Consultants are not trying to scare or intimidate you, nor are they going to be closed-off or unfriendly (well, at least not at my firm!). Networking can initially be a bit nerve-wracking, but I'd like to share something with you that will make the process a little bit easier for you: don't constrain yourself to networking in situations where you're "expected" to! Read through for an example of how a student landed an interview a top IBank.
It's funny how little things can have an impact on your application. One of those little things is having ready access to your e-mail at all times. Click through to see just how this can affect your candidacy.
Very small. Find out why:
At McGill, our management faculty is large enough that a few scandals can go forgotten from one year to the next. Unfortunately, at schools like Queen's or Ivey, these stories stick around for a lot longer. Here's one from the shared memory about mass mailings.
1. Firms WILL look through the attending list to see who showed up and who didn't. If you didn't even bother to come for an hour and a half (and free food!) then are you genuinely interested in the firm?
2. If you can't make it for any reason, e-mail the school recruiter to let them know! It'll leave a positive impression as someone who is organized, professional, and interested in the firm.
3. As one consultant put it "It's much easier to stand out in a bad way than a good way at an information session". During one of the information sessions I attended last year, a student asked a consultant if their firm solved problems through a "chaotic approach".
Another showed up with a cast on his arm that had "Firecrotch" written on it in big black (or was it red?) letters. Be careful about the things that you say and do as the assumption is that you would present yourself to a client the same way you are presenting yourself to a firm at their information session,
There's a long section in the '6 Steps to Success' about the information session networking process, so register to check it out (if you haven't already), just wanted to add on a couple of new tips....
Part 3 is meant to give you a little bit more insight into how the information session process works. As a student, you eagerly scan the postings, rush to register for each firm that pops up, half-listen to the presentations, and then make the perfunctory small-talk with the consultants. It's a part of the game that everyone has to play, but you generally only focus on your side of things. The key is think about why the consulting firms are there to begin with. The answer is to find the 2 following types of students:
1. High potential students
These can fall in the following:
-Students who are articulate, easy to talk to, and fit the 'communication' characteristics bill nicely. ("I'd trust them in front of a client")
-Students who have solid work experience and come across positively in conversations....
In January 2010, I interviewed with BCG for an internship position. I was still in that awkward case preparation phase where you know what you're "supposed" to say but not where you're comfortable to say "screw the formulas" and just approach the case with your own methodology.
My first case was the definition of awkward case student trying to follow the right procedures. I distinctly remember asking the question "can you tell me a little bit more about the competitive landscape for our client?" (If you don't know why this is a bad question to ask, look at the bottom of this post) as well as "Are there any barriers to exit?" (Without really knowing what that meant). I eventually stumbled my way to a passable answer, but it was overall a weak performance. In my second case, I wiped my mind clean of Case in Point and just approached the case in a way that made sense to me, and that went a lot better.
I didn't make it to the final round, and unsurprisingly, the feedback I got was that my approach to the first case was too forced and 'pre-packaged'. Still, I was still intent on re-interviewing for a final-round interview, and I knew that for full-time I was going to have to fight for one of ~8 first-round interviews.
In July (as I was hitting the case books hard), I reached out to both of my internship interviewers to ask if we could have a quick chat about consulting and BCG. Two weeks passed and I didn't hear back from either - I sent a follow-up e-mail to my second interviewer, which I was comfortable doing because we had connected well during the interview. Still, another week passed with no response and I was getting anxious. Finally, a week later I heard back from one and then two days later, the other. We talked about the interview preparation process, my interest in consulting, and their work experiences. Before I sent in my applications for September, I sent e-mails to both to thank them once again for their time and to let them know that I had applied and was looking forward to hearing back from BCG.
I can't say for certain whether that made a difference in my application, but I later heard that I had been put on a list of 'students with potential', was invited to a dinner with a partner and a couple of consultants, and ultimately did get the first-round interview....
Part 1 is actually not related to consulting. When I was interviewing for full-time positions, I knew who the other serious students were: they were the ones at every. single. information session. Period. From consulting to banking to sales to everything in between - we were there because we wanted to make sure we made the right career choice.
One of those information sessions was for National Bank Financial, for a number of different positions. At one point, I considered Sales & Trading, and so I registered for the event. I was absolutely exhausted, had been to 3 info sessions already that day, and just wanted to go home. Rather than stick around and 'network' (which, let's face it, is not always the most exciting activity) at the end of the talk, I got up, grabbed my stuff, and walked to the elevators - I was not alone. On the way down, I thought about what I was doing (leaving an info session for a job I was potentially interested in), groaned to myself, and stayed in the elevator as everyone filed out.
I went right back up, and walked purposefully to the lady who had presented about Sales & Trading - as fortune would have it, she was free, and we got to chatting. After confessing that I knew little about S&T (but was eager to learn more), she invited me for a tour of the NBF Sales & Trading floor the following day. Great! I got her card, left the room, and reached out to her the next day by e-mail. I ended up going on the tour with her (after reading up about NBF and S&T, of course) and we had a great conversation about the profession. Despite having almost no finance background, I secured a first-round interview, and ended up making it to the final round. I ultimately realized S&T was not for me but it was an experience that I learned a lot from, and one that I would not have had if I had not forced myself to stick in there and go back in there. I absolutely would not have gotten an interview without that conversation.
So really, part 1 is about perseverance; networking is tiring, arduous, and can feel very contrived (because, well, it is). Ultimately, however, it is what differentiates students who get interviews from those who don't. If you're a student with a strong but not stellar CV, then a personal recommendation is the single most powerful influencer of whether you will get an interview.