If you are studying at a top b-school or just graduated from one, you’re probably thinking of working for one of the “Big Three” in consulting: McKinsey & Co, Bain & Co., or the Boston Consulting Group or MBB in short.
But how do you get the HR people at these firms to give you a look-in? What does one do to catch the eye of the recruiters at one of these dream career destinations? And how can you get an interview call from MBB? We managed to gather a few tips for you.
A recruiting official from a top consulting company says in Quora that applicants to MBB, or any other elite firms for that matter, should keep in mind that the hiring departments need to screen thousands of resumes looking for candidates who have some chance of making the cut. These recruiters have limited time, and it is best to send a one-page resume with, if really necessary, a cover letter that elaborates points in the resume. However, most recruiters seem to ignore cover letters.
If you’re a candidate, the recruiters need to know that they can train you to master mainly three types of skills: leadership skills, analytical skills, and interpersonal skills. They also need to be convinced that you are in the top one percent of their applicants. Of course, one good way to show that in your resume or cover letter is to have been a great student with top university grades. If you don’t have top grades, you should focus on a specific skill or skills that the company could use to convey that you are a competitive candidate.
The selection process revolves around whether a candidate can be trained quickly and put on the job, writes an employee of a consultancy firm. Consultancies hire people for their potential to learn fast and not for their knowledge. If you have this talent, your resume should indicate it.
MBB expect their ideal candidates to be problem-solvers. Were you ever part of a team that came up with a solution that project managers implemented successfully? Mention it briefly in your resume or cover letter, but expect to be quizzed for details at the interview and be prepared. Make sure you say that you and your team both were involved, and that you didn’t come up with a solution all by yourself in a Eureka moment.
Recruiters want to know the achievements of candidates, not just the job titles they held or the roles they played. For example, instead of writing “organized monthly meetings with the CEO and sent updates to top managers,” your resume could say “streamlined communication flows with the help of the CEO.” That’s sounds like something you’ve actually done.
Also, while speaking about achievements, instead of spelling out a skill that the recruiter can identify—for example, “showed analytical skills by creating a model for forecasting the tire market,” you could say “analyzed the tire market and developed a forecast model.” Again, you’re not telling the recruiter what is obvious. He/she will know that you have analytical skills.
Besides personal, leadership, problem-solving, and quantitative skills, consulting companies look for entrepreneurship skills and an overall orientation toward achievement. The ideal resume touches upon these five main skills.
A person experienced in consulting remarks in a Quora post that an MBA is no substitute to networking. If you can get an employee of your target company to give you some of their time, you can not only get an idea of what is it is like to work for your target company but also perhaps get an “employee push” to your application if this person likes you, so that you get an interview. If you can manage a reference from a senior colleague who knows a decision-maker in your target company, well, nothing like it.
A consultant at a top firm points out that it is quite difficult to get an interview at MBB as they depend on the top schools for their candidates. However, you may be considered if you have a water-tight case or great connections. Former bankers/lawyers seem to have better chances as they already have analytical training.
According to employees of top consulting companies writing in Quora, MBB hire top performers from prestigious schools who have interest in many areas and have participated in a wide range of academic and co-curricular activities.
Diverse backgrounds and rich exposure are what these companies are looking for when they try to build their teams. Of course, current projects and expansion plans of these companies also have a say on the specific types of candidates that they hire.
There are many levels of entry into MBB. The first level is associate or business analyst, who holds an undergraduate degree. The next level is junior associate (elevated from business analyst) or senior associate (from associate), an MBA with two years of experience in consulting. After two years as senior associate, the employee is promoted as consultant/associate and as project leader/engagement manager after two more years. A project leader can become principal after 18 months and partner after an additional 18 months.
What are the requirements at the associate level? An associate hired by MBB is typically a graduate of a top university who has shown merit in at least two or three areas, such as academics, cultural or social activities, or sports, and who possesses excellent communication skills.
For a position as management consultant, you need a great academic record, work experience, analytical capability, and communication skills. To do well in your interview rounds, you need to do well in the case interview, which will show the interviewer the analytical ability you have. You need to know the types of business cases; how to differentiate between cases; how to break down complex business problems into simpler, manageable issues; and how to apply problem-solving in the correct frameworks.
Once you have the academic credentials and work experience and pass the first round, the next step is the case and fit interviews. A case interview is, of course, a part of your management-consultant job interview, at which you are given a challenging business scenario and asked to propose solutions. The interviewers assess your numerical and verbal reasoning skills, business and commercial knowledge, and communication and presentation skills. In other words, they are looking for analytical skills (problem structuring and charts/data analysis) and soft skills (communication, leadership, and teamwork).
For example, case interviews may start with questions like “How do you estimate the market for karaoke bars in Kathmandu?” The interviewer may follow this up with many other related questions. For every question, the candidate is expect to identify the problem, build a structure for problem-solving, ask for any additional information required, and give a recommendation.
In fit interviews, the firm tries to find out whether your personality, values, and skills would be in tune with its organizational culture and environment. The main aspect of personality assessment in most firms is your leadership qualities, which will help you lead yourself through complex case analyses and perform your duties at higher levels in your company eventually, according to a video-clipping from Rocketblocks on YouTube. The second aspect is drive and problem-solving ability, which will enable you to persist with business challenges. The third is collaborative qualities, in which you show your aptitude for teamwork.
What about rejection and acceptance rates? According to a post on an online forum about MBB recruitment at a top 15 school, 300 students applied for jobs, 15-30 received calls for first-round interviews, 5-10 received calls for the second round, and two to five got offers.
At a top-5 school, 80 percent of students who submitted resumes got a call for the first-round interview, and 40 percent eventually got job offers. One class sent 55 to McKinsey, 29 to BCG, and 35 to Bain, according to another post on an online forum.
Of course, rejection and acceptance rates depend on the quality of the school and the candidates and the slots available in the company. MBB may call just 100 for the first round out of 1,000 applicants, select 10 for the second round, and offer jobs to just two or three. MBB hiring rates reportedly drop from M7 to the lower-ranked top 15 schools. “MBB is very pedigree driven,” according to a participant at an online forum.
Getting into MBB seems to be more difficult than securing admission to top Ivy League schools. According to managementconsulted.com, only 3 percent applicants get the green signal at MBB compared with 6 percent applicants at top Ivy schools. Here are a few tips to secure an internship at MBB, according to this website.
Without a GPA of 3.5, your resume is likely to be discarded. If your GPA is not as high as required, you need to show that you have a specific business skillset and interest in other fields. And, do we even have to mention the importance of networking?
You need to have taken part in activities of clubs and other co-curricular activities, but you also need to show your leadership skills. Show your target companies that you are smart outside the classroom, too.
It would be nice to depute for the cashier at the corner shop grocer during summer, but this may not exactly improve your skillset or resume. Try to land an internship in a Fortune 500 company or give life to the startup idea that has been languishing in your freezer. A job experience that improves your skills is what can fetch you an internship.
Take that dream trip to Africa or do something that shows that you have a wild side. Show that consulting is not the only thing you want to do. Show that you are a fun person to work with. But don’t overdo things or you may come across an FB picture of yourself that you may never be able to live down.
How do some people manage to convert their internship into a full-time job? Here are a few tips from Forbes and thebalance.com.
Work ethics (punctuality and sticking to company rules) and engagement (completing your projects on time) are important qualities, and your company will notice that you have them or don’t. Let people know that you take the internship seriously and consider it a learning experience.
Show your interest in the field in which the company is doing business. Offer to attend workshops. Ask for additional work if you don’t have your hands full already.
Paying attention to important details is a quality shared by good interns. Have you noticed something that could be resolved to improve the company’s performance? Speak up.
Sometimes it is better to know for sure whether your internship could turn into a full-time job. Put the question straight to your supervisor or HR manager. As an HR person says, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no!”
Following from the previous tip of asking about a full-time position, it is also important to know whether the company has a slot. It doesn’t matter if you’re the greatest intern ever if they can’t accommodate you.
If you can manage to remain connected with your former supervisor at the company where you interned, you are more likely to be remembered than people who don’t stay in touch. How do you do it? Find an occasion to congratulate the company or comment on news about it.
You may have made new connections at the company and it is important to stay connected with them. Thank your supervisor and colleagues after you have left and returned to school.
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