State of consulting recruiting in 2023: Slowdown or hiring freeze?

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One of the most common concerns I currently read across all consulting job boards and discuss with my clients is that everyone feels the slowdown in hiring with firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. On top of that, I see decreasing activity in article views, and coaching requests (not just myself but colleagues as well).

In this article, I want to provide a brief update on the situation from my insider perspective, having talked to several friends and former coaching clients in MBB across the globe.

Consulting recruiting slowdown but no hiring freeze (yet)

In short, global hiring is definitely slowing down at the moment, however, it’s not fully dead yet in most countries. The top firms as well as tier-2 firms such as Kearney, Oliver Wyman, Roland Berger, Strategy&, and L.E.K. have reduced their hiring goals for this year. The same applies to tier-3 and boutique firms as well.

This is not surprising given two facts:

  1. We saw a hiring spree in 2021 and early 2022 and every industry moves in cycles of growth and stagnation/decline (e.g., read our article about McKinsey’s recruiting update for 2021 here)
  2. The global macro situation has worsened significantly over the last 12 months with high inflation and a looming recession (amongst other things that are detrimental to business and trade…)

I want to share 3 observations.

Personal experience from working with my clients

Some of my clients’ interviews (all in MBB) were already rescheduled from 2022 to 2023. They were supposed to be last year and they already had dates set. While this was a strategy to adjust to changing demand in the short term with invitations that were already sent out, what I am seeing now is that fewer interview invitations are sent out altogether.

Some regions, however, are still in full-on hiring mode, most notably the Middle East!

Impact on hiring

While for all firms fewer people make it through resume screeningonly some firms adjust the bar for the interviews. The latter are happy to find enough people to make it through the selection process. In that case, they would extend offers, potentially with starting dates further in the future.

We might even see a full hiring stop, depending on how bad the situation becomes.

Impact on engagements and job security

External advisor spending is usually one of the first expenses to be cut during an economic crisis.

Yes, recovery and transformation projects increase, but every other consulting vertical decreases by much more whenever the global macro situation worsens. I know stories from 2008/09 during the financial crisis, where new hires were not staffed for 6 months and then let go without ever having worked on an actual engagement (across all top firms).

It all depends on how bad the global economic situation is going to get. 

My hunch is we see a partial to full-hiring stop in many regions in the coming months for a couple of months up to 1 year. Let’s hope I am wrong 🙂

On top of that, keep in mind that tech firms and other industries already started their lay-offs, which means that the potential supply of job seekers increases even more compared to now lower demand for them.

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