How to land offers at Bain and Deloitte…from a completely non-technical background!

Today, we’ve got a very special interview for you guys.

Ryan first reached out to us after purchasing The Consulting Bible. He was able to secure summer internship offers at Bain and Deloitte – no small accomplishment in this economy where hiring is still somewhat depressed.

In his interview, we’ll cover important topics including:

  • The value of part-time MBA programs for landing consulting jobs
  • Importance of practice and where to find practice partners, particularly for the case study
  • How to beef up your consulting-ready resume by leveraging campus opportunities

    Ryan’s story is particularly interesting to me, because it shows how you too, can make a transition into strategy consulting, even if you have spent 10 years in the creative/film business! However, it’s not an easy road and hard work and hustle are absolute prerequisites.

    And now here’s the interview.

    So first off, tell us about your background:   I have an unconventional background for management consulting.  I studied Film in college and have spent the 10 years since in the entertainment industry, most recently at a large cable channel, finding and developing new original series.  I was on the creative side of the industry (as opposed to, say, a Finance or Marketing position), so I was even further disadvantaged in terms of analytical or quantitative experience.

    This goes to show you that, with the right amount of persistence, and the access to recruiting networks that business school can provide, you’ll be able to break into consulting regardless of your background

    That’s interesting and very impressive. So from a background in film and creative, how did you become interested in management consulting?  

    The entertainment industry is unlike any other, which is sometimes good and often bad, at least for people like me who aren’t big schmoozers.  It’s also not a meritocracy.  So while my career stalled, I started investigating other options, particularly ones where I could wake the dormant analytical side of my brain.  Management consulting appealed to me right away, for all the usual reasons: the constant learning and development, the wide variety of industries and functional areas that you get exposed to, the project-based nature of the work (as opposed to the nebulous nature of entertainment), the ability to transition from it into many other things, the geographic mobility (as opposed to being tied to Los Angeles in entertainment), the travel and, frankly, the money.

    I realized, however, that I could never make the transition with my background, so I decided to get my MBA.  Instead of quitting my job and going the usual MBA route, though, I decided to make my struggle even more uphill by doing a part-time program (the Fully Employed MBA, or FEMBA, at UCLA Anderson).

    Part-time Executive MBA programs can actually be quite valuable, if you are able to manage your schedule, for a few reasons: they give you brand name credibility; they give you similar levels of access to alumni networks and recruiting channels; and finally, they’re easier to get into than full-time business schools so you may be able to get a bigger school name on your resume

    At business school, which firms did you recruit for, and what were your experiences like with each respective firm?   My top choice was always Bain, because I thought I would fit better there with my unusual background. So I worked them very hard, making sure to attend every event and meet as many Bainies as I could. My experience with them was excellent: great people, extremely well-organized recruiting efforts, really generous sell-events, and fun interviews. They did not disappoint.

    I applied to the other big guys, but McKinsey and BCG declined to interview me, as did most of the other mid-sized firms. Deloitte, however, was my other offer. They weren’t as much on my radar until they had their big Case Competition on campus, which was great. My team came in 2nd place and really put me on their map, which definitely helped secure my interviews with them. My second round interview was a disaster, I thought, but I still got an offer.  So what do I know? 

    Very valuable insights for prospective consultants! First, Ryan was smart about which firms we spent the most effort on, with a strategy driven by his instincts on cultural fit and reputation. Second, he put a lot of effort into the networking. AHEM. Third, he participated in a big on-campus case competition, which I have no doubt really helped his recruiting chances and probably helped his interview skills as well.

    When you look back now, what advice would you give current freshman and sophomores who want to get a head start on the recruiting process?   I can’t really speak to the undergrad experience, but I would say get involved with any extracurricular group or organization that involves consulting, strategy, etc. More than anything, it shows that you’re truly interested and committed to making that your career. I had an extra year at Anderson before I could start recruiting for summer internships (because the FEMBA program is three years, you don’t start recruiting until Winter of your second year). So I got involved right away with the Management Consulting Association and, more importantly, a brand new group called the Anderson Strategy Group, which is essentially a student-run consulting firm at Anderson.  This gave me hands-on experience in solving strategy problems for clients, and also helped network with the full-time students on the consulting track.

    Again, absolutely essential advice. Get involved on-campus early and often. Consulting student groups are a great way to build skills and a network, and lend your consulting resume much needed credibility.

    Aside from reading the Consulting Bible, what other resources did you find most helpful in preparing for interviews? Any websites or books you’d recommend for readers?   I read all the usual books, Cosentino, Ohrvall, etc. Honestly, the Consulting Bible was the most helpful, because it focuses on the fit/behavioral portion of the interviews, which were really important for me to nail.  No other source covers that portion in such detail, and it was extremely useful. I also found a book called How to Get Into the Top Consulting Firms by Tim Darling, which I liked because it was a more unique approach to case interviews, and it really helped solidify my thinking about case structure.

    Obviously, practice is one of the most important things you can do, so I strongly recommend utilizing your consulting club’s resources and practicing with as many different people as you can.  I probably did about 15 full cases, and that’s on the low end.  If you’re an undergrad and don’t know where to turn for practice partners, I’d suggest contacting the business school at your university.

    As Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors a prepared mind.”

    Undergrads, take note. Definitely reach out to business school students and/or clubs if you need more practice and are having a hard time finding it. At the end of the day, even a good friend will serve as a good practice partner, but someone with more experience (especially an ex-consultant) is ultimately more valuable

    What did you find hardest about the interview process, and what tactics were particularly helpful for you?   One of the hardest things about recruiting for me was just the fact that I was a part-time student with a full-time job, so attending all the events was not easy. Scheduling interviews, getting time off from work (without them knowing I was interviewing), surreptitiously changing into and out of a suit, etc. Not fun.    The interviews themselves were usually not as stressful as I would have thought (except for the aforementioned second round with Deloitte). In fact, I don’t think I ever once used the stilted framework prescribed by the likes of Cosentino and Ohrvall. 

    This deserves a special callout. I completely agree with Ryan that overreliance on “stilted frameworks” can be quite detrimental, and my consistent advice is to use them as a guide, but not as a crutch. Use 3CP and 7S to understand the key issues, but stay away from explicitly referencing them during interviews.

    The cases were usually more of a conversation, especially at Bain, and I would just launch right into them without, for instance, repeating the question, taking a minute to “gather my thoughts” or some of the other forced things those books recommend.  I think it’s really important to relax and have fun with them; you’ll do much better.  And don’t second guess yourself.  If you think a company isn’t a good acquisition target or a strategy isn’t viable, don’t be afraid to say so. 

    Another great point, and one that is easier said than done: be relaxed, be yourself, and be honest.

    What role do you see management consulting play with respect to your future goals?   Right now, I see it as an extension of my b-school education and a launching pad for my post-entertainment career. Long-term, I see myself at a large CPG company, in a marketing or strategy role. But that could change in an instant – my interests are varied.  So while I tend to think I’ll do it for a few years and then transition into industry, I may end up in it forever. Too early to tell.

    Thanks Ryan! Invaluable advice for readers.

    Do you guys have any questions about Ryan’s advice? Have you had a different (or similar) experience? Comment below, I’ll be reading!

    Are you a current consultant or someone who recruited successfully? Interested in being interviewed? Please get in touch to be featured in the Life as a Consultant series.

    We offer resume editing and interview prep. Through one-on-one sessions, we’ll help you stand out from 1000′s of other applicants and land consulting jobs now!

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    • rtm

      Thanks for the great interview! I was wondering if Ryan would mind providing more detail on how he is pulling this off through an executive MBA-like program. I’ve considered taking this route, and my current boss would even be supportive of me doing it for the purpose of changing careers to consulting while continuing to work for him a few more years (I’m currently an investment analyst at a hedge fund).

      But as I recall, some top programs discourage this and even don’t offer access to recruiting events / career services (Kellogg is an example, if I remember right). Maybe its different if you are self-sponsored? Also, you mentioned EMBA’s or part-time MBA’s can be easier to get into, and the consulting firms know this. Does this make it significantly harder to get an interview and make it even more essential to impress once you get it?

      Thanks!

    • Newt

      This is excellent information. I am in a very similar boat, but I attend UCLA’s younger sibling -UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business as a FEMBA student. I would be interested in finding out more about his networking experience as a part-time student, and what advice he would give to someone attending a smaller school such as UC Irvine. The Baines and McKinsey’s don’t recruit from my school (but Deloitte does) so I’m open to any advice about networking to firms that don’t necessarily recruit at smaller programs.

      Thank you,

    • Index

      Congrats Ryan! I’m a current 2011 Anderson FEMBA and going the consulting route as well!

    • Vivek

      This is some real great inspiration since I thought I might not be able to switch into a management consulting in a white shoe firm. My background in Web Application Development and currently as a Functional Consultant (MS Dynamics Navison) doesn’t quite put me in as a Management Consultant by default. Although, with your 10 years experience, which is a great amount of time to attain transferable skills; would have helped you bag a job at Bain and of course the MBA. I intend to do the same as I am wanting to pursue an MBA after 3 – 4 years down the line and move into Management Consulting. (I have had only 2 years of working experience as of now). Do you think, it would be possible for me to get into a management consulting role without an MBA, with my background? Do tell.

    • jennyrae

      Vivek – You’ll want to email us your resume directly. Sounds like you could potentially get into a technical consulting role, but you’ll want the MBA if you want to switch careers entirely into something more strategic…

    • Arthur

      Ryan, congratulations on the job well done! I know it’s been a while since the post, but worth a try, so here it goes…

      Any thoughts on feasibility/best route for an ex-military guy towards a top-3 firm? (long story, but MBA from a top-5 school couple years ago, now in the military, will get out in two years)

    • Kelsey

      Really appreciate the insight, advice, and motivation! I am also taking an unusual route (BA in history, four years and counting as an analyst in the federal government in a non-business capacity, pursuing a part-time MBA/MA in Government expected in two years). Great to hear that MBB is attainable even for those of us with a different approach if we’re willing to put the effort into it.

      Would love more interviews and posts geared toward helping people trying to break into management consulting through a non-traditional approach.

    • MC Team

      Thanks for your feedback, Kelsey!