As the market picks up some candidates will increasingly find themselves with the luxury of multiple management consulting job offers. A treat indeed….or is it?
In practice many job seekers are not well prepared for this scenario and understandably find it very difficult to weight up the pros and cons. Inevitably it’s very difficult to resist the temptations of a higher salary and to then find reasons to convince oneself that it’s the best role and employer too.
The starting point is the Career Plan! Not done one yet? It’s not too late but you need to do your level best to completely put your job offers out of your mind to enable it to have any value in your decision process.
In particular what stage are you at in your career? If you’re in your early years, or have never worked for a larger firm, a Big Brand may well give you excellent training and act as a badge of your perceived worth on your CV. But if you’ve already ticked that box then other factors may be to the fore.
Ideally comparing your offers with the Career Plan will throw up a clear favourite. If it doesn’t, or you were assiduously keeping your Career Plan front of mind during your job search so that both roles are a decent match, then the following may help.
Salary and package
If one consulting job offer is much better than another (whether than be base, bonus potential, benefits) consider carefully why this might be. Is it a more senior role? A better paying employer or consulting sector?
Or could it be that there are negative reasons:
- Work life balance?
- Employer struggling to hire?
- Unrealistic expectations for the potential employee?
If there IS a difference but your preferred option isn’t paying as much tell them: they may be prepared to improve the offer. Also resist the temptation to be swayed by a few % points difference which should be immaterial in the overall decision. Our salary review will give some guidance on salaries.
The job and employer
You wouldn’t be agonising about the offers if there were material downsides on either of these. So we’re not going to go through all the points to weigh up.
BUT the employer always trumps the job. Better to have an 80% fit management consulting job in a 100% fit employer than the other way around.
A fantastic employer will inspire you, look after you, offer you great colleagues and a great culture and a great career. So much so that the 80% aspect of the role will be less important.
With a key proviso: namely that the consulting job must be a close enough fit that you know you will enjoy it. No one does well at a job they don’t enjoy.
Another key consideration is that it’s the right level: a step back or with less responsibility and influence is a potential nightmare. However too senior and too far outside your comfort zone could result in your making a hasty exit.
Another consideration, to borrow a phrase: does one of the jobs and employers “spark joy”?
Career prospects and progression
No matter how good the consulting role, salary or employer what are the career prospects?
During the interview process has there been any material discussion of “where next”? Did the prospective employer mention it, or did you have to ask? Things to consider and weigh up:
- Has there been mention of future promotion or, perhaps for less senior roles, future leadership potential as a hiring criterion?
- If you’re replacing someone, did they leave (why?) or were they promoted?
- Is it a new role because the company is expanding fast i.e. is there a good prospect of more roles appearing above you?
- Is there a policy of internal promotions? Of holding on to people?
- How long have people been in the roles above you? (NB too long and that may be a glass ceiling: too little and it suggests they don’t promote from within)
There are no jobs and employers for life anymore. But unfortunately, applicants are still routinely judged by the number of employer moves they’ve had and whether employers have promoted them. If your CV exudes stability in recent years, you can afford a risk here. But if not, or you’re returning from a freelance career you might need to be more cautious.
An offer with demonstrably better career prospects should be your preferred choice but keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean a structured promotion path. For this reason smaller employers can also offer excellent careers!
The culture and values of the employer
How carefully have you looked at these points? So very difficult to quantify but devastating to get it wrong and find yourself in a business where you are a fish out of water.
There are a number of ways to reassure yourself before making a decision.
Consider how the interview process has been and how you have been treated. Does their process suggest they prioritise “talent acquisition”? If not and they struggle to hire that might land you with a heavy workload or inhibit future growth and your career prospects.
Other clues might be in staff turnover, comments on social media especially Glassdoorand the reasons for the vacancy. Speak to people you know. Ask to meet potential colleagues or peers. Take care to evaluate what isn’t said as well as what is!
Take what a company say about themselves with a pinch of salt. But also be very wary if they say nothing: an employer that appears blind to this could be a concern or indicative of a problem.
Closely linked to this is work/life balance and specifically the extent to which the employer has a culture and values that seeks to support staff.
You can possibly change or improve aspects of the offer and the management consulting job, but you can’t do anything about the culture & values so these are another key point of comparison.
Imagine the worst-case scenario
Perhaps counter intuitively, ask yourself some negative questions!
- How would this move look if things went wrong?
- Which am I least likely to regret?
- What is the potential downside?
- If I were really happy in my current role/employer/situation, would I be giving either of these a second thought?
If you don’t need a role and are unconvinced then don’t forget the other option which is to accept none of them.
Alternatively, if you DO need a job but still have material doubts, then you should accept the best one and continue to keep an eye open for the perfect role. If that sits uncomfortably with you remind yourself that sadly the employer would have little compunction about moving YOU on if they felt it wasn’t working out, or making you redundant if there was a reorganisation or a business downturn.
We have more help and advice on finding your ideal management consulting job in our candidate guides.