Most important characteristics of successful consultants?

Bain BCG consulting MBB McKinsey performance
Recent activity on Jul 31, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 31, 2018

Hi all! I wonder if there is a "ranking" of characteristics and traits that consultants need to have in order to be successful at their job. Both in terms of their personalities and also their abilities. What is it that makes young consultant stand out? And how does this help him/her in doing the job?

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replied on Jul 31, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous!

I believe the following set of abilities are very central to successfully perform the tasks of a management consultant at MBB firms:

1. Curiosity: Intrinsic drive to get to know root causes of visible effects and/or problems. The urge to understand the "Why?" and "How?" on top of the "What?"

2. Ability to listen and absorb: This is absolutely central! In daily interaction with clients, you should be listening at least 80% of the time! Being able to absorb and connect information from multiple sources and layers across the client organization is one of the essential success drivers for almost any consulting engagement.

3. Ability to analyze and synthesize: Disaggregating problems into their sub-components, addressing the corresponding sub-issues, and then integrating the insights into the big picture and larger frame is the bread and butter for a consultant. In short: rigorous problem solving skills.

4. Mental flexibility: Capability to quickly adapt to shifting priorities, swiftly re-focus on newly generated insights or refuted hypotheses. This goes hand in hand with a structured way of thinking about practically ANYTHING. Why? Well, in its operational core, strategy consulting is amongst the most chaotic and unstructured activities in the professional world. This is why the individual consultants need to be utterly structured in their thinking, hence leading to this flexibility and confidence that they can logically disaggregate practically ANY problem thrown their way.

All of these abilities will have a immense positive impact on almost any dimension of the consulting job: be it problem solving and insights generation, connecting and working with clients, codifying new IP for the firm, coaching younger colleagues, etc.

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on Jul 31, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


The most important thing you need to understand is that consulting is a client business and client is always first. Here is my subjective view of what's needed to succeed on different levels of hierarchy. Pls take into account that it's the ideal state and getting these skills is a journey.

Analyst / associate level

  • Having a good DGL / career counselor, etc. (Each company has different names). This is a person who guides your development in the company, collects the feedbacks on you, and presents your case to a promotion committee. Make sure to have a person who is organized enough to collect the feedbacks in time, who is a nice person in general and who has enough authority in the company (i.e. Senior partner - the more power he has - the better)
  • Choosing the project you work on smartly (i.e. collect the feedbacks on each and everyone prior to accepting the project)
  • Perfect technical skills (Excel, PPT, Problem Solving)
  • Good feedbacks on you from the client. Thus try to make friends with your clients (Both senior and non-senior role. Even a bad feedback from a blue collar can ruin your career)
  • Ability to manage your own standalone workstream with minimum supervision. TOP performers bring the end products that impress others
  • Being proactive - helping the team with daily routine, scheduling, etc. Participating in the office initiatives
  • Establishing relationships with your managers and partners. Ideally, you should have multiple senior partners to be excited about you and to support you)
  • Being lucky!

Manager level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Having your client happy - this is the most important! If the client is happy - everything else will work
  • Managing multiple partners who have different opinions. Since partners have a busy schedule it becomes very tricky to synchronize them and to align the viewpoints
  • Good feedbacks from your team - having a happy team is important. Unfortunately, sometimes it's a trade-off between having your client and partner happy
  • Telling about your success on projects to others - I'm personally not a fan of this kind of selling, but I know many people who made a career using this skill

Principal level

A lot from the above, plus:

  • Having multiple clients happy
  • Having a long list of partners supporting you (More than 10)
  • Contributions to the development of the company (Knowledge, office ops, etc)
  • Selling the projects. If you manage to sell to existing clients or even bring the new clients - you are the champion.

Partner level

A lot of the above, plus:

  • Sales, sales, sales


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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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