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Consultant jobs: what to look out for?

 
#1 Consultant jobs: what to look out for?
21/06/2011 17:36

The Professor

When searching online for consultant jobs, it's frustratingly hard to differentiate between the various employers - in terms of why you might join one over another. The claims that the major firms make all tend to be pretty similar. I guess the trick is to uncover what the firms are really like either through your network or by asking the right questions at interview?

My question is therefore for those of you who've worked in consulting for a while - maybe even for more than one firm. What things in your opinion really make the biggest difference in terms of what a firm is like to work for? Or put another way, if you were out there interviewing for a new job right now, what are the things you'd want to be sure of establishing during interviews?

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#2 RE: Consultant jobs: what to look out for?
22/06/2011 13:17

Mr Cool to The Professor (#1)

I’d say your conclusion is pretty accurate. Amongst the larger players there is relatively little differentiation, and certainly little that endures beyond temporary focus on “hot markets”. Smaller niche players might at first glance look more differentiated, but often economic realities see them drawn back into a slim distribution of normality. Given the ridiculously low barrier to entry in the MC market (a suit, a laptop and a sale) it is not surprising that any single firm manages to maintain a long term advantage in any market segment. Peers catch up.

I’d suggest:

For CV brand value – consider the global firm.

For opportunity to progress you career at accelerated rate – consider the practice that you will work in.

For likelihood of working in a decent culture – consider the partner that you will report to.

For enjoying your job day to day – consider the SM’s and Engagement Managers that you will be reporting to.

For enjoying the social aspect of your work – consider your peers.

Too many people see “E&Y” for example and assume it will be better than a smaller firm (or the reverse) because they try and differentiate at too high a level. It’s all very well working for Rolls Royce, but if your job is polishing the dashboards with your tongue, then you might be better elsewhere.

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#3 RE: Consultant jobs: what to look out for?
22/06/2011 14:33

Tony Restell (Top-Consultant.com) to Mr Cool (#2)

It’s all very well working for Rolls Royce, but if your job is polishing the dashboards with your tongue, then you might be better elsewhere.

Mr Cool - I think this is my favourite line ever posted to the TC forum!! And great insights again as always. Thanks for your legendary contributions!

As regards the OP's question "if you were out there interviewing for a new job right now, what are the things you'd want to be sure of establishing during interviews?", I would highlight the following:

- I'd want to probe what utilisation has been like in the practice you'd be joining and what's the longest someone's been on the bench (ie. not on a project) in the last year. Drill down until you get absolute hard numbers on this. Being a newbie in a consulting firm and unassigned to a project for any length of time can be an unnerving experience. It can also prevent you getting off to the flying start in your new career that you'd hoped for. This links somewhat to Mr Cool's point above. A firm may be great, but what's crucial is what the specific office / practice you'll be joining is like and how that is doing rather than the entity as a whole.

- Linked somewhat to the above, how much does the promotion track flex according to the talent of the consultants employed? Is the firm bound to strict promotion norms (which may leave you feeling unappreciated / constrained), or can your interviewers point to examples of people who've joined at your level in recent years who've gone on to progress way ahead of the curve?

- It takes guts to ask this, but "what are the reasons why consultants have recently chosen to leave the practice / firm?". The answers to this will be highly revealing and will differ considerably between firms. So long as you come up with a diplomatic way of asking this question, it should come across well and naturally lead to you gaining insights about the organisation that you wouldn't otherwise have gained.

- Last but not least, do you like all the people you've come into contact with (and have you made sure you've had enough time in their company to judge this)? When you're in the midst of a stressful project it's a great relief to be able to go for a beer with colleagues you consider to be your friends at the end of a long day; or to have the tension in the team room broken by jokes, banter and people showing a genuine interest in your personal life. I would consequently avoid like the plague any consulting firm where I just didn't feel I connected at all with the people I'd met, to me that's just a path to a miserable existence and a swift exit.

Hope this helps!

Tony Restell

Top-Consultant.com

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