PhD from non-target school

advanced degree BCG McKinsey and Bain PhDtoconsultancy PhDtoConsulting
New answer on Feb 12, 2022
5 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Feb 11, 2022

Hi all,

Firstly many thanks for this platform. I will be applying for workshop programs offered by MBBs to Advanced degree candidates this year. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy.  Since my school is relatively less well-known and non-target, I was wondering if anyone could give me advice on if there is anything I could do to increase my chances now and maybe later on when I apply for full time. I feel that given the large no. of applications from the likes of Stanford and MIT, my chances are on the lower side.

Thank You.


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Content Creator
replied on Feb 11, 2022
#1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate (tracked) | Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

Your best bet is to get a referral

It happens quite often that great candidates get screened out accidentally or just because there's not sufficient capacity to process all the applications (especially when firms invite batch applications with a set deadline and all of a sudden they are comparing your CV to 200 more and they know they're aiming on having only about X first round interviews). In fact, I had the same experience - I got an offer for McK but I actually got screened out by other (even less competitive) firms at the CV/Cover Letter stage. 

So, point is, you need to make your application stand out. Here are a few few tips on how to do that:

Reach out to your network on beyond on LinkedIn and other similar channels. Find people who work for your target firms. Ask nicely for a 15-20min call and ask smart, genuine questions that reveal your curiosity and desire to learn about the industry. If you have a good connection with them during the call ask for a referral and for further advice on how to maximize your chances during the application process.

Next, make sure you actually build your CV and Cover Letter the proper way. Feel free to reach out directly if you need any help. I know it can be quite a pain. 

Hope this helps!

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replied on Feb 11, 2022
Empathic coach, former McKinsey Engagement Manager |Secure offers from top consulting firms

It is great to hear, that you have found consulting for yourself. Besides the obvious of all the best practices on the site :), here some pointers:

- Connect with anyone in your alumni network currently at MBB and try to have a conversation

- Fully know that you will reach your goals, and that you can succeed, but widen your pool, so for example ensure in that case that you apply to all MBBs and ideally tier 2, too so that you have choices to make and are not reliant on one application - it takes a lot of pressure off interviewing, if you know you have multiple options and it does not have to absolutely work in one particular interview 

- besides the first point try to connect with the MBB firms, use any official events they offer, or meet them at careers fairs. If you don't find enough contacts in the alumni network, then network more broadly to find individuals who currently work there. It helps for example to be able to say in interviews that you have spoken to people who work there so you can make informed comments about firm culture, why you know you will like to work there

- perfect your personal fit part in the applications and then in interviewing, put a bit more effort into it than you otherwise would in particular work out why you would be a great fit, maybe there are points in your experience that you can easily point out that make you unique or interesting etc.

Best regards

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CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Feb 11, 2022
Former McK interviewer, PhD who successfully transitioned from Academia, received offers from McK/BCG/Bain/LEK

I think Charlotte mentioned a lot of great points.

As a PhD turned consultant, there is one thing I would add. Even though there is a growing number of Advanced Degree Candidates, many consultants with the traditional background, who might review your application and/or conduct your interviews, still have some doubts about how PhDs fit into consulting.

This means they will inquire about your motivation to switch career paths and you should be prepared to explain this (in a concise and well-structured way of course ;) It won't hurt to use this question to address some perceived weaknesses (such as having no business acumen, being too theoretical, getting too deep into details etc.) while emphasizing relevant experience (e.g., ability to learn quickly and independently, being comfortable with ambiguous data).

Good luck and feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions.

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Content Creator
replied on Feb 12, 2022
10+yrs recruiting & top BCG trainer & BCG Project leader & experienced hire & ICF coach

Hi there, 

Making sure you have a really good CV and cover letter (because even candidates having all requirements in 70% have really poor CV) with outstanding stories (not only related to work, but to study, extra CV activities) increases significantly your chances. 

In addition to other options:

1. Apply first for an internship, if you do well, your chances to get a full time job are very high

2. Choose offices with a very high need for staff, for example Dubai's MBB's offices have a great shortage of consultants

3. Apply to specialized role/competence center fitting your expertise  (e.g. expert, knowledge expert)

If you would like to chat on how to orient yourself, please feel free to reach out directly. 

Good luck,


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Content Creator
replied on Feb 12, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

In general the following things improve your odds to anything you apply to:

  1. Networking
  2. Optimal Resume
  3. Additional experience (extracurricular activities, internships, clubs, skills, etc.)

Good luck!

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