Applying to client's job opening

New answer on Jun 02, 2023
7 Answers
Anonymous A asked on May 27, 2023

Hi, unfortunately I was counselled out this round due to performance issues. I'm considering applying to strategy roles opened by clients, but my concern is that the recruiter may very easily reach out to my firm and check my performance. Would like to seek your advice on:

1. Is underperformance a major threshold to apply to client's opening positions?

2. Assuming the applicant is from consulting, do industry players really care about the applicant's performance in the consulting firm? There's a lot of “up or out” happening in the consulting industry, and many underperformers in consulting join the industry and succeed in their new role. 


Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
replied on May 30, 2023
#1 McKinsey Coach by rating & recommendation rate

Hi there, 

Nobody cares about your performance in the firm. 

Nobody will ask. And nobody from the client's side will reach to the firm you were working for to ask about you. 

The only thing that might happen, is that a senior client might ask the Partner that is serving them whether they know you and whether they would recommend hiring you. 


Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2023
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I'll respond similarly to the other Q&A

First, I'm SO sorry to hear about this. It's not easy at all.

A few things you need to hear/know:

  1. This is happening to a lot of people right now. It's their way of firing without firing (promotion criteria are tighter/tougher)
  2. You will be just fine. You will find another job
  3. They focused on your weaknesses. We all have them. remember your strengths
  4. Everyone gets fired/let go at some point in their lives. In one job (not BCG) I quit before I could be let go. The place was a mess, at it wasn't my fault, but I still know the feeling…really messes with your confidence. Just know you have company!
  5. Learn from this - what could you have done differently? Could you have invested in a coach? Gotten mentoring?

1. Is underperformance a major threshold to apply to client's opening positions?

No! They don't know! Just act like everything is fine. Be forward looking. They're not going to check in these early stages.

2. Assuming the applicant is from consulting, do industry players really care about the applicant's performance in the consulting firm? There's a lot of “up or out” happening in the consulting industry, and many underperformers in consulting join the industry and succeed in their new role. 

They care about perceived performance. They care about how you sound when you tell them about your time there.

You need to put on the facade and make sure things sound good. Please get a coach to help you with this!

Was this answer helpful?
replied on May 29, 2023
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger |Former Head Recruiter | Market Sizing

You feel rejected and that you underperformed, but the truth is that the economy is not great AND people are counseled out the whole time (consulting firms actually want their consultants to move to their clients…). 

Even GREAT consultants are counseled out. 

I've seen consultants who were counseled out having a great career in both the industry and other consulting firms (sometimes much better that what they could ever achieve if they stayed…).

Consulting firms hire great people, and push them to the limits, and then need to have some up or out to keep the pyramid working. Meaning that sometimes, just being “strong” within a group of great performers is not enough. Yes, people with ”strong" performance are counseled out. Strong performance is the expectation, but even “strong” doesn't mean you get to stay.

Clients that recruit ex-consultants know this. They also know that sometimes one wasn't strong enough because of internal politics; because they had a bad project, manager or partner; because they didn't like the travel or the hours, or just bad luck.

So… do not fear.

Of course, it may be the case that you were not strong, you actually had an objectively bad performance, etc. But here's the positive for you: the hiring company is unlikely to tell the difference.

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on May 28, 2023

Dear candidate,


I just answered a similar question, please see my post to an adjacent Q and A answer. I also find that your question focuses on the negative, let me help you: use your strengths to think about how can you make this work? Answer: easy.

A) you have a lot of consulting experience, consultants are great client coaches, they are very good at highlighting positive value elements, you can do this for yourself in this situation. Know that despite what happened you can succeed. Reflect on:  a) what should have been better for  what you should have done better and where you want to go next, what are your goals and what are your overall skills now?

B) Be clear about your career goals, go through how your achievements show this, know how to present your strengths and apply confidently. For this for example go through the workstream elements or the projects that you succeeded in as a consultant. Choose these as examples, surely you will find also work that you did that went well. Furthermore go through your own interests, your entrepreneurial activities and see what you can mention there.

Careers don't only have ups sometimes, go out of this situation wisely and encourage yourself to find the next opportunity. Think more about how you are leading your career search now than what anyone might say.


Best regards,


Best regards

Was this answer helpful?
replied on May 30, 2023
Lowest price for Top-Ranked Coach on PrepLounge| McKinsey San Francisco | Harvard graduate | 6+ years of coaching


I'm sorry to hear about your situation, I imagine it must be tough and frustrating to navigate. Rest assured that recruiters will be much more interested in what you can bring to their firm, rather than why you left your previous job. It's all about the narrative you present! To answer your questions:

1. Underperformance is not a major threshold to apply to open positions at your client. You should absolutely apply. Plenty of people leave consulting jobs for various reasons, and, depending on the firm, recruiters may not have the capacity to enquire about the performance of each individual. However, be sure to have prepared a good answer for why you are leaving consulting and why you would like to join their company. If your performance is mentioned, make sure you have a good explanation for what went wrong, what you learned, and how you will ensure that you do not repeat prior mistakes.

2. As above, industry players are not going to weight your performance in consulting as heavily as you think. Everyone learns as they amass work experience. 

Best of luck in your job search!

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 27, 2023
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

There's no harm in applying to any open positions. You will need to have a clear answer as to why you both want to switch and why you were let go if it comes up. Performance is usually a red flag, however I've rarely seen companies verifying reason for leaving a job that mostly happens for smaller companies. 

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on Jun 02, 2023
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer with ~5 years of interviewing experience


In addition to what other coaches have mentioned, I'll add some points specifically around your concern that the recruiter will reach out to your firm.

Recruiters will not reach out to your firm. But I have heard of instances where individuals in the hiring team itself (e.g. Corp Strategy team) has reached out (to get a sense on the candidate) privately and in confidence to either:

  • Friends/network who are still employed in the firm the candidate is from
  • Friends/network who were former employees of the firm the candidate is from

Whether this is right/ethical aside - this is a reality that can happen especially in some smaller markets

Nevertheless - because this is often done privately and in confidence, it is also not possible for the hiring team member/recruiter to bring this up in an official capacity. Thus, end of the day the performance and story during your actual interviews matters more (as others have mentioned)

All the best!

Was this answer helpful?
Cristian gave the best answer


Content Creator
#1 McKinsey Coach by rating & recommendation rate
Q&A Upvotes
154 Reviews
How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or fellow student?
0 = Not likely
10 = Very likely