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Is it realistic to get an MBB interview without referral?

connection Middle East networking Referral referrals USA
New answer on Apr 05, 2024
6 Answers
5.3 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Feb 21, 2019

Recently I read in forums such as Wall Street Oasis or Quora that it makes no sense to apply online for an entry level position at MBB in the US without referrals.
I became nervous because I have already applied for all MBB Middle East offices a few days ago online without any referral.

Is it really a waste of time to apply online without a referral (for US and Middle East offices)? Last year, for example, I got interviews with McK and BCG for German offices...

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Content Creator
replied on Apr 05, 2024
Ex-Roland Berger|Project Manager and Recruiter|7+ years of consulting experience in USA and Europe

Hi there,

A referral is just a door opener such that the recruiting team will look through your application more thoroughly. Depending on the seniority, tenure and advocacy of the person referring you, you have a better chance of getting a first round interview. The more senior (manager level and above) the person referring you is, the better. The longer the tenure of that person with the firm is, the better. 

The reason is that such voices carry more weight than referrals coming from super junior or brand new people. They typically know the HR folks better and have been involved in recruiting activities for a while so it is usually assumed that they have a good grasp of what types of candidates with which sets of qualifications the firm needs. But any referral is better than no referral.

Ideally, you get a referral from someone from the same office (or same country) you are applying to. But again, a referral from someone within the same firm but different country organization is still better than no referral.

A direct rejection after the CV screening stage can still happen - even with a referral. In that case the HR team usually provides some feedback to the person having given the referral. So you should follow up with them to better understand the rationale in case that happens. On the flipside, you can still get an interview invite when you just apply online without a referral - the probability is just lower on average, especially when your CV is not stellar.

And as always, factors such as economic conditions and headcount/budget planning of the individual firm also matter significantly in these decisions - but they are not within your control.


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replied on Feb 21, 2019
I am here to get you an offer! | Ex MBB interviewer Expert in MBB and Tier 2, Deep knowledge of EU & Middle East regions

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for reaching out.

One thing is certain: a strong referral increases your rates of getting a positive screening outcome and geeting an interviews.

However, this is not a must at all!

If you have a strong CV with achievements and a great profile, you will get interviews, no matter what office you are applying too. Do not get disturbed by the noise on social media. I got all 90% of my interviews with 0 referrals and it went just fine.
The process is very standardized and the HR and consultants screen the CV based on your profile.

That being said, if you do not come from "a target school", getting a referral is the best way to get interviews. That's just the way it works, not necessary, but strongly recommended.

Also, it's great to network with people from the office you are applying to in order to get a sense of the job they are doing and the atmosphere and values they have.
Best of luck in your applications, and do not hesitate to reach out by PM if you have any questions,

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Anonymous replied on May 13, 2020


Of course it's possible, but with referrals, you can maxi,ize your chances. Getting a “partner referral” normally brings you to the pole position for the interview. You may compare it to “skipping the line for business class” at the airport.

By referrals I've helped many candidates to get their positions. I would like to explain you the mechanics how referrals usually work:

My mentee sends me the documents (CV and cover letter) for a specific company.

I have a very wide network of friends, former colleagues and ex-mentees on high
positions in consulting (partners, principals and managers) across the world. I chat
with them individually praising your competences and skills. Afterwards, I ask them to
follow your documents on their behalf directly to their HR ladies while putting a word
for you.

Feel free to ask any further questions


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Anonymous A on May 13, 2020

Thanks. Can I PM you?

replied on Feb 21, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Yes and no:

  • For some offices, like New York, even having a referral does not secure you an interview. On the other hand - you can easily get an interview in the Mid West offices
  • It also depends on your resume. If it is great - it can pass without the referral. For some candidates with fewer achievements, a referral is the only way.


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Content Creator
replied on Feb 28, 2021
#1 MBB Coach(Placed 750+ in MBBs & 1250+ in Tier2)| The Only 360 coach(Ex-McKinsey + Certified Coach + Active recruiter)

Hi there,

A referral can be a great instrument that helps you secure an interview invite.

However, it is not a 100% guarantee that you eventually get an offer because some points and effort must be given from your side as well.

The question is: How much do you really want to get the job? Of course, it is better to provide yourself with a referral for the targeted firm. Otherwise, you can not even get invited.

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Anonymous replied on Jan 31, 2021

I don't agree with the articles you've read. Referrals are nice to have and can open doors, but they are by no means a requirement for getting interview invitations, not even an informal one.

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Dennis gave the best answer


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Content Creator
Ex-Roland Berger|Project Manager and Recruiter|7+ years of consulting experience in USA and Europe
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