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Getting into consultancy

#1 Getting into consultancy
31/10/2012 16:07


Hi all

I'm 25, graduated in 2009 with an MEng 1st Class from King's College in Mech Eng, took a little time out, worked for just over a year in a non-related field to consulting (sports trading) and was made redundant earlier this year.

Had no idea what I wanted to do for a long time, then through a headhunter that my brother knew, I got a McKinsey interview. Did the PST (passed) and did two seperate case study interviews (which I am sure I aced) but then didn't get the role as it was for a more experienced hire and they were looking for someone with some relevant experience.

After that, I knew I wanted to get into strategy consultancy as I found that type of work really challenging and interesting. The trick for me is, how?

I've tried applying directly to all the McKinseys/Bains/BCGs of this world, but I don't even make it to the interview stage. This most likely due to my A-levels? BBC, surely my degree should make recruiters overlook that though. My CV is fairly well structured with a fair amount of extracurricular, and other experiences

So, I'm basically wondering what's my best way of getting into Strategy Consultancy?

Head hunters (I don't unfortunately know many)

Smaller firms? (I have found and applied to few, but again, CV stage. If anyone has name suggestions then that would be great)

I'm fairly bright with good academics, but unfortunately I lack experience. I am also somewhat of a lost soul when it comes to locating and applying to these firms.

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#2 RE: Getting into consultancy
31/10/2012 16:32

marsday to kktg7288 (#1)

Unfortunately the degree doesnt eclipse the A Level results (although it should) so you will always be up against it applying to strategy firms, who can already fill most of their grad hiring needs from Oxbridge and international top schools. That said you say you interviewed with McKinsey already so I dont really see what the problem is.

Headhunters arent a route for you yet - unless one offers to help through a personal referral, as we focus on experienced hires. Clients simply dont need to pay our fees for graduates.

Strategy consulting isnt the be all and end all. How about a role in industry to get some relevant experience and then possibly go into strategy as an experienced hire later in your career? You need to get onto a decent grad scheme - any major consulting or blue chip scheme will do. The prority for you is to get some decent, relevant, experience. I'm not sure what this smaller firms route is about - if you think they will provide an easy route into the likes of McKinsey later in life you are mistaken, and for the most part smaller consulting firms are built around experienced hires and lack the scope to develop you properly.

I am concerned that you graduated in 2009 and - as you say - didnt know what you wanted to do for a long time. Nothing wrong with some indecision but you arent setting your path for life here, and taking time out to navel gaze and decide who would appreciate your talents isnt a luxury any graduate can afford these days - not even if you held a double 1st from Oxbridge.

A wiser man than me (one of many many such people) said the best thing to do is the right thing, the second best is the wrong thing, the worst thing to do is do nothing.

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#3 RE: Getting into consultancy
31/10/2012 16:49

kktg7288 to marsday (#2)

Thank you for taking the time to reply

As you said with the headhunter part, it was through a personal referral, and again I agree that lack of experience is a huge black hole on my CV. It was just a route that was suggested to me and I'm wondering what others' thoughts may be.

My thoughts with the smaller firms is that their graduate schemes/development programmes would be easier to get into. As you said, I graduated in '09 which is a problem and when I'm applying for a major firm I'm up against the Oxbridges '11, '12 graduates which means extensively more significant competition.

I'm afraid I navel gazed for too long, and now I'm trying to get out of it..

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#4 RE: Getting into consultancy
31/10/2012 17:15

marsday to kktg7288 (#3)

Well get on with it then.

It is entertaining to imagine someone who has been in a coma since graduation, only to suddenly awaken with savant like qualities and a single minded focus on some distant and mythical objective and become almost autistic to everything else. Which then leads to another coma when that doesnt work out, because then you'll be starting all over again.

Big 4, IBM, Accenture, Capgemini etc etc - their grad schemes will be competitive but not so much as McKinsey, BCG et al. Your biggest hurdle will be explaining why you have been navel gazing and convincing them consulting is what you really want. Get a list of the big firms and get applying. You wont gain anything but more lost time trying to find some golden goose boutique which will give you an easy way in. Even if you do find such an organisation you'll be little more than a glorified teaboy or bag carrier. Yes you'll get that at E&Y too, but not for long before you are promoted to Excel Monkey, whereas in a smaller firm your development will very much depend on the caprice of a few individuals who may or may not take a liking to you. I would however include smaller firms with an established reputation - such as a Value Partners (if you like TMT), Efficio (if you fancy some procurement change) or BAEDetica as examples.

The thing to remember also is that what interests you now wont interest you at all in a year, and you will want to be in a peer group which provides inclusive opportunities...even if you make it to Bain you'll always be that one who didnt attend Cambridge if you like. Strategy is just a catch all for a whole spectrum of activities and not always the most interesting. I recruit strategy consultants, but give me the choice between talking to someone about the market entry strategy they designed to disrupt an incumbent regional utilities supplier or about what a tech start up or think tank at IBM say is looking at for the next big step in say making that utilities infrastructure 'smart infrastructure' then well lets talk metering.

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#5 RE: Getting into consultancy
01/11/2012 16:44

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to marsday (#4)

I love these stories about drifters who have a clarion call such as this, and then realise that they are perfectly suited to a top-flight career in strategy consulting or PE at a firm such as McKinsey/Goldman Sachs/Texas Pacific. I love the way the emails are subsequently drafted with references to "esteemed firm" and suchlike.

The reality is, kktg7288, do you really have the work ethic that MBB and the like will require of you? Like 200 hours per week of hardcore bum kissing and pretending to be busy? I get the impression you're more suited to gap years, bumming around at the track, drinking in student common rooms and the like?

So here is what every MBB recruiter will want to know: Why should they hire you, rather than one of the many applicants who have a degree from a better university, a more consistent track record (cf. A-level results), and lack the dodgy sports trading/'year out' black mark on their CV? I'm not saying that to be rude, it's just to illustrate the question you'll need to address in order to make any progress...

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#6 RE: Getting into consultancy
01/11/2012 20:00

baykus to kktg7288 (#1)

Had no idea what I wanted to do for a long time, then through a headhunter that my brother knew, I got a McKinsey interview. Did the PST (passed) and did two seperate case study interviews (which I am sure I aced) but then didn't get the role as it was for a more experienced hire and they were looking for someone with some relevant experience.

What role were you applying for? I ask because the feedback you seem to have had is confusing and sounds wrong. If in consulting, based on your experience level you would have been applying for a BA position - and BAs do not get turned down due to lack of experience, they are expected to have no work experience other than uni.

If somehow the recruiter blagged an Associate interview for you they did you a disservice as you do not have the career profile for that. But interestingly, even for Associates the interview process does not take your work experience into account in any shape or form.

And did you do two case studies in total, or two days, each with multiple case studies? If it's the former, it means you did not make it to round two - and that means that you did not ace the case.

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#7 RE: Getting into consultancy
02/11/2012 08:52

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to baykus (#6)

Sounds like there were a few favours going on here, which ultimately didn't come off.

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#8 RE: Getting into consultancy
05/11/2012 13:26

kktg7288 to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#7)

Ever so positive replies. It could have been said in rather more subtle ways, but fair play.

Guess I understand the point of view of "recruiters" now.

Unfortunately, significant part of the first "year out" wasn't by choice, was more illness related, and that's not exactly something I can put on my CV as an excuse. Nor did I want to mention it here. From February until now, is my fault.

I've spent most of the time out productively, rather than spent around in student unions drinking or bumming around the track. Not knowing your ideal career choice, or not having a 9-5 does not automatically imply that I did nothing.

The McKinsey interviews were two seperate ones with the exception of the PST (which makes for three seperate visits), it was for MPI. I wished for advice, not for a critique of what I had done the last 3 years of my life. Oh, and there were no favours called here either.

Will follow some of that advice, thank you marsday.

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#9 RE: Getting into consultancy
05/11/2012 13:31

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to kktg7288 (#8)

How can we be sure there were no favours? It does sound suspicious that the McK interview happened in the way it did, given the circumstances.

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