As Wall Street continues to shrink, more undergraduate and MBA students are choosing consulting over traditional finance roles. Most consulting firms are growing rapidly, and it doesn’t hurt that the pay disparity is beginning to close.
KPMG’s advisory business is particularly active. The Big Four accounting firm sees 2014 as serious growth year, with many of the hires concentrating on campus recruits. We spoke to Malana White, KPMG national director of campus recruiting for advisory, to get more details on the firm’s hiring plans. She also offers up some advice for prospective recruits.
Can you tell us a little bit about your hiring projections on the campus side?
Our advisory practice has a goal of doubling our growth over the next few years. For the current fiscal year starting in October, we’ve been asked to increase full-time campus hiring by 30%. For our intern program, we expect a 15% increase. We’re in the throes of recruiting for January as we speak.
What’s your hottest sector?
We’re seeing the biggest level of growth in our risk and management consulting units. Most students have accounting or IT backgrounds, although we are also hiring economics and finance majors. Engineering students are a heavy focus for our technical hires.
Is the spike in hiring on the risk and management side due to the influx of new regulations companies are facing?
Yes, absolutely. You’re often dealing with new policies and reforms in consulting, with a heavy focus on data analytics in management consulting..
What industries are particularly active?
We’re seeing spikes in activity across our public sector, healthcare and financial services units, as well as energy and utilities. We’re seeing much more interest in those types of students.
As graduating students won’t have much applicable work experience, how do you decide in which group to place them?
Great question. Our primary focus is to hire them into the services group if they don’t know what industry they want to be in. But we give them options, usually based off their majors. Many students we talk to are prepared and know exactly what they want to do.
Sometimes it’s their major. The public sector practice may be looking for someone with a master’s in public administration, for example. Sometimes it’s their interests. The energy and utilities group would look for someone who took part in an energy club or built a case study around the industry. In many cases, it’s the things students are involved in outside of school that can help them get a job, like joining a finance club or completing an internship.
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What type of resumes/skill sets do you tend to look for on the campus side?
The obvious one is GPA, although that doesn’t always lead to a quality hire. But it does tell us if the person has the technical skills necessary to do the job. We also look at their major as well as examples of leadership responsibilities. Things like clubs and community involvement. And we do look for experience. Whether they believe it or not, students do have past work experiences that lend well to the work we do. Consulting is a client-facing role, so a background in customer service is helpful.
Walk me through a traditional consulting interview? Is it mostly case studies?
Not, it’s not. We primarily focus on behavioral events, asking questions about past experiences, behaviors and skills learned. Most students are prepared to have those types of interviews. We will also poke around about where they want to start their careers and their interest in consulting.
We hire plenty of interns as well. We’ll bring them in and give them the experience and an inside look at what it is like to be an employee at a professional service organization. We convert between 85% and 90% of interns to full-time hires. We offer intern rotations, so they can get a look at our audit unit, for example, as well as global rotations where they can spend several weeks at an office in a different country.
Can you offer a few common resume cover letter mistakes that you see way too often amongst campus recruits?
Spelling and grammatical mistakes for sure. I also always suggest students keep their resume to one page. MBAs have more experience, so I can see them going longer, but undergrads should keep to a one-page resume. Also, campus candidates should make sure their education is closer to top than the bottom of their resume. We focus heavily on that as they don’t have a lot of experience.