The ideal management consulting applicant would be Star Trek’s character “Spock”–but with people skills.
The ideal consultant needs to by hyper analytical and logical. This is not to say that being an intutitive business decision maker is a bad thing (think Apple’s Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson) in life or in business.
But, it is saying that being purely an intuitive / “gut feel” decision maker is NOT good for consulting. This is for the reason that in consulting you have to be able to have clients follow along in your thinking. They got plenty of gut feel in house, the reason they go to outside consultants is for facts and analysis.
So in that respect, Captain Kirk would be terrible consultant (too impulsive, too much gut feel). Dr. McCoy would be too (way too emotional). “Scotty” is smart, but doesn’t think big picture enough.
That being said, Captain Kirk would be a great client. Someone with strong leadership skills, gut feel instincts, but aware that gut feel sometimes needs to be tempered or tested against logic and facts.
So if you’re like “Spock” but have great people skills, you would be a great consultant.
If you’re more of a gut feel person, you will probably be better off in field where that creative and lateral thinking is more highly valued. And then when you’re a CEO, hired the Spocks of the world to advise you.
Incidentally, I find a lot of applicants are dissapointed they didn’t do better in the interview process. While this is natural, I do want to speak out on a particular topic related to this theme.
Consulting is not the end all be all.
Since my days at McKinsey, I have worked with and learned from a wide variety of people. Despite an undergrad and grad degree from Stanford, I have developed a huge respect for certain people who were high school drop outs and built some amazinng businesses.
One of my teachers in my post McKinsey days was a high school drop out, former crack addict, and homeless guy in NYC. He built an $8 million a year business from scratch in 18 months with no VC money (after he cleaned himself up of course). The guy is brilliant, totally intuitive, but not at all a linear or logical thinker. He clearly wouldn’t have gotten by a McKinsey resume screen and would have been a terrible consultant.
I met another you entrepreneur who started a cosmetics company right after graduating from college. Built it to $8 million in sales and sold it for $20+ million before she turned 27. Again, she was not a super analytical thinker… but she knew her customers, was a self taught chemist, and was great at getting magazine editors and customers to try her products. Very successful woman who would have been a horrible consultant.
There are many ways to be successful in business. Consulting is just one of MANY different ways. And it is one way that tends to favor “spock”-like thinkers… which again is only way of thinking and by no means the only way to think to be successful.