Why Networking is Crucial in Consulting Recruiting (Podcast)

Today we’re bringing you another consulting underdog story. This time, we chat with Taylor Robertson, a non-target school candidate who went from not even knowing what strategy consulting was to receiving a BCG offer in 2 months. His story is a masterclass in what can happen when you pair smart strategy with dogged determination.

He shares the exact steps that led to him landing a coveted spot in one of the world’s most prestigious companies, including:

  • The networking masterplan that got Taylor interviews at top consulting firms (5:22)
  • Advice for non-target candidates (20:50)
  • How Taylor set himself apart in the case interview (28:15)
  • The importance of casing with professional consultants (35:08)
  • The exact prep resources he recommends (40:01)

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Transcription: Why Networking is Crucial in Consulting Recruiting

Japheth Mast 

Taylor, welcome to Strategy Simplified. We’re excited to have you today. How are you doing?

Taylor Robertson 

I’m doing well. Thanks, Japheth.

Japheth Mast 

Awesome. Well, listen, we’re stoked to get your story out. And without further ado, let’s just dive right in. So I’d love to just get to know you personally and professionally, take 30 or 60 seconds. Who are you, what’s your background, and what are you doing right now?

Taylor Robertson 

Yeah, definitely. So I’m Taylor Robertson. I’m a senior at the College of William and Mary, studying finance. And I just recruited for consulting this past summer. I picked my major in finance when I found my business interests as a senior and I did a project on the cost of surrogacy. Being a gay man, I just thought this is an interesting cost to plan for the same way most people would like mortgage or retirement, and I found that business really satiated my deep curiosity. And so I became a finance major. And I’ve had multiple different leadership positions on campus, like business manager of our student newspaper, the treasurer of a couple of different organizations. And then I also still take up personal projects. Like this past summer, I sold my grandmother’s house privately. And I also had an internship this past summer with SC&H Group. I was an intern doing financial software consulting for a major credit union.

Japheth Mast  

Amazing. And so you know, spoiler alert, you broke into BCG, so that’s the broad picture there. But curious, you’re at a kind of a non-target school, a smaller school. It’s not necessarily on the radar for all the consulting firms. But just curious, how did you discover BCG, and how did you discover consulting?

Taylor Robertson 

Yeah, so I’ll be starting next fall as an Associate at BCG in Washington, DC. And in terms of discovering consulting, I knew that consulting was a very, very broad field. And as a freshman in college, I wasn’t really aware of any of the intricacies of it. I’d heard the term management consulting; I don’t even think I’d really heard the term strategy consulting at that time. But I remember my mom, I was talking about it with her. And she told me, they don’t pay people right out of undergrad to advise CEOs. And so I kind of took my mind off of looking into it any further and just went about my classes.

But then, when I did my internship this past summer been with SC&H Group, it was more implementation. And I realized that I don’t think that’s what I saw myself doing in my career in consulting. And so I saw that there was going to be one zoom call from McKinsey for William and Mary. This was the first recruitment event that they’d had, as far as I can remember, they’ve not recruited any of the past years that I’ve been on campus, and, as far as I know, have not ever recruited from William and Mary. But four of our alumni got on the Zoom call with us for an hour, and you kind of introduced the topic of management consulting, and what they did and what it would look like, if we were a business analyst at McKinsey. And it really fired me up. I was like, Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing. I want to be looking at really difficult strategy problems and traveling around and solving them.

And it seemed like the perfect job for someone who was really curious, and also really analytical, and also quite social. I mean, getting that presentation skills of interacting with C suite level executives at major companies was something that I didn’t see myself being able to get in any other industry. I looked at middle market investment banking, because it seemed like it had the same cycle of projects and exposure to senior people in companies, but in general, that might just be a CFO. And you’re really going through the same process of a deal. And if you’re an analyst there, you’re in the back, you’re not really the one presenting all that often.

But I think even as a business analyst at McKinsey, or myself as an Associate at BCG next year, you’re given a lot of responsibility very early on to carry those conversations with senior officials in companies. And so it seemed like a perfect place for me. And after that call with the four McKinsey alumni from William and Mary, I decided to do the thing seriously. And I started looking up resources and that’s actually where I found Management Consulted. It just seemed like it was 100% true. All the advice it gave never led me astray. Never did me wrong. So, by following that, kind of like my consulting Bible, I ended up being successful in my summer of recruitment.

Japheth Mast 

That’s awesome. So you kind of discovered strategy consulting in June, you realized, Oh, this is what I want to do, more of the strategy work, less of the implementation focus More like presenting and collaborating and interacting with execs, and making a difference on a broad 30,000 foot level. That’s awesome. And so, can you walk us through what’s next? You know, what came next after you decided I’m going all in. You described how you found some Management Consulted resources. What are specifically the 1-2-3, or the steps that you took to get you from not really knowing about strategy consulting to obviously landing an offer at BCG,

Taylor Robertson 

Right. So the first thing I did was that search for resources. And it wasn’t just Management Consulted, I also reached out to all four of those McKinsey, William and Mary alum that had been on that call. And of the four, I eventually only ever talked to two, but two of them took my cold request for a meeting. I probably got 20 or 30 minutes to talk to each of them in the week after that. So they also provided critical advice for me to really commit to doing the whole recruitment, which is a very serious thing. Whether you’re from a target or non-target school, the case prep is a huge time commitment.

But coming from a non-target school, and networking is a huge time commitment. So, ultimately, one of those consultants said to me, when you make a connection with a consultant, definitely reach out. After that, if you get an interview somewhere, you’re able to reach out again then and practice a case with them. And so this mindset of talk to people, if they talk with you, they want to talk with you, and they’ll keep helping you throughout the process was just a really enlightening and also kind of inspiring and away thing to know that as long as I was doing my end of the deal, and doing well, and presenting myself well, then there were going to be people that invested into me, which was super helpful.

And then I just got into the nitty gritty of Management Consulted’s resources. Like how to write your resume, how to write a cover letter, how to cold network. I probably watched 10-15 of your videos about how to cold network, how to write the perfect email, and I also iterated that. When I started reaching out to more consultants, I refined it. I got some feedback on it, even got feedback on my resume, once I got it to the area that I wanted it. I think I’ve probably spent about 12-15 hours on it before I even started showing it to consultants. And I even sent it in to you all, and I think you took a look at it and said, you’ll probably get a probably hear back from T2s, but I’m not sure about MBBs. And I was like, Okay, well, if I’m at this state, then I can probably show it to MBB consultants, and they can tell me what’s wrong with it and help me get it to that level. That’s what I did for the people that replied to me.

And so I ended up talking to 50 consultants this summer. I probably reached out to twice that many. And I think that I was only that effective, because I know other people have a lower response rate, because I really worked on that cold email, and trying to make it as warm as possible, which was a piece of advice that I got from Management Consulted. And so that’s starting with a little bit about yourself, so there’s a reason for them to want to talk to you, but also making it very clear why you’re reaching out, you. I’m applying as a blank at your company, being very specific about the time that you’d like to talk to them. Put a time in the subject line, give them three options in the email, say you’ll send a calendar invite with a zoom link. Make it as easy as possible for them so they can reply one time, and then you’re you’ve sent off that calendar invite, and you didn’t have to go back and forth three or four times.

Really getting that formula down really helped me with planning the amount of calls that I did, which was, in some cases, 7-10 calls in a week, maybe even more. Sometimes I was doing three calls in a day. And one of the pieces of advice I got was to bring original questions. They want to talk about their work. And thankfully, I had a long list of questions to ask. And so I was able to talk to so many people that I was able to piece it out. I mostly reached out to alumni of my university. I would say that there are a few at each of the MBB firms, like probably no more than 10, no more than 15 at a max maybe. But probably somewhere around that 5-10 mark of active consultants that are alumni so enough that I could reach out. But I wasn’t getting my choice necessarily of like this is where the offices, like any office has alumni. No, it was very specific offices where I had alumni and so I only had the opportunity to maybe create a connection in that office.

And I also think that one thing I did, which I can stop if if this is too long of an answer, but at McKinsey I kind of shopped on offices, and I was like I’ll talk to whoever that I can get on the phone. Whereas at BCG, I had the opposite approach of starting with two consultants in DC. These are the only consultants I know that are in DC. They both said yes to me. And from then on out with those two consultants at BCG. I asked if they could connect me with anyone and their pride group at BCG. So being gay, I had looked up and done the research on all the different firms I was applying to. And all of them had a pride, LGBTQ employee resource group. And by asking that question, I was connected to three new people from those two consultants. So at that point, I had five different people that I could talk to at BCG.

And from those second level conversations, I think I got referred, one of those people was a project leader, everyone else had talked to had been a consultant. And then when I talked to that project leader, he actually got me in touch with the principal. So then I was able to talk to talk to a principal before I’d even been notified if I would have a first interview, I believe. One of those consultants also thankfully said to me, because at this point, I had had invested so much time into recruiting, I’d probably talk to 15 consultants, 20 consultants by this point in total, because I’m networking other firms too like Kearney and OW. And I had nothing to show for it yet. And I hadn’t yet heard back about whether I was going to have an interview anywhere. But one of them said to me, I’m sure you’ll get one.

And I was like, Okay, I don’t know if that means anything, I don’t know if that means they’ve put in a referral and that means that they’re pretty sure I’m going to get one. But regardless, them saying that and having confidence that I was going to get an interview, also kind of gave me the fuel to kept going. So definitely advice to people that are in the process and it feels like it’s a never ending effort on your part, if you have anyone that’s giving you that little piece of confirmation that you’re doing the right thing, and that you’re good at what you’re pursuing, feed on that. Remind yourself of that to push through the so many amount of cases that you have to do, practice cases, or the amount of calls that you have to go through to get the right connections at the firms that you want to work at. I’m going to keep going and then I’ll stop.

One other thing I did with firms I didn’t have any alumni at, like Kearney, when I’d done my research on Management Consulted about the different firms, I was like, I could see myself working here, I could see myself really liking it based on the culture. They had the best website, as far as the LGBT Resource Group goes out of any strategy consulting firm. It was really well developed. But I had no alumni there, not a single one. And I was like, well, that’s not going to stop me.

And so what I did was I read articles that had been published by Kearney, and I looked for the authors. And I was able to see one or two of the LGBT partners as authors of certain articles. I looked for them specifically, read their article, and then I emailed them. And I was like, I read your article about blank, I have a question about it. I’m also going to be applying, here’s a little bit about me. And then this is what I said as well, because I was reaching out to a partner. Because often, only partners are cited on these research articles at all the firms. You don’t get lower level people. I said feel free to connect me with one of the analysts that worked on this piece with you if you don’t have the time.

And so thankfully, this person passed me along to an analyst, someone much more their junior, who had the time to talk to me, and then passed me along to other people. And so don’t be afraid to reach out to a partner. But I’d also say, they’re not necessarily going to be the best resource for you, if you don’t have any true connection to them. And so I’m sure I could have gone back to him after I talked to people who are more junior, but from that one connection at Kearney, I was passed along to I believe three other people at a junior level.

I got invited to do an office visit in person in the DC office, which was amazing, because then I met a principal just being on the floor, and was able to get a zoom call with him later. So I was able to really lay the groundwork in a place where I had no actual connection by putting in the time and effort to read in what I was interested in. It wasn’t like I was reading an article about something out of left field that it didn’t care about, like oil, necessarily. No, I was reading about the future of food and of meat and meat substitutes. And I was like, this is very interesting. And so it was great to be able to find connections that affirm that I didn’t have any at.

Japheth Mast 

Yeah. Wow. I think that that deserves a pause to just soak it all in. Man, Taylor, you freaking crushed that process. Way to go. You say you talked to 50 consultants, 5-0?

Taylor Robertson 

I talked to about 50 consultants; I think it might have been like 45. But I had some calls planned even that I then didn’t take once I’d gotten the BCG offer because it was my top choice. And I had some calls lined up with people at Bain because they had a later recruitment cycle. And I kind of purposely staged my MBB so that I had McKinsey and BCG first, and I was getting myself like Bain later as if I completely fail on my recruitment cycles for these two, then I have time to go back to the drawing board, see what I did wrong and do it better for a third shot in one of these really great strategy consulting firms. But then, when I got the BCG offer, I just dialed back and I didn’t take some of those calls because I didn’t need to at that point. And I was really busy with school starting.

Japheth Mast 

And so, Taylor, what was the timeline from when you started your search to when you accepted the the BCG DC offer?

Taylor Robertson 

Yeah. So I had that McKinsey zoom June 25, I believe, or June 26. So the last few days of May is where I was starting my reaching out to people. And I knew that the deadlines for all of these firms were like, July 7, July 11, July 15. I think those were the three dates. And so I had a big time crunch, because I knew from resources like Management Consulted that if I was going to get my application flagged or get a referral, I had to talk to people before I submitted those applications. So I submitted both of my applications for McKinsey and BCG, I think like day of, or the day before the deadlines. And before I did that, I’d probably talk to, at McKinsey, I think maybe seven or eight consultants, and at BCG, maybe four or five, by the point I’d submitted my application.

And I still had calls though lined up because I knew they’re not going to review it right away, they could still get flagged by somebody, and the better and deeper my connections in the offices in this firms I want to work at the better. And so I never turned down a call and I never stopped asking for something at the end of my call. So that was one of the big advices from Management Consulted as well was you’ve always got to have an ask at the end of your 20 minute zoom call. And so the beginning mind was can you please review my resume because I needed that done before I sent in my application. And then it was can you review my cover letter.

And then once I’d submitted my applications, it was can you pass me along to someone else was another one in there. And so by talking to as many consultants as possible, I was able to not ask too much of any one consultant. Because if I did that I might have, lost the connection, because I asked for too much. And it would have been a not equal relationship. But I got the first-round interview notification maybe a week later, from BCG. And then I think maybe a week and a half after that I had my first round. And then they had given me two weeks actually to prep for the final round. But the problem was, I had actually already gotten an interview scheduled in person with EY Parthenon for that date. I believe it was maybe like August 19, or something. And I was like, Well, I can’t do that. I’ve already got my tickets to go in person. They were like, what can you do a week earlier? So like, basically one week from that day. And I was like, I mean, I feel good about my prep, yeah, I can. I reached out then to my contacts at BCG, and they all said I’m happy to case with you. I’d had some saved that I hadn’t reached out to before that first round interview, because I knew it might be asking too much to ask the one consultant to case with me twice in the span of two weeks, or in the span of one week, in all honesty, because I was on such a time crunch.

But thankfully, I talked to so many people I’d also asked one of the ones I hadn’t talked to if they could pass it along to someone else as well. And they did. So I was able to get two for the one call. I just ran a case called with the consultant I never talked to before. But it was helpful though. And I got that offer then the night of that interview. So I had my interview in the morning on Friday the 12th I believe, and I was like shaking nervous all day after it. I was thinking about how I’d done. And at 5pm I was like, okay, they’re not calling anymore. They said they were going to let me know Friday night or Monday morning. So I was like, I’m going to have to wait all weekend.

So I go and see my grandmothers, and we’re about to go out to family dinner. And then I get a call while I’m seeing my grandmothers at 6pm. I take it and it’s the offer from one of the partners that I had interviewed with that morning. And super excited, elated to get to share that moment with them. And I thought that it was likely that I would accept, but I didn’t accept right away because I wanted to go in and see what EY Parthenon had to say at that interview the next Friday. And then I accepted my offer at BCG after I had done that interview and made my decision there. I did accept the BCG offer before I even heard EY Parthenon’s offer, which they did give me one, maybe a week or so later. And then BCG reached out about a welcome weekend and I think I had that maybe two weekends after I’d interviewed and got to go visit in person and meet some people and have dinner and tour the office.

Japheth Mast 

That’s awesome. Well, that’s smart of you keep your options open. Having a couple options on the table is always better than none or just one. And it’s great that you get to share that moment with your grandmothers there. Super awesome.

Taylor Robertson 

Yes, they were very happy about it too. They had known that I was waiting on the call. So as soon as I was on the phone, they were all ears and I gave them like a fist pumped down kind of like got it in the bag kind of motion and they were happy for me.

Japheth Mast 

I love that. Okay, let’s say you’re sitting down with somebody from a William and Mary of the world. They’re not necessarily from a target school. Do you have one or two pieces of advice you’d share with them to be able to put their best foot forward in the recruiting process?

Taylor Robertson 

Right, yeah. So I’d say they’re two big things. And people at target schools, they just need to worry about their case prep. When you have a non-target school, your networking is going to be just as important as your case prep. And I will say that you need to network harder than you thought you could. You need to network like nobody’s business. Because ultimately, they’re not looking for someone from your school, they’re not looking for you. So the onus is on you for them to get interested. I’ve heard before that these consulting firms spend $50,000 per recruit that they bring itn. That’s what their recruitment spend is for out of undergrad. And so when you think about it, they’re paying $50,000 for them to go and find students from these target schools, that is their pipeline.

And so at a non-target school, your networking is super important. So if you’re coming from a non-target, like William and Mary, where I had a few alumni but not a lot, reach out for sure, reach out as early as you can. Like myself, I was in a time crunch. If I had reached out a little bit earlier, that might have been nice, but I was still successful. But I was also very stressed the whole time to be getting those calls and making sure that I gotten the right amount and the right ones as well. But quality is really important. And so I would say that networking piece, my best advice I can give there is you don’t want to shotgun like I did at McKinsey, you don’t want to just talk to a bunch of people who don’t know each other across the firm.

The strategy that I think was super successful was at BCG, I spoke with two people who were alumni initially, and then I got them to pass me along to other people. So unlike at McKinsey, where I reached out and found the dozen people that I wanted to talk to. At BCG, I was passed along. So what this meant was, once I talked to that initial person, and they sent me along to the second person, they both knew both of those two consultants knew that they were going to have talked to me. After I finished talking to the second one, they knew that they were going to get together and talk about me and what they thought about me, and make sure they agreed. And so when that happens, instead of one person who has no sort of responsibility to do anything on your behalf, or to think about you again, it’s different than when there’s two people who have both mutually agreed to talk to you, know that they’ve talked to you and know that they’re also going to then talk about how their conversations went.

And then when they’ve done that, they wiki compare, and they if they both agree, then they’re going to actually do something on your behalf in that sense of putting a word in or making a note or making a referral. And I think what that does then is creates a community inside of the firm that wants you. A lot of people say later on, when you’re at these firms, you network your way onto teams, you’ve got to network your way into the company as well. But having a team of people, people that know each other that wants you, is so much more powerful. And so when I ended up talking to three people in the private network there from my two alumni, some of those Pride people that I’d gotten from the different William and Mary consultants who didn’t know each other, the Pride consultants did know each other.

So then I had a web of five people all interconnected, who knew that I talked to somebody else. And so I had really gotten myself in the system, was passed along to a principal. There was a group then advocating for me. And at one point, I even heard myself in an email called “one of our Pride candidates.” So I had been sorted into a certain bucket as well, at that point. And so not everyone has access to an employee resource group. But I would say that the idea of getting people at a firm who all know each other to know you and talk about you, and know that they’ve all talked to you, it’s going to be super powerful on your behalf. Because you’ve got a group inside that would want you. They’re basically saying I would work with that person.

Anyone who says yes to after your thank you email and actually replies to you is someone who thinks that they could work with you, and they can see you on their team. So when there’s a whole team of people who have worked together that say, we could have this person on their team. They’re basically telling recruitment, like, yeah, you could put this person on our team. We’re willing to train them. They can be on their first project with me. And that says a lot. Instead of there being a smattering of one consultant, here, there and everywhere, who maybe put in a referral for you, you don’t know. They’re not following up with anyone else internally. So that, getting connections from the inside, when you talk to somebody early on, I would say it is really great to ask to talk to somebody else.

So if you’re a man and you speak to one candidate, ask maybe could you pass me along to, are there any men alumni from my school at this office. And you might know that there aren’t, but they might say, No, but I could pass you along with this. Or if you’re an Asian woman, reach out to one of the white guys at the firm and say, Do you know any Asian women you could pass me along to. Because they’re going to want to try and get you in front of someone if they like you, who has the perspective that you’re looking for. And so this might be a little bit more helpful from a diversity angle, but you can really play it any way that you want. If you talk to a non-alumni first, that you’re able to reach out to, because they were someone you knew tangentially or met at a recruitment event, ask them if they know any of your alumni from the school, or vice versa. Just any way that you can get someone to refer you to someone else internally.

You don’t need to ask for a referral in their database. Just ask to be referred to someone else. And once that starts happening, and you’ve built an internal group supporting you, I think you’re golden. Because something that these firms have that I didn’t really know until further along the processes, they have an internal priority list as well, or something of that sort, I believe, is what I was able to suss out. And what that means is that they’re aware of who’s interested in them, and they’re aware of who they’re interested in. And so if you’re from a non-target, and you’re interested in them, you need to get yourself in their priority, and I didn’t have this mindset until after I already found out it was probably on it, if it does exist. But I was reached out to by someone who was involved with recruitment, who I had not even reached out to. They had just heard my name and wanted to talk to me. And so at the point that that happened, I was like, Oh, wow, I really created a good impression.

I’ve talked to seven or eight people in this office now, just because they’ve all passed me along to each other. That model is what a successful networking is. I’ve since talked to a partner at that firm. And they said to me, yeah, people don’t understand that if they’re from a non-target like William and Mary, that’s what you got to do. You’ve got to talk to 12 people in one office at the firm you want to work to. That’s what I did. By the time that I had my final round interviews with two partners, I talked to 12 people in the DC BCG office. And it was all natural internally from one person passing me along to the next. And so if you’re from a non-target, don’t stop. Keep trying to weave your way into a group of people there who wants you. If they keep passing you along, you’re doing the right thing. And don’t ever say no to a call, and always express interest that you’re happy to be talking to someone else.

Japheth Mast 

That’s awesome. Well, you said it best, you laid it out really well. So network, your booty off. Don’t give up. Take advantage of all the channels, all the angles that are available to you. And yeah, work your butt off. Love that. So one thing I know our listeners are asking about is how did you case prep? What was your strategy? And so can you just dive into that and share what you did to set yourself apart in the case prep process?

Taylor Robertson 

Sure, definitely. So in terms of setting myself apart, I think my goal was just to be as good at casing as I possibly could be. And I saw all the advice of somebody was saying you have to do 30 cases. And people say I only did 15 and I got an offer. Some people say they did 85. All of those are good to hear. Ultimately, you’re going to find out once you’re into the thick of it, what it’s going to take out of you. But I would say do not expect to do less than 10 cases and be in a place where you are able to knock it out of the park, and anything but knocking it out of the park is not good enough. I think at MBB at least.

So, I personally, just to kind of give a high level overview of what my case interview process looked like, I did 25 out loud before my final round interviews at BCG. I probably did read about 10, just read the cases before I had done any out loud. And I watched every single video on Management Consulted’s YouTube about cases. I didn’t watch all of the recorded cases because those are like 40-50 minutes long. I probably only watched like two to three of those. But I watched all of the videos talking about the structures, the frameworks. And I started those out early. I learned all the basic frameworks. But ultimately in doing so, I was just really learning all the different buckets that you might have when you create a framework. Because I knew going into it, I consider myself a very original person and I wasn’t going to go in and just use any of those standard ones out of the gate. I think I started trying early on to be pretty customized with my frameworks.

But I also went through those 10 cases I read, and the ones that I did. the first few with students at William and Mary, from my consulting club, which I think I was the first case with about maybe six different students in my process. So my consulting club was not very active, we didn’t really use each other’s resources all that often. And so I was six people’s first case. I was one of those people was my first case, but, in order to get partners out of my own school, I had to plan with them to do a case and actually go through with it. But, those original frameworks that I was using, I went through the Darden case books and the Wharton case books. Those were the ones that I used. I think Wharton 2017, Darden 2018 and Darden 2021. Those were my main ones.

There were probably like 30 cases in total, and I probably did 25 or more of them. And I went through and I read all the ones that I had done. And I went through and wrote down all the different buckets that they used. And I think it went through in different case book that I hadn’t even used, just to try and get a sense of which of these buckets are the most common. And I created resources for myself, like out of the 30 different possible resources that are mentioned in any of these frameworks. Like out of Porter’s five forces. Out of a standard acquisitions case, XY and Z are the most common. And it would be things like profitability.

But I went through, and I just started, so I had an idea of, in terms of priority, what are the ones I need to know how to do really well, and what are the ones that like I should be aware of, but I’m not necessarily going to be bringing in as often. And so making those own resources and putting into my own words what I was trying to comprehend about the casing process was super helpful. And then I went through, and I created my own cheat sheets as well for the things that I really wanted to focus in on. So when I started casing, my first four or five were fairly bad, just like wasn’t consistent, had to take big pauses, might even have had to look at the case book with the person giving it to me to really understand what was going on and get a sense of a feel of how cases push forward, and how they’re even structured. But once I learned that structure, then I needed to figure out well, how do I case as best as I can. S

o I went through in the same way I did with the common buckets. I went through and I looked at all the clarifying questions that they have in these case books, the ones that actually were given answers to. And I was like, which ones of these are the most common. Then I came up with just a note card that had the top six questions that I knew I might be asking. And so my note card had these things: goal, objective, metric of success. That was one. Competitor facing same issue. That was question number two. Profitability target, that was question number three. Location, question number four. Timeline, question number five. Business model, question number six. And the last one was, are there any trends or factors influencing this. So by having those questions in front of me, which I then had in front of me for all of my practice cases, it really helped me target what are the most likely questions I should be asking about this prompt I’ve been given.

Sometimes I asked questions outside of those. But those help steer me, especially when I was like, What do I ask? It gave me something to ask and generally always steered me in the right direction. And then created two more cheat sheets, which were understanding qualitative questions and understanding quantitative questions. So after you get that main prompt, and after you deliver your framework, all the rest of the case is just made up of qualitative and quantitative questions. So if they give you a table or a graph, that’s a quantitative question. If they give you a brainstorming question, that’s a qualitative question. And so even when you’re given a sub-question, a qualitative question, you need to have a simple framework. And so it should really at that point, probably just be two things because you don’t have time to create three or four buckets.

And so I had the list of the most likely separations, I could have into two subjects. So for example, they were internal or external, or short term or long term, or financial and non-financial. Or supply side demand side, or benefits and costs. And so I was able to structure really quickly under that two-pronged device of structure because ultimately, I could say whatever I wanted, and just say it was a part of one or the other. It was really quick to think and sort into one or the other. And I did go through and say all the internal ones I thought and try to do internal and then move on and do all the external. But it just helped me be able to appear really structured and be structured in the way I was thinking about it, but when you only have 10 seconds to put that together.

And then for the quantitative questions, there’s really specific things to like keying on that I found out through looking at resources, like Management Consulted and other websites, and it was determining what info is relevant, identifying if additional info is needed, like stuff that’s not there that you need to ask for. Then you need to identify how you’re going to calculate your answer, lay it out for them and then perform it, and develop insights right after you give those numbers that relate it back to the client’s objective or the business problem. And so, those are some pretty common things, but having it in front of me while I was practicing, and having it trimmed down to the core advice that I felt like was relevant for me to improve was super helpful. And I went through and did 25 cases, probably the first 10 or so were with students from William and Mary. And we were all very green at it.

And at that point, I was like, so I need to move on to casing with consultants, professional consultants, because I wasn’t really getting much advice anymore from students. They didn’t have much to say at that point. And then I did my first real case with a consultant at West Monroe, who was an alum of William and Mary. And at the end of it I asked them would this be good enough for first round pass at West Monroe? And they were like, No, it wouldn’t. And so that also really helped me to know like I’ve got to keep going. I’ve got to practice case with more consultants. He said it was still really good for a case with a first consultant, but it wasn’t enough for a pass first round at West Monroe. So if you have not cased yet with a professional consultant, what are you doing? How are you possibly good enough if you haven’t case with a professional consultant. You don’t know the true advice from someone who’s been there.

So I cased with professional consultants, then probably at least a dozen with professional consultants after that, and, yeah, probably about a dozen. And each time, if I ever got repeated advice, that is what I specifically made sure I targeted. You know, before I went in with a case with consultant number four, I made sure I reviewed all of the advice from consultant number three, and I just wrote it out before I even started case number four. I was not going to make the same mistake a third time. If two consultants have told me the same thing, told me I have the same problem, that means it is a real big problem. Sometimes something that one consultant says, that’s just a matter of opinion. People have different casing styles. There could be one partner that likes the way you case and another maybe doesn’t, in all honesty.

If you if you do one weird thing, or this or that. But things that were common to multiple consultants telling me, I very targeted, made sure I did not repeat that. And that allowed me to get progressively better and better and better. If you’re not improving from one case to the other, you really need to be spending more time on your analysis of what you were doing wrong and really implementing it. I think that casing is just building casing habits. If you’re not really going into the final round having done all these cases, because you’ve learned everything there is about casing, you’ve just learned enough where your habits can get you through 65% of the case. And that allows you to focus 100% on the 35% you really need to problem solve. Because ultimately, when you go into those 100 cases, they don’t look exactly like all the cases that I’ve been practicing with.

There were elements of it that shared structure with the Darden casebook cases there. But by having done enough cases, I was able to complete all those commonalities really quickly. And then focus my brainpower on things that were different, like solving for multiple metrics of success, which was something that I hadn’t really done. I’d solved for a profitability as a metric of success. But for there to be brought in other things the partner was asking me to, for there to actually be a recommendation, it needed to be multipronged. And so that was something that was different from some of my practice cases. And ultimately, I asked some of my consultants that I practice cased with, to do that to me. To throw something out of left field, to be aggressive with me. So I was ready for any conditions come final round interview. If you haven’t ran a case with somebody who’s being aggressive with you, that’s also probably a very important thing to do in your cases that you get done before you go and have these interviews.

Japheth Mast 

And just as an aside, Taylor, you did one of our live case sessions with us in September 2022. And so folks, if you haven’t already listened or watched, do that (here). It is a fantastic example of what a great casing performance looks like. So if you want to know what that looks like, just go listen to that. Taylor, we’re grateful for you volunteering to do that, and provide the community with a good model what that looks like, so thank you.

Taylor Robertson 

Yeah, it was wonderful to get to do that. Ultimately, I didn’t stop casing until professional consultants were telling me you’re good. Like, take a rest before the final round interview. When I started getting take a rest, I knew I could rest. And so if you haven’t gotten to that point where professional consultants are telling you to take a rest before your final round interviews, then probably didn’t do enough yet. And maybe you should ask to kick that interview back a week and really put in the time that you can to get to that level where you’re able to take rest.

Japheth Mast 

Absolutely. Yeah. 100% with you. And you know, so folks, you can reach out to professional consultants, active or former consultants. Or you can work with or pay for coaching with a service like Management Consulted, or there’s others out there that can help you as well. But you heard it from the man here. So Taylor, looking back, can you take just a minute to share maybe the top two resources that were some of the most critical to your prep?

Taylor Robertson 

Yeah, I would say that the Darden case books were really quite stellar. And I use those when I was giving cases and just the way that they lay out the structure was really helpful for me to get better. And they were just quality level cases. And then I would say the videos from Management Consulted on casing, super helpful. I think before you even try to do a case, you’ve got to watch a couple people, like go watch the video of me doing it, a couple people who are good at doing it, do it. So you can just see what the true pace is like and what the way that someone speaks, the way they push forward, the structure of it. You’ve got to be able to just like view that so that your brain is kind of like wired to expect what’s going to need to be coming out of it. Because these cases seem really foreign at first, especially like how I did it. I don’t think I watched maybe enough of like a full scale like full run through. Because I wasn’t really pushing through the white perfectly in the first four or five cases.

But honestly, I think that even if I had watched three or four more, it wasn’t going to make much of a difference. Because ultimately, there’s a point, I think it was after I’d watched maybe like three full cases where you’ve just got to go and do it yourself. You’ve got to fail, you’re going to learn from your mistakes, you’re going to feel bad about your mistakes. I know, I was like, Oh, God, I could not get through that case. That’s terrible. But I was just like, Okay, let’s get back at it. I’ve got three more planned for the next five days. Make sure you’re booking yourself out as much as you can. I didn’t really try and do more than one case a day, although I had a couple of days, I think in the summer where I maybe did two cases or three cases. But I was really consistently going at it. If you’ve only got weekends, there was a weekend day where I was just doing recruitment practice, like whether that be networking calls and case prep for like five or six, seven hours of the day.

Japheth Mast  

Yeah, you went after it, hustled. Love it, love it. Okay, well, Taylor, you’re starting at BCG in a little while, a couple of months. What one thing that you’re really looking forward to at the firm?

Taylor Robertson 

So, in terms of projects, I’m looking forward to that. I’m hoping to do maybe like a consumer goods go to market case. But I’m also really looking forward to meeting my incoming class. You know, when I went to welcome weekend, I got to meet a few of them. And they were all really nice, really cool people. Just great conversationalists all around at BCG, like every single dinner table. I mean, I only went to dinner once. But dinner, and at a brunch, like every single table I was seated at, conversation just flowed fabulously. I think that the kind of people that I’m going to be around are the kind of people that I like being around. And so I’m very much looking forward to that. And then I’m looking forward to actually getting into the nitty gritty of the work and trying a lot of different types of cases. And just getting some we’ll say expertise in some industries in the matter of six weeks to three months. I learn really quickly, and I’m looking forward to doing that.

Japheth Mast 

Yeah, love it. Well, we’re excited for you. So to end today’s discussion, as is tradition, we’ve got a few fun questions, we’d love to ask you. And so are you ready? Great. All right. So give me the top place on your travel bucket list. Where are you going?

Taylor Robertson 

I really would like to go to Rome. I haven’t been. I’m a big fan of Roman history and ancient civilizations. So I just think it’d be super cool to go and see the Colosseum, and Trevi Fountain. But I also want to go see Dubai and Athens and Singapore. So we’ll see where I can maybe weasel my way into an international case later in my first year of working at BCG and see what I can get. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to as well is hopefully trying to get on a cross-office case.

Japheth Mast 

Yeah, get some traveling under your belt. Sweet. All right. Well, the last question for today is what’s one thing that you’re listening to, or reading, or watching right now that’s been inspiring you.

Taylor Robertson 

So I have been watching House of the Dragon, George R.R. Martin, a spinoff from Game of Thrones, really enjoying it. But I’ve also been reading some new George R.R. Martin’s short stories lately. And those are super cool. I read one called A Song for Leah, I think maybe last week. He’s just got some really great short stories and they’re making me think about things like what’s important in interpersonal interactions. He’s a great writer. So that’s been inspiring to me because I also like to write. I started a creative writing club on campus actually last year and so that’s kind of my thing besides finance that I love doing. But in terms of It inspired me also, when I was recruiting, I would say Wall Street Oasis and Fishbowl. If you need people in your ear pushing you along, I think those are really two great things to keep you thinking about consulting and for you to hear other just normal people’s perspectives on their recruitment process, and also just what these firms are like. So that would be like the consulting fishbowl in the in the Wall Street Oasis consulting, just like kind of forum. And there will be really good information there also about like, when people are hearing back from their interviews, and it’s just helpful then to kind of pace yourself against them in terms of what you can expect out of your experience.

Japheth Mast 

Yeah, that’s super helpful. Appreciate you sharing all those resources. And more than that, just your story and your tips and tricks and how you did it. It’s really been awesome to hear and even learn from you. And so I know a lot of our audience are going to find the same will listen to this. So appreciate you coming on Taylor, sharing your story.

Taylor Robertson 

Thank you so much. I was happy to be here and to talk about it. And good luck to all of you who are going through recruitment. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And if you’re not stressed a little bit, then well, you might be getting stressed. But if you’re a little bit stressed, then you’re doing well and keep going.

Japheth Mast 

Love that, love that. Thanks, Taylor.

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