What A.T. Kearney Seeks In MBA Hires

A.T. Kearney consultants in Mexico

A.T. Kearney consultants at a team meeting

What are your expectations for entry level MBAs? What are your most successful new hires doing to hit the ground running and quickly add value?

Our most successful new hires are engaged from the start.  They ask questions. Meet people. Get involved. They immerse themselves in the training opportunities available.  They keep track of everyone they meet and stay in touch. They build their networks early and broadly. They are always thinking about the ‘so what.’ They give their time generously and listen actively.  And maybe most importantly, when someone gives them feedback, they act on it.

Do all of this and you’ll succeed too.

What are your favorite business schools doing differently (or better) to better prepare students to work at A.T. Kearney?

I think all of the business schools are preparing their students for the analytical part of consulting. What some schools are doing differently is focusing on increasing students’ emotional intelligence.  For example, [they’re teaching them] how to build relationships and what executive presence should look like. Students that have the opportunity to develop their EQ are better prepared for work at A.T. Kearney.

Consultant meeting in the New York office

Consultant meeting in the New York office

Give me an example of a student who really impressed you in the process?

We had a student that we took a chance on for an associate position. And the student did not have a traditional business or engineering background. This was a student who was a teacher who was going back and getting her MBA. She didn’t have the analytical experience that many of our associates had coming in the door. And that can be a challenge because, often times, our projects require a lot of deep analysis.

We [hired] this person because we really liked the way she approached problems-solving. And she had really good communication skills and a great presence. So we put her on a project and surrounded her with people who could help this person develop the analytical piece. And for the first three-to-four weeks, this person struggled because we were asking this person to do things that she had never really done before.

We had what I call a mid-cycle review, which we do for all of our summer associates. The feedback was mixed. She did some really good things, but the analytics were not so great. And there was some question whether this person could really make it.

This person took the feedback and really doubled down to turn it around and really learn how to do the analytic piece. By the end of their summer associate program, she was awesome. So we did make an offer and that person is still working for us today.

So the lesson there is that it is OK to try something new and it is OK to struggle. If you work really hard and have the right support system around you, you can be a good fit.

What excites you personally about working for A.T. Kearney? 

I’ve been at A.T. Kearney over a year, and I’m very excited about working for this firm. I’m excited, because I get to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit at A.T. Kearney, and I have the opportunity – and flexibility – to truly have an impact on the strategic direction of the firm. I get to work with consultants who have rich and diverse backgrounds, and I can have a dramatic impact on what the team can accomplish. I believe that the opportunities to grow are limitless.

This has been an exciting thing for me. When I came in a year ago, I was tasked with leading the human resources function in the Americas.  And the function was good when I arrived. So what I did was I took a step back and I looked at, ‘Where could we really have a step change in what we do in HR?’ And it was recruiting. We needed to clearly articulate what our value proposition is, which I think had been muddled over the years. We spent a lot of time this past year thinking about how to articulate that. And I feel like we have a very powerful story to tell; we just need to tell it in a way that resonated particularly with campus.

We also [needed to] identify exactly what they are looking for. So the four capabilities I talked about earlier [Basic Reasoning, Complex Reasoning, Learning, and Impact] – we didn’t have that here yet. We were looking for it, [just] not deliberately in a structured way. So I had an opportunity to really impact the organization in defining exactly what we were looking for and how we were going to go about looking for that. ‘How do I interview for it?’ ‘How do I assess for that?’ ‘And how do I go about hiring for that?’ And once we do all that, ‘how do we bring them on board?’ This was very strategic move for the firm and I’ve been able to do that in my first year.

What question(s) didn’t I ask that you’d love to answer?

I have one point that I would want to make. [And it involves], ‘how do our consultants describe their experience with A.T. Kearney after their first year?’ They would say they have built deep relationships with their colleagues and their clients. They work alongside partners in the firm – and they feel like they learned more in a year and were given the opportunity to contribute more than they expected. They know they added value. They worked hard, and it was worth it.

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