I attend a northeastern M7 school and just finished first year recruiting, havingoffers and 1 2nd tier offer (ATK, LEK, Parthenon) in an east coast city. I haven't posted much before, but have consistently found WSO very helpful, so I wanted to give my perspective on the recruiting process at an M7 school, explain some of the mistakes I see people make and answer any questions. The most important thing I can say is don't assume going to a top tier MBA program will get you a consulting job. You have to work for it.
Some general observations about the process
1. M7 does not equal MBB, and does not even equal 2nd tier firm
I was amazed by the number of people who walked into recruiting assuming they would get an offer. In reality, only about 40% of people who seriously recruited for consulting got 1st year offers, and my understanding is that this number is fairly consistent across the M7. Interviewing is a bloodbath, no other way to put it. Lots of people do NOT get offers. I saw lots of people who didn't adequately prep for interviews and they ended up without offers. That said, the people I saw who really treated the recruiting process seriously generally got offers.
2. You (generally) don't have to network to get an interview, but you need to network to get an offer
The percentage of applicants who get interviews is between roughly 65-80% depending on the firm. The vast majority of people who attend one or two events, email a consultant, etc got interviews. Of course, people with weaker resumes had to network more aggressively, so if you are on the fence, keep that in mind. That said, everyone I saw who got offers in my city were very well networked with the firm and had built solid relationships with multiple consultants. Don't skip networking with 2nd tier firms either, I didn't get a 2nd tier interview that I really should have gotten due to insufficient networking. While this would be speculation, my guess is that networking is used as a pretty easy tiebreaker in interviews. Also, it gives you something to talk about during your fit interviews.
3. You don't get a ton of exposure to firms on campus, so you do need to be proactive
I had always assumed that firms would hold lots of events to get to know consultants, after all, we're a top supplier of consultants to each firm. This is not the case at all. Only 1 firm did a city-specific dinner, and one other firm did a brief, city-specific reception (probably all of an hour long). Other than that, we just had a coffee chat and a company info session. Each firm did a case prep session, but don't count on these for networking as there will be 100+ students and 2-3 consultants from whichever random city they decided to fly people in from.. Don't just rely on these events, reach out to consultants with similar professional backgrounds, practice areas you are interested in, etc. It's not a bad idea to reach out before recruiting starts either, though make sure you are ready to ask and answer good questions.
4. If you have an unusual background, find out which firms have historically hired your background
I have a very non-traditional background, and 2 of my 3 offers said I was the first offer with my background that they could recall. The third firm had hired a bunch of people with my background and showed the strongest interest in me throughout the process. This applies to people with any non-traditional background, be it teaching, military, startups, nonprofit, etc. Every firm will be willing to talk to you, but certain firms have a preference for certain backgrounds.
5. Case prep quality is better than case prep quantity
Doing lots of cases with your buddies is great, but quality case practice is really critical. By quality cases, I mean doing cases with 2nd years who got MBB offers, sponsored students, career services, consultants, etc. Basically, practice cases with anyone who knows what they are doing. Do some cases with people you don't know well, it gets the adrenaline going. Practice unusual cases, specifically address weaknesses (quant, structuring, etc), practice a couple cases wearing a suit (you're going to be wearing one for your real interview) and practice stress testing each other during practice cases. By stress test, I mean not paying attention to the interviewee, being a dick, playing on your phone, refusing to answer questions, etc. Virtually all of these things will come up in your interview. Lastly, start your case prep early, so you are not cramming at the last minute. The level you need to perform at is VERY high.
6. 2 things I
i. Lots of people didn't get interviews, far more than Bain/ or any of the 2nd tier firms.
ii. I noticed lots of people consultants at our events who I never saw at any other consulting recruiting event or consulting club event.
I'd say a decent number of students were recruiting for only McKinsey (in terms of consulting firms at least) and my rough estimate is that McKinsey probably gets 20-30% more applications that Bain or BCG. I was surprised how many people didn't get interviews with McKinsey.
7. Fit is everything
I can't stress enough how important fit is. With my favorite firm, I was more enthusiastic in the interview, and the most pumped to get the offer. All 3 major firms basically do the same work, figure out which firm has the people you like. That will make networking easy and make your interview experience smoother. And speaking of fit, practice your fit interviews! The questions are predictable, so you have no excuse for not practicing and it is an easy way to get dinged in an interview.
Anyway, I've yapped enough at this point. Happy to answer any questions about recruiting, interviewing, etc, though I can't give away my school as I will need to keep this anonymous.