Management Consultancy Recruitment: be Proactive not Reactive

The average time it takes to hire a management consultant, from process start to employee start, is six months.

The most forward-thinking and successful management consulting firms invariably have a policy of always being on the lookout for potential employees: ideally hiring them when found but otherwise being able to keep the relationship bubbling until there is a role. Of critical importance is transparency however: don’t waste anyone’s time, be open and honest. Within consultancy recruitment, applicants hate fishing trips and roles going on hold.

This definitely applies in a downturn. When other employers are closing their doors is a great time to speak to excellent candidates

Whatever the ups and downs of the economy, there are often shortages of good consultants across certain sectors and skill areas. Many expanding employers are seeking to increase their headcount and the problem of acquisition of top talent is ever present.

It is true that there are always active job seekers in the market, but there are also always reasons why they may not actually make a move when they get an offer in their hand and the best candidates may have the luxury of multiple offers i.e. they won’t necessarily accept your offer.

You can’t guarantee to fill a management consulting job easily when a vacancy arises and that undeniably has a material effect on a firm’s bottom line. It can take 6 months to hire and in the meantime the only option may be expensive Associates. This pain is felt across the board from SMEs to global firms.

How should hiring companies modify their consultancy recruitment strategy?

Always be hiring good management consultants

Many smaller consulting firms have a business model which is part permanent staff and part associate. The short term advantage is the ability to quickly staff projects with good consultants without the perm headcount salary overhead.

What is less widely appreciated is that this not only protects the permanent staff (if there is a business slowdown fewer associates are used) but also provides the ideal opportunity to hire good candidates when they present themselves: not just when the right project appears.

Seek out and nurture passive candidates

These are the candidates who are not actively looking for a consulting job. They may be more attracted to the right company and culture than a specific role. Don’t expect them to be available at short notice.

They may well have the culture fit, profile and skills your company needs but perhaps not right now.

  • Use social media to attract the passive consultant job seeker. Establish a digital presence to engage with potential candidates. Attract ‘followers’ who will become familiar with your brand.
  • Ensure you have a presence at relevant membership or industry events.
  • Use a specialist consultancy recruitment company. They have a network of potential management consultancy candidates whom they have helped find consultancy jobs in the past. A good executive recruitment company will keep in touch with these individuals and will be playing a part in their career progression. These candidates may not be actively looking at present, but may be receptive to a discussion about an interesting role, now or in the future.
  • Incorporate a “Join Our Team” section on your website to sell your company vision and culture. Make it easy for prospective candidates to submit a CV.

Employee referrals

Ensure all company employees are encouraged to look out for and refer potential hires. Employee referrals are more likely to yield a candidate who is a good cultural fit with your organisation and have a positive attitude to your company.

  • Incentivise current employees to make referrals.
  • Hold informal events where potential recruits could discover more about your organisation and its culture without commitment.
  • Raise your profile by hosting or sponsoring alumni events for organisations who have traditionally provided some of your best workforce (university, professional associations etc.)

Consultancy recruitment - people sitting on armchairs and talking in a large room with large floor to ceiling windows

Network with possible candidates

  • In an era of emails and digital communication, be prepared to invest time in person.
  • Ensure absolute confidentiality.
  • Be proactive and honest in your discussions.
  • Keep in touch until the time is right for that candidate to make a move.
  • Become the Employer people want to work for.

Keep a database

This might include:

  • Applicants for a specific consulting job may not have had the precise skills required but whose career path could make them an attractive experienced management consultant in 18 months’ time.
  • The ideal candidate who is not yet ready to leave his or her current employer.
  • Near misses: candidates who join other firms

Aim to build a relationship and keep in touch. Ensure you are GDPR compliant

Build a rapport with Management Consultancy recruitment agencies

Ensure you develop and maintain an ongoing relationship with your consultancy recruitment partner. A good specialist management consultancy recruitment company will understand the culture of your organisation and will look out for potential candidates who are the right fit, regardless of whether you have a specific vacancy in mind, if you ask them to. This doesn’t mean a blizzard of speculative CVs for you to wade through: quite the reverse.

At Prism it is not unusual for us to occasionally introduce strong candidates to a client we have an ongoing relationship with: there are benefits to the company and candidate and this can result in excellent hires for the employer.

Ongoing management consultancy recruitment may require a shift in strategy from reactive to proactive consultancy recruitment, but it is an essential change to ensure you find, attract and employ the best talent.

For more information on building a sustainable long-term candidate pipeline email Chris Sale, Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment [email protected] or call him on 01344 636426


It can take 6 months to get someone on board, from start to finish. So always be hiring and stand down associates if necessary, nurture passive candidates, have a great employee referral scheme, give candidates the best experience you can.
Great candidates are hard to find but in a downturn there may be more available and less competition. So always be hiring and stand down associates if necessary, have a great employee referral scheme, give candidates the best experience you can.

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