Seeking Advice: Breaking into Consulting in the Middle East from a Non-Target Background

MBB
New answer on Feb 29, 2024
5 Answers
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Anonymous asked on Feb 19, 2024

Dear mentors,

I am interested in pursuing an entry level consulting career in the Middle East upon completion of my MSc Management from the Russell Group University in the UK this year. I understand this is not a target school for top consulting firms. I have around 2-3 years of experience working in the IT sector in a government role.

Given this background, I wanted to get your advice on the best way for me to break into consulting in the Middle East region. Which countries should I target that may be more open to those without backgrounds from target schools? Are there certain firms or types of consulting (IT, management, etc) that I should focus my search on? What can I do to strengthen my profile and network to increase my chances?

I would greatly appreciate any insights you can provide on getting my foot in the door in the consulting industry in the Middle East. My long term goal is to work in the Gulf region on strategy projects, but I am open to starting in a junior role in any country to gain experience. Please let me know if there are specific skills or qualifications I should highlight or obtain before applying.

Thank you for your guidance!

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Best answer
Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 19, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) Which countries should I target that may be more open to those without backgrounds from target schools? 

I would recommend that you reverse-engineer where the alumni of your school managed to get a job in consulting firms in the Middle East, you should be able to do so with LinkedIn.

2) Are there certain firms or types of consulting (IT, management, etc) that I should focus my search on? 

I would suggest applying to all the major consulting firms interesting to you – I don’t see an advantage in excluding some of them.

3) What can I do to strengthen my profile and network to increase my chances?

If you would like to get an invitation from a top firm from a non-target you should work on 3 things. I have listed them below.

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1) CV

The key elements they will look for and that you can optimize are:

  • University brand
  • Major
  • GPA
  • Work experience
  • Experience abroad
  • Extracurriculars and volunteer experience

Red flags include:

  • Low GPA
  • Lack of any kind of work experience
  • Bad formatting / typos
  • 3-4 pages length
  • Lack of clear action --> results structure for the bullets of the experiences
  • Long paragraphs (3-4 lines) for the bullets of the experiences with irrelevant details
  • Long time gaps without any explanation

You can compensate for possible red flags with a referral (see point #3 below).

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2) COVER LETTER

You can structure a cover in 4 parts:

  1. Introduction, mentioning the position you are interested in and a specific element you find attractive for that company.
  2. Why you are qualified for the job, where you can report 3 skills/stories from your CV, ideally related to leadership, impact, drive and teamwork.
  3. Why you are interested in that particular firm, with additional 1-2 specific reasons.
  4. Final remarks, mentioning again your interest.

In part 2 you can write about experiences that show skills useful in consulting such as drive, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork and influencing others.

It is important that in part 3 you make your cover specific to a particular firm – the rule of thumb is, can you send the exact same cover to another consulting company if you change the name? If that’s the case, your cover is too generic.

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3) REFERRALS

To find a referral, you should follow three steps:

  1. Identify the people who can help you
  2. Write to them a customized email
  3. Have a call and indirectly ask for a referral

You can find more information on networking and referrals here:

▶ How to Get an MBB Invitation 

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BONUS: INTERVIEW PREPARATION

After you managed to get an invitation you need to find out how to pass the interview. You can find more on that at the link below.

▶ How to Prepare for an MBB Interview

Best,

Francesco

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 19, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

I know we (I) probably sound like a broken record, but you need to network. This isn't a “cheap” answer, it's just the truth!

There are dozens upon dozens of boutique / “no name” firms that would work great. For reference, a family member of mine worked at a 6 person firm Plum consulting before going in to be a “top dog”, and I worked at Appian in DC + Brisbane before going on to BCG.

There are SO many firms out there. But you need to just get out there. We don't know who recruits at Russell Group University - but your school does! We don't know exactly which firms would want IT / Gov background in ME…but so many of the people you network with will!

To increase your chances, look to sign up for pro bono / experiential learning programs.

Here's some reading to help:

How to Get a Consulting Internship - Tips and Tricks
 

Application Tracker – Keep Track With This Free Template

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 19, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there!

My undergrad was from a Russel group uni in the UK, so I know the struggle with screening. What helped me a lot later on was that I had a Masters from Oxbridge, and that strengthened my profile. 

There are many things to do and consider. 

1. If you're not from the ME and have no work experience, it's going to be rather difficult to get a job directly there. The core reason is that you're going to get screened out because there is no clear answer as to why they would be considering you and what is your connection to the region. 

2. To increase your chances for screening, you should have an amazing application package (CV, CL), get referrals (ideally for all of the firms and from people who are in your target office in ME), and apply broadly. With a strong application and referrals you're likely to pass screening with Tier 2 and 3. 

3. Networking is the key here from my point of view. Not only in terms of getting referrals but also in understanding what offices are accepting applications and how other non-ME nationals have managed to get a role there. 

Feel free to reach out with questions. Between a quarter and a third of my candidates are focusing on ME, so happy to provide direct answers to any follow-up Qs. 

Sharing with you here also several articles as deep dives to what I mentioned above. I hope you'll find them helpful:

Best,
Cristian

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Benjamin
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Feb 25, 2024
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer & top performer

Hi,

Thanks for asking this question and definitely an important one for many who are in similar situations as yourself. 

All top firms will have preference on where they hire their consultants from, hence the term ‘target’. Naturally, the lower tier the firm, the less ‘exclusive’ they typically tend to be, so you will have better chances at smaller/boutique firms.

In terms of strengthening your application and networking, there are tons of post on this on Preplounge and articles on this as well - many of them have great points so I won't repeat them here.

What I will ask you to do is to think about your timeline and mid-long term goals more deeply and detailed. The reason is because there are many paths to consulting. The MBA is a very tried and tested path because getting into a good MBA puts you in precisely that target school. But the path there may take several years and significant preparation on itself.

 

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Feb 29, 2024
30% off in April 2024 | Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

You have to:

1) network

2) make sure you get an indicator of excellence in your CV

3) gain some experience in the region, for example internships, possibly working for “lower ranked” consulting firms

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching
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