How to make the ask?

I have a phone call next week with a director at a Tier 2, think (OW, ATK, S&). He's an alum and I setup a phone chat via cold email. Since recruiting season is already here I want to make the ask but idk what to do or what to talk about other than the fact that we have the same major.

Any idea about how to make the ask?

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Comments (21)

Oct 14, 2020 - 6:42pm

Maybe someone else can weigh in from an industry point of view, but I'll give my two cents as an undergraduate who's currently in the process. 

You spoke with him once over phone after arranging it through a cold email? I'll be honest, that seems like a stretch to make the ask from there. With people I've asked, it's usually been several on the 3rd or 4th chat after a month or two of dialogue. The usual ask is the "how can I differentiate myself in my application?" - most people interpret this as: "can you push my name through for a first round?". It IS possible for this to happen after the first phone call if you two really click and you sold yourself well, but it's pretty rare. In the instances it has happened, I asked the lead in of "how can I differentiate myself" and they offered to push my resume/application through. 

Oct 14, 2020 - 7:35pm

Thank you for this! I always have a hard time personally connecting with alumni and almost everyone gives the same answer about what the they like the most about their job ( which is always people or culture).

After a point I get fatigued hearing the same responses and I'm sure they get fatigued as they're asked the same questions so what do you recommend we talk about in the conversation?

Oct 15, 2020 - 8:58pm

I'm also an undergrad, looking for internships (not in consulting, in RE) not gonna lie, sometimes it feels a bit awkward to ask about things that would connect us more personally. It really depends on who you're talking too. Some guys are chill, others only talk about their career and their path, which is fine. I'll give you two examples: Just last week I was on the phone with a broker, who appreciated I reached out and we talked about some things, mainly the overall market, wfh, college. He thought I was a "go getter" and invites me down to the office. He said if I want to, I can shadow their investment sales team and learn, they're not paying anything but still it's a great opp for me having no other experience and being a junior already. I had this other call yesterday, where I tried asking the guy about his college life and what not (maybe I asked somewhat awkwardly...) but he took as a sign I had nothing more to say and just said, "yeah... I miss it..." then thanked me for reaching out and hung up lmao. I was cringing the rest of the day. 
I don't know how many of these calls you've done, but you'll get better for sure. It also depends on the person, like the two guys above. So don't feel too bad about that. Honestly, at this point, just go for it. Be polite but let them your looking for internships, others here have given good advice but be direct. 

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Oct 19, 2020 - 10:55pm

Would it be more appropriate to ask on the first call if it was arranged through someone you spoke with multiple times who vouched for you?

Oct 19, 2020 - 11:17pm

Honestly, it depends heavily on the flow of the conversation, whether the person you're speaking with is engaged and invested in whether or not you work at the firm. I generally ask open ended questions and try to ask follow ups based on those to have an organic discussion on why he/she chose the firm and what led him/her to the firm. From there, I steer the conversation to the recruitment process by mentioning some of the preparation I've been doing. Once we chat, I ask "how can I differentiate myself?" and if they don't voluntarily ask for my resume or cover letter to forward it, I ask what next steps I can take to ensure I do well or anyone else I may want to reach out to at the firm given my interests/position I'm applying for.

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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Oct 14, 2020 - 7:26pm

Honestly, while I agree with the person above about How can I differentiate myself, and it being rare, I think you should do it anyway. Unlike IB, Consulting recruiting gets over pretty quickly, so it's basically now or never. you can't afford to wait for 2 months. Do it in the most polite manner possible, and make sure you put your best foot forward.

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Oct 14, 2020 - 9:40pm

At MBB. If you talk to me over the phone, the only reason I will really advocate for you to get a first round interview, is if you prove to me that you're super qualified for the job. This usually means either a) telling me about all the case prep you have done, so I am more confident in you as a candidate, b) running a case with me and knocking it out of the park, or c) really connecting with me and making me like you. For me, that usually just means showing me how hard you're willing to grind in order to get a seat. 

If it's super off cycle, there's a chance you can go for the direct ask. I don't know how the process at any of those firms. I lateralled into my seat and I did have a direct ask with a partner, but it was still pretty natural. More of the "I'm looking to get into consulting, and xx firm in particular. I know this is not traditional, but is there anyway I could get a shot?".

Oct 15, 2020 - 8:44pm

This is what I did, I'm not in consulting but still feel it's relevant. I was on the phone with a broker and he simply appreciated the fact that I reached out to him. Proceeds to ask me a couple of questions about the market and what not and then invites me down to meet him and the team and start an off cycle internship with his firm. It's unpaid but I have no experience and the deal flow is good, so it'll be super helpful to me going forward. I got real lucky in getting this opportunity on our first call but it's possible. If you feel the person is laidback (this guy was still a frat bro) just shoot the shit and see what happens. 

Oct 16, 2020 - 8:33pm

Had an undergraduate reach out to me for a similar referral and we are in the same fraternity.

He only asked questions on the first call with no ask. This is the correct move.
If he asks me for a referral to either program that he was considering at this point, I will give it to him.

If he calls me once more, impresses technically for his age and understands the system at an impressive level, I will make personal phone calls to assure him a spot.

I think what's critical is that you connect with the individual so that they see a bit of themselves in you. Second, be an impressive individual that people will like to go to bat for. This kid is batting for technical sales programs and I think he could crush it in these roles. He asked to text but I'd rather keep it formal. Come set up the time when you're ready for your at-bat and I'll deal you out.

Oct 17, 2020 - 12:01am


I think what's critical is that you connect with the individual so that they see a bit of themselves in you. Second, be an impressive individual that people will like to go to bat for. This kid is batting for technical sales programs and I think he could crush it in these roles. He asked to text but I'd rather keep it formal. Come set up the time when you're ready for your at-bat and I'll deal you out.


Most Helpful
Oct 16, 2020 - 9:13pm

I have done a lot of these calls; If helpful, I wrote down my standard formula below (time alottments are just estimates but I would recommend keeping to them).

1.) Start off by making a connection; ask about him and tell him about yourself (2 - 5min):

  • Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
  • What major were you at University?
  • How did you enjoy university?
  • Did you ever make it back to campus for alumni events?
  • Discuss any mutual connections

2.) Ask about his job and role (15 - 20 min):

  • How did you get into your profession?
  • What does your role entail?
  • Where does your team fit inside the broader organization?
  • What sort of businesses do you work with?
  • What do you find challenging about your role?

Shift your line of questions to the position you would like to fill (5 min):

  • Do you have any advice for a young professional looking to get into your line of work?
  • What does your company look for in a potential candidate for (blank) position?
  • what sort of qualifications do you expect from candidates looking to fill (blank) position?

3.) The Ask (2 min):

  • I find this profession incredibly interesting, do you know of any open positions at your company?
  • Could I forward you my resume in case a position comes up?
  • Do you know of anyone that is hiring at the moment?
  • Could you forward me to any colleagues that I might be able to have a similar conversation with?
"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
  • 4
  • Director in IB-M&A
Oct 18, 2020 - 8:53am

Recently I had a high school alum (like ten years younger than me) reached out to me for an analyst position (management consulting) at my firm. She was very polite. Wrote a great intro email and as well as a follow-up email. I ended up not referring her to my HR or push directly to my partner, who would have hired her.

The main reason was that during the call, she was very polished but I didn't feel the satisfaction of helping her out. She wasn't able to connect with me on a personal level. And over the call, she wasn't focused on joining my firm and appears to be shooting everywhere. On top of that, her main goal was to get hired by early next year without considering the difference in dynamics of the regional offices. On top of that, her resume was weak, which I mentioned but she didn't think it was an issue. I also asked her to do a case study that I can assist to review but that never materialized as well.

So if you don't do these things, you should be fine. 

Oct 23, 2020 - 2:46pm

Outside of offering to help with a case stuy and not getting any follow through, what was the biggest issue - not connecting?

What do you mean she wasn't focused on oining your firm? I'm just curious if she said or did something specific,,  because I would expect people like to keep their options open in case things don't work out.

Go, Go, Excel

  • Director in IB-M&A
Oct 24, 2020 - 3:52am

On connecting? She didn't spend time going over how we share similar background? How both of us are repats, thus having reverse culture shocks moving from North America to Asia. How she can better prepare to move to Asia and covering emerging markets.

Lack of interest in my firm? She can be quite frank that she is interested in both corporate finance and consulting. And also looking at various firms. But if she were interviewing for my firm, she could have lookup 1) what were the recent deals that we closed, 2) how our market positioning is, 3) what is the different line of services within my firm? This info is all available on our company website. 

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