Q&A: Non-target undergrad to MBB


Hi all, Been using this site throughout my college career, and it's really helped me out so I think it's time to give back. I love reading success stories on the site, especially non-target ones, so I thought I'd share my own in order to help others who are trying to get jobs, especially you non-target guys. I go to an undergrad business school that has very little recruiting exposure for the kinds of jobs we talk about on this site. Most students go on to work for BB BO roles or B4 audit. Most don't know what MBB is, or what an IB exactly does. Fortunately, I learned about these things through this site, and associated myself with a very small group of people that were as ambitious as I was.

I didn't seriously pursue consulting until the summer before my senior year. I previous had 3 internships (fr, so, jr summers) mostly finance related. I was also president of a business club on campus that actually had a significant amount of influence/importance, and did a few other things on campus. Up to junior year, my goal was set mostly on IB, with consulting as a potential 2nd choice. As I gained more experience, I started gravitating the other way and made the decision to recruit exclusively for consulting for full time. Enter summer 2014, the summer of networking. I generally finished my work day and had phone calls/coffee chats/sent emails/researched consulting until 2am. Rinse and repeat. Did this into fall semester and recruiting season. By the time I received my interview invite from the MBB firm that hired me, I think I had 6 or 7 referrals, from the fresh grad to senior partner level. Also managed to network into the process for a different MBB firm as well. Next came the interviews. There are obviously no consulting clubs on campus. I reached out to the MBB people who I'd connected with to do practice cases with me, which was really helpful. I also taught some of my friends how to give case interviews, and practiced on my own as well. Had my first round at one MBB, so happy I made it through to finals, then got dinged at finals. I took a really hard hit in confidence for a few days, but knew I had to bounce back. Got my shit together, went through the other MBB's recruiting, and ended up with an offer! So I was basically on cloud nine for like a month. I was going nuts, friends (that new what is was) were going nuts, professors going nuts, school administration going nuts. It's settled in a bit, but I still can't believe I got an offer. So excited to start. Happy to share anything about networking tactics, case prep, choosing consulting vs IB, or anything else that might help people make a jump like I did. Please ask away!

Comments (69)

Best Response
Dec 14, 2014 - 7:59pm

Thanks man! I used the typical resources, CIP, Victor Cheng, bschool case books. But I did a few things differently per the advice of people I was talking to. One thing I tried to do was not focus as much on the frameworks and structure, but just build business knowledge and problem solving skill. You can focus on framework in the beginning to get your footing, but then you'll want to be more flexible. Focus more on the problem, and if this were a client, how would you actually think about this and answer it? Not getting trapped in frameworks helped me a lot cuz most of the cases I got were kinda wacky.

What helped me train me to not use frameworks was just to use life as a source for cases. I might be eating trail mix and try and estimate the market size for trail mix. Or, one of my friends works at Boeing and he was telling me about the backlog problem, and we did "case" on essentially ways to solve it. Doing stuff like that was also kinda fun haha.

As for IB vs. consulting, one, I enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of consulting more, and thought it looked at the bigger picture more than IB. When I think of exit opps, I'm more interested in doing corp strat, startups, or non-profit, and not really PE/HF. As for lifestyle, consulting is definitely tough, but I think better on average compared to IB. I also thought I fit more with consulting culture more than IB culture.

This was an important to know, because every one of my final round interviewers grilled me on this choice, cuz my resume looked like an IB Resume. But I had solid reasons and specific experiences or conversations to back them up. And I guess they were satisfied :)

Dec 15, 2014 - 1:19pm

@"mrharveyspecter" and @"JMeister"

You are definitely right that MBB will only visit their target set of schools. But you can get an interview through networking/referrals and once you do, you're on the same playing field and just have to do well in the interviews.

I found using more "warm" connections worked better for me. I think I've always been good at networking because I genuinely was interested in other people's lives. For example, I've kept in good contact with all the companies I've interned with, and asked them if they knew anyone at MBB. I asked my professors who I had good relations with. I asked some of the school admin, who knew alumni who were Rhodes/Marshall that were there now. I'd be talking to friends and find out someone's sister works there. Or someone interned with someone that went FT to MBB. Or I gave a tour of the school to an alumni that knew someone at MBB, etc. Found connections everywhere, just have to look. I feel like a lot of seniorish people in the business world at least know someone at MBB.

Because I had someone else vouching/introducing me, I had close to a 100% response rate on my emails. Then I'd keep it short, name drop the person who gave me their info (if they didn't directly introduce me), explain my goals, and ask for a phone call or coffee chat (if local). They almost always obliged.

Then in the phone call I'd try to impress them by asking them insightful questions about the firm, their career, asking good followup, etc, and avoiding the typical canned questions. I think people were generally just impressed by my enthusiasm, and they ended the call usually with something like "let me know when you apply and I'll see if I can help". If they didn't I might just end it with "thanks so much, I'll let you know how it goes", and then follow up with them anyway over email asking for a referral.

So key takeaway for me was exhaust all of your "warm contacts" first, then resort to cold contacting.

Dec 15, 2014 - 4:35pm

Similar situation here, currently a junior at a non-target state school. Currently looking for an MBB internship for next summer

I scored well on my ACT's (99th Percentile) and also just recently the Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT) (98th Percentile). For the BAT especially, do you think that would be valuable info to put on a resume/communicate to an interviewer? I know it's more finance-oriented, but theres also a heavy quant component.

Also, will you practice cases with me? (jk, but actually kind of serious)

Dec 15, 2014 - 5:00pm

Good on ya, good luck! Remember, the internships are more competitive than FT just due to the actual number of spots, so if it doesn't work out, just think of it as practice for FT! Also if you're serious about consulting definitely still apply to all the tier 2s and Big 4, don't bet the house on MBB.

Definitely put your ACT score, I think every MBB app requires an ACT/SAT score. MBB tends to value this data point much more than finance. If it's high (like yours is) its also a good way to tell your story about how you ended up at your school (for me it was financial reasons). I had a few interviews see my ACT/SAT say "Hmm, looks like you have good test scores, how did you end up at [nontarget]?"

The BAT is useless for recruiting. I did very well too, actually ended up in the "Hall of Fame" (won't say which month to maintain some anonymity lol). But not once did I get any sort of reputable lead for a job from it. I had it on my resume for a bit but took it off. People just don't know what it is. They see and if they notice, their opinion is something like "So you did really well on this business exam that I've never heard of and have no idea how hard/easy it is". I'd save the space for something else.

Dec 15, 2014 - 7:47pm

Thanks! I did. I think it's important for people who want consulting to apply to all firms, MBB, B4, Tier 2.

I tried to get consulting offers at all the big 4. Got 1, but didn't even get interviews at the others. I found in my process that in general, big 4 are super dead set on their target schools, which was kinda annoying.

I also had a referral at 1 Tier 2 (LEK, ACN, OW, ATK, etc.) but didn't get an interview. I had some cold contacts I planned to reach out to at the other Tier 2's if MBB didn't work out, but obviously didn't have to end up going down that road.

And connections were 100% responsible for getting the interview. Moving from interview to offer is all on you though. If you just submit your resume without having connected with people, you won't get an interview at MBB. This is true whether or not you are target or nontarget. And you want multiple referrals. Network aggressively, that's what it takes.

Like I said, most of my contacts were "warm", so the email structure varied depending on how I was being connected, but here is a sample:


Hi [MBB person],

Hope you are doing well. I got your contact info from one my close friends at [Nontarget University], [John Smith]. I'm a current senior pursuing consulting after graduation, and am interested in [MBB]. I wanted to reach out and ask if you'd be willing to talk to me regarding your experience at [MBB], and your career path after [Nontarget University].

I have my resume below so you can learn a little more about myself as well. Hope to talk to you soon!

[My Name]

As you can see, short and sweet :). I found attaching my resume immediately on the first email to be effective so that people would immediately see my credentials and be interested.

Dec 15, 2014 - 8:27pm

Congrats - as someone who was in a very similar position five years ago, if you're as diligent about doing the work as you are about breaking in, you're going to be a rock star.

I also had the same experiences as you re: Big 4 - I had interviews at all of MBB, a couple of the tier 2 firms I applied to, but nothing but an initial phone screen at PwC and crickets at the rest.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of Starwood Points
Dec 15, 2014 - 9:18pm

I wouldn't say big deal. I think the most important things on a resume are still going to be GPA, work experience, leadership experience, etc. But MBB apps do ask for it. I think it's just another data point. If you have a good one, it will help. If you have a bad one, it won't kill your app I don't think (unless its abysmal maybe), especially if all your other stuff checks outs. Most people applying will have a good score though.

I can't say for sure though, maybe someone more experienced like @"petergibbons" can comment

Dec 16, 2014 - 12:15am

I'd be screwed if it was a big factor. I got a 22 on my ACT lol. I would assume my GPA and other stuff would make up for it tho. Im currently doing a global operations leadership development rotational at a F50 company. I was planning to apply to MBB after that, as a long shot i know. I don't want to apply to MBAs till I've got 4-5 yrs of exp. with good brand names/accomplishments. Congrats tho man, glad you made the thread.

Dec 16, 2014 - 12:18am

It's actually quite a big deal, at least in my experience reading undergrad resumes. There was definitely holistic review above a certain threshold for grades and GPA, but that threshold was pretty high for both. Just too many resumes to do anything else.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of Starwood Points
Dec 16, 2014 - 1:46pm

Hey guys, I'd like it if people didn't PM me questions and just posted here so everyone could see.

I got a question about how much I followed up. If I didn't get an answer from someone, I might follow up the next week, and then the next, the next, and then give up haha. But that rarely happened since most of my contacts were warm, and responded on the first email.

If you're talking throughout the process, after the initial phone call I might send a thank you the next day, sometimes with my resume and asking for referral if appropriate. Then I might say thank you again after getting the interview, then again when I made it to finals, and finally once more when I got the offer. If someone wasn't as involved as helping me, I might just send the initial thank you and one when I got an offer.

I always followed up after my interviews to ask for feedback. This was key because I got some very good info ou tof the interviews and probably wouldn't have gotten an offer if I didn't hear this feedback and edit my interview strategy.

I also followed up with the people from the MBB I got dinged at. Just saying how thankful I was that I had the opportunity, and hoping we kept in touch. They appreciated that, and we exchanged some further emails with each other discussing plans, etc.

I think it's also important to note that I sent all my emails out in the morning. I read some statistic somewhere that morning is the most opportune time to send someone an email and ensure they see it. But I also liked spending time crafting my emails and may not have had time in the morning to write all the emails I wanted (because I like to sleep haha). So I'd write them the night before and schedule them to go out in the morning with Boomerang for GMail.

Dec 16, 2014 - 1:54pm

Ok, also had a question about my majors/GPA and how important it was.

I was a business major, and it was as combination of 3 different majors/programs completed in 4 years, and my GPA was very close to 4.0

MBB hires all sorts of majors, so it doesn't matter what they are, but just how hard they were to show academic achievement. I think have 3 majors in 4 years definitely impressed and help establish credibility for me, especially with the GPA. The "unsaid" cutoff for GPA and MBB is 3.70. But if you're coming from a non so stellar school, it's important to have stellar everything else.

Dec 16, 2014 - 2:46pm

Absolutely, I mean this applies to your whole life really, but focus on getting really good experience that will help build business knowledge, teamwork, etc.

Find a club on campus you are passionate about, and be one of the star younger members, and aim for the exec team. I learned a lot of management and people skills through my club involvements, and talked about them in depth in my interviews

Find an internship, the best you can get, and make a powerful impact. I worked at an F500 the summer after my frehsman year, and actually owned several different processes in the company. Also talked about this in depth in my interviews.

Found a club at your school for something you are passionate about, a founded a non-profit with my friend. Talked a bit about this too.

Work at a startup, or found your own business in school. Theres tons of things you can do. Find what you want to do, be passionate, motivated, and do it.

Also as a freshman (and throughout college), focus on getting a good GPA. Aim for a 4.0. Even if you don't get it, hopefully you'll only be a little bit under (like me) :)

Dec 17, 2014 - 7:21am

Hey there, congrats on getting that full time offer. Just a few questions.

Other than WSO, are there any forums that focus on consulting?

For Victor Cheng's resources, did you use LOMS or just focused on his articles only?

Dec 17, 2014 - 11:10am

I used managementconsulted a bit. I read their articles on firm profiles, starting salaries, resume/cover letter tips, etc. But fresh new content isn't updated frequently and there isn't a forum, so I don't visit much anymore.

I don't really know of any more popular websites, if anyones knows any I'd love to hear it! The lack of activity in consulting cabaret on wso has always saddened me haha. But this may also be because there are simply more people (way more) in finance than consulting.

I watched Victor Cheng's videos, that was it really. I never really understood LOMS, seemed like just some recordings of interviews? I get that you can use it to train how you structure your words and arguments, but I just didn't see a $300 value in that. If there was any need to change how I answered cases, I just asked the people I practiced with or my interviews after the 1st round. Much more personalized advice too. It's probably useful to some people, I just never used it.

Dec 17, 2014 - 10:58pm

Just to set the record strait, since it's come up a few times-- at least for post-MBA hires, at least if the resume checks all the boxes, it's absolutely possible to get interviews without networking.

Dec 20, 2014 - 1:09pm

Hmm interesting. I think my resume had everything except a target school. I noticed I only got interviews at the firms I had a strong network with. If it is possible even for the undergrad level, I just think it's significantly harder and you're much more likely to get an interview through networking.

Dec 20, 2014 - 6:03am

Congrats on the offer. I just have a minor question regarding following up if you don't get an answer from someone.

Do you follow up in the same email, or send a separate new email? I feel like the response really depends on the other person: using the same email may make you appear diligent or pesky depending on their personality/mood.

Dec 20, 2014 - 1:12pm

Thanks! I feel like this is getting very specific and probably doesn't matter too much. I follow up over the same email. That way I can send an even shorter note and not recount all the details of my previous message. Can't imagine someone significantly preferencing one way or the other though.

Dec 21, 2014 - 8:20pm

Well first finance != consulting. Similar skillsets though.

You should first figure out where in finance you want to work.

Then you should tailor your internship to get experiences that would help you build the skills you need for that kind of work.

And then you should network (see comments and original post) with people in the field that you want.

Dec 27, 2014 - 3:38pm

I know this thread is old but hopefully I can glean some information from you if you're still available. Congrats on your achievements, man!
I've been thinking a lot about corpstrat and Consulting as different career fields and was wondering how much of a deal it is to have a high ACT score? I have a 29 and wasn't really planning on taking it again (since I'm a senior just about done with applying to colleges). Is this any good?
Also, where would you suggest looking for information about consulting and any sort of preparation for breaking into consulting?

We spend a lot of time making the unimportant measurable while the important remains immeasurable
Dec 28, 2014 - 1:24pm

Thanks man, wow a high schooler haha.

I think 29 is on the low end and from the comments above, it seems like it's a big deal. But I would definitely confirm from multiple sources that you trust that this is the case before you go through the agony of studying/retaking an exam haha.

For younger kids, one of the best things you can do is be informed, and you can look everywhere for this. The best sources are primary, so find people who work in consulting and learn from them. And you can use internet and forums like this and books and read case studies on like MBB web sites.

Also try to hone your business skill throughout college. For clubs, you can join an investment club/consulting club, or any sort of club you get management/business experience from. Do case competitions, intern early. Hell you can even start your own simple business, like lawn mowing or something. But do it right, think about how to market, price, your costs, etc. You can also take a look at case interviews, although I wouldn't do that seriously until you're older.

Jan 13, 2015 - 12:39pm

Thanks for posting this its inspirational, I'm a sophomore going to do a consulting internship with one of the big 4 this summer but I aim at joining one of the MBB in my junior year. What advise can you give me to improve myself by then? Classes to take? gpa minimum? I'm definitely starting networking now

Jan 13, 2015 - 12:40pm

Thanks for posting this its inspirational, I'm a sophomore going to do a consulting internship with one of the big 4 this summer but I aim at joining one of the MBB in my junior year. What advise can you give me to improve myself by then? Classes to take? gpa minimum? I'm definitely starting networking now
plus I'm from a non target and international

Feb 17, 2017 - 9:25pm

Congrats on the offer! How did you start the networking process with MBB people? Coldcalls? Linkedin? Friend/family connections?

“You adapt, evolve, compete, or die.” -Paul Tudor Jones
Mar 8, 2018 - 5:21pm

Hey man, I think we have similiar background. I did some internships in investment banking and asset management and will be doing a corporate strategy internship this summer. I too wanna to recruit for MBB for full time? Do you think prepping for MBB in junior year f is too late ? I was also only focused on IB until I realize it's not for me lol. I'm currently a junior. Thanks.

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:32pm

Non-target State School to MBB. AMAA! (Originally Posted: 01/08/2016)

Hi everyone! Long time user on an alternate account here.

I come from a total non-target state school (Ranked in Top 150) and recently accepted an offer to join an MBB firm. Definitely was not an easy process, but I learned so much from this site that I wanted to have the opportunity to give back.

So, feel free to ask me (almost) anything.

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:36pm

3.8 GPA, 99th %ile ACT, and four internships. One nonprofit, one international, one back office at a BB bank, and one corporate strategy at a Fortune 50.

It all comes down to networking and understanding what makes you unique. You have to give them a reason to want to go out of their way to look at your resume. I did it through a combination of establishing rapport with multiple consultants well before (2+ years in advance) I actually started the recruiting process and keeping in contact with them.

Never once felt looked down upon. If anything, it felt like an advantage. People were impressed that I had made it that far from a non target, and it made me unique. The conversations that I had were much more about my experiences than just what I had accomplished or the names on my resume.

Having a partner push a resume through is pretty much a guaranteed interview IF the partner is actually pushing it through and vouching for you. There is a HUGE difference between pushing a resume through and simply "passing it along".

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:41pm

I start in the fall, so none yet!

From what I can gather, it's very dependent on the case that you're on. If you're on a public sector case that's a 9-week engagement, it's going to be much more relaxed than a 2-week due diligence sprint. Working weekends seems surprisingly rare, but it does happen occasionally.

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:38pm

@StateUGtoMBB, thanks for the detailed response.

I'm setting myself up in a similar fashion to you, strong GPA very high quality internships decent connections. My only concern right now is my SAT score. Got into a top 30 school with the equivalent of a 30 ACT. Should I retake it and go forward with that or should I just leave ACT as is and maybe take the GMAT/GRE early to show I'm capable.

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:42pm

And to answer your second question, yes! Demonstrating leadership and initiative is an absolute must. I was the president of two groups (a consulting club and a business fraternity), on the exec board for another, employed as a TA, and worked with a nonprofit. I kept myself busy :)

Outside of that, not really any certifications that were noteworthy

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:45pm
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