Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Consultant internship interviews

On campus recruiting for juniors and sophomores are in full swing.

Some of our readers have reached out to us with questions on how to stand out in a pile of resumes. Moreover, they want to know what additional characteristics firms like McKinsey and Bain look for in their candidates in the summer internship rounds.

The summer internships at McKinsey, Bain and other consulting firms are notoriously difficult to land. This is due to the limited number of spots: at certain offices in their system, McKinsey or Bain will only have 2 to 8 interns at each office every summer.

So, cutting to the chase, what common threads can be found among those who were fortunate enough to have a summer internship offer at a top management consulting firm?

  • Strong academic credentials: At one of the most competitive offices of MBB, summer interns boasted an average SAT of 1540 on Math and Reading. The average GPA was over 3.8.
  • Significant and prestigious campus leadership: Some students were on the lower end of the academic performance curve. However, they stood out by being class presidents, university representatives on boards, and the like. MBB look for these "class captains" because after their summer internships, they return to campus and serve as ambassadors for the firm -- they are the big people on campus and often convince their network of friends and classmates to apply for full-time.
  • Other outstanding accomplishments: Beyond the buckets listed above, those who land summer internships may stand out for other reasons. Some were star science researchers in undergraduate / postgrad labs, had done policy research in developing countries, designed afterschool curriculums for disadvantaged students, or have done other significant experiences that catch recruiters' eyes
That being said, it is certainly possible to get an internship or job in consulting without being extraordinary on all of these fronts. When it comes down to it, a resume needs to be well-written, polished, and make you memorable during the interview screening. Having the above experiences will no doubt help, but there are other ways to merit favorable consideration - by doing common tasks (your academics, some extracurriculars, and networking very well).

Last, an interest in consulting is a must. Consultants often pass on stellar resumes when they don't feel that an applicant really understands what the industry, job and firm are all about.

Feel free to keep those questions coming.

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