This information was shared with me by a helpful reader and a former Bain consultant.
Read on for an insider's perspective on recruiting at a top consulting firm, and the key differences between university recruiting and experienced hire recruiting.
While the information is particular to Bain, many of the methods will be similar across big consulting firms. Boutiques firms will differ, given the limited scale of their hiring
For the traditional university recruiting route
1. Probably the toughest part of the application process is passing the initial screening process. As an example, a large Bain office would receive around 3000 applications and narrow it down to about 100 for the first interview. So you would have to be at the top 3% to even get the interview.
These acceptance numbers are lower than what I've seen (around 5-10%) – but in a recession economy it won't be far from the truth
2. In deciding who gets the interview, Bain has a points system for all applicants. Key categories include academic, work experience and extracurricular activities. Bain may be the only firm out of the Big 3 to use this method. Those with top academic marks but crappy work experience and extracurricular activities would still get interviews at McKinsey, for example.
I'd have to disagree here. Most companies are looking for diverse qualities in consulting resumes, which usually are a combination of school, work, and miscellany.
3. Whenever there is a borderline case, there is an internal team meeting to discuss who should get the interview. At this stage, the process becomes more random and you might as well flip a coin to find out your fate, because this is subjective and susceptible to many external variables.
Very true. As noted before, networking with consultants can significantly help your chances, especially if you're a borderline candidate. In addition, producing a high-quality consulting cover letter and resume will also help, because in these internal meetings those are the only 2 pieces of paper they're reviewing
4. Without very strong academic marks/GPA, or a brand name firm (like a Goldman Sachs internship), it's an uphill battle. However, interesting experiences that reflect entrepreneurship, distinctive leadership, and the like, will help a candidate standout.
For the lateral and experienced hire route
1. This is extremely difficult given the current economic conditions. In short, they will mainly rely on the supply of undergrads and post-MBA applicants from the traditional recruitment programs.
I wouldn't be too worried. While most firms have reduced hiring, companies are always looking for talent. You will need to work harder, however.
2. There is no points system like above for the lateral recruits, which could help or hinder a candidate
Depending on your level of experience, the focus shifts progressively to your work experience. Focus on the skills you've developed and your accomplishments
3. Somebody on the inside recommending you would double your chances of getting the interview.
The interview with a Booz Allen consultant also covered this point. Let's just say that networking helps. A LOT
4. If you submit your application via the campus recruiting program and don't get through, you won't be blacklisted without a chance of getting in through lateral hiring. Your resume will simply be thrown out, and you'll have a fresh slate for experienced hire recruiting. However, if you get an interview through campus recruiting, then it is more likely that they will keep your records for the future.
If this is attempt #2, the key is to tell a different story. Focus on what you've done well in the interim