State of Consulting Recruiting in 2023: Slowdown or Hiring Freeze? (2024 Update)

the image is the cover for an article on consulting recruiting slowdown and hiring freeze

Last Updated on February 21, 2024

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.

Update on the Consulting Hiring Landscape in 2024

The consulting industry has always been a bellwether for global economic trends, and as we navigate through 2024, the situation has evolved with both new challenges and opportunities. Despite a global landscape that remains relatively unchanged in terms of the overall slowdown in hiring, significant regional differences have emerged, reflecting a more nuanced picture of the consulting job market.

Regional Variations and Economic Impact

For instance, in the Middle East, some tier-2 consulting firms have initiated hiring freezes, a departure from the previously more robust hiring practices. Conversely, MBB firms are experiencing a slower pace in their recruitment processes than in previous years there. In Asia, many firms and/or offices have hiring freezes in place.

Other regions are showing signs of opening up, though the situation remains fluid and uncertain. Notably, some countries have officially entered a recession in the first quarter of 2024, adding another layer of complexity to the consulting job landscape.

Recruitment Process Delays

Candidates in the midst of their recruiting journey face prolonged waiting periods, sometimes several months between rounds, even after successful interviews. Those holding offers are also being asked to wait, indicating a cautious approach by consulting firms in managing their intake and workforce planning in response to the uncertain economic environment.

Offer Rates and Promotions

The industry is witnessing lower offer rates overall, indicating that fewer candidates are successfully navigating through the increasingly stringent selection process. This trend suggests a higher bar for entry into the consulting field, reflecting firms’ strategic adjustments to the challenging economic conditions.

Challenges in Career Advancement

Advancing to the next level within consulting firms has become more challenging, with fewer professionals being promoted. The criteria for making the cut have become more rigorous, reflecting a broader trend of caution and selectivity in response to the economic downturn. This shift underscores the need for candidates and current consultants to demonstrate exceptional performance and adaptability in a highly competitive environment.

In conclusion, while the global consulting industry faces headwinds in 2024, regional dynamics and the evolving economic landscape continue to shape the sector in complex ways. Candidates and current consultants alike must navigate these changes with strategic foresight and resilience, preparing for a range of outcomes in a fluid market.

Below is the information from last year’s coverage of the situation.

2023 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.

How We Help You Get a Job With MBB During Challenging Times

As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in getting our candidates an offer at MBB firms. We can help you by

Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into MBB.

To improve your skills in all areas of the interview, check out our targeted offers below.

Share the content!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *