Non-target student with full-time offers to 2/3 MBB's. Ask me anything!

Hey everyone, this site has been fairly helpful to me throughout the last few years, so I figured it was finally time to give back. I'm currently in my senior year of undergraduate, and I have offers from 2/3 MBBs (made it to final rounds at the 3rd, but was rejected after final round). I would love to answer any general questions about my approach or the interview process itself.

Brief background: I am a business major at a COMPLETE non-target (large state school with 50%+ acceptance rate). I would say in the last decade, we have had less than 10 alumni go directly into MBB from undergraduate. My method for receiving interviews was solely through cold-calling (over 200 calls in total), and building connections with consultants who were willing to pull for me. My offers are both from midwest offices.

Moderators: happy to send proof of offers if that makes this post any more legitimate!

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Comments (39)

Oct 24, 2016 - 7:45am

No, I completely understand that. I didn't put that to boast or anything, rather just give a backbone to my suggestions. I oftentimes see posts that are completely false on the consulting forum, and I'd rather convey that I'm giving reasonable advice.

Oct 24, 2016 - 1:54pm

Thanks a lot! A lot of my phone calls started off with networking emails. Within those, I would directly state the fact that my goal was to break into management consulting. They're not naive to your intentions so you might as well state them upfront. As for case practice, I've actually never asked for interview assistance on the first call. My networking calls are more to convey myself as a put-together individual who is eager about the said company. Usually if the call goes well, I'll get an email back asking if I would like to conduct a mock case. My advice would be to really know why you're interested in consulting and prepare intelligent/interesting questions! This is important - most of these consultants get solicited dozens of times per month and asking basic questions isn't going to set yourself apart.

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Oct 24, 2016 - 1:56pm

Thanks! I'm not 100% sure from their side, but I can speak from my own experiences.

For BCG, I just had to send my resume and office preferences to my referrer. I assume he just directly submitted them to HR (he specifically told me not to self-apply). For the other 2 companies, I still had to submit an online application and my referrers just dropped quick referral notes to HR. For McKinsey, I know for a fact that your main referrer's name is attached to your resume.

Oct 24, 2016 - 10:58am

First of all congratulations, life will be very exiting for you from now on (or at least thats what we all hope).

Couple of Questions: Firstly, what book(s) did you use for preparing for the interviews? And over what time period?

Secondly regarding cold-calling: where did you get the numbers and how did you counter the impenetrable "you can apply on our website" line of defence?


Oct 24, 2016 - 4:51pm
  1. The book I used the most was Case in Point, but honestly I didn't spend more than an hour or two with it. I think it's a misconception that you're supposed to memorize all the verbiage and frameworks. They're just meant to give you a basic foundation that you then build off of yourself. The best way to practice would be in-person with an experienced interviewer. If that's not possible, even practicing out loud with a friend is extremely helpful. Knowing how to tackle a problem is only half the battle - you really need to get good at conveying your points in a structured and concise manner. Finally, when you don't have an interview partner, I would practice how you would approach business situations by brainstorming on a piece of paper. This could literally be thinking up "what would be the reasons why a 'bike shop' (insert any type of company) is losing profits." In total, I probably did around 25 live cases and 50 framework setups.

  2. I think the best way to cold-call is to start with a networking email. The email formats are standardized for all 3 companies, so it is fairly easy to reach out (a quick google search will lead to them). I usually only got numbers if I got them from someone else in the office who I had already previously talked with. To be honest, I don't think you can get around that question. If they're telling you to just apply online, then they probably aren't in the mind-set of wanting to pull for you. I usually only asked after very very very good phone conversations. They'll offer if they're impressed.

Oct 24, 2016 - 3:02pm

This. You're not putting a shit ton of people through as your own name is attached to it. Only if you really impress and happen to find someone who wants to help they'll put you through

Also, try to find people with common connections/interests. If someone from my alma mater hits me up and seems cool and bright I'm much more inclined than a dude from xyz who studied blahblahblah

Oct 24, 2016 - 6:52pm

Major: Business (Honors Program)
GPA: 3.9
Extracurriculars: pretty typical leadership positions in normal college clubs
Work Experience: Fortune 100 Companies for 2 summer internships

Fortunately, I knew I wanted to do consulting fairly early on, so I knew I had to keep a stellar GPA in order to standout. I've had a pretty "put-together" college career, however I wouldn't say I had anything particularly special on my resume. I basically made sure I cleared the checkmarks and then left the rest to networking.

Oct 24, 2016 - 7:34pm

Congrats! I'm sure it's a tough fight, and I'm happy for you to see the light from the tunnel. What an accomplishment!

two questions here
1. you may have had super SAT/ACT numbers... what's your thought if one doesn't have a good score in that range?
2. in your opinion, what is the top 3 things you did exceptionally well compared to target students? They're obviously advantaged by a lot, but getting 2/3 MBB is still tremendous for some targets


Best Response
Oct 24, 2016 - 8:59pm
  1. I did have fairly high scores, however as far as I know math is really the only component that matters. Unfortunately, you really only have two options. First, retake the SAT/ACT (yes you can do this even in college), however I would not recommend this in 99% of scenarios. Second, study and do well on a graduate level test (GMAT or GRE). Again, this is a huge time commitment and really only makes sense if you eventually plan on going to grad school. Ultimately, I don't think it makes or breaks you unless you did completely awful on it. Your resume is looked at holistically, so you can stand out in other ways such as stellar grades, involvements, and work experiences.

a. I networked my ass off. Some target students just waltz into info sessions, talk to a consultant or two, and then drop their resume. I had 30 min + phone calls with over 30 individuals at each firm. This gave me a super-in-depth understanding of the firms, the culture, and the people. Ultimately that allowed me to show genuine excitement and interest during my interviews, which I think goes a long way.
b. I never treated my non-target background as a crutch or impediment. I went to no-name state university, and I'm genuinely proud of it. I've thrived during my time here, both academically and in my involvements (and unlike a lot of ivy league kids, socially :) ). Having a "second-tier" mentality isn't going to get you anywhere. Own it.
c. My attitude was that I was serious about the recruitment process but I realized this wasn't a life or death situation. Have fun with it. Cases should be fun - it's literally what you'll be doing on the job. Learn to love the process and your interviewers will notice. There is a big difference between someone who can confidently "crack" a case and a person who nervously "jabs" at one.

Oct 24, 2016 - 9:46pm
  1. b. third sentence just triggered a lot of people
//Signed// MLang
  • 2
Oct 24, 2016 - 9:22pm

So what exactly are you doing? Strategy?

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
Oct 24, 2016 - 11:02pm

Hey thanks for answering our questions. I'm currently in my second year of my undergraduate degree. My extra circulars are basically that I'm on my schools investment council. I had a 3.4 GPA first year and hopefully getting it up this year. Beyond that I read financial books and follow financial news regularly. My main questions is for somebody like me, whats your best advice you can give to make the most out of College (career wise)? Also how did you land your summer jobs at fortune 500 jobs? I'm currently applying for summer internships, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Oct 25, 2016 - 8:44am

My best advice is follow what you love or think you love. Join clubs that actually interest you. Don't just join finance club for the sake of being in finance club. I think it's a lot more impressive if you held a leadership position in surfing club and you can really convey your passion/impact within it. It'll pay off in the long run because you'll actually want to put the effort in. College goes by so quick and it shouldn't just all be catered towards achieving the best resume, so enjoy the moment and don't treat it like a stepping stone.

Be proactive with career fairs and info sessions. By no means were my internships considered "name-brand" F500 companies. Talk with employees and get to know the HR staff. Then at the end of the day, learn how to execute with behavioral interviews (assuming you're applying to companies without technicals, which was my case).

Oct 25, 2016 - 4:45am

Hi! Just wanted to say congrats and thanks for sharing your story. I'm a junior who is soon to interview for summer positions at MBB, and I was wondering what your strategy was for tackling the case interview. Also, how long did you prepare/ network for? I've heard that summer positions are harder to land than full-time offers because of limited space, so I'm really just treating this round as preparation if I don't land an offer.

Oct 25, 2016 - 8:54am

Learn the lingo fast and then practice live cases. Nothing is better practice than actually doing mock interviews. You can have Case in Point memorized word by word and that wouldn't be enough. Referring to one of my earlier posts, the technical portion is only half the game. You need to convey your thought process and execute in a structured manner in order to impress your interviewers. They need to know that if they were to put you in a room alone with senior management (which happens on the job), that you would have the skills and pose to deliver. I practiced 25 live interviews (1 hour sessions) and 50 case set ups (10 minutes each). I also spent a good amount of time (probably 15 hours total) practicing basic arithmetic, as I haven't taken a math class since high school!

What you've heard is true - summer internships are definitely more limited than full-time, so the bar is considered slightly higher. However, you're completely right. If you don't get it then you're already ahead of the game and will be in a great position for the following recruitment season!

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:17pm
  1. A mix - but mostly professional. I try to personalize the questions, for example, what as been the most fulling project that you've been on?

  2. The personal fit questions are fairly similar to any other industry company. The only exception would be McKinsey - you can learn about their unique PEI interview on their website. This is a much more in-depth behavioral question that requires you to elaborate much more than usual (15 min+ answer for one question).

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:19pm

I don't really think there is any constructiveness in giving you my own answer. If you're actually interested in consulting, you'll be able to come up with a good answer. There's not a "right" answer for this, they just want to make sure you're genuine and that you understand what the job entails.

Oct 25, 2016 - 11:30am

Which of the three did you receive offers from, which one did you accept and why?

What's your plan? 2 years and then off for an MBA or what?

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

See my Blog & AMA

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:22pm
  1. I don't want to say to keep my anonymity, however I haven't actually decided yet. Deadlines aren't for another month and a half, so I'm just going to base it off interactions I have with professionals at both firms. They are both flying me out for celebration/offer weekends, so hopefully that will give me a better idea.

  2. I haven't planned anything out yet. It could be 2 years then MBA, 2 years then industry, 2 years and staying. I'm just going to constantly reevaluate my situation and figure out which path with be best for my happiness and professional growth.

Oct 25, 2016 - 12:13pm

How far can you punt a football?

"Son, life is hard. But it's harder if you're stupid." - my dad
  • 1
Oct 26, 2016 - 8:47pm

Congrats on the offers! Just out of curiosity, how'd you do it from a non target standpoint? I'm not interested/recruiting for consulting, but have friends that are. Generally word is MBB hires from an extremely select number of schools and usually don't care much for networking. In contrast, IB recruiting is much more networking based and it's not uncommon for nontargets to get gigs at EBs/MMs/BBs, but I was always under the impression that for MBB if you didn't go to an Ivy or otherwise prestigious university, you had pretty much no chance

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:26pm

I think this is a huge misconception! This may have been the case a decade ago, but all the firms actually have a good amount of non-targets now. Once a few break in, those individuals pull hard for their respective alma maters. I would say during my super days, approx 25% of interviewers were from non-targets. Granted, you could really tell that these were standout individuals who were at the top of their classes.

Oct 27, 2016 - 5:41pm

Gotcha congrats again man! I think on the NY/SF/Boston offices I've seen just in general a lot more representation from elite schools. This is also great to hear because I have friends who swear that networking doesn't do jack for consulting while in banking it's literally necessary.

My west coast target doesn't even have McKinsey come on campus lol. I guess it's interesting seeing how consulting recruiting works. Having recruited for IBD, I feel like the difference in how standardized recruiting is in banking vs consulting is immense

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:08pm

I'm at MBB, now at the EM level. No questions, just wanted to say I'm impressed with the hustle and commitment that you showed (200 calls!) Hope you're joining my firm.

From an MBB perspective, you have to remember that a big reason we recruit only from elite schools is that it's just easier. If someone is smart and insanely driven like this comes from a non-target, why wouldn't we give them a shot?

Oct 27, 2016 - 1:30pm

Thanks a lot! And I definitely agree. I was reassured multiple times that ivy league kids had no advantage during the actual interview process. The hard part is just getting the firms to notice you in the first place, which is when networking comes into play.

Sep 16, 2017 - 10:29pm

I don't believe in possibility to receive the McKinsey offer from any school below top-50. Why wouldn't you give non-target applicants a chance? Because it is easier to sell MIT analyst than, let's say, Villanova analyst. It doesn't matter how smart both of the applicants are. Brand carries a lot of weight in client-facing business and clients want to know what they are paying for.

Maybe there are some employees from non-target schools but all of them have outstanding internships from BB banks, F500, PE, or VC firms.

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