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How to get referral without direct contacts?

New answer on Apr 30, 2020
5 Answers
1.6 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jan 30, 2020

Hi all, I have read many posts on this forum regarding referral topic, but would like to seek advice on my current struggling situation.

1.My alumni network working in consulting are all not in the office I am applying to, and I don't have direct contacts. Currently I'm doing cold mailing to people without connections, and the reply rate is pretty low. Even if they reply, I do not know how to ask for referral in an elegant way. What would be a good way to ask dor referral indirectly, given that this person does not have common networks with you?

2.Is it recommended to ask for mock interviews, even if no common connection exist? Would a consultant really be willing to help a person who has no connection with him?

3.Would referral from overseas office help? Currently I have a friend from MBB, who would be willing to help me to refer to another office (different country). How would this process work?

4.I have several years of work experience (not in consulting), so I will be applying experienced hire role. In this case, is it recommended to ask HR to provide contacts to talk with (such as asking contact of the principal in charge of an industry, or recruitment)? Also, should I also target higher level managers to get referral?

5.What would be some good questions to ask? Usually I ask about company culture, projects in the local office, and application tips, but the phone call usually become a Q&A session without being able to build a "personal bond" strong enough for me to ask for more help.

Thank you so much!


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Anonymous replied on Apr 30, 2020

Dear A,

Well, in general, there is no rule of thumb how to get them. If I were you, I've tried cold-mails to activate my network, search over LinkedIn those people, who might be heaving connections within my friends or in a broader circles. Or reach out to people directly.

Then have a very pleasant chat showing enthusiasm to the company and indirectly ask them to refer you. Then you will basically see, how the connection will go. If you would find really good person, they even might be willing to help you. But, first, you have to make rally great first impression.

Hope, it helps.


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replied on Jan 30, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


  1. Anyone can refer you from any office. No need to look for someone locally
  2. That's hard, I would not rely too much on that. Only via common friends
  3. Yes, pls do that!
  4. Yes, there will be partners responsible for experienced hires and partners in your industry
  5. Ask for advice. Everyone loves giving advice. Tell you background, talk about the industry, ask for next steps and tips


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Anonymous A on Jan 30, 2020

Thanks Vlad! Could you elaborate on the first point? How does this system work? How could they refer people to different office if they don't know the local management and HR?

Anonymous A on Jan 30, 2020

Also, for the fourth point, is it very common to ask HR to refer people to talk with? I kind of find it weird to ask HR to find people to talk to me... Thanks!

Vlad on Jan 31, 2020

Referral is done through the system. You can do it from anywhere. If you are an experienced hire and have a relevant industry expertise - it's pretty common

Content Creator
replied on Jan 31, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I replied below to your questions:

  1. You may ask to your current connections (although local connections are better) or review your current process with a coach, booking a session specifically on referrals (reply rate should be around 30% if you follow the right steps)
  2. I would avoid to ask
  3. At BCG overseas referrals work; for other companies I am not sure – usually all people I help with referrals manage to find it locally
  4. I would target Principal/Partner levels related to your target industry
  5. There is a specific script you can follow, please PM me for more info



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replied on Jan 30, 2020
Former interviewer at McKinsey with 3 years experience, available every day, English & French

Hey there,

Here you go:

1. I suggest you look for people in the office you target that have something in common with you, and send them an introduction email or LinkedIn invite.

Things in common can be:

  • School, MBA
  • Previous employer
  • Extracurricular activities (same sport, same passion?)

Then just send a brief intro note saying "I saw that you are... I'm personally involved in... I'm actually interested in joining... I'd be happy to have a short talk with you...".

I'd suggest to start making this search on LinkedIn and on the website of the firm tou're applying for (they usually have public profiles for their Partners and above).

2. You'll see directly with the feeling you have with the person after the chat if you can ask for a mock interview.

3. It really depends on offices, acquitances etc. Consultants are humans: with a bit of lucj your contact can be friend with the recruiting manager and hence it's easier.

4. Good thing to ask for consultants specifialized in your field, the connection will be easier to create. Aim for people who are the same age as you, not too young.

5. Avoid basic questions you can find answerw to on the website of the company. I'd rather ask about his/her personal experience, and what he/she is thinking of the sector you're both in. People love to talk about themsolves, consultants too. Bring them on topics where they talk about them or give their opinion.

Hope it helps, happy to clarify or further problem solve if needed!


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Anonymous replied on Apr 30, 2020

Hi there,

1) Asking referral from someone who doesn't know you is quite difficult, esp if that person is relatively senior. Because each time he/she refers someone, he/she is also putting own credibility in front of the HR/interviewer. Don't ask people to refer you if you have only one email or one phone conversation.

2) No likely. Consultant's work is heavy as you should know. For the very limited time they have outside of work, unlikely they would spend it on a person with no connection.

3) Overseas office can still work. The more senior your friend is, the better the odds.

4) Always go for senior person if you have that contact within reach

5) The questions sound right, so it might be the way you communicate. It is hard to tell why without know your communication styles. Plus, don't expect a referral after just one call. Relationship building takes effort and time.

Hope it helps,


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