How to Break Into Consulting from a Non-Feeder MBA Program

MBA AdmissionsIs your post-MBA goal to enter the competitive field of consulting? If your future business school isn’t a consulting feeder school, don’t despair! Just because your MBA program is not a major feeder into the consulting company of your dreams does not mean that all hope is lost – this just means that you will have to be a bit more strategic and make the most of the more limited opportunities you have to network and interview.

Before we dive into our tips on how to break into consulting from non-feeder MBA programs, it is important to understand what constitutes a non-feeder program. The quick answer: a non-feeder program is a business school at which a specific consulting firm or many consulting firms do not utilize heavy recruiting resources to secure new talent. This can be by not participating in on-campus recruiting, not hiring in major numbers, only hiring locally, or not hiring at all. The employment report of your school should help you deduce the majority of this information.

Now, if you are in this situation, there are still a few ways you can approach the consulting recruiting process to maximize your chances at success:

Create a Plan
Being strategic is one of the most important factors that will help you be successfully hired by a consulting firm, especially if you’re coming from a non-feeder school. Your school’s employment report is your best friend here. Look first at the firms that are “low hanging fruit” – as in ones that already have somewhat of a presence at your school or in the nearby community – then research the other companies that will require much more leg work, and move accordingly.

Start Early
Given that your school is not a key source of talent for some of your target firms, you will need to work a little harder to get on their radar. Whether it is connecting with alumni or utilizing networks, such as a diversity network or your undergraduate network, start this process early because proper networking takes time. At feeder programs, these relationships often occur organically; at non-feeder programs, you will need to leverage your personal network and school resources to tap into these potential decision-makers.

Make the Most of Your Chances
You most likely will not have as many chances as a student from a feeder school to impress upon the firm-specific recruiting team of your qualifications, so it is critical you make the most of your opportunities to snag an offer. If you are fortunate enough to get an interview, it is up to you to perform well in the interview process (if you are unable to secure an offer at that point, then it does not matter as much what program you come from). The case interview in consulting tends to be the great equalizer among applicants, so make the most of your chance, here.

Be Realistic
Finally, it is important to be realistic. Some firms simply will not recruit from a specific program for reasons out of your control, no matter how qualified you feel you are or how well you network. Part of going through the business school selection process is identifying (and hopefully gaining admission) to the schools that will allow you to reach your specific post-MBA career goals, especially if you have certain consulting firms in mind.

Consulting remains one of the most competitive industries to break into, regardless of which MBA program you attend. Utilize the tips above to maximize your chances of securing an offer from the consulting firm of your dreams.

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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.