Today we have a guest post from Lucila, an international student who studied economics at a top U.S. university and, after a stint in investment banking for a global bank office in the U.S. (and a marathon interview process to boot), she broke into BCG.
Below, Lucila shares her experience applying for and successfully breaking into Boston Consulting Group, and goes into detail on the tactics she used to land a BCG interview as an experienced hire – a real feat for an off-cycle candidate with a background in banking.
Earlier this month, we featured BCG as a part of our Firm Profile series on the site. Check it out here if you missed it!
Now, enjoy our latest “Life as a Consultant” series from networking rockstar Lucila:
1. For the benefit of readers, can you give us a summary of your background? Where you are from, education, extracurriculars, previous internships/jobs, interests, etc.
I was an international student that went to a top liberal arts college in the U.S. Neither my major nor minor were heavily quantitative, but I geared into more of an economics focus towards the end. I was very active in college, and had leadership roles in several student organizations.
During my junior year, I had an internship where I worked on market entry and growth strategy for a foreign bank in China. This position led me to my previous role: strategy, corporate development, and support for the CEO for the same bank but in the U.S.
Although I found the strategic and problem-solving aspect of the job very interesting, I realized that the financial services sector was not necessarily for me; I wanted to analyze other industries and companies as well. This led me to pursue a change in career into management consulting.
2. What key steps did you take to get the BCG interview invite – from nuances of your application to any networking you did?
Getting my story down regarding why I wanted to get into consulting and why it was the right move for me at that point in time, and leveraging my network effectively (especially as an experienced hire), were key steps to getting the BCG interview invite.
Once I was certain I wanted to go into consulting, I started reaching out to alumni, family, and friends who had some connection to the consulting industry. Although I wasn’t formally interviewing, I tried to be as specific as possible when telling people what I wanted to do, why I wanted to do it, and why that was the right time – that was really helpful for them as well because it helped them point me in the right direction to people they might know, paths I could take, or other firms I could look into.
Eventually, one of my contacts offered to refer me at BCG. Afterwards, I enlisted the help of a colleague and former BCG consultant to help me tailor my resume to ensure that I was highlighting the projects, skills, and experience I had developed at my firm that BCG would be looking for. Once the recruiter scheduled a time for our call, I reviewed my story – which at this point had become close to second nature – and answers to other questions I had prepared. The call was a success, and a few weeks later I had my first case interview.
3. BCG is a great company, but it’s hard to break into as an experienced hire. Can you tell us the insider’s view of the experienced hire interview process – how many you did, what seniority you interviewed with, case style, etc.?
In my experience, the experienced hire interview process was different from the traditional college/grad school process primarily where timing was concerned. Given that you may start interviewing before on-cycle college recruiting begins, your process may be longer than usual.
My first interview occurred at the end of spring. It was over the phone with a recruiter, where some basic fit and office preference questions were asked. A month or so later, I had my second interview. This one was an in-office case interview with post-MBA consultants. The other interviewees were in their last year of their MBA. There were two sets of interviews, both of which included a personal component, a case, and a time for me to ask questions. One of the cases was more guided than the other, but both contained some kind of quantitative component to them.
My last interview happened along with all the others who were interviewing to gain a spot in the Associate class – early/mid fall. There were 3 interviews: the 1st was a 20 minute conversation, consisting mostly of personal questions, with a Project Leader. The 2nd and 3rd interviews were led by Principals and in the style of the 2nd round interviews. Even though one of the cases was more guided by the interviewer, the second was a lot more vague, and I had to work with very little information.
4. What were some of your other choices (including staying at your current job), and why did you decide to join BCG?
When I received my offer to join BCG, I had a couple of other options. The first was to stay within my current job, continuing to work on long-term strategy for the bank as well as provide support to the CEO. The second was to move to an internal M&A team within the bank, but with a broader geographic scope.
I decided to join BCG because of the opportunity to continue working on challenging problems across a wide array of industries, the plethora of career development opportunities, and its collegial culture – everyone I met was smart, motivated, and interesting, always willing to help out and incredibly friendly.
5. What do you look forward to most about working for BCG? What are you most nervous about?
What I am most looking forward to about working for BCG is the opportunity to learn more about a range of industries and challenges faced by different corporations – which is also one of the things I am most nervous about: switching gears out of banking and learning and understanding other sectors and businesses quickly.
6. What advice can you give MC readers about preparing for consulting interviews as an experienced hire? Were there any game-changing interview preparation resources or tools that you’d highly recommend to others in your same shoes?
What worked best for me was to practice all components of the interview (case and personal) live, take notes on the feedback provided, and review them often. Jenny Rae at MC was absolutely essential to this process. We worked a lot together, starting from the very basics all the way until I felt confident with building up an initial structure and walking through a variety of cases.
Likewise, the feedback she provided was one of the most valuable preparation resources I had. After a session, I would rewrite the case we had gone through, highlighting both my strengths and weaknesses. In between sessions, I would review these notes; this process allowed me to reinforce the things that I had done well, and remember those that did not come naturally at first.
As an experienced hire, it may seem a bit daunting to tackle interview prep alongside a day-to-day job, but the key is to plan ahead, and use any free time you have (commute, lunch breaks, you name it) to fit in some review time; likewise, try to apply what you do in your cases to your day-to-day job so you get used to thinking about problems and structuring your thoughts in all kinds of situations.
From our perspective, Lucila was a natural at building personal relationships but did need a lot of work when it came to cases. Her determination, however, was second to none and we weren’t surprised to get the JOBBBBB OFFFFFER email on the Friday of her final interview!
Congrats – your hard work was impressive and you’ll be a great consultant!