Consulting Firms: Networking the Non-Sleazy Way
Consulting firms are famous black boxes with armies of Brooks Brother adorned management consultants that are unapproachable. The thought of consulting firms networking can seem like a pretty daunting task.
In fact, after “case interview,” no other concept related to consulting firms is more dreaded than “networking.” The word carries a sleazy, selfish connotation, but the truth – like it or not – is that networking is essential to landing an offer at top consulting firms such as McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. In fact, did you know that you are 80% more likely to land a case interview invite at multiple top consulting firms if you have a referral?
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But how do you even get to the conversation where you can ask for a referral at your target consulting firms? If you’re not at a core school, the best way to begin networking is through the cold networking email.
Consulting Firms: Why the Cold Networking Email Works
The cold networking email doesn’t have to be scary; your purpose isn’t to land a case interview referral via email, it’s to secure a conversation. Think of it like dating – you put the best parts of yourself out there to show someone you are a viable candidate, and then you go on a first date (the informational interview). It’s as simple as that.
But why would someone in a top consulting firm like McKinsey want to write you back? Don’t they need to mentor you for 6 months first? No! Networking – especially in management consulting – is of a much more transactional nature. Someone helped the person you are reaching out to get into McKinsey, and they are naturally inclined to return the favor to help you get into McK.
Consulting Firms: Bonuses are Bait Enough
In addition, consultants at top consulting firms receive a $5-15,000 bonus if someone they refer lands an offer. We’d say that’s worth 15min of their time! In short, consultants – especially those at management consulting firms – are not looking for mentorship (marriage), they are looking for a quick conversation (first date). Many aspirational top consultants fail because they don’t align their expectations with those of the person they are contacting.
So how do you write a cold networking email that will 1). get opened, and then 2). actually read? Take it from us: we’ve got years of experience sending successful cold networking emails, and receiving less than stellar ones. Without further ado, how to write a killer cold networking email.
Consulting Firms: Write This Email and a BCG Associate Will Write You Back
- Subject – Call Thursday Mar. 15 @ 5:30pm?: Seem forward, or too much like clickbait? Not at all. After all, what is the purpose of your email? That’s right, it’s to get your future contact on the phone. So, all you are really doing is introducing this individual to your specific ask in the subject line. A specific ask gives your target an easy way to respond: yes or no. Thursday is a great day to target (end of the week), and it’s easy to get someone to yes by asking for a time they’ll be waiting for a flight or in the car on the drive home. Just be sure to send the email at least 8 days ahead of time, so you have time to follow-up if necessary. This is exactly the kind of email we would receive from a client or colleague, and so is almost guaranteed to be opened. From there, it’s all about making a great impression…
- Name – First name only: There can be a temptation to refer to the person you are writing as “Mr. Smith” or “Ms. Jackson”, however, you want this individual to see you as potential future colleague. So, first name only – no exceptions! This can be especially challenging for our clients from more formal cultures – if the company has a predominantly U.S. culture, addressing someone by their first name is the acceptable way to go.
- First line – An overview of your career: The first line of your email is to draw the reader in; give a high-level overview of what makes you so great! Ex: I’m a former auditor with KPMG who saw the light and transitioned into an internal analytical role for Goldman Sachs 2 years ago. A common mistake is to introduce yourself by name in the first line – jump right in to why they should care to read any further. Highlighting your education, experience, and leadership – especially any that are brand-name – are imperative here.
- 3 Fun Facts – Why you’re awesome: Next, it’s time for a fun transition into a quick highlight of your three most impressive accomplishments (bonus points if they shine light on different skills)! These fun facts should quick-hitters in bullet point format. Each bullet should be a maximum of 2 sentences. Ex: At Deutsche Bank, I restructured a $20M project that was on the verge of failure twice.
- Specific Ask – What you want: Again, your ask is for 1 phone call on 1 specific day at 1 specific time. The phone call is where you’ll give your elevator pitch, ask insightful questions, and hopefully land a referral. Ex: I am planning to apply for XYZ role next week, and have 3 specific questions for you before I do. Are you available for a quick 15min chat next Thursday at 5:30pm EST?
- Closing – End professional: No need to try anything fancy here. Thank them in advance for their time, and close with either Best or Best Regards, and end with your first name only.
Consulting Firms: Networking Bonus Tips to Not Be Sleazy
- Don’t mention anything negative in the email! This is not the time to talk about how you’ve struggled to gain traction with your 3.1 GPA, and need a helping hand. Present yourself in a positive light and as a viable candidate.
- Follow the 2:2:2 rule. Don’t write more than 2 people in the same office at the same time for the same role.
- Don’t attach your consulting resume. If the email doesn’t stand on its own, it’s not good enough.
And there you have it – MC’s 6 Rules to writing a killer networking email. Looking for more help with networking or the rest of your application packet?
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Have further questions, or your own tips to share? Leave them in the comments below, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org