Tip: “Don’t be too much of a Consultant”

“Don’t be too much of a consultant.”

That is one of the most common themes former consultants and hiring managers bring up when talking to Raines International about what current consultants can most improve upon in interviews and / or in their transition to corporate.

Like it or not, overconfidence and an air of superiority are commonly linked with consultants when they interface with the “real world,” both in interviews and their new corporate teams (and remember, this feedback is coming from those who have been there, done that already).

With many consultants making the move to industry, and interviewing before they get there (in our study of 400+ 2006 MBAs who went into the Big Three alone, 67% have since moved into industry, with 76% leaving after only 1-3 years of post-MBA consulting) we’ve collected the thoughts of former consultants on the assumptions current consultants make, and how best to navigate the transition process.

On the assumption of corporate talent:

Aneesh Kumar, Booz and Accenture alum, and current Head of Consumer Engagement Strategy of Aetna, tells Raines about the  pitfalls he witnesses when interviewing consultants:

“To be blunt, I think part of it has to do with hubris. Coming from strategy, many consultants presume that corporate ‘lifers’ are oblivious to the inefficiencies and inconsistencies of the healthcare industry. They’re not. And it is not for lack of analysis, ability, or effort that the industry still has many of its problems today.

“Healthcare is incredibly complex, and once you get past the ‘lifer’ assumption, you realize how much there is to learn in an industry that is highly regulated and where the financial and societal impact is high.

“My advice is to combine your outside knowledge with humility in order to absorb the vast amount of information from those who know it firsthand.” 


On the assumption of a consultant’s own capabilities:

One of our most insightful chats Raines International had about consultants and the interview / transition process was with Russell Jolivet, a Booz alum who went into both executive recruiting and now internal talent acquisition.

Having worked in a number of industries and companies on their talent teams, including a high-growth PE-backed technology company, a healthcare company, and now SunTrust Bank, he gives his immediate thoughts on consultants and interviews:

“Arrogance is something to be avoided. It is also important not to be too theoretical – consultants don’t always give concrete examples, and they often talk in theory instead of offering examples of results.

“A consultant is impressive if he can show that he is very capable of thinking on his feet, has good communication skills, and is confident without being arrogant.”

On the transition into corporate itself, Russell says consultants need experience and to prepare for full accountability.

“Especially if consultants are coming from the top firms, they tend to believe that they are prepared to (and entitled to) run a business. I think that’s a misunderstanding. Consultants are strategic problem-solvers, but many lack the experience of ownership. In consulting, you only have a short-lived exposure to your corporate clients. You miss out on that accountability.”


So, how do you steer clear of acting “too much like a consultant”?

First, study up – give the company and industry its due credit, and don’t assume you can immediately “get it” because of your ability to ramp up quickly on your assignments. Knowing the general themes won’t be enough when you’re speaking with the people who work in the industry day-to-day.

In our interview with Jeremy Muench, SVP of Operations at McKesson, he expands on what he believes was the key to landing a role at GE Healthcare despite his lack of on-the-ground experience in the space:

“Despite my lack of healthcare industry experience, I got my job after Bain by doing my homework. I read every report I could about the industry niche of the job for which I applied. My last interview with the General Manager of GE Healthcare was scheduled for 45 minutes, and we spoke for 2 1/2 hours discussing competitor dynamics, industry trends, the profit pool, etc. I got a job offer that evening, and the same phenomenon happened during my interview with McKesson. Knowledge is power.”

Other ways to battle the consultant-stigma? Be humble. Be nice. Treat the opportunity seriously and don’t focus on them selling you on the role. If the interview ends and they’ve sold you, but you haven’t sold them, then you lost.  And we see this happen all the time.