To start, let me tell you a little about my profile back in 2005 when I started my MBA. I had a BA in Psychology, a 640 GMAT, and 5 years of experience running a small high-performance auto parts business. Hardly the ideal profile for a Consulting job.
To start my recruiting preparation, I decided to call an alumnae at a top global firm, and ask a few questions. It didn’t go well. I wasn’t prepared for the call and, looking back, I asked a lot of newbie questions, many of which could have been answered by reading up on the firm’s website. And, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t receive a first round interview with that particular firm.
Key takeaway #1: Every consultant is a recruiter. Do not reach out to any consultants until you have done your due diligence on the industry and the firm.
What this initial experience also taught me was that a good interaction with a consultant may or may not help you get an interview. It’s tough to predict. But a poor interaction can have dire consequences. It could result in you not being considered at all.
From there, I shifted my focus to re-writing my resume for consulting job postings. I shared the document with the Career Management group and 2nd year students who had been through the recruiting process the year prior. Their feedback was unanimous. I wasn’t being specific with my examples, I wasn’t writing “action” oriented statements, and I failed to show the impact I had in my examples. That, and my resume was 2 pages long.
Key takeaway #2: A good Consulting resume is 1 page in length, contains specific work experience examples that are project based, highly action oriented, and showcase the impact, ideally quantifiable impact, that you had on each example.
In working with these 2nd year students, I also realized that not all of the people who got summer internship jobs and full time offers had engineering degrees, 760 GMAT scores and consulting experience. A few of them were just like me – they had non-analytical backgrounds, average GMAT scores and standard industry or entrepreneurial experience.
Key takeaway #3: You do not need to be a math genius engineer with 5+ years of business and consulting experience and a 700+ GMAT to get an interview with a top firm.
What you do need is strong leadership experience, strong grades and a resume that demonstrates you can do the job. (You also need to network – more on that later.) This helped me realize that the firms hire a wide variety of candidates with varied backgrounds and experience. Great news for life science postgraduates.
The resume revisions continued from there, but I shifted my focus to case interview prep. My preparation focused exclusively on using the mock cases in school case-packs to prep with my fellow classmates. All totaled, I did over 150 mock case interviews. This experience served me well later when I started to go through the interview process with a number of top firms.
Key takeaway #4: Case-cracking is a learned skill. With enough dedication and practice, (almost) any bright student can become a case-cracking ninja.
When the full time recruiting season rolled around, I started attending information sessions that the firms were hosting on campus. I was always the first person to show up at these sessions, and the last person to leave the networking portion. I would make sure I spoke to as many consultants as I could, and I actively listened to what they were saying when my classmates were asking questions. I got business cards, and followed-up asking if I could have a few minutes of their time to chat more about their role and the firm. Many of the consultants agreed to meet with me, and I took this opportunity to really dig into what made them, and the firm, tick.
When I applied to the jobs, I was confident they would know who I was, and would remember how interested I was in the firm, and how passionate I was about consulting. It must have helped – in spite of my average profile, I received interviews with many of the top firms, including McKinsey, A.T. Kearney, Deloitte, Mercer and Capgemini.
Key takeaway #5: Networking matters. Your odds of getting an interview will be much higher if you actively network with the firm prior to applying to the job and first round interviews.
This brings to mind a powerful quote from a top recruiter at McKinsey. He said, “I want to look forward to your application.” So, do everything you can to make sure the recruiters will be looking forward to you applying to the job posting.
In my next Blog post, I’ll share my key takeaways as a Consulting recruiter.