Interested in working in consulting, but not sure if working at a large firm is for you?

Consider boutique consulting firms. 

The Boutique Consulting Industry Showcase included a 7-person panel with representatives from the following companies:

Over 370 students gathered on Monday, September 17th to listen to the panelists share their insights on how to prepare for case and behavioral interviews and what exactly the benefits of working for a smaller, niche consulting organization actually were. After the panel, students were able to mingle with the 25 companies and over 90 employer representatives in attendance and had a chance to ask any of the burning questions not covered in the panel. 

“At a larger firm you can feel like a small cog. In smaller [boutique] firms, you can do more.”— Panelist

Panelists at Boutique Consulting Industry Showcase

While big consulting firms are the go-to for many, boutique consulting firms offer up unique benefits not to be overlooked:

  • Where Everyone Knows Your Name: Boutique firms offer up the opportunity to be in a work environment where you can get to really know, not only your peers, but also senior leadership. As a result, this can lead to fruitful peer and senior leadership mentorship, exposure and direct contact with clients, and the ability to have an impact.
  • On the Front-line: Panelists emphasized that at smaller firms you have the opportunity to take on more responsibility, often getting looped into client-facing activities, as well as, getting to specialize in areas of interest. Many times at larger firms, just due to the sheer size, the more hands-on work with clients and specialization is not feasible.
  • Space and Opportunity for Growth: Panelists expressed that working at boutique firms creates the space for you to grow and learn. Due to having more responsibility and direct experience with clients, one is able to learn immensely and grow in cultivating necessary consulting skill sets, such as delivering presentations.
Student and Employer

Tips For Navigating The Job Search and Interview Process

Understand what the company does.

Be sure you research the company to understand what kind of client projects they work on and if they have a specific industry focus. In cover letters and interviews, demonstrate how your interests align with their company.

The number 1 mistake, identified by panelists, is not knowing what the firm does.

Employers can recognize a generic cover letter. They can tell who is really interested in this firm and who has tailored the letter to the company. The cover letter for IQVIA, a life science consulting firm should be very different from the letter for Renaissance which focuses on aerospace and defense, yet Keelan from IQVIA said they receive many applications which never reference life sciences, the firm’s key focus. The best cover letters (and interviews) show that you have done research on the firm and can speak to how your interests or experiences will fit with the company.

Avoid these potential dealbreakers. 

Panelists mentioned other factors that can reduce your chances for getting the job, such as using a set script  (sounding too rehearsed) during the interview, not answering the question as asked, and being disingenuous or lying on a resume. Don’t claim skills you don’t have, this will quickly become obvious during the interview.

Prepare for both behavioral and case interviews.

Most firms weigh behavioral and case interviews almost equally, while a few give a slight edge for one over the other, but all agree that the behavioral interview matters for Boutique firms. Consultants communicate with people from around the world so employers may look for interpersonal skills, the ability to communicate, cultural sensitivity and other soft skills. As you will be working long hours in close proximity, work culture fit is important. In small firms, you can learn on the job, but need to have a “can do” attitude. Employers want to know that you care about the work and that they can tolerate spending a lot of time together with you!  

Students and employer

Case interviews are also central to the consulting interview process. During case interviews, employers want to see your thought process and how you communicate. An incorrect answer is not a deal breaker. Employers want to know how you think, how you approach problem-solving, and if you can you create and follow a logical structure. Many firms create questions based on past projects, so check the website for information on client projects.

“Case interviews [are] not about getting the right answer…Demonstrate your train of thought…We want to know how you go about solving a problem.”— Panelists from Galt & Simon Kucher

Student and Employer

How to Ace Your Next Case Interview:

One of the first things you should do during a case interview is organize your approach and structure your answer. You’ll want to talk out loud and be descriptive because employers want to know how you got to the answer.

Listen to, and answer the question that was actually asked — not the one you prepared for in advance. Practice what you want to say, but avoid memorizing answers. You must be ready to adapt your answers to the interview question. You can decide on the points you want to make, and look for opportunities to make them, but don’t rehearse word for word. Try to sound natural and respond to the interviewer.

Employers want to know who you are. Don’t be afraid to share what is important you. Be authentic! Share your interests, projects, and skills. Be clear about why you want to work at this job and/or in this company!

Visit our Consulting Industry page to learn more! 

Check out our Consulting Industry page to learn more about the world of consulting.