I'm going to talk against the others' answer with my personal experiences : yes they can, by doing it very trickily.
In resume, what happend to me to Kearney Paris :
- Have been successful with all 4 Partner/Principal interviews.
- Another Partner (also Kearney's global representative at Davos), never exchanged before, told everyone that I "called him day and night" to get a recommandation.
- HR called me the next day to cancel my offer, without any explanation.
- Extreme deception with psychiatric care.
- Another partner close to me told me the truth only after his departure (the one diffaming kind of cofounded the Paris office...).
The real reason are both: 1. Asian origin - suspicion on my future performance. 2. Political battle - I was recommanded by the newly appointed office chairman at that time - who won the position at the expense of the one diffaming me.
2 years later, I "revenged" this Partner by cancelling all the future applications from Kearney China within a Chinese leader in Telco (as i'm the son of one of its R&D founders by coicidence). I'm also working in one of European's leading insurer as an Internal Strategy Consultant...