What is Management Consulting?

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Management consulting is a popular destination for bright students after graduating university. With good salaries, specialist training and opportunities to progress quickly, it’s easy to see why. If you’re unsure what it is or how to get into this sector, our quick guide gives you everything you need to know.

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Table of contents

  1. What do management consultants do?
  2. Why do businesses use management consultants?
  3. How does a management consulting project work?
  4. Who are the main management consulting firms?
  5. When should you apply?
  6. Discover management consulting graduate opportunities

What do management consultants do?

Management consultants work with businesses to improve their performance by providing expert advice to solve problems and encourage growth. They work with businesses across a wide range of sectors, including business strategy, finance, HR and marketing. It’s not just private firms - many public institutions use management consulting to improve their practices and efficiency.

In basic terms the role of the consultant is to provide their client with an audit of current procedures, their recommendation for improvement and an action plan for implementation. They can be brought in by a business to advise senior management on a specific project or more broadly on the structure and practices of a firm. 

Why do businesses use management consultants?

The management consultant will often be filling in for a skills gap a business has. It can be much cheaper to source external help than hiring new individuals or even a team to manage a project or task.

A consultant is likely to have expertise in a certain area, which a business may not have internally. Plus, they can focus on the project on hand without getting distracted by the day-to-day running of the business. Consultancies range in what they provide, with larger firms offering end-to-end solutions while others may focus their expertise in a specific area. 

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How does a management consulting project work?

As they are usually providing advice on a specific issue, the work of a strategy consultant tends to involve a lot of data analysis. A project will usually go as follows:

  • Problem definition – What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Approach – How are we going to investigate this problem?
  • Data gathering – Find out everything we can about the issue
  • Data Analysis – What does our data show?
  • Advice – What is the best solution according to our data and expertise?
  • Implementation – Enact positive change based on the recommendations

Who are the main management consulting firms?

There are three companies which are often referred to as the Big Three consulting firms. They include McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company. They all consult on a variety of projects and specialisms.

The Big Four accountancy firms (PwCEYDeloitte and KPMG) also have large management consulting arms, plus there are other firms like CIL Management Consultants and Steer, which specialise in management consulting.

When should you apply?

For graduate roles at most big consultancies the deadline for applications is between the end of August and December in your final year, but roles are often filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

The application process usually involves submitting answers to set questions and your CV, completing online tests and then going to an assessment centre. There will often be a case study as part of this stage, which will test your ability to provide solutions to business problems you’re likely to face if hired. Finally, there may be a final interview with a senior consultant before you’re accepted into the business.

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