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Honest Reality about BCG and McKinsey Consultants Competence

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

Career insights by GGI is a new series by GGI sharing hacks and tips around management consulting, MBA, product management and public policy.

In this GGI career insights, we will be sharing insights into: why having and displaying competence is a necessary part of being a management consultant.


Have you ever wondered why competence is an absolute must for a management consultants or why they choose to display a high level of competence? The answer goes to the very root of the job profile, which I would be unfolding during the course of this article.

1. Why is competence a big deal for management consultants?

Competence is a core skill required for getting into the consulting industry. This starts with the fact that BCG, McKinsey and other management consulting companies are paid exuberant amounts by various fortune 500 companies and other organizations for their input.

The higher salary has to justify their exceptional intellectual advisors capable of carrying out their projects. This exceptionalism demands the very best.

This is why most of the creamy layer of management consultants come from top universities like IIM, ISB, Harvard and akin. In some shape or format, through these degrees, aspirants project their competence at least in terms of their intellect.

This is of course, a bitter pill to swallow for most people. Nobody likes being defined by a paper degree, but the problem does come with its own solutions. There are various skills you can embibe to project yourself as a competent candidate.

The fact of the matter is that you are walking on a tightrope when it comes to consulting. Management consultants are in a very privileged position to get a 360° view of an organization. By being in contact with various heads under the ‘CXOs’, they get a holistic experience. Despite being a fresher and having no prior experience in the department, you would be advising industry specialists. Infact, the client employees could also be disgruntled with you because you would be making more money than them as a management consultant.

So you have no option but to persevere and show competence. This is especially prevalent during the initial months of project where you are understanding the industry and playing catch up. It is unacceptable no be unaware of industry roles and jargon whilst in client meetings.

This raises the paradoxical question of how a management consultant without industry knowledge could advise an industry leader? The answer is quite simple, consulting is not about industry knowledge, but having problem solving skills.

These skills involve dissecting a problem, connecting the dots and finding insights which are not obvious that can help you solve the problem statement successfully. The consultants with time, during the course of their extensive research, learn about the industry specific needs and demands to incorporate in finding the solution.

Inherently having this competence is simply not enough. You must present them well as well, to prove your potential in this tough client friendly industry.

2. How do management consultants project this competence?

Simply put, there is an element of fake it till you make it. In fact, many consultants feel like an imposter in consulting gaining a lot of width but lack of depth.

But with time, your learn what it entails to be a consultant. You begin to appreciate the need to not get into too much depth, but have a diverse width of understanding, to solve the problem statement at hand.

Moving onto the way you can subtly display your competence and change the way you are perceived.

1. You must begin by doing a thorough research on the industry by learning and reading a lot. This is of absolute essence to have a standing in your client meeting. You can even take a step further and initiate ‘expert talks’ afterwards to validate your hypothesis or gather more details about the industry.

2. Next comes the easiest and most effective method- building credibility through human bonds. We humans pride ourselves on being more advanced than other animals and rightly so. It comes with the special ability to establish trust with others, even strangers. Interestingly, trust is at the heart of management consulting. The best way to instigate this trust comes very naturally and often overlooked- smiling. This charmer works as well in an adult's professional life as it does with a toddler asking for ice cream.

To support your tricks, you have the backing of your brain muscles.

3. Often during meetings you are required to solve math problems. This is where speed mental math helps you ground your credibility. The best way to crack these equations is by rounding off numbers to the nearest possible numbers to be able to provide quick estimates. For example- it is easier to do 75 multiplied by 90 than 75 multiplied by 93. This represents that you are alert, quick on your feet and up for the challenge.

At Global Governance Initiative, we facilitate building of such competencies through up-skilling. By interacting with Top CEOs and Partners, you get a special insight into what management consulting entails and how you can keep up with the pace. We believe in going above and beyond a paper degree to instill a real life competence amongst our students.


Author: Shatakshi Sharma, Co-CEO Global Governance Initiative, Ex-BCG Management Consultant, Former Policy Advisor, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.


If you need more help to get into consulting, feel free to check out GGI's MBA Scholar program, here.

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