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How networking might help you get into management consulting

If you’re preparing to apply to a top consulting firm like McKinsey, BCG or Bain, you might be wondering if networking could improve your chances of success. Here, we take a look at who you can network with as a candidate of a top consulting firm, what methods of networking are available, and what difference it might make to your application.

Who to network with as a management consulting candidate

If you want to get into management consulting, there are a few key figures who it might be helpful to network with before you apply to your firm of choice:

  • Recruiters of the firm (who may be dedicated to your university if you’re an undergraduate or MBA student)
  • Current or former consultants of the firm
  • Current or former Partners of the firm
  • Senior clients of the firm
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How to network

As a candidate, your opportunities to network with individuals associated with the firm are likely to be fairly limited. However, there are two clear opportunities for doing this:

Joining management consulting networking events and programs

McKinsey, BCG and Bain all host in-person and virtual networking events to help prospective candidates learn about life at the firm and build connections. Some of these events, such as McKinsey Open House in Europe and Asia, and Bain’s location-specific virtual coffee chats, are delivered by recruiters. Meanwhile, other events are hosted by the firms’ global affinity groups, which support diversity, equity and inclusion:

  • McKinsey runs events around the world for candidates who identify as women, are part of the LGBTQ+ community, speak a particular language or belong to a specific cultural community. These events include African Leaders on the Move, #explore in Europe and the edad program in the Middle East.
  • BCG hosts an annual BCG PROUD conference for candidates who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Bain’s Womxn at Bain affinity group runs regular ‘Women in Consulting’ events around the world.

For BCG’s prospective tech and IT candidates, BCG Platinion, the firm’s technology arm, hosts an international Hackathon, along with other similar events in locations around the world.

Whichever networking event you attend, it’s important to do so with a good attitude and the intention to have positive interactions with recruiters, consultants and other candidates alike. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about life at the firm and the recruitment process, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The impression you make at these events, particularly with recruiters, may be taken into account when your application is screened, so make sure it’s a good one!

When you come to prepare your application to the firm, remember to include the details of any networking events you attended in your cover letter and highlight what you learned from them.

Reaching out to people in your existing network

In your existing professional or personal network, you may know current or former consultants or Partners, or even clients, of the firm you wish to join. These may be people who you worked with during an internship, for example, or they might be former classmates or colleagues.

If you have a good relationship with these individuals, it’s a good idea to reach out to them before you submit your application to make them aware of your intention to apply to the firm. They may be able to provide you with valuable advice or insight, or even submit a recommendation on your behalf. They can do this by either emailing the recruiter in charge of screening your application or by following an established referral process. Recommendations from Partners or senior clients of the firm are likely to carry the most weight.

However, if you don’t have any connections in your network who are associated with the firm, don’t worry. The vast majority of candidates are invited to interview without a referral.

What difference will networking make to my management consulting application?

Ultimately, firms are looking for evidence of three qualities when they review a candidate’s application:

  • Can they solve problems?
  • Can they get things done?
  • Can they represent the firm?

Without including this evidence in your resume and cover letter, you’re unlikely to be invited to an interview. However, if your application demonstrates that you have these qualities, then networking can provide recruiters with additional insight into your presence and communication skills, commitment to consulting and overall potential.

Will networking improve my chances of receiving an offer?

While networking can supplement a strong application and can sometimes increase a candidate’s chance of being invited to an interview, it won’t influence the ultimate outcome of the application. In line with the meritocratic culture at McKinsey, BCG and Bain – in which hiring and promotions are based on performance – the decision to extend an offer to a candidate can only be made by interviewers, without any input from a third party.

In certain circumstances, networking can be helpful. However, the most important thing to do when you’re applying to join a top consulting firm is to prepare a standout resume and cover letter. The templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you do this.

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