This post is designed to give you some guidance on how consulting recruitment is likely to be impacted by the current pandemic and its aftermath.
Don’t worry – we aren’t just going to tell you to wash your hands and stay indoors. We will focus exclusively on the health of the consulting industry and the impact on your chances of landing a job.
Of course, the situation is changing day-to-day at present. As such, we will update this post to reflect our best analysis of what is going on.
How will the crisis impact consulting?
In short, consulting will survive and (eventually) prosper.
Of course, the world is in uncharted territory at present, but most project that we are all heading into a deep, global recession. This will clearly mean lean times for firms across all sectors. However, consulting is an industry which can actually expect to be fairly resilient in a recession compared to many others.
Recessions mean firms have to deal with rapidly-changing business environments with very little room for error – and will often turn to consultants to help them do so. There will be some short term disruption but, fundamentally, upheaval is good for business in consulting. Even the most immediate symptoms of recession can provide work for consultancies, who might find themselves engaged in helping firms rapidly innovate to avoid going under. In-person service providers and many brick-and-mortar retailers will certainly be in need of help just now.
The coronavirus pandemic has had peculiarly uneven effects, though, and not
everyone is actually suffering at present. Business in certain essential sectors
are raking in huge profits and might well look to consultants to help them
move forward. For example, food retailers have seen a surge in sales and
are having to quickly re-think distribution etc to keep up with demand
whilst also complying with new social distancing rules.
Governments and large corporations are also throwing money at the pandemic. They need innovative solutions fast and are not worried about paying for them. This is another source of business for the consulting sector.
Perhaps this all seems overly optimistic, but we can look to the
2008 crash as an example of how consulting faired in a recent global downturn. Then, major consulting firms didn’t just survive the
recession, but showed
significant, year-on-year growth in terms of profits and number of employees. By contrast, we can all remember the huge, very public layoffs in the financial sector and other industries you might have been considering during the last crisis. Now is certainly not the time to abandon consulting for other industries!
Of course, the current pandemic is qualitatively different from the 2008 crash in terms of its causes and how it is playing out in detail. However, the fact still remains – any recession will necessarily bring about the kind of upheaval which ultimately brings clients to consulting. That the coronavirus pandemic poses particularly complex challenges should only exacerbate this demand for consulting expertise.
Overall, then, the longer-term future is good for consulting. But
that is not to say there won't be short to mid-term impacts, especially for recruiting...
How will this impact recruiting?
Of course, we can expect that there will be an impact on recruiting, but what is less certain is what form will this take in practice. Will recruiting be reduced? Will it be more competitive? The answer is that it will likely depend on the timeframe we are looking at.
As we have seen, consulting is generally robust in the face of recession. Excepting some short pauses by certain firms, new consultants will continue to be hired throughout. However, this crisis will
change the specifics as to how many new staff are hired at what time.
In the most immediate timeframe, we are indeed seeing short term contractions and even pauses in hiring across various firms. However, we do not expect such measures to persist for long - at least for MBBs and other larger operators.
We expect to see the main effects on recruitment in a timeframe of six to nine months - that is, with some significant lag after the most biting effects of the pandemic.
This is fundamentally because firms know that consulting is going to bounce back rapidly and very likely enjoy the kind of growth it did during the last downturn. Even in more stable times, they have difficulty finding staff of sufficient quality and that are a good fit for the job. They are certainly going to need more talent when the industry does bounce back. As such, they are likely to continue making new hires right now when they find good candidates, simply so that they ensure they have a ready supply of newer staff who have accumulated training and experience by the time the consulting trade picks up again.
However, continuing to hire right now as business temporarily dries up does come with a cost as salaries start to outpace revenues. Consequently, firms will likely be recruiting less in the mid-term to make up for "going shopping" for talent right now. Of course, less hiring means more competition and less chance of making the cut.
Depending on how wider events pan out, we expect it to be six to nine months before these measures are taken. After that, things are going to get significantly harder. For this reason, if you want to get into consulting, now is the time to go for it. It might be slightly more competitive in the short-term and might mean video interviews rather than meeting in real life. However, probably for the next couple of years, this is as good as it will get.
Optimising your prep during lockdown
Everything about the Covid pandemic is demoralising. The news can be frightening and being confined all day, every day can frankly lead to individuals becoming depressed or stir-crazy. Certainly, being productive can be difficult, especially when prepping for interviews which you might not have been offered yet in an industry where hiring freezes are possible. In such circumstances, there is always the temptation to leave something until tomorrow (as we know, tomorrow never comes...).
The trick to productivity is to set achievable goals for each day.
Even one or two hours per day will add up to a great deal over the weeks
and months of isolation that seem to lie ahead for most of us, at least.
One such short session won’t yield huge results by itself, but sessions add up over
time to generate big effects. What is more (and if you need some motivation), each hour spent on prep just now yields significantly greater payoff in terms of competitive advantage than under normal circumstances. Everyone is in the same boat at present, but many candidates will inevitably drift. They will prep sub-optimally, not get through all the material they should or even give up altogether. Candidates who were relying on in-person practice with their peers might stop interview practice entirely. Any work at all will set you ahead of these individuals.
Getting into detail...
So, you are committed to putting some
time into prep each day, so you can give consulting your best shot. Good
call. Now you will need to get more specific about what your next steps should be. It is
time to ask questions about what exactly you should you be doing with that
time and how to take account of changes to the interviews given current restrictions.
Of course, socially distanced consulting interviews are going to be different - most notably, you are going to have to get good at presenting yourself on Skype. However, case interviews themselves will not be changing. Regardless of the medium via which they are conducted, their content will remain the same and, whatever happens, you are still going to have to ace all your cases and give convincing answers to fit questions if you want a chance to be hired.
If you can keep your head in quarantine, the only significant difference with your prep is that you will benefit from having more time to perfect your craft.
Luckily, everything you need for an optimal prep – even at the best of
times – can be had online. Even without a viral pandemic, all you need is your laptop and an internet connection. Sure, you might not be able
to meet up in person with your buddies to practice, but your interviews are
going to be online now anyway.
So how can you prep for interviews from lockdown? Let’s take a look at the key components of a good prep and the best resources available:
Learning to crack cases
If you want to get hired as a consultant at the best of times, you need to easily ace every case that is thrown at you. The standard required is only going to rise as a result if the current crisis.
The best place to learn how to do so is our MCC Academy online course . This is based around a comprehensive, structured series of video lessons and starts from the fundamental business concepts you will need to address cases (think of this as a “mini MBA” for those with no business background). From there, we teach you how to crack cases like a real consultant, rather than relying on old fashioned, unreliable frameworks .
The fact that this course moves stepwise from beginning to end, along with periodic exercises to test your skills, should help you structure your time and make sure you are consolidating your progress even in isolation .
Mastering fit questions
Candidates fixate on cases and forget that as much as half of each interview will be spent on fit questions . The detachment inherent in video interviews means you are going to have to pay that much more attention to delivering your answers in a clear, convincing manner. To help you out, MCC has a dedicated fit interview course to prepare you in a methodical, structured fashion. Teaching is via a set of videos which append to MCC Academy to deliver a single, comprehensive learning experience.
Unless you happen to live with someone else who wants to do cases, in-person practice is clearly out. This is not a problem, though. We have a free meeting board where you can link up with fellow-candidates around the world and practice using our free case library . When you out-grow peer-to-peer practice, we also have experienced ex-MBB consultants to deliver online practice sessions .
Mentoring – the single most powerful way to maximise your chances
It’s not a strict necessity, but for the best way to truly optimise your prep and to provide structure and flexible guidance during these unprecedented times , it is worth considering one of our mentoring programmes . There, an experienced consultant will be assigned as your personal mentor. They will plan and oversee a prep built around your own needs and timeframe and that leverages our full spectrum of resources to get you up to the best standard possible.
Constant contact with your mentor means that they can field your questions throughout your prep and that they can quickly revise your plan in response to changing circumstances. Mentoring ensures that every hour you put into prep from isolation takes you in the right direction, whilst making sure you put in those hours by making you accountable to your mentor .