How can you attract the best candidates?

candidates looking at job adverts

Our management consultancy clients consistently tell us that they are looking for top tier candidates. They seek people who have a strong academic profile, experience with known consulting firms, who are personable and ambitious. So, what can individual firms do to make sure that they are as attractive as possible to potential candidates?

Each individual applicant will have their own priorities. However, findings from Prism’s recent Job Search Survey gives valuable information as to what candidates seek in a new role. Understanding the different factors that attract candidates to a role and why these are important will undoubtedly strengthen your ability to successfully recruit the best people for your firm.

5 steps to recruiting top Management Consultancy talent

Brand and Proposition

Does your firm have a clear proposition, and how exciting is it in the market? Some candidates will be specifically seeking to join a big brand consultancy. A smaller, more entrepreneurial firm may be more attractive to other candidates. Regardless, a well-defined and interesting proposition, combined with a track record of delivering good quality work to good quality clients, is vital. Candidates need to feel confident that the firm can win and deliver an ongoing pipeline of work. Furthermore, reassurance that the projects they undertake will be career-enhancing is important. You are doubtless good at articulating your USPs to prospective clients. Similar thought and care should go to finding great talent.

Role and Career Development opportunities

What will the candidate find themselves doing if they join your firm? Are there clear expectations of what the role involves and the requirements for progression to the next level? Not everyone will feel strongly about having a detailed job specification. However, candidates do need to know what success in the role looks like and what are the opportunities for career development. Can you provide examples of employees who have progressed internally? Do you have evidence of how you support this through coaching, mentoring, and training? Good career prospects are the most frequently mentioned criterion by candidates registering with us.

Culture and Values

Most employers articulate a set of values on their website. Are these reflected in the day-to-day experience of working within your firm, and if so how? If you talk about diversity and inclusiveness, is that reflected in your workforce and working practices? Fully engaged employees are the happiest and most productive. Think about how you induct new employees and communicate with consultants who are working on remote project sites as well as the opportunities for individuals to influence and contribute more broadly to the firm. Another key factor is work/life balance; everyone knows that travel comes with the territory in consulting. However, it is important to be honest about your expectations and if you can offer some degree of flexibility that could make you very attractive indeed to candidates.

Salary and Benefits

How competitive are your salary, bonus and benefits in relation to other firms with a similar proposition? Consider also how your firm fares in relation to the other factors; if you are not in a position to offer upper-quartile salaries can you instead promise a better work-life balance than some of the bigger firms? If so, you may well be able to attract equally strong candidates. In the absence of a well-established brand then are you prepared to pay more to attract the very best people?

Benefits and bonus are also important, but a generous benefits package should not be relied upon to make up for a weak salary proposition. However good or unusual the benefits or bonus are, it is worth remembering that neither have any value in the eyes of a mortgage lender so getting the base salary right is crucial. That said there is no doubt candidates also value benefits. Therefore the right balance is crucial and a good package can send an important and positive signal about your firm to candidates.

Can you offer equity potential, especially if a smaller firm, to outweigh immediate concerns about risk or lack of benefits?

So far, so good – you may feel confident that you have thought through these factors already. In our experience, it’s the fifth element that so many firms overlook:

Experience of the Recruitment Process

Until a candidate receives an offer, their judgement of a firm in relation to the factors outlined above is based purely on what they are told or find out through research. The only really tangible element is their experience of interacting with your firm throughout the recruitment process:

  • how easy it is to apply for the role
  • what information is available
  • how long the process takes (and the willingness of the firm to fit around the availability of the candidate)
  • the people they meet at interview
  • the quality and professionalism of the process, especially feedback and responsiveness

These are all concrete evidence of how the firm operates and what it’s like to work there.

A slow or very time-consuming process, under-prepared interviewers, lack of regular updates to the candidate can all send a message that recruiting good people is not a priority. Alternatively, it can indicate that the firm is poorly managed. Similarly, going in too low at the offer stage suggests that you have not paid attention to the candidate’s salary expectations, don’t place value on the experience they are bringing or are hoping to get them “on the cheap”.

All too often candidates tell us about their poor experiences of recruitment processes: interviews with no feedback, applications that received no response, convoluted interview and assessment stages, delays, endless delays. Those experiences may not be a true reflection of how a firm operates but an impression has been formed. Warning bells may start to ring.

Conversely, a positive experience of a recruitment process sends a strong, engaging message. It’s not an enormously difficult thing to get right, but in the current market, it could be a real differentiator.

Our recent Job Search Survey examines the reasons why consultants leave employers and the key considerations when looking for a new role.

Prism’s Recruitment Healthcheck service for management consultancies offers employers a concise, confidential appraisal of the effectiveness of their recruitment strategy and processes in the context of their hiring plans and growth ambitions. Please contact us to find out more.


Each individual applicant will have their own priorities but typically these include: interesting assignments, career development potential, rewarding and employee centric culture, opportunity to contribute outside of client work, work/life balance.
Focus on brand proposition, clarify role and career development opportunities, strong culture and values, offer a competitive salary and benefits and optimise the recruitment process to make it "candidate friendly".
A well-defined and exciting proposition, backed by a track record of interesting client work, instils confidence in candidates and enhances recruitment efforts. Clear personal and career development prospects also help to assure candidates of their future within the firm and foster significant interest.
The experience of the recruitment process, including ease of application, responsiveness, and professionalism, significantly influences candidates' perceptions. A positive experience signals organisational competence and engagement, serving as a powerful differentiator in a competitive talent market.

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