In yet another sign that management consulting has been virtually immune from economic uncertainty, L.E.K. Consulting said it plans on increasing its MBA hires this year by 25%.
In an interview with Poets&Quants, Chief Talent Officer Kristine Hyde said that would bring its total MBA hires to about 37 from the 30 MBAs the firm hired last year.
With Wall Street still struggling, consulting has quickly become one of the most lucrative and viable options for MBA graduates of top business schools. “We are in growth mode,” says Hyde. “We are seeing increased demand for our services across the board. We’re still finalizing the actual numbers but the plans are for a 25% increase over last year’s target. We are continuing to focus on growth. We are hiring across all five U.S. offices: Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.”
MBA SKILLS SEEN AS VERY DESIRABLE
Hyde says one reason for the consulting boom is that it is an industry that has bounced back from the recession faster than others. “The industries that tend to employ a high number of MBAs are sometimes industries that start to pick up as soon as the recession declines. In consulting, I often see it as emerging out of a recession earlier than others. We end up in growth mode a lot sooner. And there is very much a focus and emphasis on MBAs. The skills they acquire are very desirable. Regardless of recession, that has been the case for quite some time.”
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. “We look for strong candidates everywhere,” said Hyde, adding that L.E.K. does job postings at several other business schools outside its core group.
Hyde says that despite the uncertain economy recruiting MBAs from the best schools has become an increasingly competitive game. “It’s still very competitive,” she says. “A significant number of firms are looking for a finite number of students and I have not seen a decrease from our competitors in terms of what they are looking for. So you hit the supply and demand conundrum. And the students these days are interested in a variety of opportunities, including entrepreneurial possibilities. That is at a higher point now than ten to 15 years ago.
FIRMS COMPETING WITH STUDENT DESIRES TO LAUNCH START-UPS
Hyde says she is not surprised by the entrepreneurial trend. “I think there is probably less risk aversion in students today than I saw 20 years ago. They have confidence in their abilities. The information out there around the success of entrepreneurial ventures is more prominent. There is a lot of focus on the successes out there. The play that gets contributes to the feeling that ‘I can certainly do that successfully.’”
Hyde said her firm is highly satisfied with the quality of MBA talent coming out of the best schools. “I don’t think there is anything the schools need to do to improve,” she says. “It’s still very competitive for talent. It’s our responsibility to make a career in management consulting attractive and express the benefits of joining our individual firms.”
Typical for most consulting firms, MBA candidates have to jump through 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. We get thousands of resumes throughout the course of the recruiting season.”
A FINAL ROUND OF INTERVIEWS INCLUDES A 30-MINUTE CASE PRESENTATION
The last round of interviews includes a 30-minute case presentation before a panel of L.E.K. partners and associates. Job candidates get the facts of the case only 60 minutes before their presentation. “We usually try to take a sanitized version of a typical case at L.E.K. and present it to them so they are also given a flavor of the kind of work we’re typically doing,” says Hyde. “Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people tell me it was fun.”
Despite the rugged interview process for hires, L.E.K. is trying to position itself as a consulting firm offering a more balanced life to recruits. It is implementing programs such as “Out by 6” and flexible work schedules as part of their work/life balance efforts.
Last year, the firm hits its target of recruiting 30 MBAs. “We had a very successful MBA recruiting year,” said Hyde. “It was a combination of those we hired directly from schools, returning summer consultants, and a number of sponsored students. Typically, about 25% of L.E.K.’s MBA recruitment is through its summer consulting program. “We are looking to increase that,” says Hyde.
L.E.K. has 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.”
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.
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.