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.


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.


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.


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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