What A.T. Kearney Seeks In MBA Hires

Project team celebrating award at consultant meeting in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Project team celebrating award at consultant meeting in Playa del Carmen in Mexico

How is this for bold?

In an uncertain time – when firms are still hoarding capital and hiring tentatively – A.T. Kearney has chosen the road less traveled. Seizing opportunity where others pursue retrenchment, this consulting giant unveiled Vision 2020 in 2013. As part of this plan, A.T. Kearney intends to double in size and become the most admired consulting firm, with a culture that’s distinguished by its expertise, experience, intimate approach, and innovative spirit.

In a recent interview with Consulting magazine, Johan Aurik, A.T. Kearney’s managing partner and board chair, shared his vision. “We believe that the potential of our industry and of our firm is boundless. We are in a great place and focused on growth. We offer a distinctive value proposition to our clients and our people. Our firm financial footing and strong partner alignment puts us in a good position to attract the talent we need to reach our growth objectives and achieve our vision of being the most admired full-service global management consulting firm. There is a sense of vitality and enthusiasm across our firm that continues to grow. We are on a great path.”


And that mindset means exceptional opportunities for MBAs according to Michelle Hay, who heads A.T. Kearney’s human resources in the Americas. “We are going to double in size, so that means you have the opportunity to come in and create your own path. We need people who are smart and creative, who really take initiative, roll their sleeves up and ‘jump in’. If someone is passionate about exploring new and diverse experiences, we’re a great fit for them.  We offer people an opportunity to chart their own course.”


And that opportunity is reflected in A.T. Kearney’s MBA hiring numbers. Here, Hay projects 100 MBA hires in 2015, up from 85 in 2014. MBA interns follow a similar trend, with the firm planning to add 60 interns in 2015, a 17% jump from 50 in 2014. Despite the firm’s rapid growth, don’t expect them to water down their high standards. They only make internship offers to 15% of the students they interview. The firm eventually offers positions to 75%-85%% of their summer interns.


No, it may not be easy to get into A.T. Kearney, but it’s also not a place that people want to leave. And Hay attributes that to a culture rooted in down to earth values where people are friendly, helpful, and authentic. “This is not a sharp elbowed culture,” Hay tells Poets&Quants. “This is a culture where everyone pitches in when they need to pitch in.” And she attributes this to the firm’s rich culture. “The roots of our firm are very Midwestern, and this carries through in our core values and the relationships we build.  What’s interesting is when you walk the hallways you’ll feel that we are a global, intellectual, diverse, innovative group of people who all share these values.”

And maintaining a culture like that isn’t an easy balance. A.T. Kearney employs over 3,500 people, including 2,300 consultants, in 61 offices covering over 40 countries. With annual revenue reaching $1.1 billion in 2014, it serves industries ranging from manufacturing and energy to private equity and digital. While it has long been renowned for its operational and strategic expertise, the firm has wide-ranging know-how in areas like big data, organizational transformation, and sustainability. In fact, A.T. Kearney works with over two-thirds of companies in the Fortune 500.

John Aurik

Johan Aurik

Despite such breadth, A.T. Kearney has united its team around some universal values.  And that starts with an unwavering commitment to forming true partnerships with clients. In the most recent Consulting magazine rankings, A.T. Kearney ranked among the top performers in client engagement. And that’s not by accident, Aurik tells Consulting. “…it really demonstrates the commitment we have across our organization to the concept of co-creation: our ability to leverage our collaborative and authentic style to develop new and innovative ways to work ‘with’ our clients, not ‘for’ our clients.”

Ironically, A.T. Kearney started out as part of McKinsey in the 1920s, with founder Andrew Thomas Kearney serving as McKinsey’s first partner. Since then, A.T. Kearney has established its own identity that can be described as intimate and honest. Feedback – however uncomfortable – is considered to be “a gift,” says Hay. MBAs can also expect to get opportunities very early in their career at A.T. Kearney. “You’re given responsibility very quickly. It’s different from many smaller firms in that you’re exposed to a multitude of different industries and functions. You have the opportunity to work with big name clients on their most pressing issues.

Recently, Hay sat down with Poets&Quants for an exclusive interview on what A.T. Kearney seeks from MBA hires. From recruiting to onboarding, here are Hay’s thoughts on how talented MBAs can differentiate themselves and become successful at A.T. Kearney.

What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

Ultimately, what we’re looking for in a consultant is someone who can bring different experiences to our clients and solve challenging problems. We collect resumes as part of a candidate’s application but we know from experience that they are not a very good predictor of who will be successful at our firm. We know someone from a top MBA program is smart so we are looking for more than that.



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