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the importance of academic background and prior experience for applying consulting positions

Anonymous A asked on Sep 05, 2018

I am preparing to apply for consulting roles, but I recognized most consulting firms are looking for candidates with excellent acadamic background and relative intership. However, I don't have both of them. I am an international student and about to finish my postgradate program in Henley Business School, University of Reading. Although I have developed my analytical and problem-solving skills through projects and dissertation, I have no experience in consulting. I worry that what I prepare is waste of time because there is low possibility to apply for a consulting role even it is entry-level. Is there anybody who knows the insights in consulting firms and suggest should I give a try or just give up?

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Benjamin replied on Sep 05, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework
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Hi,

depending on the firm you are targetting and the position you're applying for, the recruitment criteria applied for the initial screening can indeed be very high.

- MBB (+other TIER 2 strategy consulting firm such as ATK, Oiver Wyman, RB, Strategy&,etc.) look for the best academic background (especially in Europe). Some schools are at the limit of their scope and the chances of passing the screening increase if you have relevant experiences. If you have none of these, your last option to give it a try would be to know someone internally who trust your performance and will push you profile to the HR.

-Tier 2 /3 firms may be willing to have lower criteria, but will still remain selective.

In your situation, I would strongly recommand reaching out the firm you are targetting through someone working there, to double check if your profile is elligible.

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Benjamin

Thanks for your advice, it is really helpful! — Rita on Sep 06, 2018 (edited)

Elias
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updated his answer on Sep 06, 2018
Experienced strategy consultant, now running own consulting business
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So first of all: Just giving up is not an option.

But of course, the less you fit the formal criteria, the less you can take the formal way in.

So you have to find informal ways in. Reaching out to people at the firm through recruiting events etc. is definitely good advice.

What you then need to convey is why you - despite lacking the formal credentials - would be a valuable addition to the company's team:
- Is your dissertation on the cutting edge of some hot topic?
- Do you have mad math / data science / analytics skills?
- Does your family own half of the XYZ-industry in wherever you're from?

You get my point...

And, one comforting thought: Preparing for the relatively rigorous consulting recruiting process is NEVER a waste of time, even if you don't end up in consulting. Being able to structure and solve problems, work analytically and communicate your work and results well are skills that are invaluable in any interview and any job that lies beyond that interview.

(edited)