Why Consulting Firms are a Firm Favorite at INSEAD

The consulting industry has been a popular MBA career path for a long time

If you want to work in the management consulting industry, INSEAD is a good bet.

Nearly 50% of the business school’s freshly-minted graduates find MBA jobs in the sector.

The French-Singaporean school is a place to which many of the world’s most prestigious consulting firms turn. Last year, McKinsey & Company hired 125 INSEAD MBAs. Boston Consulting Group took 67. Bain & Company scooped up 48. While those numbers include MBAs returning to their previous employers after the 10-month program, many are from other industries — the degree is good for switching careers.

So, what makes INSEAD so successful at placing MBAs into the consulting industry? Aside from the fact that they have made it through the rigorous selection process to land a spot on the program, Stephane Ponce, INSEAD’s global consulting lead, says: “They have strong problem solving and client relationship skills, leadership aptitude, international experiences, cultural sensibility, and a passion for learning, [all of] which makes them very suitable for a career in consulting.”

Benefits of joining the consulting industry

Management consulting has been a popular MBA career path for a long time, with the competitive salaries proving too alluring to pass up. At INSEAD, MBAs joining consulting firms enjoy US$109,500 annual median salaries, plus US$25,000 sign-on bonuses — a good way to recoup MBA tuition fees that are currently listed at €80,800 (c. US$88,000).

There are many more benefits too. Working at a consultancy firm could give you access to complex and strategic issues at large multinational corporations. There is also a diversity of projects to work on, ranging from market-entry strategy to post-merger integration, across a broad array of industries. “The consulting industry provides an amazing opportunity to learn from clients and experts, and to build expertise over time,” says Ponce.

The party does not stop when you leave a firm, which will give you the exposure and network to facilitate a successful transition between sectors. McKinsey is thought to have more than 350 alumni who are CEOs of companies with more than US$1 billion in revenue, for example. “Consulting equips individuals with a specific mindset, a methodology, and an ability to adapt to difficult situations, which will help them strive in the corporate world,” Ponce says.

The popularity of the consulting industry, and the fact that high-performing firms are incredibly selective, means it is no easy feat to get hired. How can MBAs stand out in the selection process?


“Beyond getting ready for the case and fit interviews, students should consider leveraging their language capabilities, experiences in specific markets and expertise in certain sectors and functions,” says Ponce.

The big opportunities in consulting are in areas such as big data, digital transformation and performance improvement. “The sector has evolved to respond to the needs of multinationals,” he says, before adding; “…there is definitely a shift towards implementation and innovation.”

Long hours and frequent travel – challenges of life in the consulting industry

There are downsides, of course. “Let’s be honest. It is a demanding job,” deadpans Ponce. “When a consultant is on a due diligence project, he or she usually has a short deadline to respect, which means long hours in the office.”

Travel is also significant. Usually, firms adopt the Monday to Thursday model, which means that consultants will be at the client site most of the week, which could be in another country, and they will come back to the office on Friday. Some engagements are longer than others and can be far from the home office.

“It is not always easy to combine a demanding professional life with a personal life,” Ponce says. “But consulting firms are working very hard to make the job pleasant and predictable, with the ultimate goal to retain and develop their talent.”

INSEAD finds sustained success in recruiter relationships

It is not hard to see why INSEAD, which sends so many of its MBAs to top consulting firms, is an attractive destination for prospective business school students. The school has also done much to strengthen its links to leading employers. And success seems to be self-reinforcing.


“Over time, the students we helped secure jobs in consulting became successful and secured leadership positions,” says Ponce. “We have developed strong relationships with them and see them more as friends than recruiters, which helps us generate good outcomes.”

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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