B-Schools That Churn Out Consultants

by John A. Byrne on

Business schools that fill the most consultant suits

One of the most traditional of all MBA jobs is consulting. It’s one of the few industries where the degree is pretty much essential for both employment and advancement. And it’s an industry that has a hungry appetite for MBAs from world-class schools, year in and year out among the most aggressive recruiters at business schools.

Which top business schools produce the most consultants? The answer is an especially interesting one because the prestige management consulting firms are among the most discerning and demanding hirers of MBA talent in the world. Most MBAs hired by the consulting industry face a parade of challenging interviews in which their brainpower, analytical ability, stamina, presence and interpersonnel skills are put to the test.

The industry, led by such prestige global brands as McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, and Deloitte Consuling, typically swallow up more MBA graduates in any given year than companies in any other industry. And they also dangle some of the highest starting salaries and bonuses before MBA graduates.

KELLOGG AND INSEAD PRODUCE MORE CONSULTANTS THAN ANY OTHER B-SCHOOLS

So which prestige schools are on top of this list? If your default answer is Harvard or Stanford, you’d be wrong. In the U.S., the number one supplier of brainy talent to the industry happens to be Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Last year, nearly four of every ten graduating MBAs (39%) accepted jobs in the consulting industry, and Kellogg’s top four employers were all prestige consulting outfits. McKinsey brought aboard 53 MBA hires, Boston Consulting Group, with 38 hires, Bain & Co. with 37, and Deloitte Consulting with 23. The next largest employer, Citigroup, hired not much more than half of Deloitte’s intake of Kellogg MBAs–12.

Only one non-U.S. school matched Kellogg in sending 39% of its grads to consulting. Is is INSEAD, with campuses in Fontainebleu, France, and Singapore, where exactly the same percentage of MBAs from the school’s 10-month program took consulting jobs (see table of top schools on next page).

How have Kellogg and INSEAD, two of the world class leaders in MBA education, become the largest single suppliers of talent to consulting? The answers are telling and provide powerful insights into both these schools.

KELLOGG’S SUCCESS CAN BE TRACED TO AN EARLY 1980s DECISION

You can trace Kellogg’s rise to prominence and its popularity among consulting firms to a decision in the early 1980s to interview every MBA applicant. Those admission interviews allowed the school to gain an edge in assessing and then attracting candidates with the best communication and interpersonnel skills in any year’s applicant pool. Year in and year out, corporate recruiters have acknowledged that Kellogg MBAs are among only a few that consistently have the best interpersonnel skills which tend to get further polish and reinforcement in a deeply collaborative and team-based MBA experience.

Even though other top schools have added interviews to their admission screens, the consulting industry numbers show that the most astute recruiters of MBA talent still recognize that Kellogg is pumping out more students whose interpersonnel and collaborative skills are well above average.

MCKINSEY ‘NEVER WORRIED ABOUT PERSONAL IMPACT’ WHEN RECRUITING AT KELLOGG

That is why 38 different consulting firms recruit at Kellogg every year. A former McKinsey & Co. partner, Betsy Ziegler joined Kellogg a year ago as associate dean of MBA programs and dean of students. During a 12 and one-half year stint at McKinsey, she hired hundreds of MBAs for the consulting firm which would assess candidates on everything from smarts to professional presence. “When we interviewed Kellogg students,” she says, “we were never worried about personal impact and for me personal impact embodies the teamwork part but also what you are going to do in front of a client and how you are going to carry yourself and behave. Our Dean Sally (Blount) uses the term ‘high aspirations and low ego and low fingerprint.’ And that remains true.”

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  • euro2012

    very nicely elaborated. based on ryan’s post, i really think kellogg has an edge in consulting over harvard and stanford. 

  • peteo

    Thanks for the great post.  When you put it that way I can see how Kellogg could be considered the best for consulting.

  • Serious_MBA

    Thanks a ton Ryan. Very helpful about understanding why Kellogg champs in Consulting. 

  • Ex_McK

    As a curent Harvard MBA and a previous consultant, with friends in Kellogg, I agree to most of this comment by Ryan, I would like to add one thing the consulting world likes about Kellogg student is that they are smart but collegial and grounded. Helps a lot when consulting companies put these MBAs before a client.  On the other hand it is also true in Harvard, Consulting is not the top choice for most students.

  • Grat_andy

    @JohnAByrne:disqus  this is a total surprise not just for me i believe for many of us… can you  please show us the past 5 years who has been the top Strategy school? I was ambitious to apply only to H/S/W for a general management/consulting career.. these stats say Kellogg should be included in my application??  .. why is the world still calling Kellogg a marketing school?? 

  • Rajat_H

    This is funny, how Kellogg the number 1 branding school, hasn’t marketed it strength well.. as seen here to convert most students to consulting, Strategy heavy weight. Good for Wharton, getting to be known as a well round school after H and S, not associating with Finance and branded well..

  • Smriti_Canak

    Yes seems like Kellogg has consistently been the number 1 school for Strategy Consulting, though Insead has rosen to prominence in the past 5 years as well. Checked the previous years stats of these top schools.

  • Boothgrad_2013

    We get the top jobs in the bulge bracket firms and IB, yes whether you like it or not we are in the top of the world… Being part of the school I have never seen another Booth guy show atitude, can you provide the instance?

  • Ring0_2014

    Ryan’s reply above “I’m a Kellogg MBA student, 
    I can answer this question for you, There are three important things that gives Kellogg students the advantage in Consulting over Harvard and Stanford:
    1) Network and Alumni: In the Consulting world, networking plays a vital role and the alumni who come back to hire from Kellogg just dont act only as recruiters, I have seen them invest a ton of their time in terms of coffee chats and events in the Evanston area–much higher time than I have heard from Harvard of Stanford. And they are always eager in taking more students on. I was mentored by BCG/McKinsey alumni for cases in class and it helped me a lot.
    2) Kellogg preparation: This is the most secret ingredient, Every year during the winter breaks, the second-year students who went into consulting take on the role as mentors and three to four first-year aspirants are placed under them. They go through rigorous mentorship and training solving consulting cases. I have had my Booth friends come here to get help from others
    3) Culture and Collaboration: Though in academics, the case structure is similar to that of Harvard in most courses, Kellogg students have this attitude of mutually helping classmates to win a situation. If you come to Evanston during the recruiting season, all the conference rooms would be booked and there would be mutual cases and learning shared among students. There is no competition among students; it’s all about mutual help and sharing. I heard from my Harvard and Booth friends, no offense, that it gets very competitive during the recruiting process there and people try to cut each other out. And the tons of consultants who come from the Big 3 help the other students a lot from the beginning.
    Though H and S are definitely top overall programs, when it comes to Strategy Consulting, Kellogg is the way to go. That’s my personal point.”
    This makes a lot of sense for your question.

  • Overall_partly

    Bob you are so ignorant.. Go learn about B schools..  Harvard and Stanford are great MBA schools.. they are known more to the outer world because Harvard and Stanford are great universities known in all disciplines..  but Kellogg should be credited because without a well known brand like ‘Northwestern university’ they are consistently proving them up!  

  • Canada_MBA2013

    @JohnAByrne:disqus I wish to say one thing very important..  ”Harvard and Stanford” have good MBA schools and have a overall best ‘universities’ topping other disciplines as well. So people have this unbreakable mindset that Harvard and Stanford are best for all disciplines of MBA as well. Which Imho is wrong, if you see schools like Kellogg which dont have the top university (rank greater than 10) like Northwestern University coming out to the top and show casing their excellence should be given true credits.  It easy for a school with overall brand like Harvard Stanford or MIT with them and show them up.. rather than pure excellence in the business education. I have never been to any of these universities and I am from Canada.. I see that Kellogg is the underdog that deserves un-discounted credit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.pick.aluas Paul Pick-Aluaş

    Consulting firms should have a more collaborative and creative focus on their recruiting.

  • Moscow_mac

    Great article John! Kellogg is a great school! my favorite to apply, hope they take me in!

  • mba2015

    I think Kellogg only sends about 15-20% of its grads to marketing. Kellogg = Marketing just comes from Kellogg’s dominance in marketing. IMHO, I think Kellogg is an excellent all around school like Harvard & Stanford. Kellogg is #1 in consulting, #1 in marketing, #1 in part-time MBA, #1/2 in EMBA, top notch in Social Entrepreneurship & non-profit, and pretty darn good in finance as well. Excellent overall MBA program. Too bad its parent university doesn’t have the international brand recognition as Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and MIT. But Northwestern is still an awesome and prestigious brand.

    People who matter know how good Kellogg is and that’s all it matters. Let’s not be too concerned about impressing avg. joe over dinner with some fancy parent university, as most ppl associate MIT with engineering – not business/MBA – and UPenn with Wharton – not other academic fields.

  • TopMBA

    thanks, very useful remarks, definitely one of my top choices! I also know a colleague who took Kellogg over Wharton and has ended up taking a BCG offer, and he is happy about his choice!  

  • PWC_recruiter

    No doubt Kellogg is a clear winner in this space, we take a tons of talent from there every year.

  • theK

    John, are the percentages only for 1) FT, not the combined FT+PT? 2) the 2-Yr program, not the combined 1-Yr and 2-Yr?

  • JohnAByrne

    The numbers are for full-time only, including one-year programs when a school has a one year MBA.

  • gwhy

    Hi John,

    Great write up. It would be very helpful to see the raw # of hires per school, along with the class size per school. Do you happen to have those handy? Thanks!

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