Updated: Jun 29, 2020
There are some management consulting enthusiasts on the blog who were willing to learn the skills required for consulting in advance. In my opinion, it's a great way to utilize this lockdown period. So, I reached out to 5 IIM Ahmedabad students who will be joining the Top 3 Consulting Firms: McKinsey, BCG and Bain, popularly known as MBB. Let's see what they had to say:
Skills, not Certifications
First of all, it was made clear to me by all of them that there are no recommended certifications or courses that are looked for in an MBB candidate's profile. Having said that, all of them mentioned a couple of skills which are relevant to the work consultants do. These skills, if acquired in advance i.e. before getting into IIMs, can increase your chances of getting selected into the Consult Club, which in turn is beneficial if you're aiming for management consulting roles in your summer placements.
Top 5 Skills
Let's start listing out the top 5 skills recommended by them for management consulting.
1. Industry Analysis
Consultants make use of various industrial reports to analyze the business environment. For those who don't know what industry analysis means, "It is an assessment tool to evaluate the complexity of an industry using economic, political and market related factors". There are various methods used by consultants to determine the suitability of an industry. For basic learning, these three models will be sufficient:
Porter's 5 Forces
Though, the 5 students didn't recommend any particular source from which you can learn about these models, I've researched and found this link to be pretty useful for that purpose: Learn the 3 Models of Industry Analysis.
All the top consulting firms have their own research teams to generate industrial reports. While at IIMs, we were recommended to use Crisil Research. One cannot access many of its features unless a license key is provided by the affiliate institute, which in our case was IIM Ahmedabad. So, for the time being, you can use its free posts as well as business news articles to carry out the industry analysis using the above-mentioned models.
2. Excel Modelling
Another useful skill listed by most of the consultants is excel modelling, especially financial modelling, which helps in estimating and predicting scenarios that assist in taking business decisions. Now, you may not know a lot about excel modelling and as the five students also mentioned, you need not know it all in advance. Having a primary understanding of how models are created can help you be prepared.
Upon searching the web a bit, I found three introductory posts that cover excel modelling in a very lucid manner. It should be enough to just go through these posts and get an idea of the process:
Here is an example of how excel models look like in a consultant's laptop: Consulting Project Full Excel Financial Model. You shouldn't get overwhelmed by this example. Most consultants tend to agree that it takes practice to get better at building excel models.
Most often, the output generated by these models is in the form of the financial statements of a company, hence doing a basic course on financial analysis can help you. Here is a link to the most basic course you can enroll for: University of Virginia Financial Accounting.
Analytics is going to be your close friend as a consultant. You need not be proficient in analytics to be a consultant, but having this knowledge in hand can help you in problem solving. There are a total of 12 basic analytical tools that you should know about:
Data to Knowledge
You can learn about all of them in brief at this website: Stratechi Analytics. The reason analytics is an important skill to have, is because of its power to derive insights out of numbers. As a consultant, you'll be frequently required to synthesize and analyze the data to come up with critical reasons behind your client's problem and use them to arrive at the solutions as well.
You must have heard consultants say that their lives revolve around PPTs and excel sheets. Well, that's absolutely true and mastering the PPT skills can have a huge impact on your consulting career. In the context of acquiring this skill before joining IIMs, the five students recommended learning the storylining methods followed by MBB.
Storylining refers to the logical flow and presentation of ideas such that there is a coherence in the overall flow in a consultant's PPT. Now, if you wish to know what are the three basic principles followed by MBB in regards to PPT making, I'd suggest you to watch this video:
Another useful resource in this regards is this advanced guide to: McKinsey Style Presentations. You need not download the e-book given in the link, just scroll through and you will find the 12 chapters of the e-book explained on the web page itself.
After going through the storylining basics, I'd suggest you to refer to these 30+ McKinsey Presentations to observe how storylining is being practiced in them. Some of them may be dated about 10 years old, but the purpose is to understand how the flow of a consultant's PPT should be.
Needless to say, if you are in a client-facing role, you're expected to be good at communicating effectively. Now, the five students said that this needs to be worked upon only if you lack basic English fluency (since most client conversations are in English). And, there is no secret sauce to this skill, it gets developed by constant practice and usage.
One of the informal ways used by students is to watch videos in English, you can choose to watch TV series, movies, etc. to increase your exposure to the language in case your surroundings fall short in that regards. Another common practice which is followed is to use the Mirror Technique, which is speaking about any topic for a couple of minutes in front of the mirror using the language you wish to be proficient in.
If you prefer doing an online course to become better at this skill, then I would recommend this specialization course by one of the Top Instructors on Coursera: Georgia Tech.
With this we come to an end of the post on skills required for pursuing consulting at IIMs. There are two posts I've written previously on Management Consulting, in case you're interested:
In case you're more interested in the other fields, here is some additional content:
For a one-stop-shop for skill-building, read this post on improving your profile for MBA.
If you're new to the blog, welcome and hope you found the content to be useful. You can write to me if you have any queries or follow-ups regarding this post or anything related to CAT, IIMs, academic advice, etc. You can learn more about this blog here.