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How important are internal referrals for candidates from non-target schools?

Anonymous A asked on May 10, 2018 - 3 answers

In additiona to how important they are, I'm curious how many unique internal referrals are necessary to receive in order to ensure your resume gets considered by the recruiters/hiring teams?

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replied on May 11, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

referrals are always important, whether you are coming from a target school or not; however the more your CV is different from the “ideal standard”, the more it could be useful. This doesn’t mean you cannot get into consulting without a referral if you are coming from a non-target school – just that referrals make things easier.

In terms of the number, one single referral in general is enough. Ideally you want to target people in the middle of the internal hierarchy (project leaders/principals) in order to obtain a referral strong enough (entry level positions do not have much influence, partners are usually too busy unless you know one of them well).


replied on May 11, 2018
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There are two types of referrals related to schools:

  1. Unofficial referrals from your classmates - they are not counted as the official referral, but when the company is recruiting on campus, they take these referrals into account. In that case, you may have even many referrals.
  2. Official referrals through the system - these are not related to your school, and you need just one to pass the resume screening.

There are certain criteria for the referral:

  1. 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
  2. You skip some steps in the recruiting process (CV screening at McK, Test at Bain)
  3. The consultant gets referral bonus ($) if you get a job offer

As you can see simply mentioning a person in your CL does not change the process at all.

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.

Good luck!

replied on May 11, 2018
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In US, quite critical to pass the initial resume screening. Especially if no/little work experience.

Only one referral, if really want to have more, make sure they know of each other and they are coordinated.