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Head of Global Recruiting Company

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This is an informal interview with an industry veteran of ten years, who has worked in management consulting longer than some consulting firms have even existed. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in economics, she cut her teeth on mergers and acquisitions deals at Lazard Freres in New York and then returned to Harvard Business School. Upon graduation, she joined Monitor Company as a consultant and rose through the ranks to become a Case Team Leader and a Global Account Manager. She stepped into the role of head of Global Recruiting for Monitor, where she is responsible for all hiring at the undergraduate and graduate-school levels. Monitor Company is a leading international management consulting firm with over 600 consultants employed worldwide.

This interview gives you an idea of how the management consulting industry works and how it recruits people; what they look for in consultants.

What types of people would find management consulting a good place to work?

People with a real intellectual curiosity about business like to be in the management consulting field. And people who want a broad exposure to a variety of companies and business issues. If someone is curious not only about finance, but also marketing, production, cost management, and issues of globalization and global competitiveness, then I think consulting is the right profession to pursue.

Do you see the profession of management consulting changing at all, and do you see any potential impact of these changes on people who are now entering the field?

The range of industries and management issues we see are growing, and technological change is happening in the business environment at a very rapid pace, so that the scope of knowledge and expertise required to support global clients is exploding. This is creating a real burden on firms in the industry, and I think different firms are handling this in different ways. Some are developing the knowledge in-house, and they have "industry practices." Some firms, like Monitor, are developing it in-house but are also developing networks outside of the firm to be able to call on expertise when we need it. So that's one thing that I see changing-the rate at which firms need to assimilate knowledge to serve clients.

A second trend is that industry reports or industiy structure analysis are a kind of commodity now. The kinds of analysis or insight that ten or twenty years ago you would have seen in the final report of a consulting project are now in the proposal letter. The more challenging aspect of a consulting engagement now is not the solution to the problem but how you make the solution happen in an organization-how you create change. The skill set required for consultants is quite different. You not only need analytical and business skills, but you need the interpersonal skills required to create change.

What is your general recruiting philosophy and how does it differ from other firms?

At both the graduate and undergraduate levels, we are hiring for the Consultant position. What this means for undergraduates is that we're not looking to hire people for two years and then ask them to go back to graduate school. They stay as long as makes sense for them. A lot of undergraduates do go back to business school, but it may be after two, three, or four years. And we're interested in having the people who do leave come back after business school. We look to them to be the future leaders of the firm. The way we implement this philosophy is we have a much customized career path. People don't rise in a lockstep fashion through the firm. Once you're here, it's really up to you to figure out how fast you're going to progress, what kind of skills you're going to develop and when. You're in a constant dialogue with a professional development advisor who helps you plan your career.

Are only a few undergraduates given offers to return to Monitor after business school?

Postbusiness school offers are performance-based, but it's a significant number-greater than 50 percent of departing consultants receive the offer.

How many resumes do you receive each year?

We get about 15,000 resumes in North America and 20,000 resumes in total worldwide for the undergraduate consultant position. At the graduate level, we get about 5,000 resumes in North America and 6,000 worldwide. At the undergraduate level we hire about 100 consultants each year, and at the graduate level, about 50.

What are some of the most important qualities that you look for in consultants?

We look for analytical skills, communication skills, and the ability to work with clients. Another dimension we look for is the ability to learn. Consulting is a very rapid learning environment, and we assume that people don't have most of the skills they need when they join. We provide training for new consultants, but there's also a lot of on-the-job learning that we expect people to be able to handle. We're also looking for people with a sense of initiative or motivation and values that are consistent with our firm's values.

Could you describe the new case interview you've added to the recruiting process?

A lot of firms will give you verbal case questions. We also give a written case. Candidates have twenty minutes to prepare the case, and then they discuss it with the interviewer. We are looking to see how candidates can reason through a business problem.

What aspects of the resume are most important to you?

First, academic performance is important. We also look for evidence of a high energy level and intrinsic motivation-to what degree the candidate has been involved in extracurricular activities or jobs outside of school. We look for evidence of leadership and action orientation, the ability to get things done. We look for breadth, the ability to balance multiple commitments. We're also assessing whether the candidate has been challenged in their school and work environment.

Are details like cover letters and thank-you notes important? How thoroughly do you read these?

They are important, and we do read them. They reflect that the person has seriously thought about what they want before applying to Monitor. After reading cover letters, we usually know how much the candidate knows about Monitor and how serious they are about pursuing us.

Have people been extraordinarily creative in the ways they've tried to get a job at Monitor?

The candidates I remember the most are the ones who have challenged our hiring decision. There have been instances where people have challenged a decision, and we have reopened the case, done further evaluation, and reversed the decision. So the openness to learning that we value we also apply to our recruiting practices.

Is there anything you wish candidates would stop doing?

The greatest piece of advice I could give is to be yourself. Tell us who you are and what it is you want to accomplish with your life. If you just play back what you think we want to hear, the probability of the relationship being successful for either side is not high.

Which interviews have been most memorable to you?

There are two kinds of interviews that I remember most vividly. One is people who share a personal story that is very high impact that illustrates some part of their personality, values, or commitment. I've heard some fascinating personal stories.

And the other is people who recover well from some blunder. People who really make a mistake and then are extremely graceful in the way they recover from it. First of all, because the blunder is often so memorable, and second, because they're able to recover from it gracefully. It's an indicator of how they might handle themselves in a difficult client situation.

How important are the questions the candidate is asking you?

They are very important, because they reflect how much the candidate has thought about Monitor and the industry. Questions tell us how curious people are and how far along they are in their decision-making process.

When you evaluate a candidate, how important is the name-brand of their school?

It is important that the person come from a high-quality academic institution. There are some schools that don't have great name recognition, but are still high quality. We don't just recruit at Harvard and Princeton. We also go to Williams and Amherst and other smaller schools. What's important is what we know about the quality of the institutions, and even more important, the quality of the programs within the institutions.

Actually, I'm referring to students who come from good schools that don't have quite the same "brand name."

Those people do get hired every year. We are very focused in our recruiting efforts, however. There are a limited number of schools where we do on-campus interviews and presentations. We do hire a number of people each year from schools where we don't recruit, and we look at all of the resumes we receive very carefully. But in terms of the numbers, there's a lot of competition for a limited number of slots.

What types of candidates do you wish you saw more of?

What we do wish we saw more of are people who are interested in experimenting--taking risks and breaking new ground. Often we see people who are more oriented toward security and how to hedge their bets, and that's an attitude that isn't as exciting as someone who has a lot of self-confidence and really wants to go out and make things happen.

Does that mean that you will look at people who have been out of school and worked in another field for a number of years?

Yes, we every year hire people who have gone on fellowships and that sort of thing, or who have worked in another industry for a number of years and are now interested in a career change. And they're brought in as consultants just like everybody else.

How should an undergraduate or MBA student decide which job to choose?

I can't answer that for any individual. What 1 encourage people to do is to think about what's important to them, and write it down. Be very explicit with yourself. Then look at different firms in terms of how well they represent each of those criteria. For certain people, affinity with the firm's people is going to be the most important thing. For other people, name brand is important. For others, it will be the experience-where will they be challenged and stretched the most. But be honest about what matters most to you.

What should people notice about your office when they come in for an interview?

One thing people will notice in most of our offices is the atmosphere is very informal. For example, our Cambridge office is a converted furniture factory with exposed brick walls. Our offices are very much an expression of the personality of the firm, with modern architecture and an in-office casual dress code five days a week. When you're with clients, you'll be expected to dress in whatever is most appropriate for that client. But our philosophy is to allow people to be themselves and be comfortable while they are at work.

How does a Monitor consultant differ from a consultant at another firm?

There is openness to learning and a willingness to take risks and innovate common to all Monitor consultants. Because of the growth stage Monitor is in and because of the way we run the firm, we are looking to every person who comes in to help us shape the future of the firm. And that does attract a slightly different type of person than the one attracted to firms who are more set in their ways.
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