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Breaking into MBB from nontraditional background

Advice MBB Non-traditional recruiting
New answer on Feb 29, 2024
6 Answers
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Harry asked on Feb 29, 2024

Hi All,

I’m a recent grad from a semi- target American university (top 30) where I studied economics and doubled minored, ending with a 3.61 GPA. I had an internship in investment banking which I received a full time offer from and did not end up taking.

Instead, I joined an American volunteer program called the Peace Corps. For context, it’s a 27 month long program where you live in a rural community overseas and, in my case, advise/support local projects. This might entail advising local entrepreneurs, developing an economic development strategy for the community, applying for grants, etc. I’m about 8 months in.

I had solid extracurriculars while in university, including a leadership position in a consulting club on campus. I also worked 2-3 jobs throughout the 4 years I spent there which somewhat explains the low GPA.

I would love to hear people’s thoughts on the feasibility of me breaking into strategy consulting given my background. To be clear, I’m not interested in going to grad school for the time being. I would love to go to business school further down the line but I think I’ll still be too young when my program finishes up, and frankly I would love to make some money after being unpaid for 2 years. I also have enough debt as is. I’d like to know if it would be possible for me to go directly from my volunteer program to strategy consulting. I’m confident I’d love the work and I see the required skill set heavily overlapping with the work I’m doing presently.

I’m aware that my chances here are quite low, given my GPA and not being from a top target. But I’m willing to devote a significant amount hours every week to perfect my behaviorals and casing, and to network properly. I also have a very large timeline (19 months left in my program), which gives me more than enough time to prepare. My question here is: can extremely diligent preparation and networking make up for my weaker background?

I would really appreciate a direct answer here. My biggest fear is that I devote myself to preparing for these interviews only for them to never arrive.

My second question is: what recruiting cycle would I fall under? I would be interviewing for the entry level role, so business analyst/associate consultant. Does that mean I’d apply following the same cycle as university seniors recruiting for full-time roles? Or would I go through with off-cycle recruiting.

Last point I want to mention: my ideal office would be New York, or at the very least somewhere in that region, but I’m open to working anywhere in the world. I’m an American citizen but I’ve had internship experiences in various other countries, and am presently living abroad.

I’d also appreciate any general advice! Thank you so much in advance.

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Best answer
Francesco
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Harry,

1) Can extremely diligent preparation and networking make up for my weaker background?

Yes, in particular the referral part. What you need to do is to land the interview, after that, the GPA/school should not (in theory) affect the decision to extend an offer. A referral can increase substantially the probability of an invitation.

2) What recruiting cycle would I fall under? 

If you have already graduated, most likely you cannot apply with the same cycle of seniors. You can check with the career service of your school for confirmation. 

You can find more on the requirements to get invitations in consulting below:

How to Get a Consulting Interview Invitation

Good luck!

Francesco

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Harry on Feb 29, 2024

Thank you so much!

Cristian
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

You can do it. That's the direct answer. 

Now, you might not be able to get into the absolute top firms. You might not be able to get directly a full-time position. You might have to do a lot more work for the prep than you imagine at this point. But it's doable. 

You have great experiences on your CV, including your volunteering experience, and they are assets, not liabilities. 

What you need, to begin with, is an application strategy. 

This involves clear targets (in terms of firms and roles), and a timeline. You can learn more about this here:

Then, you need to develop an absolutely awesome application package, meaning the CV and Cover Letter. I emphasize awesome because it's critical to have a well-written CV and Cover Letter especially if you don't have the traditional consulting background. 

Then, you need to network in order to get referrals. Referrals will be critical in increasing the probability of you passing screening. You can learn more about them and how to get them here:

This is the starting point. Then, (or even in parallel) comes the preparation for the actual interviews.

Best,
Cristian

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Harry on Feb 29, 2024

Thanks for the inspiration and material here. Really appreciate it!

Udayan
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

My short answers to your questions 

 

1. Anyone's odds of making it to MBB are low regardless of university. If however you're more open minded about your options and consider all reputable consulting firms you most definitely have good odds of making it 

 

2. I always recommend going through the university recruitment cycle as that's where the odds of success are highest and where you have the most support both from the university and from recruiters to help make it 

 

3. New York is the most competitive office for obvious reasons. If however this is important to you there's no harm in trying for it. In my experience, less exciting cities (Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago) have better odds of making it given the crazy competition in NYC. 

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Harry on Feb 29, 2024

Thank you!!

Anonymous A replied on Feb 29, 2024

Hi,

Sharing some perspective on your questions:

Can extremely diligent preparation and networking make up for my weaker background?

  • The first hurdle is actually to get an interview invite
  • Networking can help, but typically only if the consultants believe you have what it takes
  • My take on this is that yes it can help, but you would still need to find some way to convince people you talk to that you have the right abilities
    • If this is not on your CV, then there are 2 ways
    • 1) Qualitatively, during the engagements itself
    • 2) Objectively, by improving your CV points e.g. taking a standardized test and scoring very highly on it to prove you have the intellectual abilities

What recruiting cycle would I fall under?

  • Based on my experience, you would not fall in under the OCR campaigns, but HR may tell you to apply during the same cycles
  • Most likely you will be asked to apply off cycle

All the best!

 

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Harry on Mar 01, 2024

Good to know. Thank you!

Florian
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
Highest-rated McKinsey coach (ratings, offers, sessions) | 500+ offers | Author of The 1% & Consulting Career Secrets

Hi there,

Given what you have told us, you have a very interesting profile for MBB and tier 2.

Your main goal should be initially to pass the screening stage and for this, you would need to make sure that 

  • you have a proper read on the market situation and different offices (apply where and when it makes sense)
  • solid referrals for target offices (increases your chances)
  • a polished resume, highlighting relevant skills and experiences for consulting

The first two can be tackled at the same time and asking about current hiring is a great discussion starter for networking via your own networking and cold-outreach via LinkedIn.

Once you have cleared that stage, it resets and your interview performance is all that counts.

Keep us posted!

All the best,

Florian

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Harry on Feb 29, 2024

Thanks Florian!!

Florian on Feb 29, 2024

My pleasure! :-)

Pedro
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
30% off in April 2024 | Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

You actually have a good profile. Sure, it's not a “sure interview” but it's not a remote possibility.

You'll need to improve your resume as much as possible and have some indicators of excellence in there to maximize your changes. Combine that with networking, and trying to identify a less competitive office in the region - being open to other locations outside NY could help improve your chances.

Regarding recruiting cycle, you can use both, but I believe your chances will be optimized if you use the university recruiting cycle. Also probably easier to align the university recruiting cycle type of schedule (and starting date expectations) with your own 27 month program.

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Harry on Feb 29, 2024

Thanks Pedro!

Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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