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German Consulting Industry

Anonymous A asked on Dec 04, 2018 - 2 answers

Hi, I'm Australian but now live in Germany and speak decent German which I am still improving (I could not present a client presentation but can interact in the office). I am familiar with the consulting culture in Australia, the US, and the UK (so English-speaking countries), but not in Germany. What differentiates the German market/industry/firms (including MBB offices) and their work culture, including hiring processes, work-life balance, pay and benefits, staffing practices, etc? I know there are a lot of variables involved but I'm just looking for some insight.

I have read on several posts that some firms are more open than others to hiring foreigners without perfect German. Most that I have found through research seem to be in-house consultancies. What about MBB and 2nd tier firms? Like I said, I speak German it's just not polished enough yet.

Thank you in advance, I appreciate any insight.

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Sidi
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replied on Dec 04, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Anonymous,

German fluency traditionally was a quite important requirement in the German consulting industry. This requirement has softened a bit in recent years, however mostly driven by the increase in variety of jobs and roles within MBB firms. For example, data scientists or digital specialists might well get an offer despite not being fluent in German. For generalist consultans this remains a challenge though, given the intensity of client contact that is required.

One thing that still differentiates the German consulting culture from many other geographies is the focus on details and backing up each and every claim or hypothesis with rigorous analysis. This oftentimes leads to the "German disease", where the main body of a a given document just represents a small share of the doc, while the appendix takes about 60-70%. The impact on the work-life balance of the teams is obvious... One of the reasons for this is that German business landscape is still deeply rooted in engineering, and a big share of top level clients are PhDs (PhDs are still much more highly respected in the "public perception" compared to MBAs! A couple of years ago, a Bachelor degree would not even be regarded as a proper academic degree by most seniors in the German business landscape). These clients are very detail-oriented, and backing up every claim with rigorous analysis is oftentimes required to earn their respect and trust.

Hope this helps!

Cheers, Sidi

Elias
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replied on Dec 11, 2018
Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business
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Hi,

Having worked for and with at least half a dozen German consultancies, I agree with everything Sidi has said.

Regarding work-life balance, I would add, that German consultants tend to work longer hours than colleagues from most other countries (except South Korea and Japan, maybe).

Reg. pay and benefits: Very good, as usual, especially if you're in MBB or top T2-firms. BUT you can make very decent money outside of consulting (and banking), working for some of the more traditional companies (think Allianz, Munich Re, BMW, Daimler, Audi, Siemens, BASF, SAP...). And if you break it down to hourly pay, you are surely better off...

Staffing is usually very Germany centric (see reasoning below). As the German economy is very spread out across various economic centers (Munich, Hamburg, Cologne-Düsseldorf, Ruhrgebiet, Rhein-Main) there's actually a fair chance of having quite a few projects where you can sleep in your own bed (especially if you are Munich-based).

One more thing regarding staffing: The internal rates at which German consultants are charged to other country's offices on international projects tend to be quite high. So often times you may be prohibitively expensive to be staffed on a project run by an office in a different country.

Cheers

Elias