From resume review to recommendation: how to leverage insider contacts to get an interview

You’ve done your homework on LinkedIn, mastered networking, and landed the critical informational interview with a consultant at your dream firm.

The sweetest words you can hear at the end of the 30 minutes you have with them? “Go ahead and email me your resume.” Slam dunk! You’ve got someone on the inside offering to help you break in.

You’ve made it this far – don’t choke! The biggest mistake you can make is to, in fact, just send them your consulting resume – blindly and without any specific request. Do you want them to pass it on to another consultant? Do you want them to review it? Do you want them to recommend you for an interview? Don’t leave it up to anyone else to decide your fate – it’s your responsibility to be specific and set a timeline for follow-up.

Before you take any action, it’s helpful to understand just how consulting firms (especially M/B/B) use recommendations from their staff – why they do, and what weight they carry.

Then, spend a few moments strategizing on how you want to leverage the opportunity by making a specific ask. Here are 3 levels of recommendations to consider – along with the skinny on each.

1) Resume review

If the consultant you’re talking to has no connection to the position or office you’re interested in, your best option is to ask them to review your consulting resume. Even though they’re not in the area you’re targeting, they still know the firm culture, have experience with the recruiting process, and can direct you on specific firm requirements.

You want a position in the New York office, for instance, but your contact works in Atlanta. After a resume review, you may find out firsthand from the consultant’s feedback that the New York office is known for hiring candidates with a finance slant – something you’re not going to find on the firm’s website or Facebook page. Now you know to emphasize the finance-related projects you helped out on during your internship, as opposed to keeping it general like you had planned.

If a consultant you’ve had an informational interview with is in your office of choice, or can recommend you (see below), a resume review is still a great place to start.  Consultants LOVE to advise (it’s their bread and butter, after all), and you’re engaging them in your success by letting them contribute to winning factors.

Think it’s super easy just to make the ask?  Here are some key do’s and don’ts when asking for a consulting resume review:

Do make sure your resume is as near to perfect as possible before sending it. The consultant’s job is not to edit, but to give you a few high level suggestions that will create an impact. You want them to start out impressed – sending them a piece of junk full of formatting and grammar errors will reflect poorly on you, and will solicit 1 of 2 responses: you’ll either never hear from them again, or you’ll get a superficial, “looks fine.” Either way, you can abandon any expectation of further help. If you need assistance in this area, we’ve got a Resume and Cover Letter Bible as well as premium editing services to perfect your resume before even starting the process.

Also, do make sure that you give them enough context on your plans to review your consulting resume most effectively – and let them know (in bullet format) any specific questions you might have about the role or what direction you should go before they get started.

Don’t forget to follow up with your contact in a week if you don’t hear back – unless they gave you an indication that they needed more time. An email or a phone call at this point is appropriate.

Also, don’t send multiple emails about the resume review – or ask for a re-review after making changes. Ask all of your questions up front.

Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you note with next steps after incorporating their recommendations. For example, you might let them know that you are.

2) Pass your resume along

If you’re worried about getting stuck in the black hole of the online application, asking someone to pass along your resume is a great use of your insider contact at the firm. However, you do risk losing a bit of transparency once your resume is forwarded to someone you don’t know – you’re one step removed from all communication. Unless you have that individual’s contact information – email or phone number – you’re relying on your insider to follow up and make something happen.

Best case scenario? Ask your insider to cc: you on the email. That accomplishes 2 things: you get a personal introduction to the next person and the expectation is set that they will reply to you. You also can take ownership of any follow-up, instead of relying on your insider contact to do that on your behalf.

At the end of the day, your inside contact connects you with the right person, and that’s what’s really important, but there are ways to maximize the opportunity.  When making the ask:

Do make sure to include context about yourself in your email.  It’s imperative that the next person along (usually a recruiter or hiring manager) has the highlights of your story without having to even open the attachment.

Do send both your cover letter and resume. Let your contact decide whether they pass on both.

And as with the resume review, do make sure your documents are pristine and perfect before you even initiate this process.  You want the same versions floating around the company when you do apply through multiple channels, and discovering an error later and trying to fix it is just a perfect way to communicate incompetence and a lack of attention to detail.  Again – let us help if you’re not sure they’re ready.

When sending the intro email, don’t regurgitate word-for-word your resume or cover letter.  Make sure to give them the 80/20 version and keep it punchy and interesting.

Finally, don’t forget to apply online. For positions found on the firm’s online job board, you also need to submit your application there. Insider tip? Wait a couple of days to submit online – whether you asked for it or not, you may get helpful feedback from your inside contact on ways to improve your resume or how to flag your application, and you want to be able to incorporate that input when you do officially apply.

3) Recommendation

A recommendation from a current consultant is the strongest testament to your fit for the position and the firm – one that cannot be ignored. It’s not something you ask for directly – you can tactfully let your contact know that you would like them to recommend you, but it has to be offered willingly.

Different firms have different systems for recommending a candidate. Sometimes it’s an official part of the process – a consultant goes into their HR system and elects to add their recommendation to your application. Other times it’s a written email to a recruiter, expressing something along these lines: “I highly recommend Emper Ghali for the Associate Consultant position in our Boston office and would like to see her interviewed.” It may also be a less formal affair, where a consultant gives a verbal recommendation on your behalf during the interview.

It’s difficult to know exactly what a recommendation might do for you, because there are a number of factors in play. First of all, the seniority of the recommender plays a part – a partner recommendation matters much, much more than an analyst recommendation.  Second, the strength of your application matters. Does it stand on its own, or does it need a helpful push to get it noticed? Finally, are you being recommended for a particularly desirable role – like a position in Dubai (a fast-growing geography) or in healthcare (a booming practice)? All of these factors contribute to whether or not you’ll notice a difference before and after the recommendation.

Regardless of who recommends you, and what they recommend you for, you’ll want to pay attention to some key dos and don’ts in the networking process to ensure your inside contacts have all the ammo they need to help you succeed:

Do make sure your contact has enough information about you to make an effective recommendation. While the recommendation alone carries a lot of weight, you want to make sure your insider can answer a few questions about you when asked – otherwise it will look like they don’t know you very well, and the recommendation flops.  As with the “pass your resume along,” make sure they have an email with the highlights of your educational prowess and professional achievements.

Don’t forget to thank your contact personally for the recommendation. It’s really one of the best things they can do on your behalf!

And finally, don’t wait to start preparing for your interviews – if you have a strong recommendation, it could be 2 weeks (or less) until you’re in the hot seat – and you don’t want to squander the chance of a lifetime!

Filed Under: consulting recruiting