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What do Consultants really do at McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture, Etc?

The term "consultant" has become such a broad term and used ubiquitously that not many people actually know what it entails. Let's demystify what consulting actually is and get an inside look on what some of the highest earning consultants at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain actually do.

Consultants "consult" client companies to address specific business challenges. Consulting projects are often team-based and encompass various domains, such as strategy and technology implementations. While some consultants are independent experts, many are affiliated with firms like McKinsey. However, this overview only scratches the surface. To gain a deeper understanding of a consultant's daily life, it's essential to distinguish between the companies that employ them (consultancies) and those they serve (clients). We'll also delve into the primary reasons clients engage consultants and provide practical examples to shed light on the consulting world. Let's dive in!

Who do Consultants Work for?

Consultants are employed by firms like McKinsey or Deloitte but primarily work for client companies. Clients range from large corporations (e.g. Walmart, Google), investors (Goldman Sachs), governments (IRS), to non-profits.

Why would Companies hire Consultants?

Companies hire consultants for three main reasons:

  1. Specialized Expertise: Companies seek consultants for skills they lack internally. For instance, in the case of a complex international acquisition, a team of specialized consultants could guide the process.

  2. Resource Gap: Sometimes companies have the expertise but lack the manpower to meet a deadline. Consultants can be brought in to expedite projects.

  3. External Perspective: Consultants offer an objective third-party viewpoint, crucial for significant decisions. This helps overcome internal biases and identifies blind spots.

What's the day-to-day of a McKinsey Consultant?

  1. Engaging Clients (Partners/Principals): Building client relationships and selling new projects.

  2. Defining Outcomes (Partners/Principals): Creating a clear project scope, documented in an SOW (Statement of Work).

  3. Assembling Teams (Principals/Managers): Recruiting consultants internally aligned with the project.

  4. Managing Projects (Managers): Overseeing project milestones, updates, and client communication.

  5. Gathering Data (Consultants/Analysts): Collecting information from clients and external sources.

  6. Performing Analysis (Consultants/Analysts): Utilizing statistics and frameworks to gain insights.

  7. Presenting Results (Full Consulting Team): Preparing and refining recommendations for client stakeholders.

  8. Making Adjustments (Consultants/Analysts): Responding to client feedback and refining analysis.

  9. Delivering Final Recommendations (Full Consulting Team): Submitting final materials as outlined in the SOW.

What types of projects do Big3 Consultants do?

There are two main types of consulting projects:

Advisory Projects

These projects are at the heart of consulting. Firms like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain specialize in advisory consulting. Here, consultants are hired to provide expert advice on various aspects of a client's business. For example, if a company is experiencing a market shift or is considering a major expansion, they might engage consultants to conduct market research, analyze trends, and formulate a strategic plan.

Implementation Projects

These projects involve putting strategies into action. They often follow advisory projects. After providing recommendations, consulting firms may be asked to execute the proposed strategies.

For instance, if a company decides to overhaul its IT infrastructure, they might hire a consulting team with expertise in technology implementation to handle the process.

How do I get into Consulting?

The consulting field is highly competitive, and firms like McKinsey, BCG, Accenture, and Deloitte have rigorous application processes.

  • Preparation: Start by refining your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills, experiences, and achievements relevant to consulting. Seek guidance through resume review services if needed.

  • Networking: Connect with current or former consultants. Platforms like LinkedIn are excellent for this. Engaging in informational interviews can provide valuable insights into the consulting industry and help establish relationships.

  • Case Interviews: Case interviews are a staple in consulting interviews. These involve solving hypothetical business problems. Practice extensively to sharpen your analytical and problem-solving skills.

  • Behavioral Interviews: These assess your soft skills, teamwork, leadership, and communication abilities. Prepare anecdotes from your experiences that demonstrate these qualities.

  • Stay Updated: Keep abreast of industry trends, business news, and the latest developments. This showcases your genuine interest and understanding of the consulting world.

Remember, consulting is not just for those with a business background. Firms value diverse perspectives and skills, so individuals from various academic and professional backgrounds can find their niche in this dynamic field.

If you're passionate about solving complex problems, thrive in dynamic environments, and enjoy collaborating with diverse teams, then a career in consulting is the right place for you. The interview and application process for consulting jobs is extremely rigorous, but fear not! We've helped over 10,000 candidates navigate the application and interview process for firms like McKinsey, BCG, Accenture, Deloitte, etc. You can check out more resources and resume tips at or book a coaching call with one of our coaches.

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