Do consulting firms really value non-traditional backgrounds?

Application CV CV screening MBB Non-traditional Resume transition
New answer on Oct 14, 2022
11 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 12, 2022

Hi all,


My query is as simple as the title: Do consulting firms really value non-traditional backgrounds? I have been rejected after 2 rounds of applications at MBB and a couple of Tier 2 firms despite having referrals (consultant level) each time and multiple MBB consultants reviewing my CV.

I think the education part of my CV is fine (target school, lots of prizes, extracurriculars), so I think the issue must be my work experience. I work in a obscure industry that most people haven't heard of and my job title has no obvious link to consulting, but I do a lot of strategy work. My industry does come under professional services but it's a more creative industry, so I wonder if that is where the weakness lies; if recruiters only have 10 seconds to review a CV, maybe just the industry / job title puts them off no matters what I've actually done. I did train and work as a veterinarian before moving into my current role so I'd like to think my skillset is similar to a doctor's, but where doctors are highly valued in consulting there seems to be no interest in vets.


I've worked very hard on case interview prep, so it's frustrating that I have no opportunity to showcase my skills - especially as I keep hearing at recruiting / networking events that they have many interviewees who regurgitate frameworks and I know I would not do that.


I cannot afford an MBA and I have financial commitments so I can't start again in an industry that has a better reputation. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. 

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Udayan
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

Consulting firms value all backgrounds that they can then sell on to a client. For example, many vets work in consulting firms specializing in animal health projects primarily. Similarly people come from backgrounds as surgeons, physicians or lawyers and even insurance salespeople.  As long as they can use your expertise they will be interested in you.

You mentioned you work in an obscure industry but you did not mention what it is. One way to leverage your work experience is to think about what type of potential clients can use your expertise and then approach people that work in that practice to network with them and see if you are a good fit before applying on the website.

 

Udayan

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Cristian
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replied on Oct 14, 2022
#1 McK Coach by rating & recommendation rate| Honest feedback: no sugar-coating | Success stories ➨ tinyurl.com/43rkxa8f

Hi there, 

Yes, they do value diverse backgrounds. But what they value even more is seeing that you were at the top of your field / cohort wherever you were, that you were always striving for excellence and achieving outstanding results. Which is why it's so important how you position your experience in your CV. 

Since you've been rejected repeatedly, it might be worth getting either a coach or a consultant to have a look at your CV and do a proper review. It might just not reflect the best in you for now.

Best,

Cristian

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Florian
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
#1 rated McKinsey Coach | Top MBB Coach | 5 years @ McKinsey | Author of the 1% | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hi there,

I understand your frustration!

In reality, non-traditional backgrounds make up around 40-50% of MBB staff, so it is not a myth.

Please DM me your resume and I can provide you with a more detailed evaluation. It could be due to a number of reasons.

Cheers,

Florian

 

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Sidi
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

It's hard to comment without having seen the CV with which you applied. My hypothesis is that your CV was not written in a particularly appealing way for consulting companies. Just one example: most people tend to focus on their tasks and responsibilities, but not on the impact generated (for the organization, the project, the colleagues, customers, yourself, larger society etc.). So it is oftentimes not about your background - but about how you explicitly highlight the relevant implications of this background for a profession as a future problem solver.

Cheers, Sidi

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Francesco
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replied on Oct 13, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Q: Do consulting firms really value non-traditional backgrounds?

They do. But it doesn’t mean it is necessary simple to get invitations/offers if you have one.

It is not possible to provide detailed feedback without looking at your CV, but below you can find a few tips based on what you shared:

  • Having referrals (consultant level)  Possibly you may need to target a “stronger” referral (partner level)
  • I think the education part of my CV is fine (target school, lots of prizes, extracurriculars) ⮕ I know you mentioned you got feedback already from consultants, but could also be the formatting is not good
  • I work in an obscure industry that most people haven't heard of and my job title has no obvious link to consulting ⮕ This may require some rewording to make it “good” for a quick screen

Overall, there are 3 things you need to get a consulting invitation: a great CV, a great Cover and a strong referral. You can find a few tips below for each of them:

▶ How to Get a Consulting Interview Invitation

Good luck!

Francesco

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Pedro
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger |Former Head Recruiter | Market Sizing

Two possibilities here (not mutually exclusive). 

1) Your CV is not adequate. I don't mean your experience - that should be fine. I mean how you write your CV and “tell your story". 

2) You are applying to the wrong offices. You should target either those who are likely to be stronger in animal health, or or your particular industry.

Of course, impossible to know without looking at your CV.

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Maikol
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
BCG Project Leader | Former Bain, AlixPartner, and PE | INSEAD MBA | GMAT 780

Non-traditional CVs are usually interesting for consulting.
It depends a lot on the story you share on your profile. 
A well-thought cover letter would be helpful.

Besides, try to avoid as much as possible head hunters and get sponsors who can give you a significant referral (e.g., partners, principals, diversity & inclusion champions).

Best

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Eishan
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Oct 14, 2022
Helping consulting aspirants crack the case interview and achieve thier dream job. Bain I LBS MBA I Uber I Bloomberg

Hey there - 

I have seen reasonable number of industry hires come in with non traditional backgrounds. If you are able to get a referral in, that would help a lot. At the same time, I am happy to review your CV and give you a few pointers on things you can improve to make it more appealing to consulting firms. 

Best

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Ian
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updated an answer on Oct 12, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Yes.

The bonafide star of our office was a guy who was a professional violinist (used to play at the Sydney Opera House). One of the Partners I worked with was an ex-flautist. We had doctors, laywers, dentists, English majors, etc.

There are a few possibilities here:

  1. Resume - send it over and I'll have a look
  2. Office selection
  3. Current demand (it's a tough market so odds are lower)
  4. Just bad luck - that's why you need to submit dozens of applications…it's always an odds game

Also, I'm sorry to hear about the rejections. That's not fun and it's not easy.

That said, no one said this journey would be easy. Keep pushing and you will get there!

(edited)

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Dennis
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replied on Oct 12, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

Hi there,

I can imagine your level of frustration. In general though, non-traditional backgrounds are represented in consulting firms, even among the management level.

I'm surprised that you did not even get a first round interview despite coming in with consultant referrals. When aiming for referrals, it is typically best to get them from people in the company with a certain tenure and seniority so they carry more weight. 

It's hard to provide a “diagnosis” from the outside without taking a look at the actual documents you have been submitting for your applications. Could be a matter of wording, your overall narrative, etc.

 

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Anonymous replied on Oct 12, 2022

Hi there, 

sorry for the experience so far. 

I am off cycle lateral hire with 13 yrs of non-consulting background prior entering BCG and I can confirm, as well as you were invited for interview, there are interested in lateral hires with non-traditional background, still you have to pass the same recruiting process, plus the bar is high, you have experience. You must fit 100%, 99% is not enough. 

I am not sure how well you prepared, if you had coach or what other resources, but I would be happy to connect with you to chat what options are there and what the options are. Please feel free to reach out directly.

Lucie

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Udayan

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