Key Strategies For Applying To Consulting Firms

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

Let me start by recapping where we were. We talked about entry into bridge programs like Duke's master's of engineering management program, and the best strategy to apply and get into such a program, to set up a background to get into consulting. What do you do once you're part of such a program? What do you need to do to finally land the interview?

There are 5 or 6 key criteria to consider while strategizing consulting firms applications.

The number one thing is your course selectionWhen you're in the bridge program, the course mix you take is very important.

In consulting, one of the key skills you need as an entry level associate is to know a few basics of finance and accounting. It'll be handy in reading balance sheets and income statements. It's also something that a lot of consulting firms look at when they are recruiting. They don't give preference to any one major, but they like the fact to see business academic experience on a resume, preferably something related to economics or finance and accounting. Pick the right courses. This will help you be a better consultant and sends the right signals to the firms up front.

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Let me start by recapping where we were. We talked about entry into bridge programs like Duke's master's of engineering management program, and the best strategy to apply and get into such a program, to set up a background to get into consulting. What do you do once you're part of such a program? What do you need to do to finally land the interview?

There are 5 or 6 key criteria to consider while strategizing consulting firms applications.

The number one thing is your course selectionWhen you're in the bridge program, the course mix you take is very important.

In consulting, one of the key skills you need as an entry level associate is to know a few basics of finance and accounting. It'll be handy in reading balance sheets and income statements. It's also something that a lot of consulting firms look at when they are recruiting. They don't give preference to any one major, but they like the fact to see business academic experience on a resume, preferably something related to economics or finance and accounting. Pick the right courses. This will help you be a better consultant and sends the right signals to the firms up front.

A lot of my peers who wanted to get into consulting registered for courses at the business school. Since I was in a program you could tailor to your needs, we had the option to take few courses at the business school. Many of them ended up taking some very difficult courses at the business school, such as valuation or corporate finance in the first semester. These courses were pretty challenging, especially given that it's all relative ranking with your peer group that on average has 5 years of excellent experience!

Even though these courses were extremely good and added a lot of value, it was an example of bad foresight. You can take a class like that after your resume has been screened for a full time job or internship. However, these students chose to take these tough courses up front in their program, and it was difficult to score well in those classes, which put a downward pressure on their GPAs.

The first thing to do is make sure you are not taking the most difficult courses up front in your first semester. You need to always keep in mind that GPA is going to be the first line item on your resume. You should do any and everything you can to have that at a reasonably high level.

In my opinion, your aim should be anything above a 3.7 or 3.8. I had a 4.0 when I applied for my summer internship, and it dropped to a 3.8 by the time I graduated (I lapped up a number of those  difficult classes at the business school in my last semester).

Searching for a full time job is a full time course in itself, but remember to prioritize your coursework. Take on courses that you can manage with the job search and in which you can do reasonably well to maintain a healthy GPA instead of  taking very difficult classes which will hit your GPA while applying for internships and full time positions. Once you have the job in the bag, go crazy and take the most difficult courses you want; you'll do better without the job search pressure!

If you want to be a strategy consultant--start thinking like one!
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