Consulting Recruitment – Which Firms Should I Apply for?

The recruitment season is starting and you don't yet know exactly which companies to focus on?
In his article, expert Francesco explains exactly what to expect during the recruitment process of consulting companies. To give you a detailed overview and differentiate between the companies, he lists them according to revenue and top recruits. This way you can see exactly where the differences lie and for which companies it is most worthwhile to take on the time-consuming application process!

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What to Expect in This Article

Recruitment Season

It’s consulting recruitment season again. A period full of company briefings, networking sessions, and social events. If you are a student at a top school, you can expect several of these sessions each week. After that, it’s time to prepare your applications. This, again, is a very time-consuming process: you are expected to tailor your applications to each firm you are targeting if you really want to maximize your chances of an interview invite. This could take up to several hours for each firm. Throw classes, extracurriculars, and case preparation into the mix, and you can imagine why half of your cohort looks so tired!

If you are already working full-time, you do not have it easy either. Sure, you do not have to worry about making time for tedious company briefings and social events, but you still have to network with current consultants if you want to get into a room - physical or virtual - with your interviewer. You should never underestimate the time it takes to do this; the minutes spent looking for alumni and crafting a punchy LinkedIn or email opening message really adds up, and we have not even gotten to the calls or the coffee meet-ups yet.

Naturally, you cannot apply to every consulting firm; in fact, with your limited time, you might be better off focusing on just a handful to maximize the quality of your applications. But with so many consulting firms out there, how can you make an informed choice?

Top Consulting Firms by Revenue

One of the main ways to determine the top businesses in an industry is by looking at their revenues. After all, that is how Fortune 500 companies are ranked. Naturally, this applies to consulting firms as well. Larger revenues mean a firm wins more projects and/or is able to charge a higher rate. Both factors in turn are correlated with how highly regarded a consulting firm is amongst clients.  

A major issue with ranking consulting firms by revenue is that many major firms also offer non-management consulting services. For instance, the bulk of the revenues for a ‘Big 4’ professional services firm comes from auditing and tax advisory services. Similarly, the majority of Accenture’s revenues come from business process outsourcing and IT services. Accordingly, this ranking will look exclusively at the consulting revenues (for 2019, to exclude the impact of the pandemic) for firms that include strategy consulting in their core offerings (this is PrepLounge after all!):

 

Rank Firm Annual Revenues (2019; USD)
1 Accenture 17,310 MM
2 PwC (including Strategy&) 13,653 MM
3 Deloitte (including Monitor Deloitte) 13,350 MM
4 EY (including EY-Parthenon) 11,600 MM
5 KPMG 10,180 MM
6 McKinsey & Company 8,800 MM
7 Boston Consulting Group 6,300 MM
8 Booz Allen Hamilton 6,100 MM
9 Bain & Company 3,870 MM
10 Oliver Wyman 2,000 MM
11 Kearney 1,400 MM
12 AlixPartners, LLP 1,000 MM
13 Roland Berger 750 MM
14 Alvarez & Marsal 600 MM
15 ZS 525 MM
16 L.E.K. Consulting 500 MM
17 Simon-Kucher & Partners 311 MM
18 Arthur D. Little 239 MM
Rank Firm Annual Revenues (2019; USD)
1 Accenture 17,310 MM
2 PwC (including Strategy&) 13,653 MM
3 Deloitte (including Monitor Deloitte) 13,350 MM
4 EY (including EY-Parthenon) 11,600 MM
5 KPMG 10,180 MM
6 McKinsey & Company 8,800 MM
7 Boston Consulting Group 6,300 MM
8 Booz Allen Hamilton 6,100 MM
9 Bain & Company 3,870 MM
10 Oliver Wyman 2,000 MM
11 Kearney 1,400 MM
12 AlixPartners, LLP 1,000 MM
13 Roland Berger 750 MM
14 Alvarez & Marsal 600 MM
15 ZS 525 MM
16 L.E.K. Consulting 500 MM
17 Simon-Kucher & Partners 311 MM
18 Arthur D. Little 239 MM

 

Looking at the figures, what becomes obvious is that the MBB firms do not lead the industry in terms of revenues. While they might charge the highest hourly rates, they lack the scale of some other firms in the industry. Accenture has, by far, the largest consulting practice, driven by its dominance of the IT/digital and, to a lesser degree, implementation sub-segments. Accenture is then followed by the implementation giants that are the ‘Big 4’ firms’ consulting practices, rounding up the top 5 on the list. The huge workforce in these firms helps them lock in the top 5 spots by actively billing for long-term and large-scale transformation/implementation projects, effectively making up for the lower rates for consultant hours relative to the MBB firms

Given how lucrative the non-strategy side of management consulting can be - especially since clients are increasingly demanding that their consultants oversee the implementation of their strategies - it is little surprise that traditional strategy firms have been acquiring capabilities in these areas. For example, the MBB firms have been actively building up their operations/implementations, as well as digital and analytics practices. With these moves, we might very well see them challenge for a top 5 spot in the near future.

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Top Consulting Firms by Recruits from Top Schools

Revenues give a good indication of how highly regarded a firm is amongst clients. However, that is just one side of the coin. You might now ask: what about prestige among aspiring consultants? Sure, revenues might have an influence on the prestige amongst applicants, but there are also other factors: firm culture, compensation, career path, exit opportunities, and much more.

These factors are numerous, complex, and unique for each person; thus, they require several different data points. That being said, a good aggregate metric to measure firm ‘prestige’ amongst aspiring consultants is the number of MBA recruits each firm hires from the world’s top business schools. Students from these schools are usually spoiled for choice, and it is a fair assumption that they would thus only join the ‘best’ firms.

Unfortunately, not all business schools publish employer-level statistics; when they do, the statistics are usually incomplete (e.g., employers that hired only one or two students are excluded). Accordingly, we have collected the publicly-available figures from five of the top 10 business schools in the world (based on rankings from the Financial Times) for their Class of 2020 and created the following ranking:

 

Rank Firm LBS Booth Kellogg Sloan INSEAD Total
1 McKinsey & Company 43 43 36 20 124 266
2 Boston Consulting Group 42 42 44 36 80 244
3 Bain & Company 26 27 28 13 61 155
4 Strategy& 8 13 9 28 58
5 Accenture 5 10 8 23 46
6 Kearney 6 5 6 23 40
7 Deloitte 6 9 4 7 26
8 EY-Parthenon 2 5 5 7 19
9 Roland Berger 9 9
10 Oliver Wyman 3 4 7
11 L.E.K. Consulting 3 4 7
12 Booz Allen Hamilton 4 4
13 KPMG 3 3
14 ZS Associates 3 3
15 Delta Partners 2 2
Rank Firm LBS Booth Kellogg Sloan INSEAD Total
1 McKinsey & Company 43 43 36 20 124 266
2 Boston Consulting Group 42 42 44 36 80 244
3 Bain & Company 26 27 28 13 61 155
4 Strategy& 8 13 9 28 58
5 Accenture 5 10 8 23 46
6 Kearney 6 5 6 23 40
7 Deloitte 6 9 4 7 26
8 EY-Parthenon 2 5 5 7 19
9 Roland Berger 9 9
10 Oliver Wyman 3 4 7
11 L.E.K. Consulting 3 4 7
12 Booz Allen Hamilton 4 4
13 KPMG 3 3
14 ZS Associates 3 3
15 Delta Partners 2 2

 

Note that the numbers shown above include students returning to their former employers post-graduation, as placements at top schools are a proxy for firm ‘prestige’ amongst aspiring consultants as well. This is because these top schools are very selective and employer prestige is a key consideration in their admissions processes. Additionally, the figures above are not adjusted for each firm’s intake size as such information is not readily available, and the impact of a firm’s scale on the recruitment figures is limited (as these are some of the best candidates from top schools that regularly receive multiple offers, available spots are usually not a constraint). Finally, some firms may be less keen to hire MBAs than others.

As expected, the MBB firms remain in a league of their own. McKinsey and BCG are very close to the first two spots, with Bain being some distance behind them at third. On the other hand, this is likely due to Bain being smaller relative to the former two firms. That being said, even 3rd place Bain consistently attracts 3 times the number of hires versus 4th place Strategy&. Strategy& leads the non-MBB firms in terms of talent attraction, likely aided by their strong brand and heritage from their days as Booz & Co. Strategy& is closely followed by Accenture and Kearney, who complete the top 6 with 40 or more recruits each.

As mentioned earlier, prestige is subjective; thus, these rankings should only be used as a reference. Each firm is unique, and so is each aspiring consultant; someone interested in the financial services industry might rank Oliver Wyman more highly due to their strong presence in that market segment, whereas someone aspiring to be a digital strategist might likewise perceive Accenture better. Either way, in the end, you are the one who has to decide which firm is the best fit for you!   

Getting Your Foot in The Door

Selecting which firms to focus on is just the first step of a winning recruitment strategy. Now that you have set your targets, you need to work towards them. The first challenge is to get past the dreaded resume screening stage at your chosen firms. This stage can make-or-break your consulting dreams, and the best available tool to maximize your chances of success is networking. Be sure to check out our article on the topic to learn all about the tips and tricks that will help you succeed!

5. About the Author

Francesco

#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 9+ Years of Coaching

  • Professional Experience: BCG
  • Languages: English, Italian, Spanish
  • Location: Singapore

Francesco is an interview coach, former BCG consultant, and tech entrepreneur. He is the #1 coach on PrepLounge.com for meetings, where he completed more than 4,000 expert sessions. As a coach for consulting interviews, Francesco helped hundreds of candidates to land offers from McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. Since 2016, he organizes consulting boot camps at some of the leading universities in Europe. As a consultant, Francesco joined BCG in the Milan office, where he worked on projects in the energy, industrial goods, and consumer goods sectors. After BCG, he worked in venture capital in Germany as an angel fund associate. As an entrepreneur, Francesco founded two companies in Europe and Asia in the entertainment and EdTech sectors. He is currently leading a Singapore-based company and supporting startups as a strategic advisor.

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