Management consulting jobs are some of the most coveted positions in the world, and for good reason. The exposure you get to top executives, the travel perks, and the broad industry exposure is unparalleled. Landing an offer at any of the top firms like McKinsey, Bain, or BCG takes hard work. However, it is by no means an impossible task. Read on for the most important components of the recruiting process to keep in mind and give yourself the best chance to land an offer and get a job at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG!
Step #1: Figure Out Your Entry Point
The first step to landing an offer at a top consulting firm is figuring out your entry point. Typically, there are three main ways to enter into consulting: after your undergraduate degree, after a graduate program, or as an experienced hire. Depending on your current set of experiences, you should determine which entry point makes the most sense for you. Unsurprisingly, to get a job at the best consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, and others, both education and professional brand names go a long way in helping you stand out.
If you’re still working on your bachelor’s degree, you have two opportunities to recruit for consulting: a junior summer internship (right before the start of your senior year) or full-time opportunities. In the U.S., the internship recruiting cycle occurs at the start of your junior year, while the full-time consulting recruiting cycle occurs at the start of your senior year. If you are outside of the U.S., check your school’s historical recruiting timeline or reach out to your Career Services office.
Most top consulting firms will only offer these two opportunities for you to work at the firm, but many also provide programs, events, and conferences for freshman and sophomores (ex: the McKinsey Diverse Young Leaders Scholarship applies to high school seniors).
B. Advanced Degrees
Entering consulting after graduate school, specifically after MBA programs, is the best-known way to break into consulting. Many of the top consulting firms also hire JDs, MDs, and graduates with other advanced professional degrees.
Getting an MBA at a Top 10 business school will be one of the best paths toward a career in consulting, with roughly one in three MBA students entering the industry. Firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte recruit heavily from MBA programs and save spots specifically for these students. Once you are in business school, recruitment for summer internships occurs right after winter break of your first year. This is one of the advantages of doing a traditional MBA – the 2 year program allows you the opportunity at a summer internship.
We cannot stress enough that first year MBAs begin to prep early. Your first semester is hectic, and the last thing you want is to save your case interview prep for winter break alone (trust us, we see it every year). Ideally, you will begin your interview prep the summer before your MBA program. This way, you only need to refine and refresh your approach as case interview season begins.
This is one of the reasons we run two Black Belt cohorts in the summer – one in June and one in August.
C. Experienced Hires
Not enrolled in school? No problem! Consulting firms love to hire experienced professionals – subject matter experts or not.
Because there aren’t any events or info sessions to attend while not a student, your best bet is to engage in networking. Chances are, you have warm contacts in consulting somewhere across your network. If not, begin cold networking.
Consulting firms typically accept experienced hire applications on a rolling basis throughout the year, but conduct a burst of full time hiring every spring (March-May). Be sure to prepare for the case interview as you apply, as you can be called in for an interview with very short (i.e. 1 week) notice.
Step #2: Maintain a High GPA
Top consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte expect academic excellence. While there isn’t a clear industry-wide minimum GPA, maintain a 3.5+ GPA to maximize your chances of landing an interview. This is especially important if you come from a non-target school.
A high GPA won’t land you an interview invite on its own, but it can kill your chances, especially if you haven’t networked well. The further away you move from your academic experience, the less GPA matters, provided you’ve excelled in a relevant role since then.
Step #3: Build Up Professional Experience
Especially if you had a low GPA, you’ll need to compensate with relevant and ideally brand name past experiences on your resume. Unlike industries like investment banking which prefer candidates have previous finance experience, consulting firms don’t require you to have previous professional consulting experience (in fact, many prefer that you don’t). Firms believe in their professional development programs and problem solving toolkits, so what they care most about are the things you can’t necessarily teach – i.e. an affinity for numbers, analytical aptitude, executive presence, positive attitude.
One of the ways consulting firms lessen risk in the recruiting process is by placing heavy emphasis on brand name experience. If you are an undergrad/grad student, aim for competitive internships at companies with strong brand names. This shows that you’ve made it through a competitive interview process before, and so will be much more likely to do it again. Additionally, you’ll work on challenging projects and build skills that are transferable to consulting. Examples of these kinds of jobs include analyst positions at a top investment bank, business development positions at a leading consumer company, or engineering roles at a tech firm.
Step #4: Join Business Clubs on Campus
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is joining a business or consulting organization on campus. Being surrounded by like-minded peers who your can practice with is an invaluable part of your recruiting process. Landing an offer at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or Deloitte can be a daunting task. However, is much easier when you have the weight of a program and organization behind you.
It’s why we created Black Belt Supreme – an accelerated program created by McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants. The next cohort is filling up now.
Furthermore, joining a consulting organization on campus can give you valuable pro-bono experience on real projects and with real clients.
Step #5: Networking
Now that you know when your particular recruiting cycle takes place, start networking as early as possible. In fact, you are 80% more likely to land an interview invite after getting a referral from a current consultant at the firm.
Begin to reach out to your alumni/professional networks, or begin the cold networking process. Either way, it’s never too early to learn more about your target firms and ask someone to be your advocate.
Step #6: Fit Interview – Attitude is Everything
To land an offer at a top firm like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or Deloitte, you need to convince smart individuals not only that you have the intellectual chops to work at the firm, but also the right predisposition. To succeed in consulting, you need more than killer financial modeling skills or powerful PowerPoint decks. You need to know how to build consensus, manage difficult clients/team members, stay positive, and be enjoyable to work with. This is what the fit interview tests; ultimately, it’s the “Would I like to work with you?” test.
The best answers to behavioral questions are authentic stories. Get rid of useless cliches, and highlight you have the proper soft skills and personality for consulting by telling stories. Invest time in crafting these stories (our recommendation: a minimum of 15), and you’ll be glad you did.
Step #7: Case Interviews- Preparation is Key
It should come as no surprise – you’ll need to crush case interviews to land a job at top consulting firms. Case interviews are a proxy to see if a candidate will be a good consultant. Whether or not it is the most effective method of evaluation is besides the point.
Though we go over the top tips for case interviews in many other articles, here are some high level tips to keep in mind:
Prepare early. The recruiting seasons arrives quicker than you think, and it will for most other candidates as well. Make sure you stay a step ahead by practicing cases as early as you can.
Get comfortable with mental math. Often, mistakes in calculating your numbers can be the difference between a successful or nerve-racking interview. Keep your mental math skills fresh by practicing through our online drills.
Quantity AND quality are important (but if you have to choose, go with quality). Expose yourself to a wide variety of potential business problems to succeed in McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte cases. Finally, practice out loud with people who know what they’re doing so you don’t miss blind spots.
Recruiting for consulting is a competitive process regardless of firm. Recruiting for the top firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte? That requires excellence from beginning to end.
You’ve already made a great first step by reading this article. Now, it’s time to stop reading and start doing!