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May 02


This has been an incredibly tough season for finding a job. Industry in general is still in a slump, despite an upturn in business. As a result, the numbers of graduates companies are willing to take on is but a fraction of the levels they were during the dot com boom time of 98/99. I filled out job application forms or sent in my resume to about 15 companies in strategy consulting, IT consulting, IT positions in financial services and IT companies. As of today, I’ve spoken my way through 16 interviews.

The whole process is incredibly draining. Firstly, the masses of application forms are bad enough to fill in. Online forms are the worst, especially the ones with about a hundred open-ended “name a situation where you have displayed teamwork/leadership/initiative etc.” type questions. Then there’s the resume, cover letter and academic transcript (at $10 per transcript, the uni is virtually running a mint). For some online forms you have to retype your resume done in Word as text, which is a major pain. In the end, I got truly sick of filling out form after form and just stopped.

Secondly, there’s the interview phase. Getting called up for the first few are encouraging. But then you realise that your schedule is starting to pile up with them. I have been going to interviews more often than work in the past three weeks. The interviews are 30-60 minutes on average. They really tax the brain as you attempt to construct a coherent, insightful answer, all while trying to sound sincere. With experience, it starts to become second nature though, and again, eventually you get sick of answering the same (slightly reworded) questions and get lazy. At this stage, it’s also pretty clear to the interviewer whether you have any real interest in the job. It’s been a few weeks of hoping that the last missed mobile phone call wasn’t from graduate recruitment, or that you come home to an empty letterbox (snail mail correspondence is reserved for rejections), or that the public transport system doesn’t collapse because that would make you late to the interview.

Strategic Consulting
The majority of the population, when they hear “management consulting company”, immediately think “PwC”, “Deloitte” and the other big names of the big 5 (or is that big 4 and a half now?). Unfortunately, that would be a misconception, for there is a band of companies pitched above those that make up the select group of “pure” strategic consultancies. The largest three, collectively known as M/B/B, are incredible companies to work for.

Competition for these companies is murderous. They hire from literally any discipline – engineering, law, med, commerce, science – and applicants are generally the pick of the crop of their fields. If you apply for these companies and get turned down as many are, it is all too easy to become discouraged or disillusioned with the job search process – I have witnessed some extremely talented people getting turned down for these companies. Realise however, that this year McKinsey, Poynton and Booz each hired a mere two grads out of thousands of applicants (and the other firms also hiring in the single digits). The number of grad positions open across the entire strategic consulting industry is less than the intake of PwC Consulting. Three years ago, the positions available would have been around triple what they are today.

I applied to these companies not expecting anything out of it, apart from experience. I received outright application rejections for all but two firms. One of them I have already bowed out of the interview process. I made it through to the second round of interviews for the remaining firm (16 people going for 3 positions), but was again unsuccessful.

All consulting firms hold case interviews, which are different from the ordinary behavioural based ones. Case interviews consist of a business case you work through with the interviewer – the aim of which is to see how well you can analyse a problem and structure a response. Questions I got ranged from things like, “How many tires are there in the world?” and “What is the market size for staple guns in the US?” to longer problems such as exploring market growth for a timber manufacturer and doing a market assessment and comparison between quarries and concrete suppliers. I actually prefer cases to behaviourals, but they are tougher to do, and it is all too easy to be unlucky and receive a tough case you just aren’t in the right mindset to solve.

It also seems that these firms are quite wary of IT grads. A friend who made it to the Bain interviews commented that he was the sole IT person there amongst a sea of combined Law degrees. Again, 3 years ago, things would have been quite different. (McKinsey actually used to be a sponsor for BIT!)

IT Consulting
Strategic consulting companies held their recruitment period a month before all the other industries. Application deadlines for IT Consultancies were set roughly at the time most strategy consultancies were handing out offers. Only three consultancies were recruiting this year: PwC Consulting (25 grads), Deloitte Consulting (up to 60 grads) and Accenture (about 20 grads). All the consulting companies have now splintered off their parent accounting ones after Andersen disintegrated, so they are effectively all separate entities.

PwCC: These guys will be undergoing a rebranding some time later this year, once they figure out what their new name is going to be. My degree (BIT) is part of a co-operative program with PwC as a sponsor, so we all got “special treatment” in terms of fast tracking the interview process. For us, they hold everything on one day – aptitude tests and interviews with a buffet lunch thrown in. I was asked, “What do you think of the situation in Zimbabwe?” which has to be one of the more unusual questions I’ve recevied. Offers will be extended in about 3-4 weeks. Their training course in Tampa, Florida sounds quite appealing.

Accenture: No special treatment with them, although they too are a program sponsor. Three rounds of interviews. Got rejected after the first round, which is highly perplexing, to say the least.

A few friends have been receiving interview offers by KPMG via SMS. That’s just cheap.

The Rest
I also applied for IBM, Aspect, Macquarie Bank, and UBS Warburg (IT divisions). Waiting to hear from Aspect. Currently in the pipeline for IBM and Macquarie. Was unsuccessful for UBS.

I have an interview on Wednesday, but the recruitment season is starting to wind down. Things should all be over by the month’s end.