Apply first or study first?

Application timing Industry experience
New answer on Jun 15, 2020
10 Answers
1.2 k Views
Fiona asked on Jun 12, 2020

Hi everyone, I have recently started to get a bit more serious about making a career shift towards consulting. I've been interested in this field for a while but always felt rather inadequate in many ways (not having a business degree and not from a target school being few of many). I am currently a validation engineer in a pharma company and have roughly 4.5 years of industry experience. I am finally intending to make the jump to consulting.

Plenty of advise on the internet and from the consultants I met during the networking event emphasized heavily on the need to practice cases. What I would like to know is do most people practice cases first until you feel comfortable with it then apply to the position or do you practice only after you get an interview offer? I find that if I don't start before I might not have enough time but then I would be investing a lot of time into this if I did not even get called to an interview.

Overview of answers

Upvotes
  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 13, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Fiona,

I would not recommend you wait the invitation to start preparing on cases.

Many candidates get max 2-3 weeks notice before the first round. Also, many candidates need a minimum of 30 cases to be in good shape for a consulting interview. Plus, there is the time to read the theory, drill on math and graphs, prepare the fit, etc.

All in all, many candidates need 100h+ to be ready for the interview. If you try to push that in 20 days, it would be 5 hours per day. It is feasible, but not ideal.

As a consequence, if you are 100% committed to join a consulting firm, I would recommend you start in advance. The best candidate I met did start preparing at least 2-3 months before the interview.

Even in the bad scenario where they don’t invite you for interviews (which is unlikely to happen if you follow the right steps, in particular in terms of referrals), you will have learned some pretty valuable skills on problem-solving.

Finally, as a mindset, the act of investing in advance time in your preparation will strengthen your commitment and increase chances and opportunities to succeed. It is easier to succeed when you are all-in.

In terms of what to do for the preparation, you can find some tips at the link below:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/newbiee-4717

Please feel free to PM me for more information.

Best,

Francesco

Was this answer helpful?
Anrian
Expert
replied on Jun 13, 2020
Ex Kearney Senior Manager | Ex McKinsey Engagement Manager | Interviewer & Case Coach at McKinsey (200+ Real Interviews)

Hi Fiona,

I think it really depends on how confident and comfortable you are with your resume.

  • If you feel comfortable and confident, starting to practice and prep earlier would be a good strategy
  • Yet, if that's not the case, it is better to focus yourself to polish your CV and network around to get a referral
  • Personally, I started doing case after going through 1 horrible interview (lucky this was not my target firm), so I can feel what I need to prepare and focus
  • Learning from experience, I would never suggest going through the same experience as mine. So, once you get an invite, make sure you have enough time to practice

Hope this helps!

Was this answer helpful?
Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 14, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

FIrst, your CV looks indeed as as good FIT. Don´t worry for not having a business background. I did not have it either -I am an Architect, and went to McK out of Uni directly without knowing maaaaaaaaany things-.

If you play it well, it can even become your asset -PM me if you want to further discuss about this-.

To your question, both strategies are valid. One is more "secure", since you don´t loose time or money until you know for sure you will have the interview. However, it may backfire if you don´t have the time to prep later.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Was this answer helpful?
Axel
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 13, 2020
Bain Consultant | Interviewer for 3 years at Bain |Passionate about coaching |I will make you a case interview Rockstar

Hi Fiona,

I would only start preparing for cases once you have an interview secured to avoid wasting your time in case it does not work out.

1. Prepare your CV, cover letter, and network with people in your target office to secure a referral.

2. Prepare for the online test for your target firm

3. When you secure your interview set it for 2-3 months ahead

4. Leverage all the resources on preplounge and work with a coach to get you best placed to secure an offer

-A

Was this answer helpful?
Antonello
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 13, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi Fiona,
if you can be fully dedicated to case preparation I recommend applying now and suddenly start to prepare. To get the invitation for the first round in this period usually takes more than 1 month, and you can set up a structured preparation meanwhile. Remember than in case of short notice, you can always ask to postpone the interview. It is a standard procedure, there are no risks or problems in it.

Best,
ANtonello

Was this answer helpful?
Robert
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 12, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Fiona,

This depends on the specific consulting firm you are applying for - especially the well-known top brands let you choose the interview date in most geographical regions.

So unfortunately there is no general answer to your question - I guess you need to approach each of your target firms and simply ask them how they organize the interview dates!

Hope this helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button!

Robert

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jun 12, 2020

Hi,

First you need to prepare a top CV and cover letter.

Once it's done you can apply but you can position your interviews 2-3 months forward so that you have time to get fully prepared ! Having a deadline always helps to build a retro planning for an optimal preparation, in my opinion !

Best

Was this answer helpful?
5
Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 12, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi Fiona,

I recommend you start networking, preparing your resume / cover letter, etc. now

I recommend you start applying only once you know you'll feel comfortable by the time the interview rolls around (assume at least a 3 week delay from applying to receiving an interview).

I find it generally takes candidates 2-3 months to feel fully comfortable with casing

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jun 13, 2020

Dear Fiona,

If you feel quite comfortable then apply, to have them fw week to dedicate yourself to full preparation.

Best,

André

Was this answer helpful?
3
Luca
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 15, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached

Hello FIona,

Considering typical HR time to answer and the actual COVID situation, I would suggest to apply for all of them as soon as you can. You should consider the following point:

  • Once that HR contacts you, you can ask to postpone the first round because you want to refine your preparation.
  • It's important, as you were suggesting, to practice with some real interviews before starting the process with Tier-1
  • You can negotiate the date of the 2nd round according to your needs. They will try to push you but you should not worry: first of all they want you to do interview, so you are in a position of strength
  • You can leverage on an offer from tier-2 to accelerate the process of a tier-1 company

The perfect agenda would be to have Round 1 of Tier-2 --> Round 1 of Tier-1 --> Round 2 of Tier-2 --> Round 2 of Tier-1.

Feel free to write me for any needs,
Luca

Was this answer helpful?
Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

Content Creator
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching
4,174
Meetings
30,505
Q&A Upvotes
317
Awards
5.0
1531 Reviews