worry about trying to stand out because frankly, the presenters are unlikely to remember any individual. I found it far easier to build a connection with people at the firm over the phone or at smaller events such as coffee chats. Remember: the purpose of the session is to learn about the company, see if it’s a good fit for you, and get the contact information of people at the firm. If you can satisfy at least one of those three criteria then it has been a success.” - Prem ‘19
- Case in Point
- Case Questions Interactive - an online practice program created by the author of Case in Point. Be sure to check out the videos and the section for practicing consulting math! Williams Password: CaseQuestions40
- CaseInterview.com - A former McKinsey consultant provides tips on preparing for the interview. This site has many free resources and his book, Case Interview Secrets, is also for sale on Amazon.
- Bain & Company Online Practice Cases - in addition to case interview case interviews prep information, including videos.
- Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Interactive Case Prep
- McKinsey Interactive Case Questions
- PrepLounge: A case interview community where candidates with similar career goals can get connected, practice cases and sharpen their consulting skills. There are many free resources on this page.
ADVICE FROM EPHS:
“I started reading Case in Point In the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years. No need to cram. Just work on a case or so per week. I primarily used Case in Point to study, but relying on it alone will pretty much guarantee that your responses will be formulaic. Before and during the interview process, keep up with the business world so that you can contextualize the concepts and lingo you learn from CIP and learn when the CIP frameworks don’t make sense. I would listen to the Harvard Business Review podcast and read WSJ.” - Ben ‘19
“I think Case in Point is a nice introduction case organization and understanding general structures, but I found Case Questions Interactive to be especially helpful.” - Bea ‘19
“For practicing cases, I found Case in Point to be a resource everyone should check out, but also one that overcomplicates the process. What helped me more than all of its frameworks was a Wharton guide that explained cases much more simply. Basically, to begin a case, listen to the question and then choose 3 - 5 categories to investigate. Then, work through your categories in reasonable order by asking questions about them to gather information. Eventually, you will be able to bring together the pieces of evidence you've gathered to have a sense of how to solve the problem. Beyond that, its mostly a matter of learning through practice which categories are relevant to the question (customers? revenue? competition?) and what questions to ask (what demographics do we target? does the company have other revenue streams?). Case in Point then becomes helpful for this step--understanding the language you can use and building your "arsenal" of questions and categories.” Marcone ‘19
“Case guides are undoubtedly helpful and should provide the starting point for anyone on the consulting grind. However, do not simply read and hope to digest the material. The case interview is not a standardized test. The most important part of preparation is practicing cases and fit questions with friends and family. Find a buddy and run cases with each other on a regular basis. I found that playing the role of the interviewer who gives the questions and critiques the interviewee is extremely valuable. In fact, I would argue that playing the interviewer taught me more about how to perform well in a case than playing the interviewee.” - Prem ‘19
“I think one of the best ways to practice is by reading the prompt of a case and just setting up the framework when you are getting started. As you get more comfortable with structuring your thoughts, start doing live cases with friends or family. As a final step, it really helps to do a practice case with someone from the firm you are interviewing with. This last piece made me a lot less nervous for the real thing. I think that interviewers really appreciate confidence, clarity, and creativity.” - Bea ‘19
- National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants
- Association of Internal Management Consultants
- Association of Consultants to Non-Profits
- The Institute of Management Consultants USA
- InRoads - Places qualified minority college students in two-four year internships with corporate sponsors in business and industry.
- Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) - Equips African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans with the skills, coaching, and connections they need to lead organizations and communities worldwide.
- Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) - A premier summer internship program for college students of color, with internships in accounting, asset management, corporate law. global financial leadership, investment banking and management consulting, and philanthropy.
- Starting Bloc - Partnering with top business schools, Starting Bloc is a non-profit that provides training in socially responsible entrepreneurship and business practices. Fellows attend four weekend-long training sessions in Boston, New York or London.
- Harvard HBX CORe: The Language of Business
- Tuck Bridge Program
- Stanford Summer Institute for General Management
- University of Chicago Booth School Summer Business Scholars Program
- Berkeley Haas School BASE Summer Program
- University of Virginia McIntire Business Institute
- Vanderbilt Accelerator Summer Business Institute