The following is a guest post from our friends at Management Consulted
Let’s be honest, no amount of recruiting event tips will be helpful to you if your firm of choice isn’t in attendance. Unfortunately, most GMCs (global management consultancies) such as Booz Allen, BCG, and Accenture recruit at only a select number of U.S. MBA programs. Internationally, the process is even more selective. You know this! That’s why you’re reading this article.
So what do you do if you’re a strong candidate and a firm is not recruiting at your school?
Apply wisely, network effectively, and if needed – give it time.
If “standard recruiting” isn’t an option, fear not! While firms do hire ~80% of their yearly cohort from target schools, this still leaves ~20% of slots available. Your goal is to build 1-2 strong contacts within your target office, and secure an internal referral who will speak on your behalf during the decision-making process. Once you land an interview invite, it all comes down to interview performance – you’re on an even playing field with everybody else, regardless of your educational background.
- The online option – Companies ranging from McKinsey to Deloitte provide an online application option. Ensure any attachment you include as part of the application is in PDF format (there’s nothing worse than a reviewer getting a resume with an unrecognized font that doesn’t show up).
This option is really only for those of you who “check” a boutique firm’s boxes – your GPA, GMAT, and relevant experience all jive with the job description. For MBB and Big 4 firms, applying blindly through the online portal is never a good idea – there’s just too many applicants, and too great a chance that you still won’t stand out.
Hint: Recruiters hold what we call “negative power” inside of consulting firms. They have the power to say no, but can’t call you in for an interview. That’s why networking with the right people is so important; a referral from a post-MBA level consultant will cause your application to go through an entirely different route inside the firm.
- Use a headhunter or job placement firms – GloCap is a great example. These companies have built relationships with consulting firms that your school may not have.
- Leverage your connections. Reach out to school alumni contacts that work in the industry and at your target firms (be sure you only reach out to two consultants/office at a time!). Even if you don’t attend a target school, chances are that school alumni have found their way to top firms, and are looking for a chance to pay it forward. Do you have current or former work colleagues that transitioned to consulting? Don’t forget about family and friends! As you connect, don’t be afraid to share your reason for reaching out. The more people that know, the better chance you’ll be referred to the relevant contacts inside firms.
- Branch out. We’ll be the first to admit: these suggestions are a little out of the box. However, we’ve had former clients use them with great success. It all comes down to just how much you want the chance to break into consulting. Will a consulting firm you’re interested in be at the law school career fair? Or perhaps you live in the same city as a target school? Attend their events! The firms will assume you are supposed to be there, and when they find out you came from another program just to get some face-time, will remember you for displaying grit, persistence, and creativity. While you’re not guaranteed success, you need to take risks given the limited options in front of you.
- Contact headhunters. This option is for those of you with 10+ years of work experience. Headhunters have industry contacts and a broad view of available options. Be specific about your career goals, but not closed-minded.
Once you’ve made contacts, cultivate them. Now that you know a consultant in McKinsey’s Boston office and a school alumni in Bain’s Dallas office, what next? Email them to ask for an informational interview. Be sure to keep the email short (no more than 5-10 lines of body text).
- Remind them of who you are, and why you’re amazing (no mentioning anything negative!).
- Tell them your goals, and share one or two areas where they can help.
- Ask for a quick 10-min chat to answer your questions about the firm, specific office, etc. Top Performers have options – the purpose of this call is for you to see if the firm/office is a good fit for you.
- Propose a specific day and time for the call (e.g. Thursday at 5pm).
- If you receive no response within one week, it’s OK to call and leave a brief voicemail.
- Drive the call to ask for a recommendation. Most firms monetarily reward consultants who refer candidates that end up being hired. They have an incentive to talk to you – your job is to convince them that you will successfully navigate the interview process, add value to the firm, and be a fun colleague. They won’t waste precious political capital to endorse a weak candidate.
Keep establishing the relationship over time with updates on the process (eg, “I just submitted my resume to Molly in recruiting and am looking forward to what’s next”).
Note: Establish a relationship with your insider contact before you apply. This way, you can drop his/her name in your application materials/cover letter. If you’ve already applied, begin networking immediately!
Looking for a strategic way to network successfully? Networking for Consulting will prepare you for any situation – from recruiting events to cold emails.
Give it time
If you’ve tried the above and are getting nowhere, then Option 1 is to find the most prestigious alternative available (eg, finance, Fortune 500). Continue to network, and know that the lateral hire path is available to you. As you move further away from your MBA, your post-MBA work experience will take on more and more importance.
At Management Consulted, we support hundreds of clients/year looking to make the transition into consulting. Contact us today with any questions – we’ll help you create a personalized plan for breaking into consulting, transform your resume to powerfully communicate your achievements, and work with you on 1:1 case interview prep.