More of your top consulting questions answered

We held our second Reddit “Ask Me Anything” live Q&A session on consulting recruiting this month and received over two dozen questions. Here are the ones that were ranked the most popular.

I have been to Final Rounds and was rejected when applying for the undergraduate position. Will this have an impact when applying as an MBA Candidate/Graduate?
Making it to the final round when applying for an entry level position can actually help you when applying as an MBA candidate. Getting invited to final rounds means that the firm saw potential in you. Your goal now is to show that during the time that has elapsed you have built on that potential, demonstrating strong teamwork skills, the ability to think strategically, top analytical abilities, etc. Show them how you have matured into a top-tier candidate.

Is there anything I can or should do to prepare for consulting recruitment prior to matriculation? I plan to start my MBA next fall.
Consulting is one of the most popular, and competitive, job choices at business schools. One way to get ahead of the competition is by kicking off both your research and your networking now. You can use the time before matriculation to start researching firms — really getting to know the type of work they do, the training and support they offer, and their different cultures, down to the office level. You should also start building your network — you can start contacting alumni of your school who are working in your area of interest. Introduce yourself and ask for a short meeting where you can get their advice on what classes, clubs and projects to pursue while at school as well as what other advice they can provide to help you get started on your path.

First-year MBA enrolled FT in a well recognized but unranked regional MBA program. Received a GMAT waiver for high undergrad GPA and professional leadership experience (C-suite under 30) when I applied. Will I still be a competitive strategy or HC consulting recruit, for D, ACC, K, EY, etc.?
Yes, you can still be competitive. However, more of the burden may be on you than on similarly talented peers at other schools. First, see what companies are coming to campus. Hopefully, some of your target firms will have a relationship with your career development services, even if they don’t hold interview sessions on campus. Second, dig deep into your alumni network, and other networking sources. Remember, networking is about building a web. Even if you don’t have an immediate connection to a target firm, your first round of networking contacts can introduce you to other networking contacts that will help you reach your goal. The good news is that the top firms all recognize that there is talent out there beyond where they are able to go recruit. So they are open to getting candidates from non-target schools. Your goal is to capture their attention (which is why networking is crucial) so that they take the time to learn about your strengths and abilities. Good luck!

How hard is it to break into a specific practice within an MBB firm after an MBA without previous work experience in that industry? For example McKinsey’s and BCG’s Media & Entertainment practices or BCG’s Social Impact immersion?
One of the main reasons why people want to join consulting firms like McKinsey and BCG is because they want to sample the variety of industries and specialities available in these large, global firms. So there is definitely the opportunity to pursue a new interest like Media & Entertainment or Social Impact. However, it can be harder to get staffed on the more popular studies because the competition is stronger. People will staff you if they see that you will bring value to the table. Your value does not have to be industry experience — especially as you start out. Instead, make sure your consulting skills are top-notch. This includes your data analysis, communication (written and verbal), team building, strategic thinking, etc. Managers always value consultants who demonstrate what Steve Ballmer used to call “High GSD” or the ability to Get Stuff Done. Show your work effort. Make connections with the managers doing the kind of work you want to do them and impress them with your abilities. That will get you staffed.

To what extent does undergrad school/GPA matter during MBA recruiting? I’m sure presence at a good MBA program/interesting work experience/GMAT/etc. is good enough signaling?
Consulting firms are looking for top talent wherever they can find it. Reputation of your undergraduate program, your grades, excelling in your career, leadership experience, GMAT, etc. can all be indicators of top talent. So how much grades or your undergrad school matters can depend on the other factors. With a top MBA, strong work experience, and a great GMAT the other factors likely matter less (unless there is some notable issue). I’ve worked with many great consultants who came from good, but not Ivy-League caliber, undergraduate programs.

By Stephanie Horn (Managing Consultant) and Matt Strickler (Senior Advisor), Consulting Career Academy at The MBA Exchange