In our first Back-to-School post, we explained how to define your personal brand, research your target firms, and determine your casing baseline. This week, we’ll help you prepare for on-campus consulting recruiting events, including info sessions, coffee chats, and case workshops.
As a reminder, these posts are tailored to our undergraduate clients, whose recruiting schedules often follow the below timeline:
- Mid-to-Late August: Semester Starts
- Early September: Consulting firms host info sessions, coffee chats, & case workshops
- Mid-September: Resume drop, interviews are awarded, case buddies are assigned
- Mid-to-Late September: Round 1 interviews occur on-campus
- Late September – Early October Round 2 interviews occur in-office
- Mid October: Offers given
We’ll organize this post by the usual order that on-campus consulting recruiting events take place during the Fall semester.
- Timing: Early in the recruiting cycle, around the time of your on-campus career fair
- Dress-code: Business Semi-Professional. We recommend you wear a suit (without a tie for men), though you could wear a jacket with pants or a skirt of a different color as long as you look sharp
- Recruiter Goal: Identify top talent prior to resume drops; Sell recruits on their firm
- Your Goal: Ensure the firm has a positive, memorable first impression of you; Verify the firm is a good match
The consulting firms that actively recruit at your school will each host an info session on-campus. Be aware, a good recruiting team will have a sign-in desk so they can make note of your attendance and start to build your recruiting profile. It is extremely important that you attend every info session hosted by the firms that interest you. If there is overlap between two firms, we recommend you prioritize one over the other as opposed to splitting time between both.
During the info session, a team consisting of both senior and junior consultants will walk you through details about their firm. Typical topics include:
- Description of consulting
- Explanation of how their firm stands-out
- Description of services provided / industries targeted by the firm
- Highlight of a “day-in-the-life” by a junior consultant
- Overview of the firm’s social impact, diversity & inclusion, international reach, and culture
- Tips on preparing for interviews
These presentations will last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, after which there may be a short Q&A session. If you get the chance to ask a well-thought-out question, take advantage of the opportunity to make your presence known. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to get in a question – there is almost always a meet-and-greet session where you and your classmates will get to mingle with the consultants.
The meet-and-greet session is your opportunity to sell your brand to the recruiters and ask any burning questions you might have.
A few do’s and don’ts to keep mind:
- DO: Introduce yourself with a firm handshake and eye contact.
- DON’T: Interrupt a conversation until there is a natural pause.
- DO: Join the human circles that will form around each recruiter.
- DON’T: Hog the conversation or block others from joining (helping the recruiter manage the crowd is a great way to earn brownie points).
- DO: Have 1-2 questions prepared whose answers are meaningful to you. For example:
- Would you mind sharing the type of work you do for both clients and for your firm?
- How have you been able to pursue your interests at the firm?
- DON’T: Ask questions whose answers require deep thought, refer to exit opportunities, mean nothing to you, refer to other firms, or have already been addressed during the info session. For example:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- How will tariffs on Chinese goods impact your consulting services?
- Do you travel a lot?
- DO: Take notes on each recruiter you meet so you can remember their names, what type of work they do, and any unique hobbies or interests. Consulting recruiters are barraged by hundreds of unfamiliar faces at school events – they very much appreciate a familiar face who already knows their story and can have a more natural conversation. LinkedIn can be your best friend here.
- DON’T: Spend too much time with one consultant. Make sure you get quality time with both junior and senior-level consultants. During the selection process, you’ll want consensus across all levels that you’re a good fit. Senior practitioners have the final say, but junior practitioners are more consistently involved throughout the recruiting cycle so they can build a case for candidates they like.
- DO: Send short yet thoughtful follow-up emails that don’t require a response.
- DON’T: Arrive super early, leave before connecting with at least 1 recruiter at the analyst level and 1 at the manager level, or linger when the recruiters are making moves to leave.
- Timing: Usually after the info session but before resume screening
- Dress-code: Dress according to the venue. If you’re literally meeting at a coffee shop, Business Casual or even Smart Casual is fine. If you’re meeting in a break-out room on-campus, you might throw on a jacket
- Recruiter Goal: Verify whether you’re a good fit for their firm; Determine if you have any special interests they could keep in mind when selling the firm to you, or of any weaknesses they would want to probe further during interviews
- Your Goal: Share your background, your strengths, and your passions while maintaining as natural of a conversation as possible; Learn more about the consultant so that you can better understand their firm
Coffee chats are a great way to get to know your recruiters and share your story in a more casual setting. For some consulting firms, any recruit can sign-up for a chat. At others, you have to be awarded the time based on your performance at other on-campus events.
Coffee chats are one of the more tricky consulting recruiting events. The locations can range from formal to casual. Regardless of venue, the 20-60 minutes given is meant to be informative and relaxed for both parties.
To take full advantage of your time, consider the below advice:
- DO: Take the opportunity seriously and prepare your talking points.
- DON’T: Push your agenda so hard that the conversation isn’t natural.
- DO: Loosen-up and have fun! After all, it’s just coffee…
- DON’T: Be afraid to discuss some aspects of your personal life to show your authentic self.
- DO: Show-up 15 minutes early, use the full time allotted, and be respectful of the consultant’s schedule once your time is up.
- DON’T: Hog the conversation.
- DO: Send a short yet thoughtful follow-up email.
- DON’T: Try to turn the coffee chat into an on-going conversation. Consultants are extremely busy people – respect their time!
- Timing: Usually after resume drops, definitely before Round 1 interviews
- Dress-code: Same as for the Info Session
- Recruiter Goal: Identify any early standouts; Ensure all candidates have an understanding of what is expected of them during the case interview
- Your Goal: Demonstrate casing abilities, intellectual curiosity, communication skills, and teaming with others
Perhaps the most intimidating and useful of the on-campus consulting recruiting events is the case workshop. Most often, the workshop is meant to educate recruits with 1st Round interview invites, though some firms make the workshop open to all applicants.
Facilitated by more junior consultants, the firms try to provide a “safe zone” for learning. You can expect to walk through the company’s recommended methodology for solving cases before breaking into groups and tackling some of the analysis on your own. You may even get the chance to present your recommended solutions.
If you get the opportunity to attend a case workshop, remember:
- DO: Note any particular preferences expressed by the presenters in terms of how you should approach your interview.
- DON’T: Make the mistake of thinking that your case will have similar structure or content. It may, if you’re lucky, but we recommend you diversify your case prep so you can handle the inevitable curve-ball.
- DO: Participate actively in the discussion by asking question and offering your insights.
- DON’T: Believe that the case workshop is a judgement-free space. Recruiters are humans, and if they see you outperform, they’ll make note of it. By the same token, if they notice you struggling more than your peers, that may become a note on your recruiting profile they’re building.
- DO: Team with your classmates in a way that displays both your leadership skills and your ability to follow.
- DON’T: Believe that the case workshop is a judgement-free space. Recruiters are humans, and if they see you outperform, they’ll make note of it. By the same token, if they notice you struggling more than your peers, that may become an entry on your recruiting profile.
Consulting recruiting events can be stressful, or they can be a fun and exciting way to meet your future colleagues. Now that you know what to expect and have a few tips, we hope you feel more comfortable when the time comes for you to meet your target firms in person. Just remember – your recruiters volunteered to visit campus because they enjoy meeting folks just like you. They feel nostalgic about university, they like bragging about their firm, they love helping students, and they want to have a good time!
We’ll be back next week to share advice on resume drops and case buddies!
Bonus: If you’re not confident in your wardrobe, checkout this post to get some inspiration and direction for your recruiting style.