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Part Sixteen: Back to McKinsey, Bain & BCG

Max is an aspiring consultant who is looking to secure an analyst role with one of the top firms for the upcoming recruitment cycle in September 2011. His interest in management consulting was sparked by a failed McKinsey interview last year. In this series of blogs, he will be sharing his background, case preparation process, useful resources, and any breakthroughs or setbacks that he experiences.

***

Well that was an interesting recruiting season! From my last post you guys could probably tell that things were not going well, and I’m sorry to report that I got shut out – zero interviews. I’ve spent the last little while thinking about what happened, and how I should proceed. First, I want to talk about what I think happened.

I was always under the impression that my profile was reasonably strong since I was able to get a McKinsey interview through the online drop box with zero networking coming out of undergrad. This is the reason why I was very surprised I couldn’t buy an interview if my life depended on it this past Fall. Well before the last recruiting season started I did some networking. On average, I was able to speak with two consultants from every firm I wanted to apply to, and about half of them volunteered to take my application to HR.

Learning from my back-to-McKinsey process: “Given that my resume should’ve gotten more than a five second look from about half the firms, it must mean that they didn’t like what they saw”.

 

A few of these consultants were friends from college, and I am certain they put in at least some effort to get me the interview. Given that my resume should’ve gotten more than a five second look from about half the firms, it must mean that they didn’t like what they saw. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was so bad about my application, and came up with two possibilities. First, my profile just isn’t a good fit for consulting. Second, the fact that I’m applying from off-campus is hurting me. Personally I’m hoping that it’s the second possibility that is hurting me, and I know that it was indeed the case for at least one of the firms. I guess my profile was strong enough for a soon-to-be graduate, but not strong enough to compete with the experienced hires. If anyone has any thoughts on what they think happened please post in comments! Next, I would like to talk about what I plan to do next.

Learning from my back-to-McKinsey process: “The decision basically boiled down to what I wanted long term”.

To be honest, getting zero interviews was very discouraging. You do your best to not take it personally, but it’s hard not to since you are basically selling yourself through your application.

 

Michael was extremely helpful in taking time out of his busy day to chat with me, and to put things into perspective. After I got over the initial shock, I started thinking about what to do next – specifically if I still wanted to pursue management consulting. In order to network and prep for the cases, I had to reduce the effort I was putting in at my engineering consulting job. While I got a good annual review, I knew that I could’ve done much more to dazzle them had I not been spending most of my energy with consulting interview prep. The decision basically boiled down to what I wanted long term.

At my engineering consulting job, I’m making a little over 60K a year working 37.5 hours a week, and the company pays for overtime. I’m currently second or third in line to become a shareholder of the firm, and one of the directors recently told me that they pulled in between 400K to 600K a year – also working pretty much 37.5 hours a week. In looking at the money in conjunction with the work/life balance my current job seems to provide a fairly reasonable deal in the long term (it takes about 12 year to make director), but I still don’t know if it’s right for me.

I’m currently second or third in line to become a shareholder of the firm, and one of the directors recently told me that they pulled in between 400K to 600K a year – also working pretty much 37.5 hours a week.

 

While I haven’t done any management consulting work, I love doing the cases. Furthermore, I find reading about business very very interesting. What management consulting may not be able to provide in work/life balance, it may make up for in the caliber of work. As a result, I have decided to keep my options open. The three options I see myself with now are:

1) Pursue an MBA and apply to management consulting firms at the associate/consultant level

2) Apply again this September as an experienced hire.

3) Stick it out at my current engineering consulting job.

Luckily for me, I can keep all three of these options open for the time being. Over the last few weeks I’ve attended several MBA recruiting sessions, and have begun to build a relationship with the recruiting teams. I’ve also started to put significantly more effort into my day job, and have some great ideas on how to improve things at my engineering firm which I will be pushing in the coming months. Lastly, I am still reading lots of business material, and will soon be starting to read Minto’s Pyramid Principle to improve my communication. Taking on all of these things at once will require a lot of effort, but I guess I better start getting used to it in case I do make it into a top tier consulting firm.

I will keep everyone updated on my progress!

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