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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

The Secret to Landing the Perfect Consulting Gig for You

There are a lot of things that play into getting a job in consulting, from writing a great resume to acing the case interview. But one of the most important—and often underestimated—aspects is taking the time to get your foot in the door by connecting and networking with potential employers.

Because most management consulting candidates are stars, relying only on a strong GPA or solid resume may not give you the best competitive advantage. A better way to differentiate yourself is to take time to meet the people who currently work for your dream companies and show your eagerness to get to know the organizations. Not only will this help recruiters see firsthand why you’d be a great asset to the team, it will also give you a chance to gauge if the firms you’re eyeing are really ones you’d like to work at.

Not sure where to start connecting with consultants? We’ve chosen five venues perfect for mixing, mingling, and ultimately landing the job.

1. Information Sessions

While you might think that attending formal information sessions is just a way to waste an hour listening to company propaganda (that, let’s be honest, you could read online), think again. While, yes, you will spend some of the time listening to an overview of the company and recruiting process, you’ll also get the chance to network with local employees and ask any questions that may be lingering after your web research.

But the best benefit of showing up? Attending information sessions shows your commitment to learning more about the organization and provides you with the opportunity to make a memorable impression that will last through the recruiting process. A few tips: You should treat the information session almost as if it were an interview, so dress the part, come prepared, and bring your A-game. Then, during these sessions, make it a point to connect with the local employees and recruiters by introducing yourself and expressing your interest and fit for consulting. And finally, watch for any tips or requirements needed for the application process—they will often go over details or answer questions that you won’t necessarily find online.

(Note: Information sessions are typically focused on recruiting new graduates and held on campuses, but they can sometimes be open to those who are mid-career. To find potential info sessions, make sure to check out alumni job boards and subscribe to the company’s career site or newsletter.)

2. Campus Events and Associations

In addition to the information sessions, colleges and universities usually offer a number of other campus events or student associations focused on consulting. These can include consulting clubs, industry nights, case interview prep sessions with representatives from firms, and case competitions or other strategy-related events. Check with your career center to see what events are planned.

While some of these will simply give you the opportunity to connect with like-minded classmates, many will be attended or hosted by one of the major consulting players. Keep a special eye out for those events that promise representatives from a firm, and then show up ready to (modestly) show off: Participating in campus events not only allows you to network, but also gives you the chance to demonstrate your skills to employers firsthand.

For post-grads, volunteering may be the best way to connect and get involved in events.  Whether you are returning to your alma mater to judge a case competition or attending an alumni event, this will be the best way to connect with those in the industry.

3. Recruiting Buddies

Most firms have a program where you'll be matched with a “buddy” as part of the recruiting process. This person will typically be working in the position you’re applying for, and he or she is there to answer any questions you may have about recruiting, case interviews, the company, or otherwise. While it’s a fantastic opportunity provided by firms, there is one catch: There are no real rules outlining what your buddy is expected to do for you. In other words, you’ll only get out of it what you put in.

So, make sure to take plenty of initiative to connect with your buddy. As soon as you’re paired up, ask if you can arrange a call or meeting with her to talk about her experiences, pick her brain for any tips, and potentially even practice some interview questions. When I went through the process, my buddy was a great resource for learning the inner workings of the firm and really finding out whether I was a fit or not. And make sure to stay in touch after your initial meeting: If you do get an offer, this person will be your best support network once you start.

4. Coffee Meetings

The most informal—but perhaps most effective—way to connect with potential employers is to go for coffee meetings. These allow you to really connect one-on-one with consultants and to understand more about the real inner workings of the organization: the type of work you’ll be doing, the cultural values, the opportunities for professional development, and the like.

Ideally, you’ll meet someone at a networking or recruiting event who you can then follow up with to ask for a coffee meeting. But, if that hasn’t happened, there are other ways to identify who you should meet with: Seek someone out on LinkedIn, ask your network for referrals, or see if HR can connect you with someone within the organization. Look for someone in a position similar to the one you are applying for—that way he or she can vouch for your ability to fit the role but also give you insights relevant to your application.

When booking these meetings, make sure to always be appreciative of the person’s willingness to meet with you, and ensure you come prepared with questions to make the most of your time together. Oh, and definitely offer to pick up the check!

5. Sell Dinners

Sell dinners typically come after you receive your offer, but can sometimes come earlier in the process. They’re usually held with partners from the local office and the other candidates who have received offers and the intent is clear: to wine you, dine you, and ultimately convince you that you should sign onto the firm.

If you’re invited, you’re almost guaranteed entry into the firm, but you should still put time and effort into impressing at these dinners. You’ll get a chance to gauge company culture a little more, helping you make a final call about whether it’s the firm for you, and be able to network with local partners—something that could help you be assigned to projects you love if you do choose to join the team.

A final note: There is often alcohol at these events, so make sure you pace yourself and remain composed in order to keep your offer intact (or not start your new job with a bad reputation).

What questions do you have about consulting? Ask us in the comments section!

Photo of consultant courtesy of Shutterstock.