Consulting Jobs: Comparing US & India Hiring Policies

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

The U.S. Experience-Centered Recruitment Process

International students should be aware of the differences between the recruitment practices in the U.S. and the recruitment practices in India, which vary depending on the company. The location of your desired consulting firm will influence your consulting job application strategies.

In the U.S., the job recruitment system is very structured. Most students, after getting their bachelor’s degrees, which typically take 4 years, will then go on to work for 3 or 4 years, after which they’ll go on to business school. While at business school, they once again go through an active recruitment process for managerial positions at consulting firms, banks, and other companies.

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The U.S. Experience-Centered Recruitment Process

International students should be aware of the differences between the recruitment practices in the U.S. and the recruitment practices in India, which vary depending on the company. The location of your desired consulting firm will influence your consulting job application strategies.

In the U.S., the job recruitment system is very structured. Most students, after getting their bachelor’s degrees, which typically take 4 years, will then go on to work for 3 or 4 years, after which they’ll go on to business school. While at business school, they once again go through an active recruitment process for managerial positions at consulting firms, banks, and other companies.

Because of this structure progression, when a company like BCG or Parthenon goes to business schools at Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton, it's implied that the students being recruited already have 2-3 years of full-time work experience. As a result, companies often hire MBA grads directly for non-entry-level positions.

This is the main recruitment system on virtually all U.S. campuses. I can't think of one company that would approach someone at an American MBA program and hire them at an entry-level position. That typically doesn't happen in business schools in the United States.

MBA students in the U.S. go directly into higher-level positions because of their previous years of work experience.



Recruitment in the EU

In the EU, they have a recruitment pattern customized to fit their educational structure. For example, in France, it’s common for students to take 5-6 years to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering because of stringent program criteria.

In general, all major consulting firms tailor their policies to the local educational landscape.

Recruitment in India

Recruitment policies for consulting firms in India are interesting because 2 parallel recruiting models have emerged.

The first model is similar to the international model. The Indian School of Business follows an international pattern, where students need to have previous years of full-time work experience before being accepted into the school.

Consulting firms who recruit at schools like the Indian School of Business hire students directly for managerial or other high-level positions because of the work experience requirements of the school.

However, there are other excellent business schools in India, like the Indian Institute of Management, the IIMs, that don't have minimum work experience as a criterion for admission. While many of those enrolled in these schools have significant work experience, there are also cases where exceptionally bright students enter a business school directly after earning their bachelor’s degree and end up being recruited by consulting firms.

The difference in entry requirements among business schools in India brings up an interesting question. When a major consulting firm generally hires MBA grads from the U.S. for managerial positions because they have multiple years of previous work experience, would that same company go to an Indian business school, where some of the students have no full-time work experience, and hire them for managerial positions?

Mezzanine Positions

Clearly, it would be incorrect to place these Indian MBA grads in the same position because there's a large gap in terms of work experience. To solve this problem, companies like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain have created what are called “mezzanine positions" for business school grads with no significant work experience, especially for students from the IIMs.

A mezzanine position is neither entry-level nor managerial. It is a position somewhere between the two.

Consulting firms generally give people roughly 2 years in a Mezzanine position before moving them into a managerial role. Through this method, inexperienced MBA grads can catch up with those who have already had multiple years of full-time experience, placing them on the same time scale and promotion track as MBA students in the U.S.

Companies with active job recruitment in India have created these mezzanine positions as a way of capitalizing on the talent of otherwise exceptionally brilliant business students from schools like the IIMs. Rather than not recruiting these students at all, companies are willing to give them the opportunity to bolster their MBA degree with enough work experience to function effectively in a managerial position. This is a model that has worked well for both students and companies.

There are, however, exceptions to this model. Consulting firms do sometimes recruit students who have only a year or so of pre-MBA experience. There are also cases where students perform exceptionally well after their MBA and are pushed into a managerial position in a much quicker time frame. But these cases are the exceptions to the norm.

What to Expect During Recruitment

Any candidate who’s reading this, or who’s considering where they would fit in, should assume the most conservative scenario.

Chances are, if a person enters an IIM or a business school without any prior work experience, he or she probably won't be recruited at a managerial position or an entry-level position. Instead, the student would probably spend a couple of years at a mezzanine position.

If a student has a Master’s degree and no work experience, a case similar to mine, he or she is considered a fresh graduate. Students in this situation don't even receive a mezzanine position. They would receive an entry-level position because a master’s degree is considered less valuable than an MBA, especially in India.
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