Getting into management consulting for doctors

Nov 12, 2018

For most physicians, transitioning to management consulting is a big endeavor. A consulting position with a well-regarded firm (for example, McKinsey, BCG, or Bain) is not something you can just submit a quick application for and expect a job offer a few weeks later.

If you’re serious about a career in consulting and want to make the most of your efforts, be intentional in your pursuit. Here are five steps to take to set yourself up for success.

1.Make a contact

It helps to have a contact at the company you’re interested in to make sure you’re approaching the candidacy process in the most appropriate way. This could be a current consultant with a similar background or a member of the firm’s recruiting team. Or – even better – make contact with both of these types of folks. A consultant can give you the inside scoop as to what it’s like to work for the company and tips from their own experience as an applicant.

It’s also possible they may put in a good word for you or even pull some strings if they feel strongly that you’re a great candidate. (Don’t count on this or ask for this, though..)

If you have any acquaintances who work for consulting firms, that’s a good place to start. Otherwise, here are a couple ways to find a contact.

  • Search your Linkedin contacts. Ask to connect to with a 2nd or 3rd degree contact if needed.
  • Check with administration at your current or previous training program as to whether any program grads went into management consulting.

A recruiter or HR staff, on the other hand, can provide details about application logistics. As a physician, whether you’re still in training or have been in the workforce for a while, you’re coming from somewhat of a different set of circumstances than the majority of aspiring management consultants. At large firms, the HR staff are very familiar with the “unique situations” of physician candidates. Many have recruiting processes and materials specific to medical professionals.

2. Attend a program or recruiting event

It’s common for consulting companies to give talks and workshops at universities. These take place mainly at the schools in which the companies like to hire from – ivy leagues and business schools, for example.

You can find one of these recruiting seminars pretty easily if you’re a student or affiliated with a university. Sign up for the email lists for activities, business-related clubs, and events sponsored by the career office.

If you’re out in the workforce and not tied to a university, check in with your alma mater or a local school. Or, if there’s a consulting firm that you’re particularly interested in, check their website or reach out for a list of local recruiting events.

Several of the big management consulting firms have also programs designed to give prospective candidates a taste of what it’s like to be a consultant. These are typically multi-day events and require that you apply and get accepted. Check out our previous post that discusses a few of these.

Recruiting events and programs can be a great opportunity to make a contact (see item #1) at a firm, in addition to learning the ins and outs of the application process and a bit about company culture.

3. Revamp your resume

While numbers 1 and 2 on this list are helpful but optional, number 3 is absolutely necessary. Your lengthy CV or the resume you’ve used for traditional clinical positions is not appropriate for a consulting job application.

The first step, if all you have is a CV, is to use it to formulate the bones of a resume. Then, add details that are relevant to the consulting industry. These might include:

  • Any projects or jobs you’ve had working in a consultative capacity
  • Quantitative results of your work
  • Responsibilities involving leadership, strategizing, and management
  • Work and activities that demonstrate your problem-solving skills

Clinical experience is important to your resume as a doctor; however, just listing where you worked and the type of medicine you practiced isn’t sufficient when transitioning to management consulting. You need to provide evidence of teamwork, results, and achievements.

In addition to a resume, you’ll likely need to fill out a detailed online application. This might require you to reiterate educational, work, and professional experience that’s already on your resume. So have your resume on hand to ensure that everything on your it and on your application aligns.

4. Prep for the test

As medical professionals, we’ve been through enough formal education that we’re used to tests. And we know how to do math and understand English and grammar. While your knowledge-base probably already includes all the info covered on consulting industry candidate tests, the way the material is tested is somewhat different than what you’re used to.

Tests such as the McKinsey Problem Solving Test aim to determine your ability to use math to solve business-related problems, to interpret data, and use logic in reading. There are a number of helpful online resources for prepping for this type of test, and most have practice questions.

Not every business consulting firm requires applicants to take a test. The large, competitive companies such as McKinsey and BCG do, though. So if you’re vying for big guns, put in some effort to prepare. If you don’t pass the test, you may not be invited to interview.

5. Prep for the interview

Most physician interviews for conventional clinical positions are highly focused on the applicant’s personality. Employers often assume a physician candidate has the knowledge and skills needed for the job, based on the fact that he or she completed medical school, training, USMLEs, etc. You’ll be asked personality-type questions in a management consulting interview; however, this won’t be the extent of it.

Consulting candidates are frequently required to complete case interviews. These involve the interviewer presenting a standard case that’s a kind of watered-down version of a problem you might have to solve as a consultant. For example, an analysis of a potential new line of business for a company or an investigation of a recent decrease in profitability. You’ll be asked to walk the interviewer through your thought process as you consider various factors, solve math problems, and reach decisions about business questions.

Most physicians will need to practice – sometimes extensively – for this type of interview.

On top of being ready for case-based interview questions, you should be prepared to discuss your specific professional experiences that demonstrate your ability to work with a team, solve problems, overcome challenges, and drive change.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

These five tips are geared toward medical trainees and early career professionals interested in consulting. Experienced physicians with leadership or industry experience may not need to go through the typical consulting application process, such as the written test or multiple rounds of case-based interviews. That said, though, the standards will not be any lower. Having industry contacts and taking the time to adequately prepare for the application process is crucial.

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