Hello everyone, I am very new to the preparation and obviously have miles to go. I only signed up to this site a few hours back and am still exploring. I have signed up for the Open House at BCG at my location and it is early morning this Friday. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with Open House? Would I actually get to meet current consultants? Might this be a good opportunity for networking? What sort of questions can I not ask? Are there a lot of people who show up to these events, or would I almost be one on one with someone? (I have a PhD and assorted experiene in my area, and am beginning to explore management consulting as a potential move).
Open House at BCG
thanks for your questions, I think you raised some interesting points on networking.
All in all, the questions you ask a consultant in a business environment pre interview should ideally respect the following:
- You are genuinely curious about the topic
- The question will help the consultant to remember you positively and provide a referral in the application process.
Given the previous points, I would suggest not to ask if there is a way for someone to know if consulting is not for him/her. If I were the interviewer, I would think you are not 100% sure about consulting, and that’s why you are asking. Although this may actually be the case, it may be better not to risk having the person that may refer you to think so, as it may decrease the chance for a referral. In short, this may not satisfy point 2 above.
I would also try not to ask questions that would put the topic of the discussion on “bad experiences”, such as to be scared to give the wrong suggestion to a client. While the question is interesting, this may bring the conversation on experiences unpleasant to remember; thus, I would rather ask this question to a friend you have in consulting or on the PrepLounge forum. In short, this may also not satisfy point 2 above.
Which are then the questions to you may ask that will satisfy point 2 and help you to be remembered positively? In general terms, the questions would have to respect the following:
- You should not find the answers on Google, as Guennael correctly pointed out,
- The questions should be related to personal experiences interesting for the consultant, ideally making him/her feeling important; this is the easiest way to have him/her to remember you positively.
- The questions should help you to understand better the core values of the company; this will help you to understand if that company is indeed a good fit for you.
Average question: Satisfies A
I know you covered a lot Oil and Gas projects, which areas will BCG focus on in the next years?
--> This helps you to cover a point interesting for you, but probably not extremely interesting for the interviewer, since you are talking about the company, and not about a personal experience of the consultant.
Good question: Satisfies A and B
What do you think is the most important thing that helped you to have the career you had at BCG?
--> This allows the consultant to talk about positive personal experiences interesting for them
Very good question: Satisfies A, B and C
What is the thing you are most proud of that you did while at BCG?
--> This will not only allow the consultant to express a positive personal experience, but also to know what are his or her values. Remember that if you spend enough time in that company, you will absorb those values and you have to understand if that would be fine for you.
On your other points:
- I would bring a tie in the internal pocket of the jacket, just in case. In this way, if you find everyone is wearing one, you will not appear too informal
- It’s ok if you do not have business cards; the goal of the evening for you should be to have a consultant you meet to like you and to be willing to refer you, and while business cards may be useful they are not strictly necessary. In particular, as you may know, there is a specific list of steps to follow to receive a referral when you talk with a consultant, and ideally you should not ask for the referral directly. The steps would include (i) breaking the ice in the right way (ii) creating a connection with the interviewer and (iii) closing with an indirect request for referral. Please let me know if you have further questions on the topic.
Hope this helps.
As for your question on how referrals work: assuming you do not have any current direct contacts in the firms you are interested in, I usually suggest following a three-step approach:
1. Identify who are the people who could more easily help you
2. Write them a customized cold email
3. Have a call with the consultant, and indirectly ask for a referral
Each of the previous steps should be structured in a proper way to maximize the chances of moving to the next step. I have used this method when I applied for consulting, and I believe this is the main reason why I got six invitations out of six applications in consulting firms (McK, Bain, BCG, Oliver Wyman, Roland Berger, Booz&Co - now Strategy&): I never only applied through the website, rather I always had a person referring me.
As for your question on how valuable networking is: as Chris mentioned, it’s a fundamental step in receiving an offer, often underestimated by candidates. It is indeed not useful to be well prepared for case interviews, if you do not end receiving a sufficient number of invitations to apply your knowledge. Networking should be therefore the first step to work on if you are interested in an offer in consulting; since not many people work on it, it’s also the one offering the highest returns out of your effort.
You would not need to either have the contact interviewing you, or having to take a coffee with the person in order for networking to be valuable (although the latter could be useful to strengthen the relationship); rather, your final goal should be to have the consultant to refer you to HR. As Chris mentioned, the higher is the consultant in the ranking, the higher are the chances the referral will work; on the other end, the higher is the consultant in the ranking, the lower is the expected response rate from your customized emails. You may want therefore to balance the two effects with middle-upper contacts (Project Leader/Principal at BCG, Engagement Manager/Associate Principal at McK), unless of course you directly know a partner or may have a strong connection with him/her.
If you are interested in knowing more about the three steps above, you can send me a private message and we can check if I could help you more with the process, according to the geographies you are interested in and your other target companies besides BCG.
1. Yes, definitely. Some people just cannot stand uncertainty for example - but if you can pass the interviews, we basically know you have what it takes. Often though, you don't really know if the job will be a fit or not until you give it a shot - and the corollary, the consulting firm doesn't know if you will be a fit or not until you give it a shot
2. That's part of the job, yes. More often though, I think we are frustrated that the project limitations won't allow us to really help the client as much as we could, for whatever reason: they may not have the appetite to implement your recommendations, they may not have the financial capacity, not the right people... that happened to me once in particular, where I knew I could help (because I had done that exact same thing pre-BCG) but also understood clearly that the client would never implement the right strategy. Yes, I found this extremely frustrating! It is part of life though, not specific to consulting
There will be members of the consulting staff (associates, consultants and on up the chain including partners), as well as members of the recruiting team. Yes, there will probably be a lot for people, so plan to arrive early and stay late, since these are the best times to meet the staff.
Be open about your questions, they are normal and expected. "Bad" questions are the ones you'd find an answer to with a simple Google search, such as "where is BCG based", "do you have an office in this town" or "how big is BCG", but also something like "do you work a lot". ok, you knew that. good questions can be about work/life balance if you have a family, industry specific question, something that makes them think....
Ultimately, expect to have a good time, so don't stress out. yes they will 'interview' you, but you'll judge them as well so you guys are even. Above all, make sure to network and leave a (good) lasting impression.
Does that help? let me know!
Networking is MORE important in this community that many others. You could be the best and most brilliant mind, but if you don't have an advocate, you may be sunk.
Also, when you network, you'll want to target upper-level folks as they carry more weight than lower-level associates. Good luck, Chris
Thanks Francesco! Your comment brings me to another tangential question: how do referrals work? How valuable is networking unless you end up seeing the same person in your interview or you become close enough with them to actually get to have coffee/ lunch. In my understanding the chances of the former were limited, and the latter seems difficult, given how many hours you guys spend at work!
So, how does referal really work? Is networking as important as it would be for any other field? Or is it particularly important to make for specific career transition?
I really appreciate an answer. Please let me know if you may have answered this elsewhere and I am happy to dig deeper into the archives. Thanks so much!
I worked at BCG until recently.
If you have further questions, just write me and we can have a call on it.
Thanks so much! Yes, I was not going to ask "I do not know what you do/ please coach on me" questions. Your advice is really very useful. Two question that I do feel like asking:
1. Everyone makes it sound like if you have brains and a few learned skills, you could probably be a consultant. Do you ever see a person and know that they should not be a consultant? (I have a PhD and I know when a person should not get themselves into a PhD program). Or is there a way someone might know that this is not for them?
2. Are you ever scared that your advise might be wrong for a client? I know you get paid to not be wrong. But does it ever bother you?
Perhaps I should create a seperate post for these questions! But other than that I was planning to not wear a tie because whenever I have seen someone from this office, they have not worn one. I do not have the time to get business cards at this last minute, so I would not worry about it any more. I have met some of their consultants at a campus event, and hope to run into some of them again for recall value. Any other tips would be very welcome. Thanks so much!
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