How to get a Management Consulting shortlist at IIMs?

Updated: Jun 29

This post is the first part of a series regarding Management Consulting at IIMs. A lot of members of the blog were interested in this role, so there are going to be a couple of posts around it. Stay tuned!

Establishing Credibility

Now, a lot of you know that my inclination lies in the area of marketing. So, you might wonder how can I comment on managing consulting as a function. To clarify that doubt, I applied to management consulting roles during my summer internship at IIM Ahmedabad. I was shortlisted by the following firms and attended all their events that took place prior to the interviews (explained ahead):

  1. McKinsey & Co.

  2. AT Kearney

  3. Strategy&

  4. Accenture Strategy

  5. Mastercard Advisors

Due to that exposure as well as the close discussions I've had with my friends who have made it to MBB (McKinsey, Bain and BCG), I can share some information as to how one can get shortlists from these firms. I'd however not be able to share their interview experiences because I never appeared for any. I directly sat in Cluster 2 i.e. for the marketing roles.

Clarifying Doubts

Before we talk about the shortlisting process of these firms, there are a couple of FAQs that are often put across to me on the blog in regards to management consulting. Let's address them first:

What is their eligibility criteria?

There is no restriction placed on any student who wishes to apply to these firms. Some management consulting firms (you can count on fingers) place a minimum work-ex requirement. Rest are open for all.

Do freshers make it to MBB?

Yes, tonnes of them. The firms don't discriminate on the basis on work-ex. You can find a detailed post on the impact of work-ex on IIM placements here, in which I have mentioned that consulting is one of the most open functions in terms of giving opportunities to freshers.

Do non-engineers make it to MBB?

Of course, they do. Again, educational background is not as important as what you achieved in that background. In fact, some firms (like McKinsey) are known to value students with diverse backgrounds.

How many students are hired?

Depending from firm to firm, on an average most consulting firms hire 8-12 students in summers and 10-15 in finals. Some firms (like Bain) may also hire lesser. The requirements keep changing year-on-year.

How much are they paid?

The stipends range from INR 1.5 Lakhs per month to INR 2.5 Lakhs per month. The final CTC is in the range of 25 LPA to north of 50 LPA. These numbers vary depending on the brand name of the firm and the location. Most firms provide an excellent increment after 2 years of job completion. But, trust me most people overlook the salary when it comes to consulting. The exposure and learning is far more valuable.

What's the workload like?

In most firms, there is a lot of travel involved to the client's location. You can expect 75-90 hours of work on a weekly basis. The projects are often short-term i.e. about 3-4 months (can be lesser too) and in the first couple of years, students are made to work in different industries.

Shortlisting Process

The process is standard for most firms with the exception of a few. It entails the following in the order:

  1. CV Shortlisting

  2. Pre-Placement Presentation

  3. Tea gathering/Lunch

  4. Problem Solving Test (only McKinsey)

  5. Final Interviews

Appreciation Letters and Invites to Lunches/Dinners

Out of these, only the CV Shortlisting and the Final Interviews are elimination rounds.

CV Shortlisting

To talk about the CV shortlisting, I'd recommend you to first read about CV making. You must go through this format of resume/CV we use at IIM Ahmedabad. I've also explained there what buckets and spikes mean. But, since they're important for consulting, I'll repeat their meanings here:

Buckets refer to the different portions of the CV: Academics, Co-Curricular, Internships & Work Experience, Positions of Responsibility, Extra-Curricular.
Spikes refer to the extra-ordinary achievements that add value to your candidature.

There are two kinds of CVs that are known to be shortlisted by management consulting firms (this is based on the general perception on the campus and there is no empirical evidence to prove the same):

  1. Balanced CVs: These CVs have a fair amount of spikes in all the buckets. This means that the student is an all-rounder and has diverse achievements to reflect in all buckets. If I were to categorize my own CV, it would fit more so under this point.

  2. Outliers: These CVs have one or two spikes in certain buckets that outshine everything else in the CV. This means that the student is an expert of a certain background/hobby/area. For example, one of my batch mates, who is a National Golf player got shortlisted by McKinsey.

Here is an example of what firms mean by spikes - Strategy& wrote this in my letter of appreciation post shortlisting me for their Summer Internship process:

It reads as follows:

Your inclusion in the.... Specifically, we were impressed with your scholastic achievements. Your achievements in extra-curricular activities, especially in the International Space Design Contest is quite commendable.

Post selection, almost all firms send an e-mail or a letter to the students they've hired highlighting the best part of their CVs which attracted the recruiters. That's what we call spikes!

Final Interviews

Like I said, I won't be able to share interview experiences. But, what I know is that the interviews involve two kinds of rounds: Case-based round, HR round.

Case-based rounds assess the ability of the candidate to analyze and structure a problem. They can be in the form of a guesstimate, but more often they are proper cases (will share a post soon on preparing for the cases).

HR rounds are to assess the soft skills of the candidate and to understand if the candidate fits in the company's culture. To know how to prepare for them, refer to this post.

How to get a Consulting Shortlist?

Coming back to our main question here, "How to get a consulting shortlist at IIMs?" This has two parts to it. I will try to be very honest with you here:

During Summer Internships: More often than not, the students who really wish to get into consulting but don't have enough spikes in their CV don't make it to the firms of their choice. During summers, the process is entirely based on your past candidature. So, either you can fight for those spikes by working on your CV - here's how to do that! Or what one can do is to frame the existing spikes in a better manner. There are ten framing hacks that we use at IIM-A to make our CV points look better.

To clarify something important - once you join an IIM, you will not get any opportunities worth calling spikes before your summers process. So, it entirely depends on what you do before the summer internship CV freezing begins.

During Final Placements: This is when all those students who couldn't make it to the consulting firms they desired, get the chance to prove their merit. This is because what you do throughout your two years at an IIM will now get accounted to those spikes. This includes the following achievements:

  1. Academics - Most of the Top 20 students get a direct shortlist.

  2. PORs - If you hold a prominent position in the Students Council, Placement Cell or the Fest Organizing Committee, chances are you'll get a shortlist despite your academics.

  3. PPO - If you hold a pre-placement offer (PPO) from the firm where you interned, it adds value.

  4. Scholarships - Throughout the year, there are some corporates which announce scholarships for the students, so if you've bagged one, it is counted as a spike.

  5. Case Study Competitions - Winning case study competitions at the National Level can add a lot of value. Read this post on How to win National Level case study competitions?

The most common question - "What if someone has a poor academic record?"

This is a common misconception that people hold with regards to management consulting firms. People think that these firms never select those with a poor academic background before IIM or at IIM. This is not true.

There have been several cases, where students with graduation scores in 70s and lesser than 3 CGPA at IIMs have gotten selected at top tier consulting firms like MBB. What one needs to cover up for the academic scores in ones CV are spikes in other buckets (the rest of the 4 points mentioned above).

Hope this helps you to some extent. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on management consulting that will help you understand how to prepare for case interviews.

Edit 1 - Part 2 on the resources used by IIM students for case prep has been published here.

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