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by Vault Consulting Editors | August 24, 2010


Rankings season is now upon us! For the past eight years, Vault has released its rankings of top consulting firms in the country, helping job seekers and career changers make the all-important decision of which firm to choose. Year in, year out, we've seen many of the top spots claimed by the same firms over and over again. Of course, there's been some variation over the years—consolidation, the emergence of certain sub-industries into the spotlight (see last year's rise of restructuring firms Alvarez & Marsal and AlixPartners), changes in overall firm reputation—but we can all predict with a fair degree of certainty which firms will land in the top 10.

This year we've taken it a step further. Instead of simply listing out the top firms based on perceived prestige in the industry, we've gone out and asked consultants what matters most to them in choosing an employer. What they told us was that prestige alone is not a determining factor. Rather, the single most important issue when choosing a consulting firm is company culture (43 percent claimed that culture was most important!), followed by practice strength (14 percent), prestige (11 percent) and compensation (6 percent), among a few other options. We've taken this feedback and created a new Vault Consulting 50, showcasing the firms that are best to work for. This ranking was compiled using a weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care most about. (See below)

Don't worry, we'll still be releasing the all-important prestige rankings (check in next Tuesday, August 31, for the big reveal!), and they do play a big role in the overall Vault Consulting 50 rankings. After all, a prestigious firm name puts a sheen on any resume, in addition to affording consultants access to a high caliber of clients and projects. That said, we believe that quality of life issues are at the core of a company's appeal to job seekers. Let's face it: In this post-recession era of recovery and growth, it's a job seeker's market, and job seekers are looking for a workplace that offers both prestige and an appealing lifestyle. Here's the formula we used to compile this year's rankings:

• 25 percent firm culture

• 25 percent work/life balance

• 20 percent compensation

• 20 percent prestige

• 5 percent overall business outlook

• 5 percent transparency

The scores for the first five categories are derived directly from the survey results; all categories except prestige are based on a firm's own consultants' feedback about their quality of life, whereas the prestige ranking is based on the perception of outside consultants. (Respondents were not allowed to rank their own firm in the prestige category.) The “transparency” category awards a 5 percent bonus to firms that distributed the survey to their consultants. Firms that did not distribute the survey internally received no points in this category. It is our view that, with increasing expectations of transparency and a free market for information, a company's willingness to encourage employees to share their experiences externally correlates with a work culture where open feedback and self-criticism are valued—attributes that thousands of job seekers tell us are top priorities in searching for a new employer.

So which are the best firms to work for? Claiming the top two spots are Bain & Company and The Boston Consulting Group , firms that historically dominate many of our quality of life categories, in addition to carrying a lofty reputation in the industry. McKinsey takes a back seat from its traditional No. 1 spot this year, coming in third. While it can't be beat in the prestige category, and its consultants report a high level of overall satisfaction, it slips a bit in the firm culture and work/life balance categories—where smaller firms tend to have an advantage.

And while many of the industry heavy-hitters continue to make an appearance in the top 50, smaller, more niche firms (which are often overshadowed in the prestige ranking by their more well-known comrades) certainly have room to shine. Gracing the top 20 this year are Analysis Group, The Cambridge Group, Triage Consulting Group, Censeo Consulting Group and West Monroe Partners. While these firms may not carry the household name of, say, a Deloitte or an A.T. Kearney, they excel in the quality of life areas that consultants care most about and are, therefore, more than deserving of their newfound recognition in our ranking.

Stay tuned next week for the long-awaited prestige rankings!


Filed Under: Consulting

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