What makes a graduate consulting application successful?

‘Why do you think your application was successful?’ we asked graduates hired by leading consultancy employers. Here are their top answers.
I considered how the skills I already had could be applied to consulting.

Being able to talk about work experience

Whether it’s consulting-related or not, having work experience or an internship on your CV is always going to impress consulting employers.

‘I was able to say to recruiters that I’d done a summer internship at an inter-dealer broker and worked full time for a year at a corporate finance house,’ says Dimitris Samouris, an associate with Parthenon-EY. ‘Work experience is vital for applications – it signals to future employers that you know what to expect and are capable of coping with and contributing to a work environment.’

Charlotte Gibney, a senior business analyst at A.T. Kearney, agrees: ‘At university I did an internship in investment banking, which not only helped me secure my job in finance, but also strengthened my management consulting application as it showed dedication and drive from an early age.’

Demonstrating interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are a must for would-be consultants, so being able to strike up a good rapport with your interviewers is a great way to demonstrate that you will be able to get on well with your future colleagues.

‘The interview process allowed me to highlight my ability to communicate with people confidently,’ says Jamie Gillespie, a consultant at CHP Consulting.

Emma Britton, a consultant with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants who was hired first as an intern by the firm and then offered a full-time position, agrees: ‘I got on well with the people interviewing me, which was important as consultancy is team based and requires a lot of client interaction. Your interviewers have to be confident that you are someone who will present themselves well in front of clients and with whom they would like to work.’

Showing real interest in the job

If recruiters feel you’re excited about the possibility of working with them, you’re bound to be an appealing candidate. Show enthusiasm throughout the process and mention anything that proves to recruiters that you have a real interest in consulting and their firm. ‘I was on the board of the consultancy society at university, which further demonstrated my interest,’ says Adina Raetzsch, a consultant at Arthur D. Little.

Extracurricular activities

Consulting firms don’t want to see someone who has only achieved amazing grades at university – they also want to see evidence that you have other interests and pursuits. Being involved with extracurricular activities allows you to pick up the kind of skills recruiters are looking for, as well.

‘I was president of the engineering society at university which showed my leadership skills and gave me lots of interesting experience to draw on,’ says Imogen Buchan, an associate consultant at Bain & Company.

Researching the employer well

We can’t say this often enough: savvy research into the firm you’re interested in will ensure you tailor your application to highlight the competencies it’s looking for and give you confidence at interview. It’ll also help to convince recruiters that, as you’ve taken the time to find out about the firm, you’re truly interested in the role on offer.

‘I attended an Intro to Strategy Day at Credo in October, which gave me an amazing insight into the company and strategy consulting, and definitely helped with my application,’ says Oliver Twinam, an associate at Credo. ‘This also meant I had met a number of people from the company by the time I came to apply, which allowed me to be more personal in my covering letter.’

Taking time to prepare for case study interviews

Practising a few case studies in advance – most firms have samples on their websites – will pay off on the big day. Philippe Ducrest, an associate at Parthenon-EY, believes his case preparation played a large role in his application’s success: ‘I spent most of the beginning of the academic year working on case interviews so that when the recruitment season started, I was prepared. Case interviews are stressful and challenging but being prepared enables you to cruise through the easier parts (cases are more similar than you think) and approach the key questions with more confidence.’