Top management consultant recruitment frustrations ……and how to avoid them

candidates looking at job adverts

According to a CareerBuilder Survey, 82 per cent of employers believe there will be no negative impact on the company when a candidate has a poor recruitment experience. The survey goes on to suggest they are wrong.

With forums such as Glassdoor and the platform of social media, candidate experience is becoming more and more important and a critical factor in attracting top talent.

Prism Executive Recruitment polled 3,000 experienced management consultants with a short questionnaire. The results provide valuable insights into why consultants change jobs and how they go about their job search.

As part of the Job Search survey, we asked the question: “how could employers improve your job search experience?”

We examine the four chief gripes and explain how firms can gain an advantage over their competitors by ensuring their recruitment process is efficient and professional.

Feedback and responding

Overwhelmingly and by far the most frequent comments related to lack of feedback or responsiveness during the application process. Respondents referred to lack of “basic manners” and “I’m amazed at how many…firms don’t let the candidate know” and even “if I don’t get a response I reject that employer forever”. One noted, “so often even second interviews receive no feedback: arrogant and unprofessional”.

A LinkedIn survey further highlighted that while 94 per cent of job seekers wanted feedback after the interview, only 41 per cent received it.

There is really no excuse not to reply to candidates. Ideally, an employer will follow up with ALL candidates, including those who are unsuccessful and Prism Executive Recruitment always do this. However with response rates sometimes in the hundreds, many smaller firms feel they do not have the resources to do so.

This is a mistake and is missing an opportunity to differentiate by a positive applicant experience: unsuitable candidates have a voice too!

For the candidates that are called forward, unless there are significant recruitment volumes, a simple spreadsheet should ensure that applications are managed effectively and candidates are kept informed. Larger employers may need to invest in an applicant tracking system.

If recruiting via a recruitment agency or a specialist executive recruitment consultancy, check that the recruiter guarantees to reply to ALL applicants. It is important to ensure a recruiter with integrity is selected. An agency that cuts corners and fails to keep candidates in the loop reflects badly on the potential employer.

management consultancy job candidate using laptop in job search

Improve advertisement and job requirements

The survey responses included varied comments with concerns at the lack of salary details leading to wasted time on both sides, lack of clarity on “essential” and “nice to have” experience and also “candidate requirements” reading like a shopping list of unrealistic or irrelevant criteria a candidate should possess.

Many respondents to the survey commented on the need for more information around the scope and responsibilities of the job role, culture and work-life balance.

Writing advertisements is a fine balance. Too much information and people don’t read further, too little and it raises the concerns expressed above!

Salary is contentious and for obvious reasons, an employer may not feel they want to broadcast details of their pay scales. However once a candidate has applied it should be possible early in the recruitment process to determine whether both sides are in the same territory before any significant time has been expended on either side. Using an agency avoids these problems of course!

With reference to the job details and candidate specification part of the advertisement, a significant problem often arises when the internal job spec is copied/pasted into an advertisement. Not only is this often fairly dry and too detailed but the hiring manager’s long list of ideal candidate attributes are also revealed. Clearly, all recruitment involves a compromise but this can be very off-putting and may dissuade candidates from applying.

Interestingly, research suggests that female candidates are less likely to apply if they don’t meet most or all of the criteria specified so an unintended consequence could be to reduce the diversity of hiring shortlists.

If you are trying to recruit someone for a management consulting job/vacancy, consider what you really need to include in the specification. State the minimum experience you would like them to have in management consultancy, at what level, or set out what kind of experience you are looking for. Give examples of clients, projects or tasks, or what is expected of the role. As candidates are likely to be reviewing a large number of consultancy jobs, it is vital to think of ways to stand out with your advertisement.


There was frequent reference to the speed of application processes and the delays in response. Consultants also commented on the desire for clarity around the recruitment process and the stages of the interview. Generally, there was a desire for improved and timely communication as one might expect given the “feedback” observations.

In our experience the majority of employers have a good interview process which candidates are comfortable with: typically three-stage and perhaps meeting 3-5 key people. A mixture of interview objectives and styles and sometimes incorporating presentations or case studies.

As suggested the problems arise with delays or when the number of stages extends beyond this. The latter is a particular problem in some larger firms, with horror stories of 12-month recruitment cycles and meeting a similar number of people, or more. Clearly, if a candidate was available and engaged at the start of this sort of process it’s unlikely they would be a year later.

The two golden rules are:

  • Be clear WHO needs to be involved in a decision making process and WHY. This should reflect as far as possible their strategic relationship to the role and their likely commitment to (and availability for) the recruitment process. It may well be a great idea for the MD to meet every joiner: but if that means an employer might lose candidates because of diary availability a different process should be considered.
  • Ensure the interviewers’ motivations and goals are congruent with the need to fill the role. Clients always come first? NO. A good hire can be worth much more to a company and a total focus on clients can not only delay the process, sometimes by weeks and months but can also send a powerful message to prospective employees that they, in turn, don’t matter. Hiring managers, CV reviewers and interviewers need to be available and aware that recruitment is a key objective, against which they will be measured and (ideally!) rewarded.

management consultant job seeker

Changes to the situation

While you may be planning on making a hire, should something change then it is important to keep your candidates updated. There may be situations outside of your control but more information is always better than no information. If you communicate exactly what has happened then the candidate will feel more involved than if you simply don’t get back to them. Should you have limited information because the change in the recruitment plans stems from internal needs, you can at least let them know that this isn’t a reflection on their performance. For some of your candidates, this may be their dream job and they are happy to wait, but it isn’t fair to leave them wondering whether it was something they said or perhaps because they aren’t good enough.

Furthermore, your candidates may be aware of if the situation is changing due to external factors. For example, if the economy takes a dive, they are likely to be understanding of how this could impact your ability to hire – if they’re excellent management consultants they should be able to recognise this. Explain it, keep in touch even if it is to say you have no further news, and you may be able to navigate through under you have a resolution to whatever crisis or change is going on.

Personal touch

It was clear from many comments that applicants for management consultancy jobs found the increasingly impersonal nature of websites, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and the consultancy recruitment process frustrating. Frequently expressed sentiments were summarised in a one-word comment “humanisation”.

The irony of the internet age is of course that while technology can make it much easier for -people to add the personal touch, in practice many recruiters and hiring managers are overwhelmed by applicants and have little choice but to rely on automated and therefore often impersonal systems. Given that one of the key factors in any candidate’s interest in a future employer is the people and culture this is clearly at best a wasted opportunity to impress and at worst actively putting off potential hires.

There is no easy solution but getting this right is often a mindset change by management consultancy firms and, in particular, approaching the recruitment process through a candidate’s eyes! An employer should actively use “mystery shopper” techniques and perhaps senior hiring managers should road test applying for jobs with their own firm every now and then.

A good way to make the recruitment experience more personal is to consider a “buddy” system, especially at the final stages of an interview process and beyond.

Not all interactions can be personalised but it doesn’t take much/many to transform a candidate’s perceptions. Actively seek opportunities to “be nice”. Sometimes make a call or send a personal email.

To assess the quality of your candidate experience use feedback and surveys (and no not the dreaded automated pop-up or auto-generated email!) of both the staff who join you and those who don’t. As far as Prism are aware this is very rare but like many things obvious when pointed out. Especially as candidates might decide to share feedback on Glassdoor, or Google or LinkedIn, or their colleagues instead.

To Summarise

The recruitment process you undertake can affect the management consulting jobs you fill now and also in the future, so it is important to get this right:

  1. Always feedback or respond. While you may receive a large number of applicants, candidates aren’t necessarily applying for a large number of jobs. This means the impression you give by your response or lack of one, could be lasting and maybe something that they go on to tell other potential candidates
  2. Improve your advertisement. Really think about the specification that you are putting out and to whom you are appealing. By explaining what the role could look like and including examples, you will narrow down the list of applicants to those who are more relevant to you, saving a lot of time and administration. Also, consider providing clear information on salary. Salaries can range hugely within management consultancy jobs, so while you might think your specification gives a good indication of what level you are looking for, putting a figure on it will be even better.
  3. Put a clear process in place. Management consultancy recruitment may be time-intensive, so this needs to pay off with results. A process that is clear to candidates and to your team will help to provide transparency, efficiency and confidence in your organisation.
  4. Personal touch. This can help you to stand out from other management consultancy jobs and employers your candidates are applying to and also make the process less stressful and more rewarding. If there is a fantastic applicant, then the consultancy recruitment process you develop could be a deciding factor in why they choose you over a competitor.

Addressing some or all of these points is a golden opportunity for enlightened employers to take a lead over their competitors. This is particularly relevant for smaller firms that can demonstrate their more human scale and concern for the individual than would ever be possible for the behemoths!

If you would like to discuss any of the above please contact Chris Sale Managing Director, Prism Executive Recruitment at [email protected]. Find more information about our services on our Client Services page and details of Our Recruitment Solutions.

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