What do market research/strategic consulting firms look for in an applicant?
February 27, 2012 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What do market research/strategic consulting firms look for in an applicant?

Let's say you were a twenty-something political analyst with a grad degree in the social sciences and a burning desire to get out of the nonprofit sector as fast as your little legs could take you. Market research and consulting seems like a good fit: you still get to puzzle out human behavior, analyze social scientific data, and work on selling ideas, but in a professional environment. How would you go about getting there?

Market research firms seem to be incredibly vague about what exactly it is that they do, and what exactly they're looking for. My grad degree is from a name school and I'll have a year of research and writing experience under my belt, plus some advertising-related soft skills (design, copywriting, social media marketing). I have some quant skills, but most of my methods are public opinion/focus group-y. My communications skills are solid and demonstrable.

What does a market research firm look for in a qualitative analyst? All I get from their various job listings is "good school, good academic performance," which isn't really helping me write a cover letter.

Bonus points for any insight into what the job is like. Thanks!
posted by libertypie to Work & Money (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My partner owns a market research/polling practice. You have the resume; you need to network Get your foot in the door at MRIA (or whatever the non-Canadian equivalent is) and press the flesh.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2012

Best answer: I'm in an entry-level rotational program at a pretty large market research firm. I know that for this program, no background in market research was required (but that is specific to this program, generally the company does require some background in market research)(my background is in design). They were looking for good schools, good academic performance, some amount of international experience, and some background in research. Truth be told, what you listed above sounds pretty good. From all the people I've spoken to here, it seems that most people did not originally intend to be market researchers - they fell into it from research or advertising. If you have a lot of the skills you mentioned above, you're probably qualified for an entry-level market research job somewhere.

If you have some quant skills, that's really great, but just know that there seem to be distinctions drawn between qual and quant. Know the job that you're applying for, and focus your resume accordingly. But do also mention that you have some familiarity with the other side (if a qual job, stress your qual skills, but do mention that you have some familiarity with quan stuff as well). They're kept separate, but some value is place on interdisciplinarity and knowledge of the other side.

Gah. Was that helpful? MeMail me if you have more specific questions
posted by taltalim at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you have the right skills, but if I were you I'd amp up your quant background as much as possible.

Incidentally, if you're in DC, my firm (completely non-political and wonderfully profit-making) is always looking for people with your background. Feel free to me-mail me.
posted by downing street memo at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Fantastic advice, everyone! Thank you all so much.
posted by libertypie at 10:39 PM on February 27, 2012

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