In consulting recruitment terms, February can be the cruellest month. While some students and graduates receive job offers at this time of year, you may be among the many who have just learned that they’ve not received their dream job offer at a consulting firm – either for an internship or a full-time position. Yes, you know there are plenty of other consulting firm fish in the sea, but darn it that was the particular fish you wanted! Is there anything you can do to increase your chances if you decide to reapply? The simple and happy answer is yes.
Recently I spoke with recruiters at several consulting firms, who assure me that the advice on their websites about reapplying is not empty corporate speak. I hear about a candidate at EY-Parthenon, for example, who applied one year and got to the final interview stage, only to be rejected. She reapplied the next year and was accepted. I also heard about a student who was rejected for an internship with BCG but got accepted the following year for a full-time position.
In the vast majority of cases, it will be possible to reapply for the position you want. Some firms, such as PwC, ask that you wait only three months before reapplying; others, such as Deloitte, will expect you to wait a little longer (six months). Others will expect you to wait a year, until the recruitment season starts again. Check the firm’s policy, as you don’t want to miss out because you reapplied too early.
There's nothing wrong with reapplying to an organisation that previously rejected you and you shouldn't shy away from doing so as long as you feel that you have the potential to work for that company. The first thing you need to do if you receive a rejection is figure out why you weren’t successful. Then, you need to plan how to do things differently next time.
Use your time wisely
While you’re figuring it out though, remember to follow the advice of a consultant at Oliver Wyman who has been through the process: ‘If you’ve been rejected during your first round of applications, don’t stop looking for relevant work experience, or pursuing the activities that you enjoy. The last thing you want is to create a big gap on your CV unintentionally – when it comes to reapplying, time spent productively (or doing interesting things) may be seen positively.’
It could be as simple as when you applied. You may be a great candidate, but if you apply too late, it won’t matter. Firms, especially those without set closing dates, will close their schemes once all the vacancies have been filled, which could take weeks or months. A graduate recruitment manager at PA Consulting, advises, ‘For all those who just missed out on a position this year, my advice is to get your application in as early as possible next year, set a reminder in your diary so you submit on the day the application pools open and follow up with the graduate recruiter at the firm to remind them that you applied last year.’
Keeping in touch can be key when reapplying, it seems. Adds the recruiter: ‘I met someone at a careers fair last year who submitted her application too late but she was so interested in the firm that she kept in touch with me throughout the year. By the time she reapplied I was aware of who she was and was able to track her application. She has now successfully secured an analyst position with us to start in September.’
Has your application let you down?
Valentine Troutaud, recruiting manager at BCG, tells us, ‘If you haven’t been selected for an interview once, it probably means there was something missing on your application which you can work on for the next few months before reapplying.’ Organisations tend not to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates at the application stage, as the numbers are simply too high. The best way to get some answers is to show it to someone else, such as a careers advisor. Go back over the job description and competencies required for the role – did you really pull out all the stops to prove that you fit the bill?
Review your CV that you originally submitted for the job to determine how you can improve the second application so that it matches the job requirements more closely this time.
Our consultant at Oliver Wyman suggests:
- double checking that you haven’t left any important information out – such as academic grades, positions of responsibility, or how long your sections of work experience were
- giving your CV a defined structure with distinct sections, ordered by date (most recent first).
- identifying what will be most important to the recruiters, and focusing any detail on that. For example, if you’ve done an interesting internship, then don’t spend all your time selling your Saturday job. Instead, explain and focus on what you achieved during your internship.
Also review your cover letter. Have you:
- phrased it to present yourself as a candidate that the employer would want, rather than asking humbly for a job?
- described the reasons that you have for wanting to work in consulting, and demonstrated that you know what the industry does.
- carefully proofread your letter, ensuring that you have addressed it as a letter (rather than just a paragraph) and there are no spelling or other mistakes.
Did you make it to the interview stage?
Many employers will give you feedback at this stage, which should arm you with tips for the next time. It's advisable to contact a member of the graduate recruitment team, if possible, rather than one of the individual assessors or interviewers. Depending on the organisation, however, you may find that you end up speaking directly to your interviewer. Listen carefully and don’t be tempted to argue if you disagree with any comments. Remember to say thank you for the feedback, and, if appropriate, for the interview or assessment centre day as well.
You may discover that your interview technique needs some work – perhaps you came across as unfriendly when you were actually just nervous, or you didn’t communicate well. If this is the case, try to arrange some practice interviews, ideally with a careers adviser. Practice will take the edge off your nerves and you may receive some useful feedback afterwards. Some employers may give you a generic excuse such as ‘another candidate was better qualified’ or ‘you didn’t have enough experience’. If they do, ask them to spell it out – what qualifications or experience would have strengthened your application? You could see if they will let you in on specifics of what experience the successful candidate had. However, if they seem reluctant to give more detailed information, it's best to accept whatever you've been told with good grace.
Valentine tells us, ‘A candidate was invited for interview for a summer internship position but was rejected after the first round. The feedback he received after our interview process was mainly based on the case study, in that he should have practiced in more detail. He worked on his maths and analytical skills and re-applied again for a full time position. He has now been working at BCG for four months.’
Remember, you are in competition with a pool of candidates, which will be different this time. Moreover, the more experience you gain at university (in your extracurricular activities, internships etc), or outside it, the more your application will have added value.
Especially if it’s combined with feedback, being rejected during the job application process does not mean that you’ve wasted your time. The experience of applying will have given you a good grounding for future applications, whether those are to the same organisation or a different one. Think of it as a practice run.