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  The last years have seen a dramatic growth in hiring targets at many of the world’s best-known consulting brands.
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In the last year this has even spread to the top strategy consulting firms. Yet 2007 is seeing a perceptible change in emphasis, from mass recruitment to a more targeted approach. The implications are profound, for candidates and recruiters alike.

Consulting recruitment spree becoming more targeted
By Tony Restell, co-Founder and Director of Top-Consultant.com and TopITconsultant.com

Whether you aspire to joining Accenture or Deloitte, McKinsey or Bain, the last couple of years have heralded a transformation in the recruitment market for consultants. Hiring targets have spiralled across the industry – from strategy consultants to business transformation specialists, from IT consultants to M&A; advisors.

But one thing that has characterised these recruitment drives is now changing.

Throughout 2006, our team were seeing consultancies initiating campaigns to recruit consulting staff across the board. The need to meet growth in client demand and combat staff loss meant that recruitment initiatives were focused on bringing in candidates across the spectrum of practice areas.

Until early 2007 that is.

In recent weeks we’ve noticed a perceptible change. Now a number of years into a resurgent consulting market, leaders of consulting firms have been undertaking strategic reviews of their businesses and many are now focusing on growing particular practice sectors or starting to serve new niche areas. My gut feel is that one out of every two major firms has gone through this type of exercise of late. The repercussions in the recruitment marketplace are that firms are now being far more specific about the sector skills they are looking to hire and the profiles of individuals they are looking to bring on board.

It’s not that the recruitment targets have shrunk per se, but many firms have turned off the hiring taps altogether in certain practice areas – whilst simultaneously ramping them up in other areas. This has led to the bizarre perception (as seen on our forum) that many well-known brands have initiated a recruitment freeze. That this conclusion has been reached is quite understandable – talented candidates who’ve progressed a long way down the interview process and been given all the right hiring signals are suddenly left out in the cold or told that the hiring process is on hold. More often than not, though, this is because the firm has just received instructions from on high that the strategic direction of the company has been altered – and so too, therefore, has the firm’s hiring needs.

If you’ve seen a cooling of your relationship with a prospective employer – or an unexpected delay has occurred in the issue of a formal job offer – then chances are you may have got caught up by this phenomenon. We’re seeing it in most of the world’s major consulting markets – and at all levels of seniority – so this summer may need to be spent in a new job application drive if you’ve been trying to move of late but haven’t yet secured your dream move. Rest assured that significant volumes of hires are still being made – and this is still very much a candidate-driven market – but strategic decisions being taken within the industry are now very much filtering through to all those of us involved in the consulting recruitment cycle. Which, if you’re a job-seeker right now, means they are impacting you too.
 
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