When is the ideal interview time for strategy consultants?

by Jody Bischoff
Senior Practice Leader at Charles Aris Inc.

Ah, the holidays … hopefully you’ll have a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends. It’s a time of celebration!

For many of you, it might also be a time for transition. At Charles Aris Inc., we often hear that management consultants think of their careers in six-month intervals, and that midyear (summertime) and year-end (the holidays) are typically the break points.

This timing makes sense. Most consultants spend the majority of their time at their client’s site, living out of a hotel room and only seeing their family and friends on weekends. As a result, the summer months (when kids are out of school and family vacations are on the radar) and the year-end holidays (when things finally slow down enough for most people to spend some much-needed downtime with loved ones) can often make the idea of getting back to the grind of Monday-through-Friday travel somewhat daunting. Couple this with the fact that most firms pay their annual performance bonuses at the end of the year and you can quickly see why, for many, it is the ideal time to transition.

So here we are in late November. With the winter holidays ahead, we are starting to hear from those who are at least thinking about making a career move. Most of the people we speak with tell us they would ideally like to start their new role in January or, more broadly, in the first quarter of the new year.

Which leads us to two of the most common questions we get from consultants: “If I want to start my next job in Q1, when should I start looking?” and “How soon should I start interviewing?”

The short answer is, “It depends.”

Timing is a big factor. While some companies may be willing (and able) to interview in November but delay the start date until January, other organizations may not have that flexibility. Most companies will try to accommodate your needs with options such as delayed start dates or additional sign-on bonuses to help offset a bonus you are leaving behind, and some will even award you a non-prorated bonus for the current year. So it is important to be open-minded with respect to timing – the ideal role may walk into your life slightly outside of your target window, but adjustments often can be made to help ease such a transition.

As a rule of thumb, you should start putting your ear to the ground about three months before you want to transition. (If you’re looking for a highly specific position, as in a unique location or with a specific type of company, you may need to allow for a little bit more time). At three months, you should raise your antennae: Start networking with friends and colleagues to put the word out that you are thinking about making a change.

Business-school classmates or former colleagues are great places to start. You should also reconnect with recruiters (like the Charles Aris team!) with whom you have had good relationships in the past. In preparation for those conversations, nail down the specifics of what you’re looking for – which industries, what types of roles, where you want to ideally live, etc.

Charles Aris President Chad Oakley wrote an article detailing best practices on how to do this effectively.

Thinking through these career factors sooner rather than later will help ensure that your transition is a smooth one – and will hopefully minimize search-related stresses around the holidays. Good luck!

Gain more executive recruiting insights from our Strategy & Corporate Development search team.