Consultants work with clients to provide support around a range of strategic and/or operational issues. Corporations, governments, and nonprofit organizations all hire consultants. The tasks performed range from conducting detailed industry analyses, to benchmarking comparable organizations, to devising key strategic initiatives.

Consulting firms can have a specific industry focus or serve a variety of industries, including: environmental, healthcare, human resources, management, non-profit, operations, and public sector. While rewarding, consulting is also a competitive and demanding field.  Most consultants travel a lot and often work long hours.  It is important to consider the costs and benefits of a demanding profession before diving into consulting.

Interviewing with a consulting firm is different from other job interviews. There are two parts to the interview. The fit interview, where behavioral questions are used to get to know you and how you work. The case interview where you are presented with a business problem to analyze. The case interview is used to assess your ability to  use problem solving and critical thinking skills. Often there is a quantative aspect to this business problem. The Columbia Consulting Clubs are a great resource for building your case interview skills. It can take several months to get ready for a case interview.

Consulting Careers for Advanced Degree Candidates (ADCs) PhDs

Consulting firms recruit ADCs with a PhD, MD or JD through a distinct recruiting process. Each firm has it’s own recruiting process which is explained on their website. Most firms interested in Columbia students work through CCE or the Graduate Consulting Club to announce information sessions and application deadlines. Firms assess candidates for : intelligence, problem-solving, quantitative and leadership abilities.

Internships and Fellowships

Some firms offer a paid internship or fellowship program for ADCs in the summer. This gives the individual and the firm an opportunity to “try each other out” to see if there is a fit. Once hired, firms train new consultants to gain the business knowledge needed to succeed.

Firms which hire ADCs:

Consulting Job Search

Consulting jobs are highly competitive and only a small percentage of candidates get hired. Companies usually recruit from campuses in September or October for positions starting the following summer. A high GPA and strong involvement in campus leadership are highly valued by recruiters. Other skills employers look for include:

  • Problem-solving Skills: Structured, logical thinking; Organization and detail orientation; Comfort with numbers (but a math major is not required)
  • People Skills: Ease of communication; Confidence, poise, maturity (do you think before you speak); Enthusiasm and fit for team (would they like to spend time with you for long hours)
  • Business Knowledge: Business intuition; A few, fundamental business concepts and frameworks

The consulting job interview is often a combination of fit/behavioral questions and case questions. It is critical that you spend time practicing for the case interview as they are a key component of the recruitment process and it is nearly impossible to do well by “winging it.” A list of case interview preparation resources is below.

While an internship at a consulting firm is helpful for securing full-time employment, it is not a requirement. Many consulting firms seek candidates with relevant skill sets and unique areas of knowledge or expertise and therefore will value experience beyond consulting internships, such as leadership experiences, project work, and internships that have provided significant problem-solving, research, writing and/or business experience. To that end, consulting internships are fewer in number than you might expect and therefore significantly competitive.

Case Interview Resources

Center for Career Education Resources

  • LionSHARE: Some consulting employers that have posted job and internship positions in LionSHARE in the past year include AlixPartners, GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group), ZS Associates, Gap International, IMS Health, Sapient, Capgemini, Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte.
  • On-Campus Recruiting:  Some consulting employers that have hosted on campus interviews and/or information sessions in the past year include Strategy&, Towers Watson, Crossix, Gap International, IBM, Cornerstone Research and TGG Group .
  • Career Fairs: The Undergraduate Career Fair and the Spring Career Fair include 100+ organizations each from many industries. Consulting employers that have attended in recent years include ClearView Healthcare Partners, GEP, NERA Economic Consulting, PA Consulting Group, Accenture, UMT Consulting Group, Cornerstone Research and IBM.
  • Industry Showcases: Each year we host several industry-specific panel/networking sessions. In the Fall semester these include Boutique Consulting and Management Consulting.  
  • CCE Sponsored Internships: We have created tailored opportunities for students to explore career interests and develop professional skills, many of which will be valuable in the consulting field.  
  • Vault and WetFeet Guides: We subscribe to career-focused web services such as Vault and WetFeet, which offer profiles of industries, companies, and careers. Download the Vault Guide to Consulting Jobs, Vault Career Guide to Consulting, Wetfeet’s Get Your Ideal Internship: Consulting or Wetfeet’s Careers in Management Consulting

Columbia Resources

  • Undergraduate Consulting Club: Columbia University’s undergraduate preprofessional organization devoted to helping students advance their pursuit of careers in consulting.
  • 180 Degrees Consulting: Creates opportunitities to gain real world consulting experience with socially conscious organizations.
  • Graduate Consulting Club: Provides opportunities for its members to learn about the field of management consulting.
  • Other student groups: Groups that host consulting events include the Economics Society, Columbia Women in Business and the Multicultural Business Association.

External Resources

Professional Associations

Industry Publications

Case Interview Tools

  • PrepLounge: PrepLounge is a case interview community where candidates with similar career goals can get connected, practice cases and sharpen their consulting skills.