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Time to shelve the frameworks and turn away from consulting? When even informal feedback requests lead to rejection

Anonymous A

Hi everyone,

First, I wish you all a happy new year 2018 to you, your friends and all your family members.

Second, this is going to be an usual post as you don't see a lot of rants here on the Consulting Q&A section of PrepLounge, but given what has happened to me, I'd like to share my thoughts on the matter (and blow off some steam) and ask those here on PrepLounge who have the luxury of working for these top firms whether the situation I'm about to describe is normal or not.

Fair warning: This is a long post. I apologize for the novel but I had to be as specific as possible.

I'd like to preface this by stating the following:

  • I have no sense of entitlement whatsoever and will never have. If I came off as entitled in this post, then I apologize, that was never my intention.
  • I recognize that top consulting firms have their own hiring standards, rules (reject-reapply for one) and process, as well as the fact that they are flooded with thousands of applications, ranging from the stellar to the unremarkable, and I like to believe that they do take time to sift through the pile with some semblance of scrutiny before inviting applicants to an interview.
  • I am also well aware of the feedback practice (and lack thereof) that is prevalent in consulting firms and in other companies in general.

As someone who applied twice thus far to the top 3 consulting firms only to be rejected both times (interviews with two MBBs and screening rejection from the other on the first time, screening rejection from all three after 2 years on the second time), I still held some hope that "third time's the charm" and began to seriously work on my flaws and shortcoming based on the feedback I've received from the two MBBs who invited to an interview 3 years ago, with an application window in 3 to 4 years time. As far as my profile goes:

  • Graduated from the flagship programs from two target schools with High Honors (one in engineering and the other in finance)
  • Internships in brand name companies and currently working for a specialized consulting firm (think Accenture, Capgemini Consulting, Simon-Kucher...)
  • Published in a major European financial journal and hefty extracurriculars all involving leadership

I reached out to a senior consultant in an MBB in North Africa and, after discussing his roles and responsibilities as well as the overall culture of the firm he's working for, he offered to forward my resume to get an informal HR feedback on its strength (since I told him I wasn't interested in applying to an MBB at present).

Fast forward a couple of days later, I received a three sentence email from their HR flatout stating:

" We've received your application from X. We cannot respond favorably to it. Your profile does not suit our needs."

So, not only has my feedback request turned into an application, but there is no such feedback in the email, if only a scathing "your profile does not suit our needs" line and nothing else.

This leads me to the following questions:

  • Is this normal? I get that some HR don't give feedback because they don't want to/don't have the time/can't be bothered/fear a potential backlash from the candidate. But something as scathing as this is rather frightening.
  • Should I contact my guy at that MBB and clarify the situation? Given what transpired, I don't think there's even the remotest chance of him picking up the phone and taking my call.
  • Should I reply to the HR person? I'm inclined not to, especially in my current state of mind.
  • Should I give up on consulting, whether at MBBs or elsewhere, period? I know the old argument "you don't need an MBB to have a successful career" and honestly, that's moot (since everyone is striving to snag a spot there, whether they admit it or not). But, if despite working hard and networking harder, there are no results (let alone feedback), then what's the point?

Thanks in advance.

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Anonymous B replied on 01/10/2018

Hello,

Allow me to be straight forward. Yes, what happened to you was unfortunate. Coming from top schools and had interviews with two MBB, but didn't qualify was NOT unfortunate. You were lucky enough to get invited for the interviews directly from the school, but you were not prepared enough. (The competition at this level is super high.)

I am coming from a NON TARGET school, so let me tell you what a real struggle may look like. I used to apply online and get rejected via automated email. Note - No firm gives feedback for rejection on this level.(this answers your first question). Done this over the course of 3 years. (9 applications for MBB + a couple of more for MBB events+ countless other applications to boutique that higher from the same schools as MBB)

Networking route, is not easy for non target schools too. Nobody is willing to refer, unless consultants have a high level confidence in me. and even then, I have to stand out amongst the top school with amazing candidates for MBB. For any office for entry level stage, the compeition is like 100 to 1 or so. (it could be more for NY, London office and can be lower for others)

  • Now should you contact the guy - Absolutely YES You have nothing to loose. If he doesn't picks up the phone, leave him a message.
  • Speaking to HR won't make much sense. Unless you manage to bring the conversation on phone. Mostly then they can tell you more on what happened.
  • Should you give up consulting or MBB dream - If you really want it, then no. Keep working hard, prepare yourself better and network more(attend events, speak to mangager/principal/partners) and you will be in MBB then.


And yes, I got my offer from MBB sometime back. - in terms of prep- I did over 250+ cases on prepe lounge and in person with actual conultants. + Tried every opportunity such as joined in facebook events, any other online event or city/intercity events for networking.



(edited)

Anonymous A replied on 01/10/2018

Hi Anon B,

Thanks for the straightforward answer and kudos to you for overcoming such hardships. I forgot to add that, on my first try, and as you have pointed out, I definitely was not prepared. I'd go even a step further: I was arrogant beyond belief back then. It took a massive metaphorical slap in the face two years ago to finally snap me out of it. So you won't see me shirk my responsibility on my first try (which was for a gap year internship).

Furthermore, after my first try, I did practice extensively (over 160 cases, on PrepLounge and in person) as well and will continue to do so in the future.

I always keep in mind Victor Cheng's quote about networking being "a probabilistic process" in the sense that very few people will indeed bother responding to your request because you're an unknown quantity to them/they're way too busy/they're flooded with similar requests or, in some cases, they think too highly of themselves. However, you're quite right in saying that perservance is key. It's just that, after reading about how some MBB do permanently blacklist some candidates for several applications and hearing counterarguments about it from current MBB employees, there's some apprehension about seeming too persistent or, the way some folks love to call it, desperate.

Thanks again, Anon B.

(edited)

Francesco replied on 01/23/2018
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for coaching sessions (1400+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous,

thanks for sharing your story; I have answered your questions below:

  1. Is this normal? No, it seems you got a rude HR. I would just go on and forget, maybe she was just in a rush (unprofessional, but it can happen)
  2. Should I contact my guy at that MBB and clarify the situation? Yes, that could be useful to try to get a second chance for a feedback. Maybe a potential future invite
  3. Should I reply to the HR person? Would wait first the reply of your contact
  4. Should I give up on consulting, whether at MBBs or elsewhere, period? If that’s your dream, don’t give up. Don’t leave temporary failure to block you. Many people find success in one of the final attempts (Edison story is a classic in this but there are a lot of others). You mentioned you still have one open window for at least another MBB. Go all-in for that. Better to go all-in and say “I gave 100%” then give up and think what could have happened if you would have tried once more. Also, you could try again for the other MBBs in different geographies if applicable, or second tiers for an intermediate step with them before reattempting MBB.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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