Generalist vs. Specialist Firms

twitter Facebookgoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Success Story:

I would also like to express my graditude to yourself and the team behind caseinterview.com. I recently got an offer from a management consultancy that specialises in healthcare. Having a life sciences background and having previously worked for big pharma, I knew that I wanted to stay in this industry, hence why I chose to go for a specialist firm. The material and guidance you provide are invaluable. I would prompt anyone who's still doubting whether to buy the LOMS or not to go ahead and invest in this wonderful resource. The return is immense!!

The LOMS were really the cornerstone of my preparation journey, listening to them literally most of the time during the day for one month or so. This included time on the tube, while at uni conducting experiments, while walking the dog and of course during my planned preparation time. I am convivnced that even listening to your cases while physically being occupied with other things contributed to me succeeding during my interviews. Let me explain why I think this is so. I believe it helped because of two main reasons, first of all through the sheer power of repetition, it shaped my thinking into a more structured process without me consciously trying for it.

Secondly, it allowed me to refine my skills through critiquing the other candidates' replies. This was different to when I was actively trying to solve the cases myself where I was predominatly focusing on my performance and thinking rather than the candidate's. I found that critically evaluating the other candidates' responses, identifying gaps and trying to determine what went wrong in the process was really what made the difference between a really good vs an excellent performance at the interviews.

I hope my story makes you as proud of the amazing work you deliver through the caseinterview website, as big 5 success stories make you feel. I really hope you don't shrug the company off as unimportant when compared to the generalist big 5, it consistently ranks amongst the top 5 in the area of pharma and health care consulting. This brings me to a question I have about generalist vs specialist firms and the transition from one to another.

From your experience at McKinsey, what is your opinion on how much being an industry expert is valued by these firms? Can the fact that one has extensive pharma experience make him/her a more attractive candidate (experienced hire level).

Once again many thanks for the amazing work you do and looking forward to hopefully getting a reply on the topic I raised!!

My Reply:

Congratulations of the offer! Nice job in preparing.

The consulting experience at a wide range of firms is often invaluable. Most people over emphasize firm name and recognition, when in reality the work itself is a great learning experience.

In terms of moving from specialist to a generalist role within a firm or at a different firm, it varies a lot by firm. Some firms that are industry specialized only hire deep experts in the field. Generalist firms like McKinsey hire both types -- generalists for the main associate track and specialists that only do industry specific work (and often are not eligible to make partner). This is not to be confused with those hired as generalists but once within the firm tend to do most of their work in one area.

At the entry level positions, I think the specialist background is not valued that much -- as the focus is on hiring raw talent, as opposed to candidates with a lot of learned knowledge. As you enter a firm at mid-level and sometimes higher, then specialized skills are more useful because at those levels one does need a body of knowledge and experience to draw upon.

Additional Resources

If you found this post useful, I suggest becoming a registered member (it's free) to get access to the materials I used to pass 60 out of 61 case interviews, land 7 job offers, and end up working at McKinsey.

Members get access to 6 hours of video tutorials on case interviews, the actual frameworks I used to pass my interviews, and over 500 articles on case interviews.

To get access to these free resources, just fill out the form below:

First Name *
Email *

Note: All registrations require you to confirm your email address.
Please type your email address carefully, entering your email also subscribes you to my Case Secrets Email Newsletter.

Facebookgoogle_pluslinkedinmail twitter
0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment