Best Consulting Firms To Work For In 2018

Do you want to join a prestigious firm…or would you rather have a life?

Who says you can’t have both?

Every candidate thinks they know the tradeoff. In theory, prestige translates to big name clients, boundless resources, and lush paychecks. The downsides, of course, are 75-hour weeks capped by nonstop demands and travel. In consulting, such myths have gone the way of Mad Men’s morning martinis and teatime trysts. Increasingly, prestige firms are intensifying ways to boost mobility, flexibility, and balance. For them, compensation is a commodity. Culture and satisfaction are the true differentiators in drawing the best talent.

That trend defined Vault’s Consulting 50 ranking, the gold standard for evaluating consulting firms on prestige and performance. The 2018 ranking heralds a new #1 — and a comeback story for the ages. A year ago, McKinsey had seemingly lost its mojo, hobbled by low survey marks in such areas as work hours and culture. Consider the message received. Thanks to raising employee satisfaction while maintaining prestige, McKinsey roared back to claim 1st in Vault’s overall ranking this year, edging out the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company for top honors.

Philip Stott, Vault Consulting Editor


It was a victory to savor for McKinsey, which had slipped to third overall in 2017 after playing hot potato with Bain for the top spot in recent years. The result was the payoff of a long-standing effort at McKinsey to enhance employee health and happiness. “They’ve always been the most prestigious firm,” explains Phil Stott, consulting editor at Vault in a written interview with Poets&Quants. “But they’ve been focusing on quality of life in a big way in recent years, and it really came through in this year’s ratings from employees.”

McKinsey’s ascension can be traced to the ranking criteria used by Vault, a leading collector of market intelligence for employer ratings and reviews. Each year, Vault conducts a management and strategy consulting survey. In 2017, this survey netted nearly 9,000 verified, confidential responses from active consultants who work at more than 60 North American firms. The two section survey evaluates performance using a 1-10 scale (with 10 being the highest score). In the first section, consultants score the prestige of competing firms. After that, they assess their own employers in areas like diversity, innovation, and supervisor relationships. Overall, Prestige receives the highest weight at 30%, which is followed by Employee Satisfaction (15%), Compensation (15%), Firm Culture (10%), Work-Life Balance (10%), Business Outlook (10%), Promotion Policies (5%), and the Ability to Challenge (5%).

Not surprisingly, McKinsey topped all comers in prestige with an 8.954 score. The company name alone conjures up words like savvy, tradition, and influence. Founded in 1926, McKinsey generated $8.8 billion dollars in revenue in 2016, more than the $7.3 billion in combined sales by Bain and BCG according to Forbes. Boasting 14,000 employees in 100 offices worldwide, McKinsey alumni are found in every corner of business, politics, and academia. They include Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Darden School Dean Scott Beardsley, and Good to Great author James Collins. With such placement, McKinsey has created a mystique; a few critics even view the firm as an all-powerful puppeteer who can remake an industry with the slightest gesture.


A compliment, no doubt, but it doesn’t square with Vault’s 2018 results, where McKinsey’s prestige score sank by .077 of a point from the previous year. Considering that Prestige takes up nearly a third of the weight in Vault’s ranking, McKinsey was seemingly doomed — on the surface, at least. However, it overcame this setback by achieving a herculean feat: earning higher scores from employees across the evaluation criteria.

Go to Next Page to See How McKinsey Compares with Bain and The Boston Consulting Group

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