Strategy& consulting

This new article series shares advise our clients receive from consulting partners during the networking phase of the case interview process, as well as our feedback on how to make networking more effective. 

In the first article in this series we introduced Martin and his networking journey. Martin is an ex-McKinsey associate trying to rejoin the firm after almost 2 decades out of business school.

The names and some details have been modified for confidentiality reasons. In the articles to follow in this series we will continue to follow all of Martin’s networking efforts to get back into management consulting.

Below you will find a unique opportunity to see the actual advice and information Strategy& partners shared with Martin. Note that Martin’s networking efforts were very successful, he joined as a partner, so take this opportunity to learn and see what you can use to boost your networking results.

Networking calls with Strategy& partners part 1: Steve McClain

“Michael,

I just had a very pleasant phone call with Steve McClain, a partner from the Strategy&, New York office (he is a former McKinsey consultant and does ops work in defence). He was very open and forthcoming about the firm and the integration into PWC. I asked him one opening question and then listened as he walked me through:

  • Reasons Booz & Co. sold (lack of scale to compete with MBB)
  • Benefits and issues since being bought
  • Long term plans for increased integration within PWC
  • How PWC intends to maintain the global focus on the Strategy& practice
  • Reasons why being a partner within the PWC network is great
  • Cultural similarities and differences between PWC and Booz

Steve also volunteered information on work life balance and industry/functional expertise. As I ended the call, he asked me to send him my resume so he could forward it to the Strategy& partners that, as he said, “live at the intersection of consumer products and operations.”

I was pleasantly surprised by how open Steve was about the firm, the challenges they face, and how focused he was on partner level issues (building relationships with clients, internal governance with the PWC integration, etc.).

Steve tried to sell me pretty hard on Strategy& by highlighting all of the areas he thinks it is better than McKinsey (more “down-to-earth” partnership, “practical strategists”, better work-life balance, no capital calls when times are tough because of the deep pockets from the audit side, etc.).

I plan to send my resume to Steve along with the following note. Any feedback is much appreciated.

Steve,

Thank you for your time this afternoon. I enjoyed hearing your perspective on Strategy&. I especially appreciated your views on where the firm is going over the next several years. It sounds as if the integration with PWC is going well, both from a business perspective and a cultural one.   

As per your request, I am also sending along a copy of my resume. Thank you for your offer to forward it to partners at the intersection of consumer products and operations.  

I appreciated the call today and hope to talk with you again in the future. 

Regards,  

Martin”

Michael’s Feedback:

My view on this is pretty simple. When a hard sell is used, that is generally never a good sign in terms of attractiveness of the firm.

Once again we see partners willing to share fairly detailed information, which is a good sign for Martin. It likely indicates this partner likes Martin and wants him to join the firm.

networking strategy&One good thing about Martin is he always takes a very positive view in his verbal and written communication. He never discusses any of the negative points raised. This is a good idea since partners usually don’t want to have a discussion about the negative aspects of the firm, even if the partner brought it up himself/herself.

Notice how Martin does not sell himself? At no point does he create the impression that he must justify his entry into Strategy& at the partnership level. He writes as if it is expected he will join at this level and nothing needs to be discussed about it. He does not presume this via stating it explicitly, but it is implied.

Martin also does not ask for anything in the call. He never asks for a referral or to have his resume reviewed. That is seen as transactional and we do not like that as partners. This is a mistake 99% of applicants make. They desperately want something from the call and get really happy when the partner wants their resume.

At a senior level, when a partner wants to review your resume, that is usually not great because it implies he/she could not deduce the applicant’s worth from the call. Networking is a longer process and if you do it well, it will play out over several calls and eventually lead to an interview and offer. If someone wants your resume in the first call, it can mean they want to end the communication and pass you off to recruiting. That is never good by itself.

So, be careful about this. An offer to pass along your resume is good if the person making the referral wants to remain in contact with you. When I was approached by interesting candidates in the past, I did not just pass them along to recruiting. I followed up at every step of the process and checked in often with the applicant.

Networking calls with Strategy& partners part 2: Mahesh Bajaj

“Michael,

My call with Mahesh Bajaj seemed to go well. He offered to send my resume to the recruiting team with a recommendation that they interview me. He outlined the process and offered to speak with me again as I go through their interview process.

Mahesh was a good fit from industry and practice. He focuses on Supply Chain for CPG clients and is currently serving a beverage client. We had a nice conversation about some of the broader challenges the industry is facing and he asked me to comment on some of his thoughts on how to address those issues. Mahesh was very candid on the integration to PWC and outlined for me what they plan to do to more completely integrate the old Booz & Co. practice in with PWC in 2015 and 2016.

He was very client focused throughout the discussion and talked about shared values between PWC and the old Booz & Co. around serving clients’ interests for reasons behind the success of the merger integration.

I would like to send him a copy of my resume to begin the process with Strategy& and am thinking about sending the email below.

Mahesh,

Thank you for taking the time to discuss Strategy& and the work the Firm is doing in Consumer/Supply Chain today. I appreciated your candor in describing the integration with PWC over the past 9 months and outlining the additional plans to integrate the Strategy& business in 2015. I enjoyed speaking with you about how the Firm is working with consumer products companies on key supply chain issues, particularly your “winning with complexity” approach. You are clearly bringing a lot of value to your clients and helping them solve increasingly complex problems.

I appreciate your offer to forward my resume to the Strategy& recruiting team. I have attached my resume as per your request and I look forward to continuing the process of learning more about the Firm and seeing if there is a mutually beneficial fit. Thank you again for your time today and I hope to speak with you again soon. 

Regards,

This is a bit longer than emails I have been sending.  Let me know if it needs to be more of a cover letter, more to the point, etc.

Martin”

Michael’s Feedback:

Now this is different. This is a partner referral with a recommendation. Most consultants and partners will simply send along a resume to the recruiter without a recommendation. Most candidates forget this and are perplexed when it sometimes does not lead to an interview. Make sure you are only sending along your resume if the person wants to submit it with a recommendation.

Otherwise, it is just another resume being sent to a recruiter, and you should keep networking to find someone who genuinely likes you and cares about your application.

Moreover, gone are the days when a resume from a consultant guarantees an interview. This is no longer the case. That makes a referral from a partner even more important.

strategy& 3

Important: We use a lot of dating analogies for networking because the principle is the same. We have asked Martin to network with Strategy&, Deloitte S&O etc., partners to get back into the game so to speak. We want him to get comfortable speaking to partners at other firms and honing his skills, story and image before talking to his preferred firms. In this way, if the networking calls with Strategy& partners proceeds poorly, it would not matter. He simply loses out on an opportunity he did not really want in the first place.

However, if he jumped quickly into McKinsey networking, tried this and it went poorly, he would have no recourse.

And note that Martin is ex-McKinsey! Even with that background we need to craft a fairly careful path to get him to the partnership. This would be a lot tougher if he was not ex-McKinsey. This is important to keep in mind if you are from outside consulting and want to join as a partner or even principal. The path is narrow, with little room for error.

Thank you Martin for sharing this information and advice with the Firmsconsulting community. In future articles we will continue to follow Martin’s networking journey into the partnership.

SPREAD THE WORD! Like this? Please share it.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Have you fallen for the trap of too quickly agreeing to have your resume sent to a recruiter? What happened? Please share in the comments.

PODCASTS: It will be great if you visit our Case Interviews & Strategy Tools Podcast on iTunes to rate us and post comments on what more you would like to see. You may also enjoy our new iTunes podcast for Executive Program audience called Strategy Skills, which you can listen to if you want to take your skills to yet another level, beyond just being ready for case interviews.

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Image from Phil Dolby under cc, cropped, added text.
Image from Jan Fidler under cc, cropped

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Comments

8 responses to Networking with Strategy& Partners

  1. S

    Interesting

  2. Thank you for your swift answer, Michael.

  3. Hello Akol,

    Sure, you can reach out to him. But, why worry about this one partner when there are hundreds on Linkedin?

    You should agree to send it but mention you are making some adjustments, which gives you a polite way to delay until you are ready.

    Hope that helps.

    Michael

  4. Hi Michael,

    First of, thank you for the great work you are doing here! It really helped me a lot and will most definitely help me in the future.

    I am an undergraduate from a target school in Europe and have two questions regarding networking with partners, the first one rather relating to the first article of this series:

    About one year ago I received a business card from a MBB Senior Partner at an off-campus networking event after a pleasant talk with him. Because I didn’t feel accomplished enough I did not contact him since. Do you have any tips how to make ‘belated’ contact.

    Is it ok to refuse to hand over ones resume to a partner, if you have the feeling you are just ‘getting passe along’ to recruitment without a recommendation or can that do more harm than good?

    Many Thanks!

    Akol

  5. Glad it will help you Corwin!

    Michael

  6. MIchael,

    The tactic of networking with non-target Firm partners is so innovative. What a great practice to build confidence and my own skills before applying so that when I’m going for my target firm, I will be ready. Great article.

    Corwin

  7. Thanks for sharing this experience Anna.

    Hopefully you are still pursuing your goals, and this time networking directly with partners until you receive a formal recommendation.

    Please write in if you have any more questions about the process.

    Michael

  8. Hello Michael,

    Sound advice!

    Yes, unfortunately I did fall for this trap. Some time ago I networked with a consulting partner from a Tier 2 firm. He offered to refer me to the “recruitment team”. He did not say anything about a recommendation and now, after reading this article, I recognize he was referring me without a recommendation to just “pass me along”. I wish I knew this then.

    After that referral, I had a call with a quite rude recruitment consultant from HR and he, from the beginning, was circling around why I was not a good fit.

    Now, with hindsight, I realize how providing my resume to that partner who had little interest in my application hurt my chances with that, fortunately, non-target firm.

    If I could do this again, I would have networked with several partners until I came across a partner who would offer to recommend me, and only then would I give my resume to start the recruitment process.

    Hope others will avoid this trap. Thanks!

    Anna

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