Getting a Consulting Offer From a Non-Traditional Background

case interview practice with consultants Non target Non-traditional
New answer on May 08, 2023
5 Answers
Yasmin asked on May 05, 2023

Hi everyone! I am thrilled to be part of the PrepLounge community, and have access to an abundance of knowledge relating to consulting.

Now, my question: Do you think my strategy for landing a consulting offer will work? 

Here is the supporting material for my question: 

1) I graduated Magna Cum Laude from a non-target college in March 2023 with a bachelor's in Molecular and Cell Biology. During undergrad, I was part of a Molecular Biology laboratory where I won scholarships to fund my research, and published a scientific poster featured at the largest vision research conference in the United States.

2) I decided I wanted to work in consulting in January 2023. To gain real-world consulting experience (and client-facing skills), I applied to and interviewed with multiple volunteer-based pro-bono consulting organizations. After a number of failed interviews, I got an offer --I am now volunteering as a strategy consultant on a 10-week project cycle (Started March 2023, Ends June 2023).

3) In addition to this volunteer consulting work, I am preparing for case interviews for 5-6 hours a day. I read online that firms largely recruit from July-September, so I decided to prepare early using Case In Point by Marc Consentino. Specifically, I practice 3 cases a day, where I: 1) Solve the case on my own while speaking to an AI tool that alerts me when I use too many filler words/speak too quickly, 2) Review the pre-written solution to the case, and 3) Write notes detailing strengths and weaknesses in both case solutions.

4) I landed an internship on the Global Business Services team of the 2nd largest health insurance provider in the United States. I pursued this opportunity because: 1) I wanted to further demonstrate my interest in business, 2) I read that consulting firms value their candidates having prior internship experience with reputable companies, and 3) I have a special interest in the healthcare industry. The internship goes from June 2023 - August 2023.

Will these steps be enough to be a desirable candidate by the recruiting season? I would greatly appreciate any feedback on how I can prepare for case interviews better, if I should practice cases with an actual consultant, any suggestions on networking, etc. !

I don't have a coach or anything so the steps I have taken are a result from independent research I have done on forums like PrepLounge.

Thank you!




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Content Creator
replied on May 06, 2023
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer with ~5 years of interviewing experience

Hi Yasmin,

Glad that you find the community helpful - you can certainly find a ton of useful advice (that I wish I had access to a long time ago when I was applying).

Firstly - it's great that you are taking initiative and showing drive towards your goal of breaking into consulting. 

I think first of all it would be helpful if you clarified your end-goal, i.e. MBB or T2 or boutique firm. While generally a CV that is good enough for MBB will make the cut for the others, the inverse is typically not true.

For now, I'll assume that you'd like to join MBB. I'll share a couple of observations on your approach based on my experience as an interviewer/CV reviewer at BCG, with reference to your supporting points:

Point #1 (your academics)

  • Consulting firms are looking for academic excellence, and ideally from target schools
  • If you are coming from a non-target school, then having a top-grade (i.e. summa) is critical to ‘compensating’ for the non-target nature
  • Scholarships are good points to highlight but only if they demonstrate you are special (i.e. it is a high quantum and/or highly exclusive)
  • Publication of a poster at a conference, this is unfortunately not as prestigious as publishing something in an academic journal
  • Suggested tips/things you can do:
    • You cant go back and change the past - but consider if there are other ways you can show you have the intellectual horsepower - i.e. getting a very high score on GMAT

Point #2 (your consulting related internship)

  • It's great that you are proactive on this. A strategy consulting internship definitely shows 1) intent & motivation and 2) relevant skills
  • Suggested tips/things you can do:
    • I would try and land another opportunity like this, just so that it strengthens or strengthens the # of relevant experiences in your CV
    • It is also important to make sure this is written out in an impactful way in your CV

Point #3 your case prep

  • Practicing alone is probably one of the biggest pitfalls of candidates, and it is pretty obvious when I am interviewing candidates which ones of them did not have enough effective practice
  • In addition, it is very hard to build up the right problem solving skills just by self review. This is how it works on the job itself, and why consulting is an apprentice-based learning kind of job → case leadership are the ones who will help hone your problem solving skills by pointing out your errors and showing you what good looks like
  • Suggested tips/things you can do:
    • 2 very important things for you to do
      • Please start practicing with a partner - the experience of doing a case with someone else is totally different from reading cases by yourself
      • Please ensure you get good quality feedback from your practice partners, regardless of who they are

Point #4 (your other internships & demonstrating business interest)

  • It is true that internship experience with reputable companies are valued, but that is only half the story. What you did / your specific role is also weighed and assessed as part of this equation
    • e.g., working at an Investment Bank but in a back-office role, or an admin role will never be as highly viewed as working in front-office/M&A
  • Most of the time - the strongest/most impressive internships or work experiences are the ones where you are the top-dog in a reputable company
    • i.e. M&A/front-office in Investment Banking
    • i.e. Brand in Consumer Goods
    • i.e. Product Management/Software Engineering in Tech
    • i.e. Consultant (and not support staff) in Consulting
  • If I were reviewing your CV, this Global Business Services is not a strong experience point because 
    • GBS is support services / shared services, and this is something that is secondary to the core of the business and functions that help to build the business
  • Thus, here I think you are slightly confused and conflating interest in business with the term ‘business services’
  • Suggested tips/things you can do:
    • Make the most out of the internship
    • Identify what relevant skills consulting firms are looking for, and try and push for opportunities to develop that during your internship
    • Make sure that the way it is phrased in your CV shows that

On other general tips like how to practice cases better, and networking (actually very important), I'm sure that other coaches will share good points on those.

All the best!

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Content Creator
replied on May 06, 2023
#1 McKinsey Coach by rating & recommendation rate

Hi there, 

Congrats - it seems like you've put a lot of effort into building all of this!

By and large, it looks good, but realistically speaking, if you put a lot of effort into something it doesn't necessarily mean you're putting that effort in the right direction. As in, if you show up every day at the swimming pool it doesn't mean that you're going to become a swim champion. You usually need some guidance along the way and that's where coaches come in. 

However, if a coach is not an option for you, I tried to distil the main points to focus on around an application strategy in the following article:

Hope you'll find it useful!

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Content Creator
replied on May 06, 2023
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Yasmin,

Q: Do you think my strategy for landing a consulting offer will work? 

I would recommend to add the following points:

1) Add live practice as well to your routine. If you get a good partner you can most likely get better feedback compared to the AI tool

2) Review your CV and Cover, so that they are in the required format for a strategy role

3) At least 3 weeks before the application deadline, start networking to find referrals. You can find some tips here.

If you want to target consulting companies specialized in healthcare, besides MBB some companies with a focus on that are IQVIA, LEK, ZS, EYP, Putnam and Clearview. 

If you need more help, please feel free to PM me.

Good luck!


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Content Creator
replied on May 07, 2023
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I love your dedication and commitment!

What I can say, is that you are mor elikely than most to be doing prep right, just by the very nature of how you're approaching this.

What you have written is likely a necessary, but not a gaurenteed sufficient plan.

The problem is, we don't know exactly how you're progressing, where your weakness aread are, etc. So, ultimately, it does depend.

A few points/concerns/additions I have:

  • Don't forget networking
  • Don't forget math practice, charts practice, daily reading, market sizing etc.
  • Don't forget live cases with peers - chatgpt isn't any better than just reading a casebook…you have to practice live!
  • Careful with chatgpt…it's “great” at a beginner level. But, if you're a doctor you see so many errors. If you're a lawyer you see so many errors. If you're a case coach, you see so many errors. It's great as a supporting tool, but it gets a lot wrong, and you have to know what to prompt, what's missing, etc. So, just be careful :) Just like you wouldn't write a legal document with AI, you shouldn't make all your case prep be AI
  • You won't be given a case by writing. You will be given a case live….practice live, outloud, casing
  • Case in Point is also a ver basic book. Great for beginners. Loses value quickly

TLDR: Most of what you're doing is great! For beginners. It'll get you from 0 to 4. But to get from 4 to 10 you do need live cases, focus on other areas of prep + interviews, etc.

Here's some reading to help:


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replied on May 08, 2023
Top-Ranked Coach on PrepLounge for 3 years| McKinsey San Francisco | Harvard graduate | 6+ years of coaching

Hi Yasmin,

Looks like you've put a lot of work into everything you mention here! Good job on getting started early and thinking so strategically about interview prep as well.

You've gotten lots of great advice here already, but my additional two cents are as follows:

1. Be sure to incorporate live case practice into your case prep, as soon as possible! Practicing with an AI tool is a good idea, but it's not quite the same thing as practicing with another person. You can find case partners here on PrepLounge, work with a coach, or do a mock interview with a friend or family member.

2. If you're coming from a non-target school background, networking will be crucial for you. Check out the networking tips here on PrepLounge, and invest some time in this a month or so before you apply. Ideally, you want to get a referral for the firms you are applying to - this will strongly increase your chances of getting invited to interview.

3. Your research and work experience sound very impressive! You want to make sure they come through in your CV and cover letter, so I would also recommend spending some time workshopping those. Scheduling a CV review with a coach could be a helpful place to start.

Best of luck!

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Benjamin gave the best answer


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Content Creator
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer with ~5 years of interviewing experience
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