Guest post: What skills does a student need to demonstrate to succeed in recruiting?
I'd like to begin by welcome the newest member of our Advisory Board, Badreddin Edris.
A longtime supporter of the MCN, Badreddin is a Stanford PhD in Genetics and is now a Consultant at Bain & Company, where he focuses on biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. In addition to winning more awards and being published in more journals than he knows what to do with, Badreddin will be contributing to the MCN on various topics, including how to break into consulting as a graduate student. (Full bio below)
His first post is on the qualities that students must demonstrate in order to break into consulting. As a reminder, any and all posts on the MCN represent a personal viewpoint and are in no way, shape or form intended to represent an employer's views. See here for more details.
- Structured thinking – in order to effectively solve a problem or develop a recommendation, you need to be able to structure the situation, develop hypotheses, and apply or develop analytical tools to drive to an answer. If you fail at the first step, that of structuring the problem correctly, the subsequent work will not be of much value.
- Quick learning – you'll often be put on a new project with a new client in a new industry, and you'll be expected to come up to speed very quickly on this new situation. To do so successfully, you'll have to be a quick learner (be able to digest lots of information quickly) as well as a smart learner (be able to leverage resources – both people and materials – to understand the foundation and particulars of a situation rapidly).
- Quantitative abilities – this involves both the ability to do complex modeling in Excel, as well as the ability to quickly perform "back of the envelope" calculations in real-time to sanity-check your more complex analyses.
- Interpretation skills – much of what the job comes down to is interpreting what your findings mean for your client and recommending specific actions that the client should take in light of your analysis. In other words, it's not enough to simply analyze a situation, you have to be able to interpret the analysis in order to spell out the implications to your client, and to recommend actionable items that will help the client's situation.
- Stamina and attention-to-detail – I'm putting these two skills together, as the latter becomes exceedingly important as you begin to rely more on the former. That is, the hours can be very long, which necessitates that you pay critical attention to details and not make unforced errors. This isn't purely a state of mind that you must occupy, as there are a number of tools that you can employ to ensure that you're not making sloppy errors (version control, checklists, error-checking cells in your Excel files, etc.)
- Teamwork mindset – you can't view your job as existing in isolation, as you are a member of a team (both your specific project team, as well as the broader firm). That means that you always have to have a positive attitude and to be willing to pitch in with your expertise and/or time to help the colleagues working on your project, other projects, or firm-wide initiatives (recruiting, interviewing, etc.)
As you move up the ranks within management consulting firms, other skills become more important (building client relationships, understanding the psychology and motivations of key client personnel, negotiating contracts, developing industry and functional expertise, managing teams, etc.). The skills and qualities that I focused on in my answer are more geared towards people at the Associate and Consultant [ed note: pre-MBA and post-MBA; names vary by firm] levels, rather than those at the Manager and Partner levels. Also, the answer is solely my opinion, and not necessarily that of my employer.