All You Wanted to Know About Management Consulting

If you are managing a business, for a small or a relatively larger organization, then you would need to take help from management consulting firms to define and achieve your organizational goals. Management consultants are professionals who manage the client organizations and help them achieve their goals by better utilization of organizational resources. They start by analyzing the different processes and identify problems, if any. They help the organization to implement the recommended changes. They do charge a fee but their fundamental concern is the betterment of the client organization.

Management consultants either work on their own or they may be working with management consulting firms with a larger support base. There are consultants specialized in various areas including research and development, human resource management, manufacturing processes, sales and marketing, administration, and so on.

When Do You Need To Hire Management Consultants

There are various occasions on which the management of the organization may feel the need to hire management consulting professionals. Some of them are listed below:

- Management of the organization has identified the problems within the various processes and feels that the performance can be enhanced if these problems are solved. But they lack the specialized knowledge and skills to do so.
- Management of the organization is highly qualified to deal with the problems at hand, but do not want to devote time for solving such problems rather start thinking about the larger picture.
- Management has already implemented the solutions but they have not produced the desired improvements.
- Sometimes, it is better to take the third party advice on the decisions that the management has taken.

If you feel your organization is going through any of the above problems, you need to take help from management consulting professionals. Generally, the main job of a management consultant is to identify the inherent problems and mark the opportunities. If you feel that the consultant is able to offer you support in these two, then you should hire one.

How To Find A Competent Management Consultant

There are many dedicated management consulting firms that can help you select the right consultant. You can interview the recommended candidates and short list two or three of them. For short listing you can choose those who have earlier worked with firms with similar problems that you have mentioned for your organization. Then you can choose the best one depending upon his or her ability to make things work and ideas click. It also helps the candidate to have good listening skills as that is how they are going to learn about your organization’s problems. He or she should have ability to complete the assignments on time and within the budgetary restrictions.

After the selection of the right management consulting professional, the next step is to provide him or her all the support and resources he or she needs in implementing his ideas or recommendations. Each and every member of the organization should be supportive enough to offer him all the information and help that he needs. Review the implementation process closely and provide necessary feedback when needed. For the beneficial outcome of hiring a consultant, the situation of the organization should be clearly defined to him initially. Do not forget to make an agreement for scope of work, fee,s and responsibilities of the consultant.

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How to Write a Good Management Consulting Resume?

Question:

Dear,

I want to apply to McKinsey, Bain, BCG, AT Kearney and Roland Berger. I guess you could say that I have been an outstanding student, with a good set of extra-curricular activities as well. On the other hand, I do not find that much good information on how to write a compelling management consulting resume. Could you explain me what an excellent management consulting resume should look like?

My reply:

I personally spend a good amount of time optimizing my resume (and cover letter) back in the days when I applied for Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, BCG, Roland Berger, AT Kearney and AD Little. I eventually got a first round case interview invitation at each firm (and got an offer at all but one).

By now, I have screened quite a good amount of resumes at Bain & Company, so I will share my ideas on how to write a compelling management consulting curriculum vitae. Needless to say that these ideas do not only apply for Bain, but also apply for McKinsey, BCG and the like. Furthermore, keep in mind that regardless of whether you are an undergraduate applying for a business analyst position, or an MBA applying for an associate position; in the end the below tips and tricks are largely true (thus regardless on which entry level you are applying to).

The most important thing you have to keep in mind when you make your management consulting resume is to always keep in mind what the consulting firm is looking for (and include this on your resume). In the end, each consulting firm is more or less looking for the same elements on your resume. When I receive a resume, the first thing I always do, is simply check whether all key elements are demonstrated (preferably backed with numbers).

The next question is then: “What are these ‘elements’ that management consulting firms are looking for?” In the following I will give you an overview of each of these elements, and afterwards discuss why each one is important to a management consulting firm, and how you can best demonstrate your strong capability for each aspect.

The leading management consulting firms are looking for five key elements in resumes:

Top employers and/or renowned universities
Excellent academic performance
Strong analytical skills
Evidence of leadership and strong social skills
Extra-curricular activities

1. Top employers or renowned universities

When you receive a resume that says Harvard, Princeton, INSEAD, Cambridge or the like; it will immediately stand out. In the end, a management consulting firm will be billing you out to its clients for several ten-thousands of dollars month, and for this reason the client will want to know about your background. If the firm then can say you have a BA from Yale and an MA from Harvard, ‘your’ price tag will of course be easier to justify. Furthermore, being able to say you studied at one of these top-universities, also shows that you have already passed a difficult selection process to get in the specific school, which of course already well demonstrates your competencies. Regardless of this, you do not need to have studied at an Ivy League university to get a job in management consulting. In case you come from one of the many good universities of your country, you will definitely also make a shot at MBB. It will however then be even more important to be really convincing, and to clearly show your determination to work in management consulting.

Next to renowned universities, the management consulting firm will also be looking for top employers on your CV. In case you are a young graduate, this will moreover be an internship at a top-employer, and in case you would be an experienced hire, they will definitely be looking for previous (preferably high-profile) work experiences at some of the world’s top employers. Examples of such top-employers would include Google, Microsoft, Apple, P&G, Exxon Mobil, Merrill Lynch, etc. Again, you do not necessarily need to have worked at one of these companies to land an interview at MBB, but it would definitely give you an advantage in getting that important first interview. For this reason, if you are thinking to work in management consulting, try to do at least one internship in a leading corporations, as it will be a great experience, but also look very good on your resume.

2. Excellent academic performance

It is great of course if you have studied at Harvard or Yale, but if you there where one of the weakest performing student of your year, then this has far less meaning. A management consulting firm will be looking for the strongest students of the year to focus their recruiting efforts on. In the end, recruiting does cost quite a lot of money, and the firm knows that they will have a better chance of finding good potential hires if they focus on students with an excellent academic track. The management consulting firm will definitely look at your result for each year, but the weight (of importance) is definitely higher for your last years at university. Keep in mind that even if you apply for MBB to get a position as an industry hire, your university results will matter. Clearly you should never lie about your marks, but in case you had one ‘bad’ year, you could hide your result by replacing it by an aggregate score for multiple years together (in case this would be better).

3. Strong analytical skills

As a consultant you will always need to very analytical (and structured) on the job. For this reason, a management consulting firm will be on the lookout for people that have demonstrated strong analytical skills, for instance through excellent grades for math/science courses, or even better through a high score for (one of the standardized) tests such as SAT, GRE or GMAT. These tests make it easy for the firm to compare your score with other applicants, and obviously they will be looking for those with scores that are well-above average (though there is no specific cut-off). For this reason, it is important to on your resume include these scores, and demonstrate your strong analytical skills.

4. Evidence of leadership and strong social skills

Graduating from a top university, or having had a top position at one of the world’s leading corporations, together with continuous strong performance and excellent analytical skills will make you an interesting candidate for a management consulting firm. However, you will also need to demonstrate strong social and leadership skills on your resume to make you an excellent candidate. In the end, a consultant needs to work often aside with the client to create results, and good social skill will be key here. Furthermore, you will need to demonstrate your leadership skills, as the firm also wants to know whether you can manage and steer a client team or (potentially at a later stage) your colleagues. For this reason, you should definitely include projects/events where you demonstrated strong leadership and social skills. This could be an (important) event that you have organized, a (small) business you had set up with your friends while you were a student, etc. Keep in mind that if you have a very technical background (example Math major at MIT), you should even more proof your social and leadership skills on your resume.

5. Extra-curricular activities

It is definitely possible that you already included some extra-curricular activities on your resume to demonstrate your social and/or leadership skills, as discussed above. Regardless of this, try to think (further) about the ten most important/impressive achievements/projects in your life (it can take a fair amount of time to make a good top ten), and think about which ones you would include on your resume. The rule on what to include is simple; if you feel it would be valuable to discuss during a case interview (or have your interviewer be aware of it) than you should include it; otherwise not. Examples could for instance be an award-winning paper you wrote, your selection for the (Under 21) Olympics ice skating team, a (prominent) summer course you participated in, etc. These do not really fall under the four categories above, but would nonetheless be good additions to your resume.

Other things to keep in mind when developing your resume:

1) Keep in mind that your resume should show excellent performance in each single year. You do not want the CV to be thinking that you had a weak performance during one or two particular years. Ensure each year looks impressive; if you had one weaker year at university, think about specific things you realized that year to compensate for the weaker marks.

2) Also keep in mind the formatting (or design) of your resume. It definitely does matter, and the reason for this is simple. To make a simple analogy; Imagine buying a beautiful diamond ring for your fiancĂ©, and putting it in a carton box. This would kill the entire experience, and the reason is simply because the package does matter. In the end, the design of your resume does to extent say something about you. A management consulting firm is looking for a well-structured and ‘clean’ person. Therefore ensure your resume is well-formatted to demonstrate these values. It should be easy-to-read (or skim-through) and appealing to the eye. Keep in mind however that an enormous amount of different formats could definitely work. The most important thing however is that your major accomplishments are easy to read.

3) Lastly, definitely keep in mind to include your language proficiency. Where in the US it is often good enough to master English, it is always great to be able to show you also speak Spanish or even Chinese. In European countries it is generally required in management consulting to at least speak two languages (native language & English), and more languages are even more a bonus in Europe.

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NAFTA and the Management Consultant Dilemma

It is a common scene, repeated over and again at the various U.S.-Canada border posts. A young Canadian executive approaches an officer of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and hands her a small pile of documents prepared for him by the HR Manager of his prospective employer.

“I’m here to apply for a TN visa,” declares the applicant.

“In what category?”

“Uh… Management Consultant.”

The immigration officer glances at the documents with an air of distaste and tells the applicant to take a seat. Thirty minutes later the officer calls the applicant into an office and subjects him to a grueling hour of cross-examination.

“What is this?” demands the officer, shoving a piece of letterhead in his face.
The applicant peers at the document. “It’s a letter from the company that wants to hire me.”

“It’s too short and doesn’t describe a management problem,” says the officer, tossing aside the letter and pulling out another document. “How about this?”

“That’s my resume,” answers the applicant, his face turning red.

“Uh, huh…” says the officer. “Just what are you trying to pull here?”

“What do you mean?” asks the applicant.

“You’re no Management Consultant. You don’t have any management experience.”

And so on…

The result: Denial of the TN application. The reason: Either the position or the applicant do not qualify for the Management Consultant designation. The consequences: Lost time, lost money, loss of a potentially valuable employee, loss of a lucrative job opportunity, and humiliation.

The Management Consultant Category – An Incorrectly Perceived Loophole
As most people involved in HR Management are aware, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has simplified the placement of certain Canadian professionals into high-demand jobs in the United States. As long as the candidate fits into the cookie-cutter professional categories listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA, the interested company is able to avoid the longer processing times and higher fees associated with the H-1B visa.

Most of the NAFTA categories require at least a bachelor’s degree. And as long as the candidate can prove he or she has the required education, approval of a TN visa is virtually assured. For example, a Canadian Engineer with a bachelor’s degree should have no trouble qualifying for a position as an Engineer with a U.S. company.

A few NAFTA categories, however, allow for the substitution of work experience in place of a bachelor’s degree. One of these is the Management Consultant category, which allows “five years of experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement” to substitute for a missing bachelor’s degree.

Unfortunately, the Management Consultant category is incorrectly perceived by many HR Managers as a sort of “loophole” in the immigration law which allows them to place well-qualified candidates who have not completed a formal degree program, but who are otherwise qualified for the position offered because of their experience in the subject field.

Thus, HR Managers frequently send non-degreed persons such as computer professionals with no management experience to the border, allegedly to accept a job in the States as a “Management Consultant”; or they send non-degreed candidates with management experience to the border, with the intent of placing them in long-term management positions with U.S. companies. Applications such as these are invariably doomed to failure.

Why the Management Consultant Designation is So Difficult to Obtain

USCIS Free Trade Officers are well aware of the misperceptions that exist regarding the Management Consultant category. They adjudicate and deny countless bogus TN applications in this category on a daily basis. So whenever someone presents at a U.S.-Canada border with a TN application seeking admission through the Management Consultant category, the officer’s guard immediately goes up.

While it is difficult for the officer to deny a TN visa when the applicant has a university degree, it is fairly easy to question whether a non-degreed applicant’s experience is “relevant” to the Management Consultant position offered. It is important to realize that U.S. immigration law gives its Free Trade Officers complete and unfettered discretion to make a decision on a NAFTA visa application. Denials are not appealable. So, when they have an opportunity to use this discretion, they do so…with a vengeance.

Make no mistake: the Free Trade Officer will go through every word of a TN application, compare the applicant’s CV with her employment-based reference letters to look for contradictions and analyze the company’s cover letter and its financial statements. Finally, the officer will thoroughly grill the applicant with respect to her alleged prior experience and her proposed duties with the new company. Most applications in the Management Consultant category do not hold up under this type of scrutiny.

So, What Exactly is a Management Consultant Anyway?

Contrary to the belief of most HR Managers, a “Management Consultant’ (for purposes of U.S. immigration law) is not a manager. A “Management Consultant” is a consultant to management hired by an organization to help solve a particular short-term management problem. Free Trade Officers view these consultants as “hired guns”: they are hired to solve a particular problem, and then they must get out. Offers of company benefits such as retirement and 401K plans, stock options, and life insurance are inconsistent with this view. These types of benefits are all trappings of a permanent employee, not a short-term temporary employee.

Therefore, at minimum, the company’s cover letter to the INS should state with particularity the management problem to be solved, the reason for the short-term need for an outside consultant, how the applicant is qualified to solve the problem, and the terms of compensation. The application should also include a detailed CV which documents at least five full years of relevant experience, as well as detailed reference letters from all past employers consistent with the CV. Contradictions between any of the above documents will be duly noted by the Free Trade Officer, and will likely result in the denial of a TN visa.

The Effect of Past Denials

All is not lost if a TN visa is denied by a Free Trade Officer. That same complete and unfettered discretion wielded by one Free Trade Officer empowers the next officer to re-consider an application as if presented for the first time, if the officer wishes to do so. Because of this, it is entirely possible for an applicant to be refused by one officer at Niagara Falls in the morning and admitted by another officer at Pearson International Airport in the afternoon, without any change to the application However, our firm does not recommend the latter approach, because some officers will perceive the same-day reapplication as an attempt to play the system.

Our firm has successfully assisted a myriad of individuals who have been refused once, twice or even three times. (Of course, the more times one has been refused, the more difficult the case becomes.) Our task as experienced immigration lawyers is the same in all of these cases: a.) Complete evaluation of the Applicant and the Proposed Employment; b.) Selection of the Proper Visa Category; and c.) Assembly of the most USCIS-Friendly Visa Application Possible.

Some Recommendations

It is always better for all parties concerned if, instead of trying to handle important immigration matters on their own, HR Managers and potential TN applicants take the time to consult with an immigration professional prior to applying for a visa. The savings in time, money and frustration are well worth the investment. However, if they insist on handling these delicate cases on their own, it is helpful to keep the following in mind:

1. A Management Consultant is a hired gun-a consultant to management hired to solve a short-term management problem;

2. A Management Consultant should not be compensated over and above the base salary;

3. A non-degreed applicant must have a minimum of five complete years of verifiable experience as a consultant to management or in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement. Make sure you have the documents to prove all five years;

4. There should be no discrepancies whatsoever between any of the documents presented to the Free Trade Officer;

5. The applicant should be prepared to answer intelligently, and in detail, the officer’s questions regarding: a.) the applicant’s past experience, and b.) the management problem he or she is being hired to solve;

6. A TN application must be made in conjunction with an “entry”. So, the applicant should not be instructed to drive to the border in advance to see if the officer will issue the visa; and finally

7. Always remember that Free Trade Officers have complete and unfettered discretion to rule on NAFTA cases. Therefore, the applicant should present with as deferential an attitude as possible.

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