General Education

How to Land a Summer Internship in Management Consulting

How to Land a Summer Internship in Management Consulting
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Emily Greenwald September 1, 2020

Recruiting for summer spots at McKinsey, Bain, and other consulting firms can be daunting, but with enough preparation and the right attitude, anyone can sail through coffee chats and case interviews.

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Info sessions, coffee chats, and case interviews – oh my! On-campus recruiting (lovingly dubbed “OCR") begins almost as soon as first-year students set foot on campus (or in the case of 2020, log on to Zoom). The entire experience can be overwhelming from start to finish, and it can feel nearly impossible to navigate the hiring process while also balancing your first-year course load and new friendships.

Landing a management consulting internship is a lot like getting into business school. Staying organized, working your network, and fine tuning your skills are a few ways to guarantee you make a good impression in coffee chats, nail your case interview, and secure the offer!

Stay Organized

This seems like a no brain-er, but it's still worth mentioning. Keep track of everything. Remember how many spreadsheets you created to keep track of letters of recommendation, campus visits, and interviews for applications? Approach consulting recruiting with the same diligence.

Applications for some of the major consulting firms are due as early as mid-September, just when most first-year students are finally getting the hang of their classes. Don't miss a date! Put them on your calendar as soon as they're available--and be sure to schedule alerts early enough to remind you to write that cover last minute!

Work That Network

... Sort of. On-campus recruiting is a different sort of beast than regular recruiting (also known as "enterprise" recruiting in the MBA world). Glowing recommendations from associates at Bain or McKinsey never hurts, but at most of the big firms, face time with current employees will only get you so far.

Networking is one of the best tools you have to demonstrate your interest in a firm or a particular practice area. It's also the best way for you to get insight into what are otherwise giant companies whose day-to-day inner workings and culture can be obscure. The best news? You're now connected to 500+ MBA students, many of whom likely worked in consulting prior to business school (25% of Chicago Booth's MBA class of 2021 are reported to have come from consulting). Talk to them about their experiences and ask to be connected to people at their firms.

Practice Makes (Nearly) Perfect

Case interviews. Everyone stresses about them, and for good reason. (I'm sorry, was that not comforting?) Case interviews are often dynamic presentations, with new information on the case problem sometimes being presented verbally. It's important to find people to do case preparation with, and drill one another not just on frameworks but to work through entire cases as if it were a real interview.

As important as it is to work with classmates to get ready, you go into your interview alone. How do you prepare alone? Online preparation tools like RocketBlocks help develop tools and skills you’ll need to ace your case interviews, such as mental math, creative problem solving, and structured frameworks. Monthly access costs $35 but check with your school’s career center to see if they have a license for students to access the content.

Be prepared.

There's no way you can know what the case will be before you arrive to an interview. The interview itself could be comprised purely of brain teasers (there's the infamous "How many manhole covers are there in Manhattan?" interview question), or a market sizing question, or it could be a pure business case based on a current or former client.

So if you don't know what you're going to be asked, how can you be prepared? Think like a consultant. Consultants are naturally curious and enthusiastic about problem solving. Before coffee chats and interviews commence, get in the habit of consuming business news from a variety of sources--newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and podcasts such as Robinhood's Snacks Daily are great options.

And then, the basics. Get a good night's sleep the night before your interview. Make sure you know how to get to your interview location and have the name and number of your contact ready for when you arrive at reception. If you consume alcohol, avoid drinking for the few weeks leading up to your interview to keep yourself sharp while you're prepping.

What else do you need to know?

It's not what you say, it's how you say it.

Remember that at the end of the day, consulting firms want to know that you'll be a good consultant. Yes, they want to know that you can calculate revenue and market share, but they also want to know that you can structure problems (and their solutions!) clearly. It's okay to change your assumptions based on new information presented as the case develops, and it's encouraged to ask for a few moments to collect your thoughts. Rephrase what you hear (or what you're reading on printed materials) and ask as many clarifying questions as you need to make sure you're on the same page with the interviewer.

Consultants are great communicators, who quickly adapt to problems and roadblocks to deliver results for their clients. This, in my experience, is the key to a great case interview: if you think like you're already a consultant, you'll be more sure about your answers. Smile and be gracious if the interviewer points out an error in your mental math, be curious and enthusiastic in solving the problem, and be confident in your recommendations. (Insider tip: pretending the interviewer is your client, it's easier to get into the role of consultant, and it helps you sell your solution with confidence!)

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