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How to Earn a Position at the “Big Three”

Mar 29, 2022
Vanderbilt MBAs offer tips on landing jobs with management consulting firms Bain, BCG, and McKinsey

By Arial Starks

MBA candidates with an interest in consulting have at least considered pursuing a career with one of the “Big Three” management consulting firms: Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), or McKinsey & Company, all of whom recruit talented MBA students annually from a variety of business schools. The recruiting process is highly selective, and as such, it is vital for candidates to put their best foot forward and leave a lasting impression on hiring teams. Vanderbilt MBA Class of 2022 candidates Joe Payne, Allison Taylor, and Keith Jones share tips and advice on landing positions with the Big Three. Allison Taylor will be joining Bain, Keith Jones will be joining BCG, and Joe Payne will be joining McKinsey. 

Joe Payne

1. Stay authentic to yourself

Payne, Taylor, and Jones agree that authenticity is one of the most important things to consider when presenting yourself during all phases of the recruiting process. Payne notes that being yourself during interviews and networking opportunities will help you determine whether the company is a good fit for you and vice versa.

“You’re going to have a better opportunity to find that fit if you present your authentic self throughout the interview process,” he said. “By being your authentic self, you are guaranteeing that the firm is hiring you for you, and not the version of you that you put forward, which I believe is pretty crucial.”

2. Do your research on each firm

It is vital to research each firm and connect with people that work at the Big Three to learn more about them. Taylor looked into all 3 firms but says Bain was her top choice.

“I attended all of the offered webinars both my first and second years where I learned a lot about the firm (Bain) and understood more about their values,” she said. “Bain was by far my top choice, because the goals and values of the people I encountered really resonated with me,” she added.

3. Don’t self-select out

When it comes to pursuing Bain, BCG, or McKinsey, Jones encourages candidates to believe in their abilities and shed any doubts about their qualifications.

Allison Taylor

“I think there were a lot of people who could have been successful at these firms, but they were just too afraid to apply because they felt like they weren’t the right fit without truly doing any research,” said Jones. 

“I agree with Keith,” added Payne. “Candidates should apply to all 3 and let the firms make the decision. There is no reason why candidates should reject their own application by choosing not to apply in the first place”.

4. Use campus resources to practice cases

Payne prepared for recruiting at McKinsey with lots of case practice, through on campus-leadership opportunities. As a former board member of the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club, he was able to participate in several mock behavioral interviews and case interview prep.

“The resources available and the support of the Owen community are incredible, however they cannot replace individual effort,” said Payne. “You need to put in the work and develop your own unique interview style.

Keith Jones

5. Ask for feedback and take action

Seek feedback on your performance during your internship; don’t wait until the end. Jones encourages interns at Bain, BCG, or McKinsey to not just seek feedback, but use it to improve.

“Some people will come into the firms as an intern feeling like they have a cutthroat environment, where if you’re not performing at the optimal level, then you’re going to be pushed out of the firm,” he said. “What I found is as long as you’re asking for feedback and taking action on that feedback, there’s no way you won’t be successful at the firms.”

6.  Be persistent 

Bain, BCG, and McKinsey are all highly selective; do not get discouraged when faced with rejection. Taylor was not extended an offer from Bain when she applied for an internship; she reapplied in the following year for a full-time position and earned an offer.

“I feel like there is a bit of mystery around the top 3 firms because it is sometimes difficult to identify exact similarities or patterns in who they select for interviews,” said Taylor. “I was not even selected for an internship interview with Bain. I interned with another firm and then decided to re-recruit. I was nervous re-submitting my resume but decided to go for it anyways. I was surprised when I was selected for the full-time job interview. I think it just goes to show that being persistent is important and you have to have faith in the process,” she added.

To learn more about Vanderbilt’s MBA consulting track, click here.

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