Entry Level Consultant: The Secrets to Becoming a Successful Candidate
IBM Consulting is a team of business, strategy and technology consultants who help clients envision and build their future in Hybrid Cloud and A.I. Here, you’ll work with visionaries across multiple industries across the globe in over 170 countries.
To help candidates who are searching for entry level positions at IBM, we’re launching a three-part blog series on the secrets to becoming a successful candidate.
In this blog, we focus on tips for becoming an entry level Consultant. You’ll get real insights from our IBM experts on what it takes to become a successful candidate throughout all phases of the hiring process, including how to prepare for working in consulting, apply to an entry level role, interview for an open position, and continue to progress in your career.
What are the top skills required to work in Consulting?
- Flexibility to adapt to different environments.
- Collaboration and being a team player.
What prior experience or school projects are useful to be successful in Consulting? If a candidate does not have work experience, what should they focus their resumes on instead?
Relevant prior internship experience in business as a consultant, data scientist, developer, or designer are all useful experiences to have on your resume when applying for consulting roles. However, we acknowledge that our roles are entry level, so if you don’t have relevant work experience, you can always list other projects with transferable skills relevant to the role.
School projects, club involvement, summer and part-time jobs, relevant conferences you attended, badges you’ve earned, technology-related passion projects, relevant programming or coding languages, and teamwork and technical skills learned from classroom participation are all transferable skills for this area.
What helps a CV stand out during the screening process?
We receive a large number of applications for consulting jobs every year. The best way to stand out among the crowd is to highlight early in your resume your passion and interest for IBM and for consulting. Showcase your ability to learn, as well as your enthusiasm and research into IBM. These are all important in making your application interesting to the recruiter. Don’t forget to spell check and ensure that all your vital contact information is on your resume!
IBM is a rewarding, yet challenging place to work. Do you have any advice for entry level candidates thinking of applying to Consulting, and what they should expect?
In the consulting world, we don’t necessarily work out of an IBM office every day; we work on a client’s site the majority of the time. You need be prepared mentally and expect to travel as part of the role. We tell our consultants that travel could be as much as 90% of the time, but it really depends on the client’s location and project. One week you could be working from home, and the next week you may be working at a client site. For some candidates, this role could be an exciting opportunity to travel and meet with different clients, but it’s not for everyone.
The Interview: Ace the case interview
How many rounds of interviews are there typically?
This can vary by your region, location, and track that you apply to (Developer, Data Scientist, Technical Specialist, Consultant, or Designer.) Traditionally, your application and interview process involve the following:
- CV screening
- Recorded video interview assessment (only for certain regions) and an online coding assessment (only for Developer or Data Scientist roles)
- Screening interview with the recruiter
- First round interview (case interview)
- Second round interview (behavioral interview)
What is the best way to approach a case interview, and is there any framework or structure you recommend?
Do your research on IBM and ensure you understand the different areas of IBM Consulting. Get comfortable with the framework of going through a case and ensure you ask probing questions. Probing questions allow you to ensure you understand the question properly and retrieve hints of new information you may not have had before.
How should candidates structure their recommendation?
Start by taking a moment to collect your thoughts and ensure you’re thinking about the root question. This is where you can ask probing questions if you’re unsure of which direction to start with. The best advice would be to walk the interviewer through your thought process and how you arrived at your recommended solution. This shows the interviewer you can take a client’s problem and think critically about the recommended course of action.
Do you have any advice to candidates if they get stuck during the case interview?
Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer for help if you get stuck by asking clarifying questions about the case, client, and environment.
How would you recommend preparing for the ‘question and answer’ portion of the case pitch?
- Be clear and concise: we can only assess what we see and hear; be clear and take your time to ensure everything you’ve learned and concluded is conveyed in your answers.
- Communication is key: our roles and services to clients all rely on clear, consistent communication skills. We must be able to explain the complex, often ‘unexplainable’ solutions to our clients in an easy-to-understand way. If you can demonstrate that in your answers, then you’re already halfway there!
What are some valuable questions that candidates should ask at the end of an interview?
Ask questions that will help you further understand the role. For example, “What kind of projects will I be working on?” and “What technologies will I be exposed to?” These questions will help you determine if the role and IBM are a good fit for you.
Another good question is “What does career progression in this role look like?” This question will show the interviewer that you’re interested in a career at IBM vs. just a job, and it will also give you a chance to understand what paths you can take your career. You want to make sure you’re stepping into a place that you can create as a home for the next 3-5 years.
What do candidates typically struggle with during an interview? Any advice on how candidates can address that?
The biggest struggle we tend to see is that candidates are often not prepared to answer the question, “Why are you interested in IBM Consulting?” It’s very important to make sure you do your research, whether through IBM.com, LinkedIn, Reddit, or wherever you go to get your information from. Definitely be prepared to answer this question.
The other challenge we see candidates face is nerves. The biggest piece of advice I have for candidates is when you’re interviewing, imagine you’re talking to a friend. Pretend you’re out in a restaurant or the cafeteria and you’re talking to a friend over the table. Take a deep breath before you get started. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time!
What resources would you recommend candidates check out when preparing for the interview?
We’ve found these two resources to be helpful:
Your Career Path
Can you give an example of what a career path looks like for an entry level IBMer after joining the Consulting team, and what career progression looks like?
IBM is a place where not only can you grow upwards, but also where you can move laterally. You might come in as a project manager and have never done coding in your life, but if you show interest in learning how to do it, we’ll give you the needed education to help you become a coder.
Here’s an example of a career path for an IBM Consultant:
Entry Level Associate Consultant
- Senior Consultant
- Managing Consultant
- Senior Managing Consultant
- Associate Partner
The biggest piece of advice we have for candidates is to find a mentor as soon as you get to IBM who can help support you in taking the next step in your career.
3 Tips for Becoming a Successful Candidate
We hope you found these suggestions and advice helpful as you decide to apply for an Entry Level Consultant Role. Make sure to check out our other blogs on becoming a Developer and a Technology Seller.
We leave you with three tips from our consultants on how to become a successful candidate:
- Ensure your resume reads relevant to consulting and the role you’ve applied for.
- Come to the interview prepared. Understand what IBM Consulting does, as well as the other areas of IBM.
- Network with IBMers, whether through regional campus events or on LinkedIn.