Thought Leadership

Executive Search

What to consider when selling a career opportunity to a top strategy consultant


by Ashlee Wagner
Senior Associate Practice Leader at Charles Aris Inc.

In today’s candidate-driven career marketplace, a fair amount of selling is needed when trying to attract a management consultant to your organization in any capacity.

This is especially true for those consultants who are passive (as opposed to active) candidates – and the majority of candidates we recruit here at Charles Aris are professionals not actively searching for a job. They work for a great company and brand such as McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company, The Boston Consulting Group or another top-tier management consulting firm; they’re working with and for some of the smartest people in the world; and they’re tracking toward the role of partner there. Passive candidates from top-tier management consulting firms are some of the toughest candidates to attract because their organizations offer amazing benefits.

That’s why knowing how to sell your organization’s career opportunity is critical. At Charles Aris, when we kick off any new search with a client, we spend a minimum of 60 minutes asking questions of the hiring manager, H.R. partner and any other key members on the interviewing team. The purpose of that call is twofold:

      1. to understand the talent they want Charles Aris to attract on their behalf, and

      2. to gather the information the Charles Aris team needs to attract the passive candidates referenced above.

We use the information gathered on this call to develop what we call the “Four Reasons Why A-Players Change Jobs”. If you’ve ever connected with a Charles Aris team member, you may have heard us reference those Four Reasons when talking about a career opportunity. The Four Reasons are comprised of the company, the people, the job itself and the opportunity.

Through the 550-plus talent searches we’ve completed in our Strategy & Corporate Development recruiting practice over the course of the past 15 years, we’ve found that being able to sell the Four Reasons is critical to piquing the interest of a Big Three management consultant. In addition, within these Four Reasons we’ve found three crucial factors any organization should focus on:

  • Impact: the ability to influence the most critical strategic initiatives facing the company and its industry. Consultants want to make a difference, and it’s important to be able to articulate what makes this role critical to the long-term success of the business. “Where does your company want to go?” and “How will this role help you get there?” are two questions you should be prepared to answer, as they are on the minds of every consultant.
  • Exposure: access to the most senior leaders in the organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a consultant needs to directly report to the CEO out of the gates, but it is critical to have exposure to and know that the C-suite, the board, etc. will see the results of the consultant’s work. Questions such as “How many levels down from the C-suite will this position fall?” and “Which executives will I interface with on a regular basis?” are common questions we hear from consultants every day.
  • Career trajectory: If the consultant performs well in her initial role, a myriad of promotional opportunities will be made available to that consultant. Big Three consultants are highly goal-oriented, and the No. 1 objective for most of them is to ultimately serve as a general manager of a business unit (i.e., to “get to P&L”). Knowing the timeframe, what a next promotion can look like, and hearing examples of individuals who have had successful careers in your organization can help sell the story of career trajectory. Additionally, one of the great benefits in consulting is the clear path to partner which is mapped out from the moment a consultant joins the firm. The transition to corporate America typically isn’t as clear, which can be tough. As a result, it’s extra important to sell the viable career paths your organization does hold and to understand that corporate America operates much differently than the professional environments with which consultants are most familiar

"Thanks, Charles Aris, appreciate your dedication in finding such great talent for us to select from."

— The VP of Strategic Product Management for a Fortune 30 retailer, responding to an email informing him that Charles Aris Inc.'s candidate had just accepted the retailer's job offer.