How to get consulting jobs – even if consulting firms don’t recruit at your school


Most GMCs (global management consultancies) such as Booz Allen, BCG, and Accenture recruit at only the top 25-50 U.S. undergraduate and MBA programs. Internationally, the process is even more selective. So what can you do if you’re a strong candidate, but the firms you want to work for simply don’t recruit at your school?

Exceptions include large public universities, given the sheer size of their student body and alumni base, and schools with undergraduate business programs that have strong firm relationships

What can you do if you want to work for [INSERT FIRM HERE] and they don’t recruit at your MBA or undergraduate institution?

This is a disadvantage in the recruiting process. Given consulting firms’ lack of recruiting resources, alternative application methods (such as submitting your resume online) receive less attention and carry less weight.

Here are a few options that you can pursue:

  • Online application submission – companies ranging from McKinsey to Deloitte provide this option
  • Direct application submission through “Contact Us” links and public email addresses – this may be the only online option available at smaller boutique firms
  • Headhunters and job placement firms – GloCap is a great example
  • Application submission through firm contacts – friends, school alumni contacts, etc

Your goal if you can’t do “standard recruiting” is to build contacts within the firms and get internal referrals

Here’s what you should do:

Network, network, network. Reach out to school alumni contacts that work in the industry and at that firm. Reach out to current or former work colleagues that work in the industry themselves or are well-connected. Ask your family and your friends. Tell people about your goal, because the more people that know, the better chance you’ll have of being referred to HR contacts and current consultants

Think beyond your circle. If you’re an undergraduate, consider attending the MBA job fairs to establish contacts, get a few business cards, and even submit your resume. If you’re an MBA student, look into the law school job fair and/or job fairs for nearby MBA programs. While you’re not guaranteed success, you need to take risks given the limited options in front of you.

Contact headhunters. Particularly if you have a few years of work experience. Headhunters have industry contacts and a broad view of available options. Be specific about your career goals, but not close-minded.

Build relationships by being direct and specific. Now you know a recruiter in Bain’s Boston office. And you know a school alumni who’s a consultant in BCG’s Dallas office. Email them first – remind them of who you are, what your goals are, and the one or two areas where they can help. Keep the email short (no more than 5-10 lines of body text). Provide multiple contact channels. If you receive no response within one week, it’s OK to call and leave a brief voicemail.

What are areas where they can help you out?

  • Provide you with the right internal recruiting contacts to submit your resume/CV
  • Introduce you to firm contacts with shared interests, backgrounds, etc.
  • Answer your questions about the industry, the firm, etc.

Never explicitly ask for an “internal referral” (a good word about you sent to HR/recruiters) unless you know them well. Work on establishing a relationship first. Keep them updated on the process (eg, “I just submitted my resume to Casey in recruiting and am looking forward to what’s next”). It’s OK to drop your contact’s name in your application materials/cover letter (if it’s done properly)

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If all else fails, adjust your expectations and bide your time.

If you’ve tried the above and are getting nowhere, then option 1 is to find either the most prestigious alternative available (eg, finance, Fortune 500) or a position with another strategy/management consulting firm. Continue networking in the industry and attempt the parallel hiring process. Option 2 is to attend a school where the big firms recruit – if you’re an undergraduate, attend a top-tier MBA program. A master’s degree (or other advanced study program) is another option.