How to get an Interview with an MBB from a Non-Target School

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MBB firms are the three largest consulting firms: Boston Consulting Group, Bain, and McKinsey. Getting into these firms is very difficult. The talent pool is extremely competitive, and the interview process is rather difficult. MBB firms primarily recruit from Ivy League Schools, and they enter the recruiting season knowing they are going to take a certain amount of students from each one of these schools. However, there are certain candidates from non-target institutions who weasel their way into an interview. I was one of these candidates. How did I do it?

Here’s my story.

Last summer I interned at ABM Industries. While interning at ABM, there were multiple consulting firms working on projects in my office. At one point, there were four different consulting teams from 3 different companies working in my office all at once. One of these companies was Boston Consulting Group. BCG was helping ABM with a massive transformation and restructuring project, and my job was to work on projects that they had set up. Based on the work I was completing, and a conversation I had with ABM’s CFO, I made the decision that I wanted to intern at BCG for the summer of 2019.

A little bit of background about me: I do not go to a school that MBB firms target. MBB firms focus almost ALL of their recuriting on Ivy League schools and other very competitive schools. Even though I was at a disadvantage in terms of these factors, I was determined to land an internship. The one thing I had going for me were connections. Several ABM employees had grown very close to BCG employees who had been working on the transformation project, and all I had to do was ask them to connect me with who they knew. Those connections helped me score a first round interview with BCG: a feat that a majority of students from non-target schools would kill for.

The process of getting invited to first-round interviews was long and tedious. First, the CFO of ABM referred me to the BCG partner who had worked on the ABM project. Second, my manager connected me with a BCG employee who she had worked with. Third, I was contacted by the BCG campus recruiter for the Washington D.C. office. Fourth, I had 3 phone calls and 2 mock interviews with employees from the D.C. office. Fifth, my professor connected me with a partner in the NYC office. Sixth, I connected with the campus recruiter from the NYC office. Seventh, I had 2 phone calls and 1 mock interview with employees from the NYC office. 100 phone calls and 1000 emails later, I was invited to first rounds.

The main takeaway here is that networking and relationships trump everything when you are applying to these firms — assuming you have the grades and the experience. For example, you need to be a competitive candidate on paper. This article assumes you have the resume and credentials that make you a competitive candidate. If you are from a non-target school, and you think submitting your resume through the general applicant portal is going to get you the first round, think again. I had several friends who applied for companies like BCG, Bain, and McKinsey through the general applicant portal, and none of them were invited to interview — even if they were ten times more qualified than I was. If you want to score an interview with one of these companies and you are from a non-target school, you need to know someone who can vouge for you and get your resume in front of the right people.

To further emphasize the importance of relationships, I’ll share an example of something multiple BCG employees asked me about. Throughout the recruiting process, BCG employees would ask something along the lines of “how did you get here?/who have you previously spoken with”? My answer, of course, was that the CFO of ABM had referred me! Their response always acknowledged the value of a client-referral. So, that being said, if you interned or worked with a company who had hired an MBB firm, ask your manager to connect you with someone from their team! BCG values their clients and they want to make them happy. Throughout the process, it was evident that BCG truly appreciated the fact that a client had referred me. If your serious about getting an interview with one of the MBB firms, a client-referral will 100% help.

I’ve placed a lot of emphasis on relationships, but this isn’t to say that your resume, GPA, or job experience is not relevant to these firms — in fact, they are critical. However, it takes networking and relationships to break the status of “non-target candidate” and increase your chances of an interview. Recruiters would much rather interview a candidate who was referred by their peers than one who had merely applied from the applicant portal.

So, that is my story, but here is a step by step breakdown of how to get an interview.

  • Network with people you know who had worked with an MBB in the past! This doesn’t necessarily mean they have had to work AT an MBB. They just have to know someone who works there. Odds are, they will be more than happy to help out. People generally want to help people.
  • Network with your MBB contact and ask them to connect you with the recruiter so you can ask them about internship opportunities.
  • Ask the recruiter to connect you with an employee at the firm to talk about what they are working on and the firm in general.
  • Ask the recruiter/ other employees if they’d be willing to conduct a mock interview/mock case question. At BCG, they had employees dedicated to conducting mock interviews, and I found it very helpful to talk to these people and practice the case questions.
  • Every time you connect with someone, send a thank you email. Thank them for their time and express how happy you are to possibly intern at the firm.

The bottom line is, you want to keep your name at the forefront of their mind. If you aren’t from a target school, you are not a part of their plan so, do anything you can to keep your name buzzing.

If you have any questions, let me know! I’d be happy to talk about how to prepare for a case interview or anything else relevant to this topic. My goal is to help students from non-target schools get interviews with MBB firms. Although my path to first-round interviews was nontraditional, it worked! Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love my blog. Check it out here. There, I share my thoughts on personal life, social life, and work life. Oh, and I have about 30 articles about getting internships/jobs. You may have to scroll down a little bit, or use the search, but it’s there and it has helped A LOT of students get their dream jobs. It think it’ll help you too, so check it out.

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