Besides the obvious benefit of having a current employee refer you in the firm's internal referal system/increasing your chances of getting your CV seen, what are the other benefits of referrals when applying to MBB and 2nd tier firms? I read on one post with a referral from McKinsey you skip the CV-screening. Is this true? Anyone know about BCG, Bain, Roland Berger, Accenture, Deloitte, ATK, OW, etc.?
Benefits of Referral
I don't believe that there are clear "you skip step x" things for most firms. Already for the reason that the organisation has to protect itself against nepotism, favouritism and for compliance reasons. In some firms, you may be invited without a more thorough screening, but that's where the skipping ends.
But, as you rightly said, it helps to give your application an extra bit of attention that can make all the difference. The organisation implicitly trusts people working for it, so a referral will give you a bit of a head start in the interview process. Depending on the level of the referrer (Partner vs. Analyst), that can be more or not so much.
In any organisation that I have seen, there are some key players or power brokers whose judgement or recommendation is highly respected by their colleagues. "If X recommended the guy, I can almost trust that blindly. Her recommendations are always spot on." If your recommendation comes from such a person, especially in smaller companies/offices it may even take your application from a default "NO" to a neutral or even default "YES"
So to sum up: It definitely can't hurt, but there's also no "If this... , then that..."
Since you asked for ATK as well, I'll answer you on this point.
What you won't get
- bypass of any step of the process
- easier interview judgement
What you'll get
- increase your chance to get throught CV screening, especially if your academics are not in the 100% targeted
- higher attention to your progression during process : you will probably received more feedback and more attention will generally be put to help you succeed by providing any other guidance
- faster feedback
There are certain criteria for the referral:
- The consultant makes you a reference in the system and uploads your resume. Usually, he has to indicate why he thinks you are a good candidate
- You skip some steps in the recruiting process (CV screening at McK, Test at Bain)
- The consultant gets a referral bonus ($) if you get a job offer
The conversion to reference will be higher among consultant / manager level people who are still interested in the referral bonus. The basic idea is to ask these people for a mock interview.
Here are some tips on how you can do that:
1) Leverage your own network - find friends or friends of friends who can practice cases with you or make you a reference.
2) Attend company events. Consulting companies do a lot of events both for graduates and experienced hires. Find the social network groups related to consulting or websites, subscribe to newsletters and stay tuned. Also, check if they have events in your University since you are a PHD.
While some of the events will be open to everyone, others will require a resume and a cover letter, so make sure to prep.
3) Talk to people on the events and send Thank You notes. After each event, there is a Q&A session where you can talk to consultants 1 on 1 or in a group. Ask for contact info or send a thank you note after the event ("I just wanted to thank you for visiting our University... It was especially interesting to hear about... Would be happy to keep in touch and apply in the nearest future.). Alternatively, you may use linkedin for that. If you are an experienced hire I strongly suggest to ask for a 1 on 1 meeting in a thank you note.
4) 1 on 1 meetings. All people like giving an advice. So don't hesitate to ask consultants for a career advice. Tell your story and ask how consulting fits into it
5) Mock interview Depending on where you are in your prep process you may ask a consultant for a mock interview. Consultants are very much opened to help even if it is a cold call e-mail. The main problem is a lack of time on their side. So don't be afraid to remind about yourself if the consultant has already committed but finds it hard to find the time
6) Talking to partners If you are an experienced hire I suggest to talk directly to the partners in your industry or the partner responsible for experienced hires (in consulting partners also have additional roles). Get an intro from the HR or from your friends working there. Partners care a lot about experienced hires with relevant industry expertise. Chances to get referral are much lower though. They also will not be interested in giving mock interviews.
7) If you are an MBA graduate Just talk to your section mates and ask for a reference or a mock interview - they will be happy to help. Make sure you attend all the consulting events.