Hi everyone –

We are announcing three major changes at Firmsconsulting, effective immediately. We must apologize for the slightly legalize sounding tone of the update, but we felt it was important everyone understands the changes given their wide impact.

1 – School-Blind Assessments

Firmsconsulting will now be applying a school-blind format when assessing applicants for our highly successful case-coaching program. We are the first professional firm in the world to do so.

What does this mean for you? We will no longer know the identities of your high school, undergraduate and/or graduate schools when assessing your candidacy for our program. Candidates who apply to our programs should remove the school names, other identifying school features and use generic email addresses when applying.

A sample resume in this format has been be posted on the website. You may download and use sample as a template when applying to our program.

We will only request the name of the school after extending an offer to join our program.

Our private case coaching maintains a 72% success rate when placing candidates at BCG, Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. This rate rises to 93% when the top-10 firms like Deloitte, ATK, Strategy& etc., are included. Note: The infographic on our site reflects older data accurate until Feb. 2013.

We only report the 72% rate since we specialize in McKinsey, BCG, and to some degree, Bain.

This rate is over 40% higher than other programs and we achieve this high rate since we screen all candidates and only use the most prominent ex-McKinsey and BCG partners to mentor our candidates. This is our unique point of differentiation we will never change this approach to grooming clients.

Why have we made this change? Of our clients, Ivy League and equivalent graduates do not have a higher placement rate versus graduates of state universities. In fact, the top-5 alums of our program are all from state universities

  1. Irina – Ukraine Technical College, joined McKinsey – read Irina’s detailed story
  2. Sveta – Russian public university, joined McKinsey – listen to Sveta’s story
  3. Sanda – SE Asia unranked public university, joined BCG – listen to Sanda
  4. Peter – Arizona state university, joined McKinsey – read Peter’s story
  5. Alexei –State university part-time MBA program, joined BCG

We find that the foundational skills of the applicants, their commitment to learning and their values play a far more important role in determining whether or not they obtain McKinsey, BCG offers etc., versus the schools attended.

Considering that even HBS places no more than 7% of its graduates in McKinsey in even the most optimistic scenario, it is important you realize that attending an Ivy League school only increases your chances of getting an interview. It does not increase your chances of getting the final offer.

Moreover, our change comes back to the principle of demonstrated competency. If you can demonstrate your skills in the interview, it should not matter where you studied. You should be rewarded for your abilities and not a decision you made 2 to 4 years ago in selecting a school. In other words, you should not be repeatedly punished for selecting a weaker school, should you have outstanding reasoning skills.

  1. Ivy League applicants, and their equivalent, will have to work slightly harder to present resumes in the screening process that are able to show their strong grades, leadership and commitment, without the halo effect of the school name.
  2. State university candidates now need not worry about the impact of their school’s perceived prestige, or lack thereof, on our decision. They will be assessed purely on their ability in the screening call. This eliminates any anxiety they may have due to their background.

It further means that a good resume, grades and leadership will matter far more since that is the sole criteria to secure an interview, and hopefully a place in our program.

School-blind assessments will be a broad global theme in the future. Applicants should always be rewarded for their abilities and not their Alma maters. Rewarding applicants for the schools they attended is an outdated and discriminatory practice which we do not condone and should have changed earlier.

2 – Financial Aid

Financial aid changes: Applicants admitted to our program will qualify for a 100% waiver of fees for our coaching program should they meet 4 criteria:

  1. Must be enrolled at an accredited state university or private college in the USA, including Hawaii and Alaska.
  2. Their immediate family is earning a combined income of US$30,000 or less in 2014 dollars. Research shows this group, earning $30K/annum or less, has been most affected with tuition price hikes.
  3. They have grown up in impoverished and/or trying social circumstances such as low-income neighborhoods, single parent families etc., which has materially adversely impacted their progression.
  4. At least 50% of their annual tuition is not paid by scholarships.

The criteria are non-negotiable.

Please do not state your financial position when applying to our program. We conduct a needs-blind assessment and will only review your financial status upon an offer being extended to you.

This is the same as the Firmsconsulting Emerging Fellows program, of which Sveta and Sanda, above, are graduates. The difference is that only alums of Firmsconsulting could refer applicants to the Fellows program, and now we are opening this to everyone.

Every month, we will offer 1 such position and the position will be given to the first qualified applicant who passes the screening interview. Therefore, we will announce the new cycle each month so that applicants who qualify can apply at the same time.

To qualify for this program, we will require proof of financial status, including, but not limited to, certified tax returns and other financial supporting documents. Candidates may also be required to write motivational essays, join mentorship programs we recommend and provide other documentation to validate their social and/or financial status. Firmsconsulting reserves the  right, at our sole discretion, to withdraw this offer to an applicant should we believe the supporting documents do not meet our standards.

This program is currently open only to US and Canadian citizens.

3 – Minorities

Three years ago we made the difficult decision to admit no less than 50% of all clients as female. It was difficult because it meant a radical overhaul of our program to focus on soft-skills. Yet, the results have paid off. We had to invest more time and effort into coaching on communication, image, speech, dressing etc. Those investments have helped both male and female applicants. Today, the placement rates for males and females in our program are equal.

Going forward, we are making a similar shift to bring in no less than 50% of clients per an intake per month who are minority as defined by the US Statistics Bureau and Statistics Canada and/or LGBT. We will apply our best judgment when working with minorities from outside these two countries.

We encourage you to post your comments below as we implement these exciting changes. Our website will soon reflect these decisions, and we may make adjustments based on the comments received.

We are proud to roll out these changes.

Michael

Image from Brian Indrelunas under cc

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13 responses to Major Changes: School-blind Assessments, Financial Aid & Minorities

  1. Hi Dana,

    Yes, ideally white it out and send them through please.

    Michael

  2. Hi Michael,
    a question from a future applicant: taking into a consideration the school-blind assessment system, what is the process of submitting academic transcripts, do we need to “white out” the school name from them?
    Thanks,
    Daria

  3. Thanks Michael. The correlation vs causality thing does clear things up a lot. I really was under the impression that you actively preferred a referral (by 92%). I realize now that that was my mistake.

  4. Hi Jojo,

    Thanks for the email and question.

    92% referral means 92% of all clients who are eventually admitted to our program come from a referral. That means 8% did not know a prior Firmsconsulting client.

    However, of all applicants to the program (before being invited to an interview and/or being admitted) about 75% are readers of the site but do not come from referrals. So non-referred applicants are the majority.

    The important thing to note is that we do not aim to have such a high percentage of referrals in the program, it just happens. In other words, do not confuse correlation with causality. We look at all applications very carefully but those getting a referral tend to know what to expect, are well aware of the very high standards we have and therefore tend to be far better prepared.

    To standout, you need to make sure your resume is comprehensive. That is the single most important document we use when deciding to grant you an interview. We sometimes get applicants who send “form” letters to numerous sites, including our own, asking or help. We unfortunately, due to heavy time commitments, do not respond to them. We are not looking for much, just a good, clean and detailed resume in any format you choose.

    Our site also aggregates data from users such as comments, posts etc. So when you apply we can see how you have commented and this helps us develop a deeper profile of you.

    Hope that helps.

    Michael

  5. Hi Michael,

    I read your views on the referral system that Firmsconsulting employs and the overwhelming support is garners from your clients (for good reason, I’m sure). I just wanted to clarify a few things.

    Does 92% referral mean that only 8% of the people who get to have the initial screening conversation are non-referrals as well?

    If that is the case, I am wondering if there’s a danger of excluding otherwise qualified (by your definition) potential clients based on the fact they don’t happen to know current Firmsconsulting alumni.

    Continuing off that theme, is there anything we can do to stand out if we don’t know current alumni so as to have an opportunity to get to the screening process?

    Thanks!

  6. Thanks for your response Michael.

  7. Avataar,

    We would ask for your GMAT score since that is a metric we use. Though you are correct in that it is not our main criteria. It helps us more understand your profile and strenghts.

    We rely primarily on your performance in our screening interviews.

    Firms do not have a hard GMAT cut-off. We have had clients placing at McKinsey with scores of 630 and above.: https://www.firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/from-unemployed-to-the-big3/

    Michael

  8. Hi Michael
    The sample resume that you shared does not include the GMAT score. Am I correct in assuming that the GMAT score is not one your main selection criteria? I always thought that there is a minimum GMAT cut-off required to apply for your program and also for applying to consulting firms.

  9. Hi Mat,

    That is a good question but we see no major changes to the applications. If anything, the mix of whom we will accept will now change and we doubt this will have any impact on the application process itself.

    School-blind: We find it difficult to see why there would be a dip or increase. The only change is you now need to remove your school. Some candidates may choose not to apply where they think their school brand is their best chance of getting in. We believe that will not matter since the extremely high placement rates we have and the opportunity to work with former partners is appealing. Firmsconsulting is already quite selective and the applications we receive tend to be from a more circumspect group.

    We would expect everyone would support this change, except those who rely heavily on their school brands for credibility.

    Financial aid: We may see more applications here but not by much. There are very few students from very low-income backgrounds who are part of a network thinking about McKinsey and so on. We would hope it was not this way, but in the short to medium term this will not change.

    Minorities / LGBT: This segment is already the largest group of applicants for us. You need to remember that each minority client group is a small percent of the population, but taken together, this is a massive group. Minority is often misunderstood to mean percentage of the population, while we interpret it to be influence within the population. We see no reason to expect more applications since we already work with these clients. The change is really on our side since we are increasing the spaces reserved for these clients and changing our program to fit their unique needs.

    Finally, these changes only apply to the US and Canada, and we have already been doing this for some time. Clients outside these countries should see no difference, mainly because it is very difficult for us to determine who the minority would be in each country.

    In summary, the short term costs and efforts are mostly out own. We did not do this to increase revenue. It was the right thing to do for both social and economic reasons.

    Michael

  10. Michael, in addition to Zander’s question, I am interested if you have assessed the impact of these changes on number of applications, and if so, how.

  11. Thank you, that makes sense.

  12. Hello Zander,

    Yes, the school-blind assessment is basic logic. All our data on clients points to it so it was very easy to do.

    The minority policy decision was also very easy to make and supported by the data we had. The majority of our clients apply via referrals. The majority of our previous clients were not minorities and in a situation of like-selecting-like, we were making very little headway in bringing in more minorities.

    We had a similar problem with females at first. We targeted males and they tended to refer their friends who were also male. Incentives failed to change that.

    So this is the problem but it does not explain why we had to make changes at all. Why focus on finding and nurturing consulting partners who are minority and LGBT? Why go through all that trouble?

    Our decision is pure economics and it would be remis of me to not point this out. Every global indicator points out that LGBT and minorities will soon be economically strong groups and in the cases of minorities, as a total group, they will be the majority.

    In fact, for the first time ever, minorities will be the dominant group of school children in the US. It makes little sense to have consulting partners and industry leaders who do not understand these two significant economic forces in the future.

    It is the equivalent of having men design women’s lingerie because we think women cannot do it. Our decision merely says that if the minority and LGBT groups will be major economic and social groups in the future, we should have consulting partners who understand them.

    A consulting partner who understands the client of a client is a great advisor.

    This is driving our decision to focus on minorities and LGBT clients.

    In that famous video interview on our site, Kevin Coyne, former McKinsey Worldwide Strategy Practice Co-Leader, mentions that McKinsey will only enter a new country if a McKinsey partner and several consultants are citizens of that country and want to lead the effort.

    This tells you how important local context is to business decisions. For a very long time, we have defined local by national identities. That is changing very quickly. Context is now more important when applied at the level of social groups, or local consumer groups. In other words, citizenship does not make you local. It is your connection to a sub-segment of the population.

    If having locals is the critical success factor for McKinsey to help clients understand the needs of the market, then surely having consultants who understand the sub-segments of the population can only lead to better consulting.

    This is all about finding and nurturing great consultants who, in consumer driven economies, need to understand and relate to all consumers. Especially fast growing economic groups.

    Michael

  13. The school-blind assessment is bold, but logical.

    The minority admission policy is more interesting because it is less obvious, at least to me. Could you comment on the values that drove the change, or the long-term impact you want to see?

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