Landing a job in a top consulting firm is a dream for a lot of fresh business graduates, just as it is for a lot of experienced entrepreneurs. A great salary, diverse business experience and connections, fast professional growth, these are just some of the reasons to go for it. But not a lot of people will get to fulfill this dream. In this article, we will go through what exactly it is you need to get your chances for success as high as possible!

Considering that just about 1% of applicants at McKinsey actually make it to get hired, it’s safe to say that you have to stand out from the crowd with your approach and mindset. You need to do a lot more than just work on your problem-solving skills and maths. You need to start thinking like a top consultant.

How do you do it?

With the right preparation and attitude. As far as technical aspects of preparation are concerned, we have many different articles on how to ace your interview, how to create your resume and consulting cover letter, how to work on your frameworks and case solving, etc.

For many tips and guides about this and other consulting related questions you may have, feel free to visit the My Consulting Coach website.

To start thinking like a successful consultant and get into the right mindset, you have to take an open approach. There are two basic pre-requisites you have to follow.

The first one is an obsession with looking for a better way to do something that is being done. It might be getting the job done, and it may be widely used. But does that mean that that is THE best way to get it done? Do we halt any further progress in this area at that point?

You have to take on the mindset of improving all the time, as well as being creative. Always try out new methods or approaches, even if they fail most of the time. It takes just one time to get it right to make it worth it in most cases.

Step two is to be open-minded to shifting ideas, taking different approaches, and absorbing better ways to do things through experience.

Both of these traits are connected and should find their way into your head if you are striving for success in this branch of business.

Know how to recognize the problem

A lot of people will tend to hastily jump to conclusions in this line of work, and that is a terrible way to go. Always take your time analyzing the issue to get to the root of the problem, and not mistake one of its symptoms for the problem itself.

Collect all the data you need. Do your research. Once you’ve looked at all the possibilities, start structuring your data in a top-down manner while including all possible factors.

Do not engage in solving a problem thinking that you already know the cause of it, as this might lead you to change or ignore facts to suit your agenda. Leave all possibilities open and work your way down to the core of the problem, analyzing it step by step until you have covered all options.

Creating a hypothesis

Let’s set a simple example. A car company is having profitability struggles. Jumping to a conclusion like “We are not selling enough cars anymore” is the wrong approach. There are too many factors to consider before pointing at something and identifying it as the problem.

Work with the information you have – if, for instance, you get supplied with data saying that the price of cars has been steady and the number of sold cars is as estimated. By drawing an issue tree and breaking down the problem, you explore all the options branch by branch until you find what could be causing the problem.

Could be a rise in the costs of production. Even if it is a rise in production costs, is it due to a jump in the price of parts the company is supplied with or is the production process becoming less efficient, hence wasting unnecessary resources? You have to cover all the possibilities and think outside the box on how to efficiently isolate the problem, then work your way upwards on how to fix it and restore profitability.

Working your way back up the issue tree

Once you have analyzed the problem in a top-down manner and have collected and structured enough data to come to a hypothesis, you can transfer to a different type of analysis. A bottom-up approach to the problem.

This means testing your hypothesis and running analysis, raising more questions in the process to determine the effect of your hypothesis. As you progress, you might prove yourself right or wrong, but remember to remain open-minded and not get stuck on a single hypothesis, thinking it’s the solution.

Details, details

Apart from achieving the perfect results, it’s important to pay attention to the way you deliver them. Top consultants will always keep their presentations tidy, stick to the template format, eloquently explain their points, and make sure their clients understand the process that was taken to resolve the problem.

Work on being a good listener as well, and on asking the right questions to gain the information you need without swarming your clients with dozens of chaotic, disconnected questions.

Final thoughts

This is a long process and is not something where you can expect immediate results. In fact, it is something you work on your whole career, always striving for progress and improvement. Whether you’ve been doing this for months or decades, there are always areas where you can improve, and you need to be well aware of them in order to do it.

A good way to speed up your improvement would be to surround yourself with people who also work hard and want to improve. Giving and receiving feedback is a great way to bolster your skills and detect weak spots. And being surrounded by such people can also only positively affect your morale and motivation.

So strive for progress, work on yourself all the time, and keep the right mindset. With these traits and the experience you will gain, the only way for you is up!