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Breaking into MBB via PhD or Boutique

Boutiques getting interview MBB phd PhD Hire Professional
New answer on Apr 16, 2024
8 Answers
269 Views
LJ asked on Mar 04, 2024

Hey there, 

I'm 29 (business graduate, target school, GPA 3.65) already and I have been recently rejected from all the management consultancies that I have applied to for full-time roles in Germany. This was a major setback for me, but I still aim to break into one of them.
Now, I have two choices at hand. 

  • The first would be to move back to my previous employer, where I have interned at - a more boutique-like consultancy (~150 ppl) in the automotive/mobility sector. I have enjoyed working there and would eventually plan to make the move to a management consultancy as a professional hire via a secured referral. 
     
  • The second would be to apply for a 3-year PhD program (business/mobility with industry-focused research) at a target university. I have liked the ways of academia so far, yet I would have no further intentions of staying there long-term as of now but move to strategy consulting with a finished PhD and a secured referral. 

I know that this will be tough, yet any advice on this or possible other options (besides networking) which optimize my CV and therefore chances of getting into MBB would be highly appreciated. Thanks for your input in advance!

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Best answer
Nick
Expert
replied on Mar 04, 2024
Bain London PE practice / ex-Interviewer and recruiting lead at Bain / I will coach you to rock those interviews

Hi LJ,

The first path should provide you with more optionality. The fact that you just completed a round of interviews suggest your profile is not the bottleneck. What you need are three things:

1. Clear areas of focus in terms of gaps from the process, with an action plan to close them over time: it is not clear from your context above where the rejections occurred along the application stages. Going into the consultancy offers you more opportunities to gather evidence that you have closed those gaps, whereas a PhD program at another target university is potentially just another proof point on something that the employers already have no problems with (i.e. that you are smart). 

2. Practical knowledge in consulting: top tier firms are full of people that joined as lateral hires from smaller competitors. For them, this is a clear de-risking move as your experience would suggest you can more or less do the job and the fact that you are applying implies you like the job. It would also give you a bit more time to  familiarise yourself with the way consultants think and communicate (it is an apprentice trade and a PhD programme could give you all the theory but not the battles to sharpen your instincts). 

3. Think through the flexibility that you need: you can leave your consultancy anytime you want, but dropping out of a PhD programme that is structured to be a 3-year commitment.

Happy to discuss further around your CV and crafting a journey from here on. 

 

Best wishes,

Nick

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Lj,

Sorry to hear - not easy :/

Just to check, you applied to 40+ firms, correct?

And you got your resume professionally reviewed?

And you networked with many of those firms before applying?

If not, make sure you do!

How to Get a Consulting Internship - Tips and Tricks
 

Application Tracker – Keep Track With This Free Template

 

If it were me, I would go back to the previous employer I interned with. However, that's advice for me. Unfortunately I don't know you, your background, your goals, your history, etc. So, no one on here can give you ideal advice without an actual live discussion!

My real advice would be to apply to more firms, to pro bono/experiential learning, and hire a coach to find the best path forward.

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

LJ, 

As long as you have the time and energy resources to pursue these options, then pursue both of them in parallel. 

In that sense, if there are firms that you're still interested in and haven't applied to yet, then do so. 

At the same time, apply for the PhD. In case the job applications don't work out, you can start the PhD and then focus on consolidating your profile within the next 3 years to be more attractive to consulting firms. Also, make sure that you go for at least one consulting internship during the PhD. 

Sharing with you a couple of articles that might help in terms of understanding what they look for in candidates and also how to set up a successful application strategy:

Best,
Cristian

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Alberto
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Mar 04, 2024
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

If you want to do a career in consulting, your first option makes more sense for several reasons:

  • You keep developing your consulting toolkit
  • You add more solid consulting experience to your resume
  • You increase your network around the consulting industry
  • You open more doors in consulting beyond MBB in case you don't make it through the interviews

Best,

Alberto

Check out my latest case based on a real MBB interview: Sierra Springs

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Hagen
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Apr 16, 2024
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi LJ,

First of all, I am sorry to hear about all those rejections!

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your question:

I would highly advise you to opt for the option that better aligns with your professional (and maybe even personal) mid- to long-term goals, since both may get you into MBB one way or another. In order to make an informed decision, I would advise you to do the following:

  • Weigh the different criteria that are meaningful to you independently of the current options (e.g., prestige, culture, international exposure, compensation, location). After that, score the two options based on your criteria and their weighting, resulting in two scores. This way, you have covered the left-brain perspective.
  • Critically assess your initial reaction to the outcome of the scores. For instance, if you feel the urge to tweak the numbers, this is a solid indicator that you do not want this decision to become reality. This way, you have covered the right-brain perspective.
  • By doing so, you will be able to integrate both parts of the brain into the decision-making, guaranteeing a higher chance that you will still be happy with it years later.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to address your specific situation, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

 

You can find the DACH consulting salaries report 2024 here!

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Mar 05, 2024
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

Between the two option, the first one is by far the best in order to make a career in consulting. Not only you will “learn the trade”, you will also gain industry expertise in an industry that is relevant in Germany.

Nevertheless, it would be wise to have your CV (and CL) professionally reviewed. From your own description, it feels like you have (at least) a reasonable profile, it is unclear why you got rejected from all of them - most likely you are not presenting your best self.

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi LJ,

Q: The first would be to move back to a more boutique-like consultancy. The second would be to apply for a 3-year PhD program. Any advice on this or possible other options (besides networking) which optimize my CV and therefore chances of getting into MBB would be highly appreciated.

Between the two options, I would go for the boutique, as you will develop more relevant experience for another consulting company later on.

Good luck! 

Francesco

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2024
Highest-rated McKinsey coach (ratings, offers, sessions) | 500+ offers | Author of The 1% & Consulting Career Secrets

Hi there,

If your final goal is MBB, I would definitely go for the first option and not for a PhD. There are many reasons for this:

  • Way of working
  • Attractiveness for MBB
  • Network
  • Opportunity cost
  • Your stated long-term goals

All the best,

Florian

 

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Nick gave the best answer

Nick

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Bain London PE practice / ex-Interviewer and recruiting lead at Bain / I will coach you to rock those interviews
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