Starting a new consulting firm presents a vista of limitless possibilities. An integral part of this pioneering phase is the hiring of your first associate – an action that could be likened to setting a cornerstone in the foundation of your building. This defining moment not only predicates the trajectory of your firm’s growth but also sets the tone for its cultural ethos.

Hiring is Not Easy

Choosing the first associate for your consulting firm is as critical as choosing the seed to plant in a fertile field. It will ultimately shape the future growth and development of your organization. It’s crucial to find someone who embodies flexibility, willing to navigate the myriad roles and challenges that a fledgling business entails.

Look for a curious mind and a willing learner. As their mentor, you will have the unique opportunity to shape their professional development and, in turn, the direction of your firm. Fresh graduates are often an untapped resource of energy and potential. They are eager to learn, ready to be shaped, and can add a youthful dynamism to your organization.

Consider compensation carefully. Your first hire is a significant investment in your business, and their pay should reflect that. Paying them at or slightly above industry average not only attracts talent but also demonstrates your commitment to their growth and satisfaction within your organization.

Defining the Job Description Clearly

The job description is your bait to reel in potential candidates. When crafting it, emphasize the unique selling points of your firm: the opportunity for direct mentorship, competitive pay, and the potential to shape and grow with the company.

Shifting the focus from a dry list of job requirements to a compelling narrative of opportunities and benefits will make your firm more attractive to potential hires. Your job description should not only detail the role but also paint a vivid picture of the individual’s future within your organization.

The Power of Attitude

Remember, you are not necessarily looking for an industry expert; you are cultivating one. The right attitude is the soil from which a successful associate grows. Seek candidates with an eagerness to learn and a hunger to prove their mettle.

Look for a spark of ambition, a willingness to work extra hours, and a commitment to the success of your firm. Perhaps most importantly, seek out someone who aligns with the culture of your firm, someone who complements the tone you are striving to set.

The Interview Process

While hiring agencies might seem tempting, the financial investment may not be worth it for a new firm. Instead, consider investing time into the process. Shortlist potential candidates by personally reviewing 200-300 resumes, which should yield around 5-10 suitable candidates.

The interview process should ideally start with a 30-minute Zoom call. This initial conversation allows you to assess the fit of the candidate with your firm and the role. This can be followed by a more detailed, hour-long, in-person interview. When making the decision, the candidate’s motivation, willingness to learn, and alignment with your firm’s culture should guide your choice.

Job Offer

When extending a job offer, take care to include essential details, like non-disclosure agreements, and plans for regular performance reviews, preferably quarterly. This not only sets clear expectations from the onset but also demonstrates your commitment to their growth and satisfaction.

The offer should also have a detailed list of responsibilities and an introductory paragraph explaining why you’re hiring them, giving them a sense of importance and making them feel valued. Ensure that the offer is private and confidential to safeguard your interests.


The hiring process doesn’t end with an accepted job offer. Be prepared for disappointments – the potential associate may turn down your offer or may not show up on the first day. However, if they do decide to join, be ready to offer a seamless onboarding experience.

Ensure their email and cell phone are set up, provide a working computer, organize an appropriate workspace, and ensure all relevant accounts are ready to be accessed. This thorough preparation not only makes the new associate feel welcome but also enables them to hit the ground running.


The process of hiring your first associate in a new consulting firm is a journey filled with learning and pivotal decisions. A successful hire requires strategic planning, keen talent acquisition skills, and the ability to mentor and shape a fresh graduate into a professional consultant.

By focusing on the right attitude, offering competitive remuneration, clearly defining roles, and ensuring robust onboarding, your first hire can set a positive precedent for future hires and the overall growth of your firm. After all, this hire isn’t just about filling a role; it’s about setting the stage for the successful trajectory of your consulting firm. With the right approach and guidance, your first hire could be the cornerstone of your firm’s success story.