Your odds of acceptance of applying for a job from the McKinsey, Bain or BCG website are similar to your odds of getting a job from applying to any large company’s website — very low.
You can think of a job search where you solely respond to openings on company websites as analogous to a direct mail campaign. Your success rate will be in the single to low double digits — think about how much direct mail you open, even the ones “targeted” to you.
The key to getting a job at a prestigious consulting company is finding a way around the first resume screen to get to the people who are actually hiring for the position. Again, this advice applies to other industries as well.
I recommend the following steps for job searchers:
- Research the firm and office — it’s not enough to know that you want to work in strategy consulting. Understand the nuances of each firm, and even of the office where you want to work. What industries do they specialize in? What is the culture like? Do they have functional specialties? The more you know about the office, the better job you can do of matching your skills and abilities with what they are looking for.
- Find people to talk to — you need to develop a champion for you in the office who will shepherd your resume through HR. Think you don’t know anyone? You’re wrong! The six degrees of separation rule is a fact — statistically, you can connect any two people through six or fewer intermediary connections. So start with who you know, let them know the kind of people you want to meet (consultants) and start building your network. It may take 2–3 connections before you meet that Associate Partner in the Dallas office, but it’s worth it!
- Be on top of your (job search) game — Make sure your resume is powerful and perfect, that your interviewing skills are sharp, and that the case interview holds no fears for you. This part of the process is the easiest for you to control — all it takes is putting in the time to master these skills.
As you progress in your career, these skills become more relevant. In general, entry-level job seekers can find positions through job boards and websites. As you move up the ladder, making connections becomes more critical, and often you can be hired for positions that have never been posted.
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