What does it do?

Mercer HR Consulting helps other businesses run their affairs. In particular, it gives advice on personnel, pensions and investments. It does this on a global scale, with 15,000 employees working in 190 cities in 41 different countries. The company is part of a bigger concern, Marsh & McLennan Companies, based in New York. As well as giving private advice to clients, Mercer frequently hits the news pages with public pronouncements and surveys - on how much we earn, for example, or how we go about our working lives. The American arm of the company was founded in 1945, while the UK's first office was opened in 1970. It has since grown to become the UK's largest consulting firm of its type, following mergers in the 1980s with several of its rivals.

Vital statistics:

In the UK, 3,000 staff in 19 different offices look after the affairs of 3,000 corporate clients.

The office:

The head office is in the shadow of the Tower of London. There are other centres in Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Is this you?

About 60 graduates are taken on every year and recruited into three distinct areas of the business: human resources, investment consulting and retirement (pensions). These lead to different career paths and professional qualifications. You'll need a "numerate" degree and A-level maths if you're going down the pensions route.

The recruitment process:

Online applications, via www.mercerhr.com/ukgrads, that meet minimum requirements lead to a first interview with a member of the graduate recruitment team. If you get through that, you're asked back for an assessment day during which, with half a dozen others over five hours, you'll undergo exercises to assess your communication, written, group and verbal reasoning skills. Awaiting the chosen ones is a 12-month graduate development programme. This begins with a week's orientation in the office, followed by a five-day residential course to get an overview of the Mercer operation. Then it's back to the office for on-the-job training, interspersed with classroom and further residential courses, covering the formal and technical aspects of the job.

Top dollar?

Starting salaries for graduates differ around the country. Last year they ranged from £19,500 to £26,000.

Beam me up, Scotty?

The training programme is designed to equip you to move up in your career, but there's no automatic promotion to a higher level after 12 months. Individuals tend to progress at different rates. Geographic mobility is not particularly important.

Who's the boss?

Simon O'Regan took over as chairman and chief executive of Mercer's UK operation in October 2004, having joined in 1988. For 15 years, between 1989 and 2004, he worked Down Under, ending as head of the business in Australia and New Zealand.

Little-known fact:

Consultants from Mercer helped reduce absenteeism in police forces around the UK. In particular, tweaking work practices in the Scottish Tayside force cut days lost among police officers by 50 per cent.