How to stand out as a consulting applicant and make it through screening

the image is the cover for an article on passing the mbb resume screening

Only 1% of top-tier consulting applicants make it through the MBB application funnel, 75% of which are already rejected at the screening stage. Getting into McKinsey, BCG, and Bain is not an easy task. The same applies to other firms such as Kearney, Oliver Wyman, L.E.K., Roland Berger, Strategy&, etc.

the image is a chart on the breakdown of mbb offer rates through the different stages from screening to the interviews
Typical recruiting funnel of McKinsey, BCG, and Bain

In this article, I want to highlight how you can stand out as a consulting applicant to maximize the chances to pass the screening stage and get an invitation to the case interviews.

I want to tackle it in four steps:

  1. Build your resume
  2. Network and aim for referrals
  3. Prepare and send your application documents
  4. Start preparing for case interviews already before you send your application documents

Bonus Prepare for consulting aptitude and recruitment tests and games.

Let’s tackle them one by one.

Build your resume and research the industry and the job

Successful consulting applicants start preparing for the selection process way before the application deadlines arrive. If you want to increase your chances to get to the interviews, you need to work on your profile early on to collect the relevant credentials that top-tier firms such as McKinsey are looking for.

  • Start by building a strong foundation in your chosen field. This could include getting a degree in a related field, gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions, and staying current on industry developments. Consulting firms care less about your major, but more about the prestige of your program and university as well as that you demonstrate consistent achievements throughout your educational years.
  • Get involved in relevant extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities can be a great way to demonstrate your skills and interests in consulting. Consider getting involved in clubs or organizations related to consulting or business. Alternatively, you can also engage in any other activity that interests you.
  • If possible, spend some time abroad either through an internship or an exchange term or even by going through a full degree program abroad.
  • Research the different players and the consulting industry. It is important to have a thorough understanding of the companies you are applying to, as well as the consulting industry as a whole. This will help you tailor your application and stand out as an informed and knowledgeable candidate. We have written a ton of articles on all stages of the application as well as the lifestyle of top-tier consultants.

You can find more information here:

Understand the consulting application process

What degree do you need for management consulting?

Network your way to get referrals

Consulting is a people-driven industry and a push for your application from the right source can go a long way to improve your chances to pass the screening stage.

  • Network with current or former consultants. Networking can be a powerful tool in the job search process, and consulting is no exception. Connect with current or former consultants to learn more about the industry and to get advice on how to stand out as a candidate. Attend industry and company events, join professional organizations and student consulting clubs, and seek out mentorship opportunities to make connections and learn about potential job openings.
  • Seek out mentorship and guidance. Consulting can be a competitive field, and it can be helpful to have a mentor or someone to guide you through the process. Seek out mentors or advisors who can offer advice and guidance on how. Some firms such as McKinsey have dedicated mentorship programs for high-potential students.
  • Show enthusiasm and passion for consulting. Consulting firms are looking for candidates who are truly passionate about consulting and are eager to learn and grow. Make it clear in your interactions with consultants that you are excited about the opportunity to work in this demanding area and that you have a genuine interest in the field.

You can find more information on these topics here:

Network with consulting firms

Get a referral for MBB

Increase your chances to get an interview

Prepare your application documents

When drafting your application documents, there are several things to pay attention to. Generally, there are a couple of motives that you should pay attention to in your resume and cover letter:

  • Highlight your unique skills and experiences. Consulting firms are looking for candidates with a diverse set of skills and experiences. Be sure to highlight any experiences or skills that set you apart from other candidates.
  • Demonstrate your analytical and problem-solving abilities. Consulting is all about solving complex problems, so it is important to showcase your problem-solving skills in your application. Be sure to emphasize your ability to think critically and solve problems. Mention any relevant experiences or projects where you demonstrated strong problem-solving skills.
  • Emphasize your communication and teamwork skills. Consulting firms place a high value on strong communication and teamwork skills, as consultants often work in teams to solve client problems. Consulting requires the ability to clearly and effectively convey ideas and recommendations to clients. Be sure to highlight any experiences or projects where you demonstrated excellent communication and teamwork skills.
  • Show your adaptability and flexibility. Consulting projects often require a high degree of adaptability and flexibility, as consultants may be required to work on a variety of different projects and adapt to changing client needs. Emphasize any experiences or skills that demonstrate your ability to adapt and be flexible.
  • Display your analytical and quantitative skills. Many consulting projects require strong analytical and quantitative skills, so be sure to highlight any relevant coursework or experiences that demonstrate these skills.
  • Focus on your achievements. Consulting firms are looking for candidates who have a track record of success. Be sure to highlight any notable achievements or accomplishments in your application.
  • Show your leadership potential. Consulting firms are looking for candidates who have the potential to become leaders within the organization. Be sure to highlight any leadership experiences or skills that you have developed.
  • Mention any relevant internships or work experiences. Relevant internships or work experiences can be a great way to demonstrate your skills and interests in consulting. Be sure to mention any internships or work experiences that are relevant to consulting in your application.
  • Stand out from the competition by showcasing your unique strengths and experiences. Consulting firms are looking for diverse candidates with a range of skills and experiences, so be sure to highlight what sets you apart from other applicants.
  • Customize your resume and cover letter. It is important to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific consulting firm and position you are applying to. This will show that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the opportunity.

You can find more information on how to draft the perfect application documents here:

The perfect consulting resume

The perfect consulting cover letter

Mistakes to avoid when applying with McKinsey, BCG, and Bain

Hence, arriving prepared with a polished resume is crucial. It not only demonstrates your professionalism but also ensures you’re ready should the counterparty express interest in forwarding your details to HR and recruiting. Think of it as having an ace up your sleeve; you never know when the conversation might pivot from casual banter to serious career opportunities. So, before heading out for that seemingly laid-back coffee chat, make sure your resume is in tow.

Get the help you need to transform your consulting application into success.

Prepare for the case interviews

  • While not the focus of this article, be mindful that you should already start practicing for the case interview at this stage. All top consulting firms use case interviews as a way to evaluate candidates. These interviews involve solving a business problem or case in a structured, logical way. It is important to practice for these interviews in order to stand out as a candidate and invest at least 50 hours into this task. . Practice with sample case studies to improve your problem-solving and presentation skills.
  • Practice for other common case interview questions (e.g., brainteasers, market sizing cases) as well as fit interviews. In addition to case studies, you may also be asked behavioral and fit questions to assess your fit for the consulting industry and the specific firm.

You can find more information here:

What is a consulting case interview? A comprehensive guide

How long should you prepare for case interviews?

To improve your skills in all areas of the interview, check out some of our targeted offers below.

Bonus: Prepare for aptitude and recruitment tests and games

Aptitude tests and recruitment games have become more important over the last couple of years and all firms are employing some sort of screening assessments before the case interviewer. McKinsey is using their own Solve Game, BCG employs a virtual chatbot to conduct a case, and Bain uses several different assessments including the SOVA.

  • Start preparing for your aptitude tests already before sending out your application. Aptitude tests are taken from home and the link to go through the test might be sent out automatically the day after you have delivered your application, leaving you with little time to prepare.
  • Figure out what tests or games each firm employs and prepare accordingly.

Benefit from our dedicated preparation materials for different recruiting tests.

How we can help you score a job in top-tier consulting

We have specialized in placing people from all walks of life with different backgrounds into top consulting firms both as generalist hires as well as specialized hires and experts. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we help you by

Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into consulting.

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