Former MBB Consultant / MBB campus recruiter - Ask me anything! Watch

rob1060
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All,

It's that time of year again, where everyone is applying for full-time roles, internships and related entry points into one of the hardest graduate industries to get into: Management / strategy consulting.

I am a former MBB consultant (7 years) in their London office and latterly one of the leaders of campus recruiting at the same firm. I currently sit on the same firm’s talent assessment committee.

Ask me anything you want about the industry in general, reputation of different firms, application process, what we look for, university reputations, interviews, what life is like as a consultant, myths vs facts, etc. etc.

Please note that I also now review CV’s, please DM me for the further details.

Look forward to hearing from you!
Rob
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lewiskh97
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Hi Rob,

I didn't have much luck with FT roles this cycle, despite being a postgrad candidate at a target - I presume this was down to my work experience/internships.

I may have the opportunity to intern at a small strategy consultancy (particularly strong in other countries but new UK office) over summer. But I'm doubting whether this experience would get me through screening vs a F500 finance/FP&A internship. What sort of work experience would you say is most desired amongst MBB/t2, or most common for applicants who are invited for first rounds?
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production123
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Thanks for doing this Rob.

I had a few questions that I hope you could try and answer:

1) What do consulting firms look for in a case interview? What is considered a “great” case performance?

2) What are the UK rankings of the different consulting firms – both boutique and the larger ones? (I see a lot of information online regarding US firms, but less so for the UK market)

3) How many people apply for your consulting firm every year? How many would get a first, second and third round interviews etc.?

4) Any other general advice for breaking into consulting, specifically MBB?
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rob1060
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(Original post by lewiskh97)
Hi Rob,

I didn't have much luck with FT roles this cycle, despite being a postgrad candidate at a target - I presume this was down to my work experience/internships.

I may have the opportunity to intern at a small strategy consultancy (particularly strong in other countries but new UK office) over summer. But I'm doubting whether this experience would get me through screening vs a F500 finance/FP&A internship. What sort of work experience would you say is most desired amongst MBB/t2, or most common for applicants who are invited for first rounds?
Great question. We generally look for people who have demonstrated their interest in a consulting role. Working at a small strategy consulting firm, even if in a new office but established elsewhere, will provide you with the consulting "toolkit" and exposure to casework. We like that and it will give you a leg-up when going through case interviews. An F500 internship is also not bad but the question will then be around why consulting and not finance / corporate finance?

Candidate per place ratios (even after excluding non-targets) is severe this year.. higher than previous years. Don't get disheartened if you don't make it through - keep trying.
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rob1060
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(Original post by production123)
Thanks for doing this Rob.

I had a few questions that I hope you could try and answer:

1) What do consulting firms look for in a case interview? What is considered a “great” case performance?

2) What are the UK rankings of the different consulting firms – both boutique and the larger ones? (I see a lot of information online regarding US firms, but less so for the UK market)

3) How many people apply for your consulting firm every year? How many would get a first, second and third round interviews etc.?

4) Any other general advice for breaking into consulting, specifically MBB?
1. Intellectual curiosity and nimbleness. Ability to think logically about a problem, dissect it and generate multiple, testable solutions. Ability to engage with the interviewer and creating rapport. Great case performance is someone who comes across as naturally being able to see value-drivers in a business case, what the key levers / variables are, without appearing robotic. The rapport thing is important, as in the role you would be dealing directly with clients, and building relationships with them (and your case team) is key, even at a junior level.

2. There isn't a UK ranking as such, but in terms of general name recognition / prestige / whatever you want to call it, it generally goes as follows:

Premier: MBB
Tier 1: Deloitte, Strategy&, OC&C, OW, ATK, EY-Parthenon
Tier 2: LEK, KPMG, Roland Berger, Accenture
Tier 3: CIL and the smaller boutique firms (mainly because they are transaction-focused, i.e. focused on due diligence work for the private equity houses and not so much on pure strategy work)

3. Can only give you the first order stats for the London office: 8k plus applied (includes students studying in the UK + around the world who had London has their first preference), with an offer rate of less than 1%

4. Demonstrate the skills required + an interest in consulting. For example, one of the Partners at my firm started out consulting for free to start-ups back in 2001, it was a hard slog but he gained the skills he needed, demonstrated to the interviewing group that he had the real passion and interest in the industry, and absolutely aced the case interviews!
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production123
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Thanks Rob, really insightful stuff.
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username4148304
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Really appreciate this Rob, got a couple of qns for you:

1. Define a strong UG CV to a strat consulting firm?

2. When judging a CV is it done on a points-based system?

3. Which universities are targets in the eyes of a consulting firm? Is the myth of Oxbridge behind heavily favoured (~80% of successful apps) true?

4. Consulting is super academic so ofc grades are important. Would someone failing a module or getting a 2.1 significantly harm their application? Also in terms of A-Level, are they treated like a box you tick where if the candidate achieves a minimum benchmark their app gets processed?

5. Are referrals something that actually happens at consulting firms? In terms of fast track to 1st rounds or whatever.

6. If someone struggled to get a consulting stint, what would you say is the next best thing to do in terms of experience to make a stronger application next year?

7. Interviews are usually in the format of competency/motivational and case study right? Is commercial awareness an important part of the process eg following the markets and etc?

8. Advice in terms of prepping for case studies?

9. As a consultant, you obviously experience projects within an array of different sectors but I assume that the structure/crux of these projects is essentially the same. Could you define that for me? I assume its: understanding the problem => trying to brainstorm (with external help) the different sources of that problem => going through each potential source, performing analysis (ie workshops, going through data and etc) and finding out which one is true => then forming your recommendation => pitch back to client.
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rob1060
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(Original post by lowwkey)
Really appreciate this Rob, got a couple of qns for you:

1. Define a strong UG CV to a strat consulting firm?

2. When judging a CV is it done on a points-based system?

3. Which universities are targets in the eyes of a consulting firm? Is the myth of Oxbridge behind heavily favoured (~80% of successful apps) true?

4. Consulting is super academic so ofc grades are important. Would someone failing a module or getting a 2.1 significantly harm their application? Also in terms of A-Level, are they treated like a box you tick where if the candidate achieves a minimum benchmark their app gets processed?

5. Are referrals something that actually happens at consulting firms? In terms of fast track to 1st rounds or whatever.

6. If someone struggled to get a consulting stint, what would you say is the next best thing to do in terms of experience to make a stronger application next year?

7. Interviews are usually in the format of competency/motivational and case study right? Is commercial awareness an important part of the process eg following the markets and etc?

8. Advice in terms of prepping for case studies?

9. As a consultant, you obviously experience projects within an array of different sectors but I assume that the structure/crux of these projects is essentially the same. Could you define that for me? I assume its: understanding the problem => trying to brainstorm (with external help) the different sources of that problem => going through each potential source, performing analysis (ie workshops, going through data and etc) and finding out which one is true => then forming your recommendation => pitch back to client.
1. Strong degree of success across academics and extra-curricular. If you have internships, great, but we do know that it's exceptionally tough to secure one in today's market. Insight days, etc., also go some way to demonstrating an interest in the Strat consulting industry

2. Yes

3. Oxbridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL are core. On the periphery lies Warwick and other higher-tier provincial universities. Unfortunately there is a strong Oxbridge component, in our last intake they numbered approx. 90% of the intake

4. No, but candidly speaking, most of the successful candidates tend to have Firsts. We don't worry too much if you have failed a module, but your application has to be balanced elsewhere (i.e. through exceptional extra-curriculars). Yes, A-levels are a box-tick for us.. if you hit the minimum benchmark (typically A*AA) then we move on to reviewing your CV / application in more detail

5. Yes, very much so. If someone at the firm refers you, then almost certainly you will be given a first round interview

6. Do it for free with start-ups or growth businesses (there are a tonne out there who would bite your hand off). Get the toolkit and demonstrate that you really want to do this kind of work. Or try and secure work-ex in a strategy function at a larger corporate (but that's hard)

7. Yes, fit + case. We don't worry too much about commercial awareness (i.e. if you know what the UK interest rate is).

8. Revise for them like they are an exam but stay flexible (IMPORTANT!). Most undergrads I interview completely freeze-up when the case doesn't follow some pre-set route that they have practised beforehand. Sadly, they don't make it through, whereas the ones who give slightly less in performance but are able to think on their feet quickly tend to get through

9. Yes broadly, we are a hypothesis-driven industry, so we always try and have a 30-second, testable answer before undertaking a case. We always look to dissect problems into their raw components, and then examine those raw components individually. Every case is different.
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Doones
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(Original post by rob1060)
3. Oxbridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL are core. On the periphery lies Warwick and other higher-tier provincial universities. Unfortunately there is a strong Oxbridge component, in our last intake they numbered approx. 90% of the intake
And what % of the applications? Do you filter by university? Are there any plans to use blind recruitment as per EY, CC etc?

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lewiskh97
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Thanks Rob, this is very useful. I'm surprised that the benchmarks for A Levels are so high! Are applicants lower than this benchmark ever pursued if they have strong extra curricular/work experience/masters?
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reasonableman
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I have two questions:

1. The applicant : position ratio seems to just keep trending up - any idea what drives that, will it ever end?

2. How effective is the recruitment process? One possibility is that more applicants means more choice for the firms, meaning better outcomes (perhaps measured by tenure?). However, given the extremely high numbers, another possibility is that that the high number of applicants means more 'noise' making successful recruiting harder.
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rob1060
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
And what % of the applications? Do you filter by university? Are there any plans to use blind recruitment as per EY, CC etc?

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In terms of total applications, maybe 40-50%? In terms of round 1 interview invites, that jumps to 80-85%. Remember that a lot of applicants from around the world want to work in the London office, so you are looking at Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, etc., in that mix.

We don't filter by university and there are no plans to use blind recruitment.
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rob1060
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(Original post by lewiskh97)
Thanks Rob, this is very useful. I'm surprised that the benchmarks for A Levels are so high! Are applicants lower than this benchmark ever pursued if they have strong extra curricular/work experience/masters?
I know, but the applicant rate is trending higher and higher and we have to employ increasingly stringent measures to control the applicant pool. Also, the work is becoming increasingly analytical and complex, and we've found that academic performance is a great indicator of success in these roles.

Yes, we do look at lower grades (i.e. AAA) if there is something quite extraordinary in extra-curricular or work-ex. Masters won't offset, unless it's from a global top-tier school at a First Class / Distinction level.
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rob1060
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(Original post by reasonableman)
I have two questions:

1. The applicant : position ratio seems to just keep trending up - any idea what drives that, will it ever end?

2. How effective is the recruitment process? One possibility is that more applicants means more choice for the firms, meaning better outcomes (perhaps measured by tenure?). However, given the extremely high numbers, another possibility is that that the high number of applicants means more 'noise' making successful recruiting harder.
1. From our research, the general attractiveness and prestige (especially at the larger firms) of starting out your career in a strategy consulting role, the exit options that it offers, especially in the tech / hot startup world, as well as corporates and financial institutions. Also, more people from global locations are applying to London offices

2. Pretty effective - our algorithms are pretty smart and tend to remove the "noise" as you put it. Interviewers know, that the candidate sitting in from of them, has already been through several screens (both computer and human) before landing in that position
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reasonableman
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(Original post by rob1060)
Also, more people from global locations are applying to London offices
Thanks for the response, interesting insights.

Is a down tick due to Brexit expected?
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Doones
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(Original post by rob1060)
Yes, we do look at lower grades (i.e. AAA) if there is something quite extraordinary in extra-curricular or work-ex. Masters won't offset, unless it's from a global top-tier school at a First Class / Distinction level.
So would a First in an analytical subject (e.g. Maths) offset. Or would a Masters still be a good idea... if so, in what? Something financial, or management, or something else?


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rob1060
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(Original post by reasonableman)
Thanks for the response, interesting insights.

Is a down tick due to Brexit expected?
Nope, any slight downtrend in EU-based applications for the London office will be more than offset by applications from students in the US, China, Australia, etc.
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rob1060
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(Original post by Doonesbury)
So would a First in an analytical subject (e.g. Maths) offset. Or would a Masters still be a good idea... if so, in what? Something financial, or management, or something else?


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A "high" first maybe, but all depends on where from, as a First from some institutions, even in the Russell Group, translates to a 2.1 or 2.2 from the global top-tier. Masters only works if there is a logical story behind it, and again, from a reputed school. Doing a masters in history of art and then applying for a consulting role won't wash, regardless of where it's from.
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reasonableman
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Actually one area I haven't been able to find much information on, how are APD candidates differentiated? PhDs do not have a grade and, depending on the topic/group, the outputs (papers/conferences) can vary hugely; seems like a very difficult problem.
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rob1060
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(Original post by reasonableman)
Actually one area I haven't been able to find much information on, how are APD candidates differentiated? PhDs do not have a grade and, depending on the topic/group, the outputs (papers/conferences) can vary hugely; seems like a very difficult problem.
Great question - PhD candidates and others from the academia world are very interesting for us. We look at each candidate on his / her merit, what they did their degree in / topics of interest, etc. We don't differentiate them like we do with undergrad and typical postgrads..

Again, it all comes down to the quality of academic institution, how their research was graded / perceived by professors (yes, we do call them and ask). Once in interview, the process is exactly the same as it is for others, i.e. fit + case
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