Consulting Blogs: An Overview of the Consulting Career
Welcome to my blog compilation! My name is Eryn Cohen, and I’m currently a fourth-year student at UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. I also work for the UVA Career Center as a Career Peer Educator (CPE), helping support other students through their professional development journeys.
Having been through two recruiting cycles and now nearing the end of my undergraduate education, I’ve learned so much from my experiences at UVA. I wanted to impart the knowledge I’ve gained to younger students in hopes of easing the career preparation process for them. After graduating, I will be working as an Associate at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and for any student aiming to follow a similar path, I specifically detail the best ways to navigate the consulting recruitment process in the last few blogs.
You certainly don’t have to look far to find talk of consulting at UVA. It’s an industry with so many coveted internships and jobs, but there sure is a lot of confusion regarding the recruitment process and the nature of the role itself. Through this blog, I will disclose everything I’ve learned during my past couple of years recruiting for consulting. Included, you’ll find important tips, resources, graphics, and practice problems to start getting you thinking like a consultant!
Specifically, this blog will answer five questions:
What is consulting?
What types of consulting roles are there?
Why should I go into consulting?
What is the recruiting timeline?
What does the interview process look like?
1. What is Consulting?
In a simple sense, it’s just problem-solving!
- Companies and other organizations pay consulting firms to provide them with advice on specific problems.
Consulting is very team-oriented.
- You’ll be working on a team of people with varying levels of seniority (e.g. Senior Consultant, Project Manager, Principal, etc.).
Consulting is project-based.
- Most projects will range in length from a few months to about a year. Travel varies by firm with some roles requiring Monday-through-Thursday travel, some requiring more infrequent weekly trips, and others not requiring employees leave the office at all.
2. What types of consulting roles are there?
Consulting is a very broad term that can apply to a lot of different roles. The ones you’ll most often come across when searching for consulting positions are listed below.
Keep in mind, this is not an all-inclusive list! There are many consulting positions that don’t neatly fit into these categories. Also, remember that the actual position title differs by company, so you will need to read the position description and do additional research to understand what the role you’re applying for actually entails (and which one of the 6 main types, if any, the position falls under).
1. Management Consultant: addresses broader business challenges
- Management consultants aim to solve business problems and help the client improve performance in any way. This role encompasses many of the job functions of the other main types of consultants.
2. Technology Consultant: finds solutions by incorporating new technology into current business processes
- Technology consultants help companies improve their information technology (IT) infrastructure. These consultants work with hardware, software, operating systems (OS), and data storage to help businesses integrate modern technological processes into their operations and also solve technical issues.
3. Human Resource Consultant: solves internal problems and provides organizational expertise
- Human resource consultants are most often internal consultants. They help plan and problem solve within the hiring, recruitment, training, and performance management processes.
4. Strategy Consultant: helps clients gain an edge to compete against competitors
- Strategy consultants hold more specialized roles than management consultants do. They come up with specific steps and comprehensive action plans to help companies accomplish the goals they defined.
5. Financial Advisory Consultant: resolves client concerns related to finance management
- Financial advisory consultants perform financial analysis and modeling to help clients with their financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, etc.
6. Operations Consultant: maximizes efficiency within the value chain
- Operations consultants evaluate current business processes and work to achieve optimization. They help clients look for ways to allocate resources most efficiently while also reducing costs.
3. Why should I go into consulting?
Here are just a few of the many reasons why to pursue a career in consulting:
High starting salary (~$70 to 90k) and great benefits
Gain a wide range of industry experience
Mentorship, camaraderie, and close-knit office culture
Varied day-today (i.e. no two days look alike, so there will be a lot of variance in the kind of work you do)
Abundant exit opportunities (i.e. there are lots of possible career paths for those that leave the consulting industry)
4. What is the recruiting timeline?
Pictured here is a typical timeline for the fall recruiting cycle.
The bottom line is to start preparing now! Also, while it’s important to familiarize yourselves with these dates, remember that some companies will not follow this recruiting timeline. It’s important to do additional research on your companies of interest so that you don’t miss opportunities and deadlines!
5. What does the interview process look like?
Interviews for consulting positions utilize two main types of interviews: the behavioral interview and the case interview. The Career Center website has great resources that will help you crush the behavioral interview by using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action Result) to structure your answers. For more context, here is a screenshot from the website.
You can also use tools like the VMOCK Elevator Pitch Review Tool to get instant feedback on your behavioral and virtual interview skills.
The case interview is a little bit more unique to consulting. During these interviews, candidates are presented with a business challenge that they must solve. Candidates must 1) prove their organization by structuring a comprehensive framework, 2) demonstrate analytical abilities by performing simple problem-related computations, and 3) showcase creativity and logic through their proposed solutions.
In another blog, I will go more in-depth on how to ace the consulting interview, how to approach consulting math, and where to find the resources to hone your consulting skills.
For an example consulting case and case interview tips, see Consulting Blogs: How to Ace the Case (with Examples)
For some additional help with consulting math, see Consulting Blogs: Master Consulting Math