Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts On Recruiting For Consulting

After 3 weeks of grueling preparation, 1st-year Kellogg students started officially interviewing this week for summer internships. I know for certain that consulting and finance interviews have started, but I'm not certain about the other functions (marketing, general management, etc). There are a lot of people recruiting for consulting, and it is an extremely competitive process. They gave us the latest Kellogg employment report on Monday, and although 2009 wasn't exactly a "normal" year, here are the number of interns that were hired last summer by some of the larger firms.
McKinsey & Company - 24
BCG - 22
A.T. Kearney - 6
Bain & Company - 6
Monitor Group - 5
Unfortunately, I don't have any detailed insights about the process because I've been in the role of curious bystander throughout most of it. Nonetheless, I do have some thoughts and general insights on the consulting recruiting process that I've picked up through chatting with friends, working with the Consulting Club, etc. I'm going to summarize that information into a simple timeline to help give you an idea of the entire process.

Please take all of this with a grain of salt. It definitely isn't based on any insider information, and it isn't meant to discourage any of you that are thinking about recruiting for consulting. I wholeheartedly believe, whether naive or not, that if you want something, and you bust your ass to get it, the world around you will change to accommodate you.

< September
  • Take advantage of any free time that you have before the first quarter to perform general industry research and determine if consulting might be a good fit for you. You don't have to be 100% certain at this point, as there is always a chance things will change once you are exposed to other functions and industries at Kellogg, but it is still a good idea to think about it; particularly given how demanding the recruiting process can be.
  • Once you get a Net ID and can access restricted portions of the Kellogg intranet (The Serial), I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the resources offered by the Career Management Center, such as access to's company/industry information.  Once the quarter begins, it will be harder to take the time to look through the website; I still don't know what are all of the resources they offer, but I've heard they are extremely helpful.
  • Keep in mind that consulting firms look at your GMAT score.  I don't know how much weight firms put into GMAT scores, but I've heard that they are becoming increasingly important, given that they provide a standardized way of comparing candidates.  If you got into Kellogg, then you probably already have a competitive GMAT score, but you'll have to think about it in terms of the pool that you are in.  In the extreme case, you can always consider retaking the GMAT to try and improve the score, but I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.
  • Think about how you are going to allocate your time between studying, socializing, networking, etc.  For most functions, you will be told that your grades in the first quarter don't matter.  For consulting and finance, grades matter.  From what I understand, their wasn't any direct correlation between closed list interview spots and grades, but I don't know if that will hold when it comes time for the firms to make their offers.  It is probably safe to assume that top consulting firms want to hire the best candidates possible because their success is directly tied to the skill of their consultants.  Now think of what their first impression might be if they see that your grades were "B,B,B,B,A" versus "A,A,A,B,B".  I thought one of the Consulting Club officers said it best when they told us "just make sure that you get more As than Bs."
  • Speaking of grades, put some effort into the MORS class that you take during CIM.  This is probably the only time that you will only have 1 class to worry about, so it is a great opportunity to go for an A.  It is easy to get caught up in all of the CIM excitement though and completely deprioritize this class, especially when everyone is inviting you to go out every night.  I'm still pissed at myself for getting a B in this class.
October - November
  • Begin learning about specific companies through Lunch & Learns.  An L&L is a 1-hour long presentation where a company representative discusses a topic of their choosing.  I think they are a great way to indirectly learn about a company's culture through the representative; they also give you a sense of the kind of work that the company does.  Although the firms aren't allowed to use L&Ls to advertise themselves or collect the names of people that attend, you should still treat them as evaluative.
  • Go to official firm presentations to express your interest in the company, begin developing contacts, particularly in the offices that you are interested in, and learn more about the company.  Most of these presentations will occur at either the Hotel Orrington or the Woman's Club of Evanston.  These are definitely evaluative!  The firms will collect the names of everyone that attends, and you will interact directly with representatives from the different offices.  This is a great opportunity to ask specific questions about the offices, learn about what they do (different offices tend to focus on different industries), find out about the culture at the office, and establish a connection within the office.  In the words of Ru Paul, "you better it."
  • Reach out to your classmates that interned with your target company or are sponsored by them.  Most Kelloggers are more than willing to sit down and chat with you about the company, their experiences, etc.  Furthermore, firms ask their alums to watch out for strong potentials amongst their classmates, and they might seek feedback from them, so this is an indirect way to express interest.  Although the conversations tend to be informal, still treat them as evaluative, meaning don't be a jerk.  For example, just this month, some 1st-year students skipped out on meetings that they scheduled with sponsored 2nd-year students to do case prep without any notification; you can bet that hurt their chances with those companies.
  • Attend any other company events that you get invited to.  I don't know how people get selected for these, but firms will do an excellent job of reaching out to potential applicants, via dinners, happy hours, and other "informal" activities.  Some of these occurred immediately following the official presentations, others were scheduled via email.  As always, treat these as evaluative; in particularly, I imagine that they are watching out for a good "fit."  The classic "fit" question that everyone mentions is "would I want to be stuck with this person at an airport or in a car for a long drive to a client's office."
  • Consider participating in case competitions and NBI.  You don't want to go overboard with activities, given that there is a diminishing rate of return, but it is still a good idea to consider participating in company case competitions (AT Kearney and BCG have them for example).  These will help you get some additional exposure to the companies, and if you are successful (proceed to the next round), it is a potential way to distinguish yourself.  NBI is another way to gain exposure to some of the top companies, but it is a bit of a toss up, because you can't select the team that get assigned to.  The 3 teams that made it into the NBI final presentations were all placed on "watch" lists for 2 top consulting firms; we were assured that it helps with recruiting, though I can't say for certain.
  • Go to any general info sessions that the Consulting Club puts on.  The club will put together events to help you prepare for the recruiting session, such as an overview to the case interview process and function primers (Marketing, Finance, Strategy).  At this point, you don't have to dive into case prep (you'll have plenty of time for that) or any specific practice, but it is good to take a cursory glance at the process.
  • Submit applications and cover letters for interviews through the company website and/or the CMC (some companies require that you submit to both).  Things slow down a bit in December, since students are focused on finals, Ski Trip, treks, and vacation.  Last December, some of the application deadlines occurred during Finals week and ski trip (the following week).  Try to spend some time putting together a strong resume and cover letter to get your foot in the door via interview spots on the closed lists.  It is possible to bid for a spot on the open lists, but you'll have a limited number of bid points at your disposal.
  • Familiarize yourself with the case prep process.  If you have a case book, like Case in Point, this is a good time to read it.  When you return, you want to be comfortable with the general process for handling a case (summarize the problem, ask for a moment to collect thoughts, write out framework, explain framework, etc) to get the most out of case prep.
  • Begin practicing for the fit portion.  It is easy to get so hung up on the case portion of the interview, that you forget about the fit portion that precedes the case and is equally important.  Start thinking about how you would answer the questions that are likely to come up: walk me through your resume, why consulting, why our company, etc.  It is extremely possible that everyone will do fairly well on the case during their interviews, so the fit portion is a great way to differentiate yourself.
  • Companies will contact the candidates selected for closed interview slots during the first half of the month; this time around, the emails were sent out on Fridays.  If you didn't get on the closed list, then you'll have to bid for open slots in this time frame.
  • Interview Prep. Interview Prep. Interview Prep.  Start doing case prep with your classmates.  It is a good idea to begin with other 1st-years because they'll be able to help you improve on the basics.  Once you are comfortable with the fundamentals, 2nd-year students will be able to provide more detailed feedback that will help you go from good to great.  You will get plenty of help with interview prep; one of the Consulting Club officers spent 20 hours last week doing case prep with 1st years.  The companies set up case prep for all of the applicants selected to interview, classmates will be available to help, the CMC will perform mock interviews to help with the fit portion, and the Consulting Club will put together workshops with 2nd-years and company representatives to provide more practice.  A case prep session tends to last between 45-60 minutes, with 30 minutes devoted to the case and the remaining time devoted to feedback.  There is no magic number for how many to do; some people do 30+ and others <10. 
  • Rock the sh** out of the interview.  1st and 2nd round interviews occur very quickly. I've heard that people that make it to the 2nd round will interview within a week of the 1st round.  If all goes well, you will know where you are working this summer by mid-February.
The entire process is very time-consuming and demanding.  I don't think it is possible to truly convey this with a blog post.  Fortunately, it is an extremely well-document and well-traversed path, and you will have no lack of help in preparing for it.  Kelloggers (both students and alums in the indsutry) do an amazing job of helping throughout the entire process.  I think it is a wonderful example of the "collaborative" nature of the Kellogg experience.

I'm hoping to be a part of the Consulting Club's leadership team next year to continue helping others out with recruiting as much as possible. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me when you make it to Kellogg later this year or at any point in the future.  Who knows; maybe you'll find yourself walking through a case with me next January!


  1. "wholeheartedly believe, whether naive or not, that if you want something, and you bust your ass to get it, the world around you will change to accommodate you" - a rephrase of Paulo Coelho in 'The Alchemist' :)

    "ask for a moment" - I bet you were referring to the typical McK interviews

    Thanks for the detailed post Orlando.
    Its highly informative.
    And I sure hope to walk through a case with you next year :D

  2. Forgot to mention, that "asking for a moment" ends up being standard practice for most case interviews, including McK.

  3. Great post.. I managed getting a McK PST invite although I am from a non-target school, limited wrk experience and haven't done great in school either.. I was so overwhelmed at the invite,.. I screwed up the test.. is there ever a second chance..or was it a once in a lifetime opportunity that i ruined? U might have an idea as McK recruits from kellogs consistently..

  4. Anecdotally, I've heard of plenty of folks that were turned down for a summer offer but then got a full-time offer, so I don't think that all hope is lost (assuming you are going through typical grad school recruiting). That said, I don't really know anything about McK's process. Regardless of the situation, good luck with recruiting!

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