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Not getting past the first screen

#1 Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 02:45

Trying to deleted (#0)

Hi, perhaps you can tell me where i'm going wrong?

I've been applying for consulting positions over the past month - i've only just started because I was on a one year masters at the LSE in Management and frankly, I wanted to concentrate on it and do well rather than worry about finding a job during the academic year (I worked previously and i was tired! Reading and then writing was nice!)

But, I'm not getting past the first round for grad positions! They don't want me! I'm not a twit, 2.1 from Oxford, distinction from LSE. Work experience of dealing with clients, shown initiative with property refurbishment escapade i started at just 21. But, they don't want me. Now, i'm wondering, could it be that i've done too much? Should i just wipe my CV and put something like 'taught english in china for two years'?!

I'm not sure their 'diversity appreciation' mantras are accurate at all, because yes they might take people with ovaries, and yes pigmentation is fine (i have both by the way) but must they all be clones underneath?

if so, would you advise i lie and make out i was doing very little when i was actually doing stuff i'm quite proud of for four years?

What do you think? Should i just do that (and leg it to banking)?!

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#2 Re: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 04:05


What have you done (besides property refurbishment) that makes you think you've done "too much"? Are you interviewing through LSE's on-campus recruiting, or are you sending resumes out on your own? Which firms have you applied to? Are you being given case interviews; and if so, do you think you've dissected them to the interviewer's satisfaction? Too many variables here...I don't buy your lame excuse (and yes, it is lame) of firms discriminating because you are female, are not Caucasian, and have done "too much". I work with many women, many non-Caucasians, and way too many Overachievers.

Maybe it's your attitude? Look deeper.

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#3 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 09:22

Village Idiot to Trying (#1)

Rather than speculate based on the information you've posted here, why don't you call up those organisations where you've been rejected and ask for feedback? Most will happily provide you with feedback; under the Freedom of Information legislation you can ask for copies of your interview notes.

If you're getting the first interview but not progressing beyond that, it implies that your qualifications are adequate but for some reason they don't see you as a good fit.

To address your other point about being clones underneath -- there is a certain amount of truth to that. I work with men and women of all colours and races, but they all possess some similar characteristics: hard-working, professional, team-orientated, good facilitators, calm, rational, strong presenters. Consulting isn't an industry that values eccentrics -- underneath the skin, most (good) consultants are fairly similar.

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#4 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 10:53

Trying to Village Idiot (#3)

VI, thanks for your insight. It was just a stab in the dark really, just wanting to know what i might be doing wrong. I consulted my careers service every step of the way and my advisor (specialist for mgt consultancy) said he thought i had a very strong CV and cover letter - and he'd seen a few that were accepted. The difference was in the examples that I used to show exactly what you have mentioned here: hard-working, professional, team-orientated, rational, strong presenters (though i probably haven't shown that i'm a good facilitators/calm - will amend). Any more advice and i'd be grateful,

(I'd never thought of myself as an eccentric, but it's always possible that i am, i guess :)


Beng, please excuse me, I didn't ever say it was because of my colour or sex. The last thing i want is an argument, so please don't level that at me because that is not what i said.

What i said was, they seem willing to engage in diversity in so far as race (if there is such a thing) and sex, but beneath that it seems they want very similar people indeed. For example, valuing being president of a student society over other achievements which might demonstrate characteristics I thought they might appreciate.

My question was not 'are they being sexist' or whatever (things like that are always difficult to prove anyway), it was, am i right in thinking i should i wipe my history of what i consider are achievements and in its stead put something else like 'travelled a lot'?

If you can help me on that question i'd be grateful.

I don't consider myself an over-achiever in the least, struggler is more apt. When i say 'too much' i refer rather to them wanting fresh-faced grads - I'm wondering whether it's that my achievements aren't being recognised. That is fine but if so i'd like to know so that i can change my CV. As for having an attitude, I turn the other cheek everytime. Life is too short, i'm in a good mood now and i was when i wrote the thread.

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#5 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 11:00

Trying to Trying (#4)

VI, tell you what: once a scientist always a scientist! I'm going to hold all other varibales constant, but change my work experience to fit what i think they are looking for (student society, conferences, age old internship) and see what happens.

I'll let you know the results of this experiment!

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#6 Re: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 15:06


Sorry for jumping on you like that. Just that the fact you actually brought it up implied to me that you thought it was significant. I've interviewed many Graduate students myself, and I must say the top 3 things I'm looking for are critical thinking abilities (uncovered through case interviews), the ability to stay calm under extreme duress (I role play quite a bit, playing the role of a very demanding and unhappy client who cannot be pleased no matter what you say), and teamwork/coachability (need someone I can "mold" to fit my firm's unique culture).

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#7 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 16:50

Village Idiot to Trying (#4)

'Trying', I think you've missed my point.

If you're getting the interviews, your CV is fine. You don't need to amend it -- in fact, you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you've got a formula that works.

You need to focus on improving your interview techniques. For whatever reason, you're not conveying the image that the consultancies want to see.

I've interviewed countless graduates, and if I'm honest, I share Beng's opinions. While I'm clearly interested in a CV that shows a well-rounded, well-educated candidate, I'm not particularly fussy about how they achieved that experience.

Graduates are a tough case -- they've got no real professional experience to speak of (even those who have done internships -- it tends to show drive and ambition rather than ability). As a recruiter, you're looking for the raw material that you can mould into a consultant over the following 3+ years.

I typically reject graduate candidates for the following reasons (here's a checklist -- do any of these apply to you?)

1. The 'Graduate who thinks they're a CEO': You don't know everything about this business yet, and diving in head-first will just make you look stupid. Instead of showing me how much you know, show me how eager you are to learn and have a plan for gaining knowledge and experience. Do you want to focus on one industry, or gain experience around a lot? Have you already identified a practice area that interests you, or do you want to circulate around?

2. "Mr/s Bossy Pants": I don't know why every Careers Service tells people they need to demonstrate leadership skills at a graduate interview. Very few young graduates have well-developed leadership skills -- and as a result, they come across as bossy.

3. "Plays well with others": This is the probably the most important trait that I look for. You're going to be spending the next few years of your life working and socialising with your colleagues. I want to be absolutely sure you'll fit in with the team. I want someone sociable, someone who isn't afraid to get their hands dirty or do the occasional bit of boring tedious work, someone who won't moan and complain, someone who doesn't have a sense of entitlement to be doing "grand" work. Let's be honest -- the work in the first few years of a consulting career is tedious and boring, but we all have to earn our right of passage. It's called "gaining experience".

Moreover, we spend most of our careers meeting and working with strangers. This is not a place for introverts. Particularly at assessment centres, you need to show that you've got a friendly, outgoing personality.

4. "Bright young things": As a consultant, you're constantly asked to "make it up on the fly". Often, we're only one step ahead of our clients on the learning curve (but don't tell them that!). So if you're not bright, creative, and flexible, I don't want you on my team.

5. "Presentability": Could I put this candidate in front of a client on their own? Am I confident they would represent the values of the firm in the correct way? Would they embarrass me, or more importantly, leave me in the $hit?

6. "Customer-focused": The customer pays our bills. They're always right. Even when they're not. Impress me by telling me how you always underpromise and overdeliver. Standards are high in this business.

That's just off the top of my head. I wish I could tell you that there was some sort of check-list, but the truth is that I tend to rely on my gut-instinct when I meet a graduate. I very quickly get a feel for whether they'll fit in with my organisation or not.

Finally, I do urge you to get in touch with the organisations where you've interviewed already. A good consultant knows that research is the key to the right solution. If you're too afraid/embarrassed to call up the recruiter and ask for feedback so you can make changes based on FACT instead of SPECULATION, consulting probably isn't the career for you.

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#8 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 18:30

Trying to Village Idiot (#7)

VI your advice is like gold dust! Thank you! So much!

I once had an interview for a job (lobbying, which was my first career as a graduate) and was rejected on the count of selecting my words too carefully, and therefore they couldn't imagine i would have been laid back enough to join their 'crew'! I liked that feedback, and all that I get so yes, I will ask for feedback at the interview stage and not wilt away. However, it is my CV that is being rejected. That is what i am banging my head about. I have been forward enough to ask, not for personal feedback on my application, but the criterion against which it was judged and it always comes back: education, work experience, evidence of personal drive, and i do think i have shown this, but not in the most conventional ways, i guess. This is the conundrum.

I also thought it might be because i had a career before that they wonder whether i have any direction., which I do, but when i first graduated consultancies were trying to get rid of graduates (2001-2002).

But your feedback was excellent. Thanks again, I have a few mates going to interviews and i'll run it by them.

Still Trying :)

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#9 RE: Not getting past the first screen
12/07/2006 18:37

Trying to Beng (#6)


Just spotted your message. That's ok, I left myself wide open for misinterpretation, I could see that immediately.

Thanks for your advice too :)

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#10 RE: Not getting past the first screen
14/07/2006 12:00

sio to Trying (#8)

Whilst knowing what recruiters want is vital it is important not to contort yourself too much trying to fit that model. The interview is often a one on one and each person you encounter will have a different style. The best way to achieve a fit is to be yourself so you are relaxed and this automatically shows you in a good light. This helps in the long term too, because whilst you may get a job being someone your not naturally it is unlikely you'll be happy there.

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#11 RE: Not getting past the first screen
15/07/2006 21:15

ex teacher to Trying (#1)

Trying, here's a thought. Perhaps you are an ignorant snob who makes baseless patronising comments about whole groups of people, and this is what lets you down at interview. Have you ever thought that, for example, going to live and work in a country like China might be quite a challenge? How about if you did it without an ex pat package to protect you, leaving your network of friends and family, unable even to read train station names and labels in supermarkets? How about if you then spent your days developing your communication and presentation skills by interacting with a wide range of people very different from yourself?

(You'd probably also learn where to put the capitals in English and China.)

Sorry, but I'd recruit someone who'd managed to be an effective teacher in a very alien environment much sooner than some two-a-penny 2.1 from Oxford ignoramus who once refurbished a property.

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#12 RE: Not getting past the first screen
15/07/2006 22:25

Ruuve to ex teacher (#11)

"ex teacher" - I couldn't agree more. Living in a foreign culture is a huge and unique achievement that is totally undervalued by employers. We should recruit such people as our highest priority.

By the same logic I am sure you agree that those candidates who have not only made the effort to survive in another culture, but who have also put themselves through a particularly intense personal development and learning experience, are even better hires.

So... let's recruit only international students, who as our experience universally tell us have developed the best communication and team-working skills.

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#13 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 10:07

ex teacher to Ruuve (#12)

Ruuve I agree with you that international students who come to the UK to study for a degree put themselves through quite a challenge, and that should most certainly be recognised. (In fact, I think that international students who study for an MBA at a good UK B school are currently given the right to work in the UK for at least a year afterwards in recognition of the fact that we need their skills). But you do not give any reference to my comments about teaching. Quite often, bright young UK graduates who are employed to teach English abroad find themselves working with a very wide range of people. Normally, this would include being sent to corporations, where they must organise themselves so that they can present to all levels of the hierarchy, avoiding cultural pitfalls and ensuring effective communication, often in very difficult circumstances.

My point is that, far from "doing very little" as "Trying" imagines these people to have done, they have actually worked rather hard, and developed very valuable and transferable skills. If they then found themselves presenting to non UK clients as management consultants in later life, my bet is they would do it rather well. Of course, they wouldn´t be able to chat about their heady days constructing IKEA flatpacks as part of an "escapade", but I guess that wouldn´t hold them back too much.

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#14 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 10:19

Offended to ex teacher (#11)

What is that? Ex-Teacher why are you insulting Trying? What is your point? Do you even realise that to make a constructive post, you could have suggested Trying to get some international exposure?

Is your message that you have been to China as a teacher and back then you exposed yourself, felt a bit lost, made you way through and now have come back to UK feeling like a hero? Come on, I can't believe you feel bitter and you write such a post just to get the recognition you expect! Furthermore, you have to realise that many Oxford 2.1 have been abroad, thousands of other young adult feel the same way as you and that as a consequence your bitterness is endless. Look above not below. Move on... or please stay an EX-somethingā€¦

Just to make sure that you understand that I am offended by your sweating bitterness and not because of your comment on the University, I add that I am not an Oxford Alumni neither an ex-teacher in China.


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#15 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 13:41

Trying to Offended (#14)

I survived a prisoner of war camp in Ghana in the last decade, but i'm not particular proud of that experience, and really, all i was asking was whether i should shuffle my CV about (not sure in this case whether my 'international' POWC experience is appropriate), and certainly didn't mean to offend anyone - especially those who went to work i China. I'm not sure how it all came to this....

If my grammar is atrocious please forgive me, i do check carefully when sending out formal documents! If you can help on my original question ET and R, of course, i'd still be very grateful.

Thanks, T

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#16 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 15:04

ex teacher to Trying (#15)

Just read it again...

Now, i'm wondering, could it be that i've done too much? Should i just wipe my CV and put something like 'taught english in china for two years'?!....... would you advise i lie and make out i was doing very little when i was actually doing stuff i'm quite proud of for four years?

I'm sorry, but this displays amazing ignorance, Trying. If you thought that you could write something like that on a MC forum and everyone would just chuckle knowingly, just accept you were wrong.

Offended, I think my point was obvious. But for you, and Trying, I will reiterate it. If you are focused on how proud you are of what you have done, whilst simultaneously downgrading what others have done (and which you obviously know very little about) you will always come across as ignorant. You have a degree from Oxford, which is great, but nevertheless fairly normal in MC circles. You also have a degree from LSE. This record is obviously (and rightfully) getting you interviews. But in the very same post that you ask for advice, you betray ignorance and snobbery about another profession. Now, I spent several years teaching business English abroad, including to CEOs of major multinationals, and now I recruit for a big 4 MC firm.

Bottom line; you can never be sure about peoples' backgrounds and should be careful about what you say about people or professions. When someone has just a short period of time to guage who you are, they will look for any clues they can. To me, a person who says what you said (and which I pasted in above) is very likely to be someone who frequently assumes things which turn out to be incorrect. Why would I hire them?

I'm sorry if you don´t like the advice, but it's true. Why shouldn't I, with my background, be just as offended by your comments as you might be if someone were to say (for example) that I should be getting jobs because I went to school in England unlike those people who spent a few years in Ghana doing very little? Sounds stupid, doesn´t it? Trying, Offended, are you getting it yet??

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#17 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 21:05

commis to ex teacher (#16)

"ex teacher", you come across as quite desperate to convince people that YOUR personal experience is worthy of recognition. As people are pointing out, your ideas are not generalisable or consistent, so why not drop the pretence that you are arguing on behalf of some larger group of people?

The fact is that a lot of people commenting here are new graduates and we all know exactly how the game goes. We all feel like we have to talk up every last experience for the sake of a job. However, to comment on two specific examples:

* We all know that teaching English abroad is a soft option that people take because they haven't been able to get another job and selection standards are very low; they haven't decided what they want to do in terms of a career or don't want a proper job yet; or because it's a cheap way to travel.

* Similarly, starting a business (especially in property) is a euphamism for taking time off and doing some handiwork for your parents have buy-to-let properties.

At the end of the day, ex-teacher, you didn't make it into consulting and ended up in recruitment - something that you can do at age 16. Similarly, "Trying" has demonstrated that bumming around for four years can take the shine off good academic qualifications.

Note that I am not saying bumming around is a bad thing - I believe that we need a more European approach that accepts there is nothing wrong with taking a couple of years out and a bit longer to complete your degree. Currently in the UK we are constrained by very rigid degree formats and expectations of what a graduate career path should look like. Unfortunately, it is likely to stay that way as long as recruitment and the HR function in general remains narrow-minded and neurotic.

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#18 RE: Not getting past the first screen
16/07/2006 21:34

Trying to commis (#17)


ET, thanks for your points. My perspective was skewed by friends of mine who had done exactly what I said, but I have no doubt that many do take the more considered approach to it that you did and get a lot more out of it.

Commis, it wasn't how you describe at all, though that kind of luxury life would have been nice :) I was employed nearly all the way through, which makes me think it looks as though i'm lacking in direction. Tricky...

Thanks again all, and take care

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#19 RE: Not getting past the first screen
17/07/2006 19:39

ex teacher to Trying (#18)

Hi Trying and Commis,

Firstly, you are quite right that there is a low entry barrier to teaching in general (and teaching English abroad in particular), and that in some places a Swedish backpacker who speaks some words of English could get a job teaching. However, a low entry barrier does not imply a low ceiling of talent, and there are plenty of very intelligent people teaching, writing materials, training teachers etc, for organisations such as the British Council, who (like myself in fact) had never even tried to find another job, as they were fascinated by the unique opportunities that such organisations offered.

Commis, I am sorry that my English confused you. When I stated that I recruited for a Big 4 firm, I meant that I now work for (ie at) a Big 4 firm, and that one of my responsibilities is recruiting new talent. Now, the kind of person that REALLY irritates me, and who I would never hire, is precisely the sort of person whose brain cannot cope with complex thought patterns. You know the type; they most naturally formulate simple ideas (ie generalisations) and hide behind them, rather than challenging what "everyone knows" which (as those of us with some intelligence tend to realise,) is often incorrect.

Commis, you have managed to disparage people who work as teachers and people who work as recruitment consultants in your post. I think that displays a very dangerous ignorance. All industries, including management consulting, are made up of bright people and those who don´t think enough. I enjoy my current role in consultancy, but let me tell you this: for every untalented weirdo I met teaching English, there is at least one weak minded fool in consulting who feels that their job gives them the status their lack of personality makes them crave. Not only this, but after 9 years in each industry, I'd say if any group is happier, with fewer broken marriages and cases of is probably the teachers.

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#20 RE: Not getting past the first screen
18/07/2006 16:30

that explains it to ex teacher (#19)

ex-teacher - please tell me which big 4 firm you work for, if it is the same one as me it explains the low quality grads we are getting through the door.

get over yourself

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#21 RE: Not getting past the first screen
19/07/2006 05:39

Matthew to that explains it (#20)

Most exciting discussion I've read in a long time. Thanks Trying, ex-teacher, VI, and Beng. This is great late night reading for a guy like me.

But enough about you...

I taught in China and I wasn't offended in the least! Mind you, I taught Business Strategy, not English.

I also taught in Turkey, and wasn't the least bit offended that you failed to mention Turkey.

I have three degrees with distinction, and just scored Dean's Honours on the MBA.

I have outstanding references from multi-national business execs, a Nobel Laureate (is the l in laureate upper case, ex-teacher?), and my mother, G*d bless her.

Here's my point (I do have one)...

I've had several interviews, and heard many conflicting opinions. Everything from too humble (Accne) to aggressive (boutique firm not worth mentioning), everything from unconvincing analytical capacity (Toilette & Douche) to very strong analytical skills (Booz). The only thing everyone seems to agree on is strong and persuasive communications skills, creative thinker, and adequate sense of humour.

I have recently landed my marlin. Here's how I did it: I checked the Vault, spoke with friends, industry contacts, read media journals, and researched issues which the prospective firm's clients are facing. I prepared a 'story' for the question that virtually everyone asks: 'Could you walk me through your resume?' I asked friends for practice interviews. In fact, they had some of the best advice, commenting that my voice changed, I frown when thinking, and, from my Ovarianachiever cohort (a distinguished class to which you seem to belong), that I need a spiffier tie.

Nothing was more humbling when I thought of myself as an overachiever than reading a friend's resume. He had worked on two multi-billion dollar projects, taught himself Spanish and French, and published a collection of the time he was 26. He scored McKinsey. Best of all--ex-teacher, I hope you're still awake--he took a year off to teach English.

Go get 'em Tryin. Ask your friends to read your CV, pass it around to agencies for feedback, check in with a professional CV writer (it's your career, after all), and try posting it here. Great post--good feedback from everyone.

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#22 RE: Not getting past the first screen
19/07/2006 17:41

ex teacher to Matthew (#21)

Thanks Matthew.

Now I wonder why you said that this person "took a year off" to teach English? Was he not working then? Would one take a year off to do any other kind of job?

Exercise 1.

Which of the following do not go together?

Take a year off to....

Be a doctor

Clean the streets

Be a fireman


Drive a bus

Be a consultant

Write a book

Be a teacher

Finish for homework

PS Wonder if I gave him his job.

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#23 RE: Not getting past the first screen
19/07/2006 17:53

Why Am I Even Trying? to ex teacher (#22)

...When the Mckinsey recruiter hates me. Oh Great.... (don't laugh)

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#24 RE: Not getting past the first screen
19/07/2006 22:46

Matthew to ex teacher (#22)


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#25 RE: Not getting past the first screen
20/07/2006 16:41

MB to Trying (#1)

Trying, would you mind if I asked a couple of questions about the MSc at the LSE? I was thinking about applying, and I was wondering what your experience had been.

My email is

Hope u have a cool job by now :)

(I was rejected by a big bunch of crappy firms and then offered a good job in commercial strategy-which I accepted because I needed a source of income. Now I discovered that I enjoy it quite a lot. Sometimes a door closes and a window opens.) :)

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#26 RE: Not getting past the first screen
20/07/2006 17:36

PA-er to MB (#25)

"Sometimes a door closes and a window opens"

I'd get onto your landlord about that. Sounds like subsidence !!

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