Consultants are professionals who are trained to solve problems, devise strategies, and improve the general health of clients no matter what the industry. Management consultants help clients solve specific problems (usually focused on the short-term), while a strategy consultant researches and develops strategies for improving the long-term goals of the company. Companies hire consultants not only for their problem solving abilities, but also for their objectivity. In general, the work environment is fast-paced, stimulating and involves long hours. Work weeks of between fifty to seventy-five hours are not unusual.
There are three main types of consulting firms. First, there are large, diversified organizations, such as IBM’s Global Services that offer a range of services, including Information technology consulting, in addition to a management consulting practice. Second are the large management and strategic consulting specialists, that offer purely management consulting, but are not specialized in any specific industry, like the McKinsey & Company. Finally, there are boutique firms, usually small, that have focused areas of consulting expertise in specific industries or technologies. These are usually more technical in nature.
PRO TIP: Many consulting firms use a “case” style of interview. The applicant will be presented with a business problem and asked to provide a strategy and possible solution in 20-25 minutes. The interviewer is looking to see how the applicant analyzes a problem and how he or she attempts to solve the problem. The interviewer is not looking for technical expertise. Instead, this is a true evaluation of how the applicant thinks. Mock case interviews are strongly encouraged for M.A. candidates.