Which consulting firm?

You already aspire to a career in consultancy, think you have the right experience and qualities to become a consultant and probably have a fair idea which segment you would want to work in. One important question remains: ‘Which advisory firm suits me?” In order to make a well informed choice, has lined up a few focus points to consider.

During the search for the ideal consulting firm, and in order to make the right choice, it is important for (young) professionals to evaluate where their aspirations lie on the one hand, and where exactly the differences between each firm lies on the other.

There are, for instance, differences between the industry focus of services and offerings of a firm, and there are differences in the types of clients they serve. Where some firms may offer ample space for personal development, others may offer – in your view – insufficient possibilities in that area. How, for instance, do company cultures differ at firms and how much value do you ascribe to the reputation of these firms? Finally, salary and benefits are another thing to consider, not in the least an insignificant point that can become a deciding factor in your choice of one firm over the other. Below are more detailed explanations of the aforementioned focus points.

Service offerings

The first possible questions you could ask yourself are: ‘Which specific industry / domain would I like to work in?’ or ‘do I want to work from a broader scope?’ Do you, for instance, have an affinity to the government, then you could search for a consultancy firm that specifically focusses on the public domain. Are you more at home in financial services? there are numerous financially oriented consultancy firms to choose from. Aside from these considerations, it is important to determine which consultancy segment you want to work in: Management consulting, HR consulting or perhaps IT consulting and, if you have already made that choice, which discipline you want to be active in. Within management consulting, for example, you can choose the direction of change management or supply-chain management. Based on these selections you can start a narrow search to a firm active in these domains.

Type of consultancy firm

One may also question the size of the consultancy firm. At the top of the market lie the large multinational players, with (worldwide) staff databases over thousand or even tens of thousands of employees, while at the lower end lie the numerous players active within the boutique segment, with staff databases varying between ten to several hundreds of employees. The size and scope of a firm can be relevant because it could have an influence on personal development possibilities, opportunities to work abroad, company culture, etc.

Additionally, nowadays the consulting industry is also flooded with a number of small startups and freelancers, who pose fierce competition, mostly on the wide-bottom end of the market. Often, these are fast growing enterprises that – as ‘consultancy firms’ – could possibly also be suitable employers. Also in the middle to top segment, new (predominantly digital) players of virtual consultancy networks frequently enter the industry and form a community that consultancy professionals can join.


When searching for a firm that suits you, ask yourself what type of clients a firm deals with. Do you, for instance, only want to work with big multinationals? Immediately, a number of firms will fall off your list. Alternatively, do you only want to work with clients active in the FMCG industry because your work experience lies in that field? Then you will need to narrow down your search to firms active within that specific market.

Another wish, with respect to clients, could be that when starting at a firm, you would like to come in contact with clients immediately. You will need to find out beforehand whether this is even a possible, foreseeable option at the start of your employment at a firm. In fact, it often occurs at multiple consultancy firms that juniors start out with desk research or analysis with little to no client contact at the start of employment.

Personal development

Perhaps you find it important that consultancy firms offer enough development possibilities to be able to constantly improve your skills and knowledge. You can find out beforehand which firms offer such facilities and which ones don’t, or do so to a lesser degree. Development can also be vested in the growth you can and want to make throughout the course of your employment at a firm. It is wise to find out beforehand what a development path (progression into other functions) looks like at a company and whether you would be mentored by senior consultants, etc. Depending on your personal development goals, you can find a firm that suits these wishes. 

Company culture and people 

Every firm has a unique company atmosphere or culture with norms and values carried by all the employees. For many professionals, company culture forms an important aspect in making the right decision. You can question whether you are looking for a formal or informal atmosphere, or an employer who emphasises structure and hierarchy vs a firm with short and accessible lines of communication. Try to find out beforehand what kind of company culture exists within the firms on your short list to be certain whether you fit in the culture of the company and vice versa.

Looking past the attractive company culture alone, you may be seeking a firm with sufficient regard for a healthy work-life balance. Some employers offer, for instance, the opportunity of taking a sabbatical, child care facilities, etc.

Reputation and image

The firm you will ultimately work for has built a reputation within their own market environment (clients, suppliers, partners, employers and numerous other stakeholders). That reputation can be positive (the firm may be known for taking corporate social responsibility (CSR) or for negative connotations (controversial news reports, scandals, etc.). Some may not take a clear stance on these matters, while for others, the image of their ideal office could play a large role in their choice.

Benefits and secondary conditions

Lastly, salary and secondary conditions are a considerable factor to weigh in with your choice of a certain advisory firm. You will have to form an idea on how much you want to earn and under which secondary benefits (for instance a retirement plan, bonus package, company car, etc.) you would like included in your contract. If salary and benefits are important to you, make a comparison of the packages offered by a number of firms. Although, this could prove difficult as there is generally little transparency on the exact amount consultants earn at firms, and each firm adheres to their own specific policy on this matter. If you have made it far enough to reach the employment contract negotiations, good preparation is half the battle.