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Management Consultant → Search Consultant: A well-trodden path


A broker, consultant, strategist and relationship manager walks into a bar. She takes a seat, orders a drink and chats away to the barman.  Actually scrap that, it’s not a bar it’s the HQ of a Fortune 500 firm, the drink is a glass of water and the barman is the COO.  It’s not a joke – it’s a true story.

Where am I going with this? Well the first obvious point is that the broker, consultant, strategist and business developer are all one person.  The second point is that there’s clearly a very successful business developer hiding amongst that skill set too.

The big question is, what does she do? The truth is I don’t know. She could be a management consultant, she could work at a high end insurance broking house, she could be moving up the chain at a private equity firm, or she could be a headhunter/search consultant.

The parallels and strong links between management consulting and search are long-standing and very clear; the skills are eminently transferrable and there is fundamental requirement to be able to contribute on many levels:

Both are polymaths – even if what they know about many areas is on a superficial level, both are commercially minded, both identify opportunities, develop new business, diagnose problems, deliver what is promised, build sustainable relationships, and develop strategic plans for the road ahead.

Both must have that natural gift for talking and yet must be a world-class listener. Both must become a trusted sounding board, councillor, advisor and partner. Optimist and pessimist, yes-man and naysayer.

Moving from management consulting into search – and vice versa – is a well-trodden path. There are many search firms set up by ex-consultants, Directors or Partners of the Big 4 and major strat houses.

The ex McKinsey consultant who set up one such example in Singapore is clear about his motivations:

“When I worked at McKinsey my colleagues complained that the recruiters who rung them didn’t know the consultancy market. They’d ask the wrong questions – often about PowerPoint and Excel skills. I thought I could help consultants peruse their career ambitions”

He spotted an opportunity, but he also spotted the clear transfer of skills.

The ‘recruiter who doesn’t know the market’ is unfortunately an ever-present blight on the search industry.  Unless it is an established and successful player in the market – at BLT we are in our 30th year and were pioneers of the UK management consulting recruitment sector – then there is clearly a need for more expertise and validity in this space – and huge amounts of money to be made.

And remember; even if you don’t know it yet, you already know how to do the job.

- by Tariq Siraj

Posted by: Beament Leslie Thomas