LEK Expects To Hire 30 MBAs This Year

As fears of a double-dip recession rise, L.E.K. Consulting says it still expects to recruit as many MBAs this year—roughly 30 from top U.S. schools alone for its domestic offices–as it did last. But it is already looking less likely that the 2011-2012 recruiting season will see an increase in hires.

”This past year we were in an up mode. We were hiring for growth. We are anticipating that our number of hires will be similar this year. But it’s still being determined,” Chief Talent Officer Kristine Hyde told Poets&Quants in an interview. “We’re keeping an eye on that.”

A major MBA and PhD recruiter, L.E.K. had 100 new consulting hires start at the strategic consulting firm’s U.S. operations  on Monday for a two-week orientation. Roughly a third of 70 consulting recruits were freshly minted MBAs chosen from the firm’s highly selective on-campus recruiting program.

Earlier this month, the firm recently launched a new marketing campaign to kick off the fall recruiting season. It began a regularly updated blog, The Advisor, to provide practical answers to questions on consulting as well as profile employees and the roles they are playing at the firm. “We are hoping to provide some background and education on what a career in management consulting is like and what it would be like to work at L.E.K..”

In the U.S., L.E.K. says it has recruiting relationships with 11 core business schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, MIT Sloan, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Columbia, Fuqua, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School and UCLA’s Anderson School. The firm also hires from other U. S. business schools on a more ad hoc basis.

Typical for most consulting firms, MBA candidates have to jump numerous hurdles to get an offer from L.E.K.. Recruits usually face two interviews on campus and then three more interviews in a final round if invited back to L.E.K.’s offices. “In rough numbers,” says Hyde, “one out of every ten to 12 we interview will get an offer. It’s pretty selective and competitive.”

Ticking off a list of attributes LEK seeks in MBA candidates, Hyde adds, “We look for strong business acumen and solid analytic skills, individuals who have the right perspective in terms of being team players, people who are very inquisitive, curious and self-motivated.”

L.E.K., which was launched some 28 years ago in the U.K. by a group of Bain consultants, boasts just under 1,000 employees worldwide who largely focus on four key industry sectors: life sciences, health care, retail, and aviation. The firm is just starting to do emerging industries.

L.E.K. hires MBAs to work as generalists in the firm. “While we don’t currently hire directly into our sectors, we are interested in people who have backgrounds in the sector areas. But if you have an aviation background, it doesn’t mean you will work only on aviation. We give our MBAs a breadth of experience. The exception to that is on the PhD side where we hire specifically for life sciences. We’ll bring in about 15 PhDs a year (in the U.S.) as life sciences specialists.

“One of the things we try to do is to promote the opportunities for international exposure at L.E.K. either through normal project work or a swap program so you can swap jobs with a peer for six months in another location. The international opportunities have become more interesting to folks, but very often people don’t want to move their entire lives abroad.”

Hyde has been on the recruiting side of the business for the past 20 years. “I haven’t seen a drastic change in the quality of the candidates,” she says. “It was always good and it continues to be good. I am always impressed with the MBA talent I meet. The profile has changed a little bit. In the early 1990s, when I first started out, investment banking and consulting were the hot areas. There has been a lot more diversification of the opportunities MBAs are now interested in. There’s a lot more interest in entrepreneurship now and with the economic changes, the interest in investment banking has shifted, too.”

Asked to name the most challenging part of her job, she says simply: “Fighting for the top talent. Everybody wants the same folks. We certainly continue to see that L.E.K. is continuing to grow, and we’re constantly looking for more top talent. I think the opportunities for MBAs have become a lot more diverse so we are all competing for a smaller pool.”

While Hyde helps to coordinate MBA recruiting across all the U.S. offices, the international offices tend to recruit from their local top schools. L.E.K.’s London office, for example, cultivates the relationships with London Business School and INSEAD.