The consulting career is one of the most sought opportunities for MBA students. I was part of the crowd that didn’t really consider it, but during the November/December fever, I couldn’t resist applying.
The salary, the prestige and the competition made me want a job at an MBB. In the end, I made it to the second round of the interviews at BCG Brussels. (Un)fortunately, I didn’t make it. I am quite satisfied with my performance as I made it pretty far in the process.
Here are my 2 cents on the process and a few tips that I think were useful to me to progress towards the Eldorado of the MBA candidates. As usual, I will try to be as objective as possible.
CV and Cover Letter (September-November)
The first step in the application process is to create a standard CV. Usually, your school will have provided you with a template and a verification tool. We used VMock.com to make sure our CVs were up to standard. I recommend using it if your school does not provide you with such a thing. I also recommend having your CV tripled checked by your peers AND by current consultants. They have the eagle eye to spot weaknesses and chances are they have recruited people before.
For the cover letter, it’s a bit more difficult. I have created a guide on how to create a decent cover letter and it’s available on this site.
Another tip at this stage is to reach out to people you know and send them directly your CV and Cover Letter. People are usually nice and an application receives better chances of getting in, once if they have been forwarded by a current employee (again it worked for me).
Finally, I would suggest you think very hard about where you want to apply. The competition is fierce and if your English is not perfect, your chances of getting into the London office might be small. As a Belgian, it was easier for me to get into the Brussels office.
Case Preparation (September-January)
In a quick survey I made (only 29 respondents, unfortunately). The average number of cases candidates did to prepare for interviews was 39. I believe it’s a decent number and I would suggest you do 30+. Again, I’m not an expert and these are based on my subjective opinion. I used a lot of cases from the case banks we received (I don’t think I am allowed to share all of them with you). My favourites were the cases from the Kellog Case Book. As they were super detailed, very well written and easy to understand. You can basically ask anyone who knows how to read to mock with you.
RocketBlocks and other Tools (September-January)
IESE subscribed to the Rocketblocks platform for us. I really loved playing around with it. It helped a lot in the different stages of solving the cases. The framework and the math section were the most useful to me. Rocketblocks is also great to find other people to mock with. I manage to do a few cases with people from Tuck, Ross and NYU which was pretty cool!
I know a few more exist like preplounge, but I didn’t use them.
Finally, the blog of Guru Victor Cheng is pretty cool and full of info. I recommend learning this page by heart it covers most of the frameworks and ways of solving a case. But keep in mind that consultants don’t like the book approach too much. They want you to show creativity and using only textbook frameworks could prevent you from thinking outside of the box.
Interview Round 1 (Early January)
The first round of interviews consist of 2 interviews with 1 case and fit questions. I had my fit questions well prepared and they never deviated from the theory (why BCG, why consulting, tell me about yourself, which industries, etc…).
The cases were textbook too. There was really nothing much to it. I believe the first interviewer was the bad cop and the second was a bit more good cop (the other candidate interviewing in Brussels confirmed). I was lucky enough to have cases that involved industries in which I either did a case before or knew from my past experiences. If I remember correctly I messed up the numbers a little a bit, but it was enough to pass.
A huge tip that I can give is that you should go in person if you have the chance. I decided to fly to Brussels from Barcelona and indeed was much less stressful than the ones that met their interviewers online. Webex is terrible and can add an extra layer to an extremely stressful situation. A Ryanair flight is cheap and is worth nothing compared to the potential benefits of getting a job in a prestigious consulting firm.
Interview Round 2 (Mid January)
For the second round of interviews, usually, the consulting firm pays for the trip. Some offices will have the same process as Round 1 except you meet with more senior people. Others, like BCG Brussels, have a more complex process, i.e. the written case interview. The interviews happened in two days. The first day I went to the BCG office for a video interview with a Partner in London. The interview was normal: fit + case.
The next day, I received a long document (40+ pages) full of graphs and information. The idea is that you have 2 hours to read through and answer 2 to 3 questions in a few slides and present your results to a consultant. I thought it was really hard and I believe my presentation and argumentation were decent, but I actually missed a better way of answering.
The second part of the interviews was a case with a Partner. The interview was in French (I am a native French speaker, but having prepared everything in English, it was hard to twist my brain to do it in French), so I would suggest your practice at least one or two of the cases in the languages you said you spoke in the application. The case was not easy and I think the Partner pushes you harder at this very last step of the interview.
- The consulting process is very structured and there is a clear way of cracking it.
- If consulting is really your thing, practice cases as early as you can. The more you practice, the easy it will be to crack them.
- Try to find a few people you have a personal connection within the companies you target and they will be super helpful. They helped me practice cases, prepare for the interviews and pushed my CV to the relevant people.
- I don’t believe career fairs or recruiting events will do much. As the recruiters that come meet hundreds of candidates and will most likely never remember you. I’ll always remember the huge pile of our business cards that the consulting companies left on a table after a career event. It is useful to write your cover letter though. You can use a name, a project you hear about etc… but this alone will not get you a job.
- You are a commodity. Perseverance is key. Apply to a large number of companies and hustle, it (almost) always pays.