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How to network to get consulting interviews

In today’s video we will focus on how to network to help you get consulting interviews and increase your chances to get an offer.

So the real question here is how do you network to get a result you want.

And the first thing to realize is when we talk about networking to get into consulting we are not talking about networking with a standard definition. For a lot of people networking is a hard sales process. They go into a meeting with a list of things they want and they try to sell person on that.

Especially in the West networking is a sales process. And yes networking to get into consulting is still a sales process but you should not hard sell. It’s a process where you get the result you want but you do it in a much more professional, cleaner way, as opposed to forcing people to help you and trying to explain why you are valuable. Because this makes you look pretty desperate. And desperation does not work in consulting, or with any elite firms. It just does not help you create the right image.

And, in fact, you can argue that in any field if you try a hard sell you usually put off the person. Or think about it this way. When you see an advert on television. If it is a hard sell you probably wouldn’t like it. It needs to be something clever that draws you.

So lets talk about some of the principles of networking to get into consulting.

The 1st one is network with the most senior decision makers. One of the rules we have at Firmsconsulting is we teach clients not to network with recruiters and junior people because they don’t have the authority to bring you into the firm. And especially avoid networking with recruiters and junior people if you have an unusual background. They are trained to only vet you if you meet certain criteria. And if you truly unusual and you just don’t match the formula, only very senior person will have the experience to see your value beyond just your ability to qualify for an interview based on the formula and have the authority to change the recruitment process and invite you for an interview despite the fact that you did not qualify based on the formula.

So always network with the most senior people. And we don’t have time here to go into details but we teach candidates exactly how to do that even if you currently do not know any senior people in The Consulting Offer and through other resources we have on the website.

And there is another reason you should not network with junior people. If you have a very weak background, like I did when I started off, junior people still tend to be quite worried about their image and they feel if they recommend someone with a weak background they will look bad. Senior people usually have so many accomplishments they are not really worried if they seem motivating for you.

The second principle is to never look desperate. Every time you try a hard sell, every time you try to tell the firm how much you want to work there you look desperate. This desperation originates from the fact that we tend to think if we try to show extreme interest we think someone will hire us.

But the reality is no one is going to hire you unless you add value. Its very simple logic. People who are good have options. The reason that you are desperate means you don’t have options and must be not that good in the first place. So when you are desperate you automatically short sell yourself. And firms don’t hire you because you want to work there. They hire you because you can add value.

Think about it like you think about dating. You don’t go for a first date and say,
“Marry me! Please, please marry me! Please, I will learn how to cook. I can make special cookies.” You don’t do this. You can’t do this because you lose all leverage. Whenever you are desperate you can never ever show it.

When people are desperate they like to say I really want to work here. I really like the firm. Putting really into a sentence does not show your competence. You have to demonstrate the value you have. And if you appear to have a lot of options, your perceived value in the eyes of the senior person you network with increases.

The 3rd principle is be sincere and be respectful. When you go into a call with someone and it looks rehearsed, it looks preplanned, it looks like you did not prepared for a session and asking questions that you could have easily answered with 15 minutes of googling, all these behaviors make you appear disrespectful and insincere. And I would also say being respectful is very rare. People go in with hidden agendas. They sometimes sarcastic or condescending.

Even when I was in consulting someone would ask me a question during networking call – why should I work at your firm. And that is disrespectful. If I take time out of my extremely busy day to help someone who wants to join the firm, I expect certain level of respect and sincerity in return. You can’t network with someone by asking them to prove themselves. Its never going to work.

The 4th principle to keep in mind is networking is not a transaction. It is the biggest mistake we see candidates make. They send their resume to someone and get upset if the person does not forward their resume. Networking is about building long term relationship much earlier than you think you need it. If you want a job in one month and you are networking now, its going to be transactional because you are under time crunch. Networking is something you plan before you need it. And that is the best way to do it because then you have time to build relationship that are more sincere.

The 5th principle is its ok to not know what you want from networking, provided you are sincere about what you do want. For example don’t feel that you can only network with people who work for the company you want to join. Its ok to say, look I am very interested in banking and consulting. “I don’t know much about McKinsey yet besides what I read but from everything I have read it sounds like a place that teaches future leaders. So I am going to be applying in probably 6 months and I would like to learn more.”

The 6th principle is build on senior person’s points. When most people go into networking they preplan their questions. Yet when you just going through the list of preplanned questions it means it does not matter what the senior person you are networking with is saying you are going to ignore them to ask your questions. A better strategy is to think about how you going to start the discussion and then practice building on the points people are making rather than introducing something completely unrelated. In fact if you have to default to the list of questions you prepared the networking call is pretty much failed.

The 7th important networking principle is if call is going bad its ok to end it quickly. A lot of people when the call is going bad they just try to keep the call going. If the call is going bad sometimes you can save yourself by saying, “You know what it sounds like you are very busy and I know how difficult it is to make time. So many people want to speak with you. If you prefer I am very happy to call you back in about 2 weeks”. At least that way you are not creating a very bad memory in the mind of the interviewer.

The 8th principle is you have to be very politically correct. Some people say very negative things about other cultures or groups, and they often don’t even realize they are saying something that may be offensive. For example, people could say things like “I am having a blond moment” or make a comment about some country. You cannot do things like that. For all you know the senior person you talking to is married to a blond lady from that country. Moreover when senior person is talking to you they are evaluating how you will look in front of the clients. So you have to be very careful about saying anything that can be misinterpreted as being negative or offensive.

And the last principle is never ask senior people to check your resume. This person understands how their firm’s recruiting works. They understand where the opportunities lie. They understand the needs of the company. They know where hiring is taking place. They can put you in touch with other senior people. When you are asking them to check your resume you are basically treating them like they are glorified recruiter. Not only is that a waste of their time, its disrespectful.

Thank you for joining us. If you enjoyed this conversation, I will be so appreciative if you go over to iTunes and share a quick review. It helps more people find us. Also if you don’t want to miss out on future episodes and other training, make sure you sign up for our email updates on Firmsconsulting.com.

I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, go take action. Figure out your networking strategy. Use the principles we discussed today to give yourself a leg up.

The 6th principle is don’t listen to what everyone says. For example, people may say the New York office is very difficult to get in. but that is on average. Every profile is unique. If you find someone who went to the same school as you in the New York office network with them even if everyone tells you to avoid the New York office. The point is you cannot just listen to averages. You have to do what works for you.

Now lets say the call is going well and you see the person wants to help you. When networking starts shifting into becoming mentoring. When the person likes you and they start offering you advice, when they offer you advice your job is not to explain why its can’t be done. And its not that person’s job explain to you how it should be done. If they tell you that this is the solution your job is figure out how it can be done. Because if you keep on raizing roadblocks eventually they will say you know what this person is not taking advice. Its probably not going to work out.

The other one is when you are networking the person is not there to motivate you. Some people when they are calling for networking they ask questions like why should I consider consulting over banking. When you are networking with someone it is not their job to help you be motivated about something. It is assumed that you are motivated that is why you are calling. So for me it’s a very quick sign that someone is not interested and I end the conversation.

Now keeping this networking principles in mind, how should you network. 1st one is you must have a resume. For most of you your resume needs to be re-written substantially. If you look at the way we write resumes for our clients, its not uncommon for us to constantly re-write it. If a word is ambigious, it has one meaning to you and one meaning to someone else, you have got to remove it. Don’t use jargon.

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