Deliverable #8: "Doing Your Research"

How to get in the mindset for recruiting

Jay: “Thank you to everyone who participated in our raffle and rated the show. We really appreciate your support. The winner of the coaching session is Lucas from Boston College. Congrats, Lucas. I’ll be reaching out to you and we can schedule a call. With recruiting in full swing, I know everyone is busy practicing cases and networking. And while that’s all good stuff, don’t forget to take a few minutes to decompress. You can do that by checking out Consulting Humor on Instagram. The page is dedicated to humorous observations about the world of business and consulting, and our show is a big fan. So go to Instagram and search @consultinghumor to be entertained. Best of luck with recruiting, and now without further ado…


[Musical Intro]


Jay: “Welcome to Out of Bandwidth, the podcast guide for future consultants. I’m your host, Jay Alexander, and I’m here with my colleague, Gretel, to share advice and stories about being an analyst at a major consulting firm. On our eight episode, we’re discussing how to get in the mindset for recruiting…Gretel, welcome to the show.”


Gretel: “Thank you for having me, Jay.”


Jay: “It’s a pleasure. You’ve been asking me to be on for a little while now, haven’t you?”


Gretel: “I have and now finally I get my chance.”


Jay: “Let’s start with your profile. So, if you could tell the audience a little bit about how long you’ve been with the firm, projects, industries, let’s start with that.”


Gretel: “Great. So I’ve been with the firm for almost a year now, we’re coming up on my 1-year anniversary of being a cog in the corporate machine. I am in government consulting, I’m more in the state and local government side, and I’ve been on about three projects so far.”


Jay: “Three projects as in different clients or different projects on one big client?”


Gretel: “Different projects on one big client. A lot of times when you have these big government contracts, there can be various teams and different roles that you can be involved in. So, been in the same building, I get to work with the same people, but I’ve definitely transitioned in my role a lot in that year.”


Jay: “Let’s talk about that. I actually left that government account as you came on, and we had a brief overlap. Why don’t we share some differences with the audience about what does government consulting mean and how does it compare to private sector consulting?”


Gretel: “Great. First, thank you for onboarding me. I really…”


Jay: “Did I do a decent job?”


Gretel: “You did, I really appreciated it.”


Jay: “That’s funny.”


Gretel: “I think that one of the differences is that because your projects are a lot longer, you can develop better relationships with the clients and also the people on your team. So I like that I know everybody in the office and I’ve gotten a chance to know everyone, and that they know me as well. I also think, so the reason why I wanted to go into public sector consulting is that I studied public policy, and at the end of the day, I wanted to make citizens’ lives better. I didn’t really care about cranking out X more widgets for a certain factory. And I know that the impact I’m making now has a direct impact on someone’s life. And I know that’s more fulfilling for me, and kind of pushed me into doing government consulting.”


Jay: “That’s fair. The other thing that’s interesting is, a lot of private sector clients are under wraps. Like we can’t mention anything, definitely not on this show, but even in real life. We just don’t talk about them outside of the firm. For government projects, a lot of that information is public knowledge.”


Gretel: “Correct. I can tell anyone what I’m doing, except probably not on the Out of Bandwidth podcast. But find me in the street and I’ll tell you exactly what I’m doing.”


Jay: “So this brings us to today’s topic, which is called: doing your research. And this was actually inspired by one of our listeners, who wrote into the show and sent me an email. As you’re listening to this, I recognize there are multiple ways to come into the firm. You can do experienced hire recruiting, campus hire recruiting. A lot of the people I know listening to the show right now are students who are looking to get into consulting through campus recruiting. Why don’t you tell us about that.”


Gretel: “So I really got into consulting because of an email. So I was in the public policy school and was like, oh cool, governments admit that they have a problem, and then I can work hands-on creating a solution for them. But then I submitted my application and I got an interview, and it said you’re doing a behavioral and a case interview. And I thought, oh rats, I’m not prepared at all to do a case interview. I don’t know what I’m doing! But I need to figure it out. So the first thing I did was I gave myself 10 minutes to panic, and them I’m like, ok…”


Jay: “Always panic. First step.”


Gretel: “Always panic, but put a time limit on it. So I let myself panic for a little bit. And then I focused on, now what can I do, and I really got to work. And I had a week and half a to do it, but it’s totally doable. Don’t be intimated because somebody told you they spent all summer studying case interviews, you might not necessarily need to do 30 or 50 of them. You could probably nail 10 and be prepared.”


Jay: “That’s fair. And for full transparency, the next episode will be discussing interview prep more specifically. So we won’t be discussing that in too much detail on this one. But, did you even know what consulting was? I did not.”

Gretel: “Yes, I knew what consulting was. But I think I still have the same sense now, like what even really is consulting. No one really has a solid answer. I’m definitely not doing what I thought I would be doing. But it seemed like it would be like a good avenue for me, based on what I want to do in the future.”


Jay: “You mentioned you got into consulting by reading somebody’s email. And that was what spurred this whole idea. What was your original plan before you got that email?”


Gretel: “So my original plan was that I was going to work at a policy think tank in DC, or that I was gonna go directly into government. But during my summer internship, I started having coffee chats with people and picking their brains, and it seemed like to make the impact that I wanted, I would have to do a lot of jobs kind of on the lower rung and work my way up. And also, like I was going to get paid peanuts.”


Jay: “Not as much.”


Gretel: “Yeah. And I also needed to go to grad school to get to where I wanted to be, and I’m like, well how am I gonna pay for grad school if I’m not making any money, and DC is expensive. How am I gonna do all of these things? And then when I found out that, maybe if I work for one of the Big 4, they could help pay for my grad school in the future, the compensation is a lot better, and I will have a much greater role than if I was directly with the government now. And maybe that’s the route that I should go. So when I got this email from our career advisor, I was like, oh I’ll write a cover letter.”


Jay: “And there you go, that’s what started all of it.”


Gretel: “That’s what started it all.”


Jay: “So let’s talk about, what was it like returning from summer break and just plunging right in?”


Gretel: “I actually didn’t plunge right in. How some firms do public sector recruiting, they often do it in the second semester. So I actually didn’t get my job offer until two days until after I got my diploma, which was really annoying when I was at my graduation party and people asked me what I was doing and I didn’t know.”


Jay: “Oh man. So you did this all second semester.”


Gretel: “Yes.”


Jay: “Okay, a lot of people listening are probably freaking out right now and thinking, oh my God it’s first semester, I need to get a job.”


Gretel: “That’s true, if you want to go into private sector, you should be freaking out in first semester, when I saved mine for second semester.”


Jay: “Okay, okay. We gotta try and empathize with those people here. What was the impact for you of not being prepared for recruiting. And if someone else is in that position right now, what can they do to quickly get everything together?”


Gretel: “First you gotta acknowledge that it’s not too late and that you can definitely get brought up to speed. So what I started doing is, I reached out to our career center to see if they had any case workshops or if I could get in for one of their mock behavioral interview slots. I reached out to our business school, I had a minor in business so I still had access to those materials so that I could work with them and get peer coaching as well. I also reached out to people on LinkedIn, because I thought, if I could get kind of an informational interview with someone, then it might help me (1) better understand if I even want the job, and (2) maybe give me a better idea of what I should probably highlight in my resume or in my interview. So what I ended up doing was, I went on LinkedIn, I searched positions at the firm that I was applying for, and I also put in some other details like, I was in a sorority so I looked to see if anyone else was in the same sorority that I was, or in the same small school that I was in. And then through that I kind of had more of a personal connection. And then I sent out a bunch of emails over LinkedIn. And I thought, you know what, if no one responds, whatever.”


Jay: “Did you find that a lot of people were receptive to you? Did anybody respond to your LinkedIn messages?”


Gretel: “Yeah, this one girl did. I really owe her a lot. She was super kind and helpful. And I think it helped that we had the connection that (1) she was in my sorority, and (2) we both went to the same small school within a larger university.”


Jay: “Let’s move onto part two here, which is resources. You mentioned one way to prepare is going to the career center, attending info sessions. So let’s start with the career center, you can ask people to review your resume, you can ask people…”


Gretel: “I love the career center.”


Jay: “Yeah?”


Gretel: “I do.”


Jay: “What did they help you with?”


Gretel: “Well, I did a couple of things there. So I went to one of their case workshops where they taught us all about how you should go about a case interview. You can also do a mock case interview there. You can also do a mock behavioral interview there, and they have a lot of other resources to fine-tune your resume and your cover letter. And, I also know business schools have similar resources so I just did both because I had a week and a half and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.”


Jay: “Did you sleep much during that week and a half?”


Gretel: “I slept a decent amount but I did not go to any bars during that week and a half.”


Jay: “What about the importance of the info session? Now, we’ve talked about this in episode five, but why should you attend the info session for every firm or consulting firm you’re looking at?”


Gretel: “I think there’s two reasons why. The first is that you should try and figure out if this is the gig for you, and the second is that attendance is important and I think it’s often tracked. So, show that you’re interested by showing up at the events, and that’s gonna help you. If that have five events and you only looked at one, why is the firm going to think that you’re serious about joining?”


Jay: “Now it’ll be a giant room, you might be sitting in the back, but…”


Gretel: “But put your name on the sign-in sheet.”


Jay: “Now the other thing that I think is important. I think that anyone who’s looking into consulting, before joining recruiting, really needs to give themselves a self-assessment. And some of the questions that I think you should ask are: How do you envision your day-to-day at work and at home? What are your priorities? What are you hoping to get out of the experience?”


Gretel: “Yeah, I think that’s good. I think you need to ask yourself questions like, am I okay with having a 9pm, three-time a week call? Is that okay, is that something that I can do? Am I okay not being able to make my own food all the time and that I’m going to be eating out a lot? Am I okay that if I’m traveling elsewhere on the weekends, that means I’m not going to be back home for two weeks, and that’s kind of tough when you’re in a new town making friends, and you’re saying hey, I’ll see you next month. That’s tough. It’s hard to build relationships.”


Jay: “Why don’t we take a moment here to first cover all the really great things of consulting, and all the things that you need to make sure you’re okay with if you want to have the job.”


Gretel: “Sure.”


Jay: “So let’s start with, what are the phenomenal aspects of it?”


Gretel: “Hotel points…But okay, jokes aside, I really value the responsibility that I have, because I think that I have a lot of responsibility for someone who just got out of college. I like that I’m growing in ways that I didn’t think that I’d have any skills in. For example, I’m doing a lot of UX design, had no idea that in one year after graduating, I’d be doing a lot of UX design. You get a lot of experience in industries you didn’t think that you would ever have any possibility of being involved with.”


Jay: “The people, I would say, are a huge perk.”


Gretel: “I really like the people.”


Jay: “The points are definitely a perk.”


Gretel: “100%. Sometimes your firm might subsidize gym memberships while you’re traveling. There are also really events going on all the time for team building, and also just for fun.”


Jay: “Team dinners are great.”


Gretel: “Team dinners are amazing.”


Jay: “Seeing new cities, at least for a little while, is definitely exciting.”


Gretel: “For sure.”


Jay: “What about, what are the things you want to make sure whoever you’re recruiting is fully aware of and fully cool with if they’re gonna sign up?”


Gretel: “So my roommate and I are both in consulting, and we have this phrase that we say sometimes to people, mostly in really informal interview settings. I don’t really say it when someone hands me a microphone at an event. But the perks aren’t free. So, yes it’s really fun that you can go somewhere on the weekend and use your points and fly somewhere for free. That is super fun, but the reason why you have those resources is because you’re not home, you’re working a lot, you’re always traveling, you’re always on the go. And your life is just kind of constantly in flux because you’re always on the move. And sometimes the hours can be long.”


Jay: “Another question I mentioned to consider is: what are your priorities?”


Gretel: “Yeah, and my priority is that I wanted to go to grad school. I still want to do that. And I knew that some firms, and the one that I’m currently at, will help you pay for your grad school if you meet certain criteria. And for me, that’s really important and I didn’t want to graduate with a lot of debt. So I thought, I’m going to work in the private sector now, and then when I get the degree that I want, then I can start doing my dream job.”


Jay: “Okay, so they got you.”


Gretel: “They got me, and I did the math, and they have me until I’m like 31 or something.”


Jay: “Oh my God.”


Gretel: “But yeah, I try not to think about that part.”


Jay: “So here’s another piece, this is part three here. Somebody has actually written in, one of the listeners, and asked, can we give any advice for participating in the informal parts of the interview. I’ve come up with some questions here. First one is, how should you interact with the recruiting team when you’re in a casual setting. Like, what are they going to expect of you?”


Gretel: “I appreciate when someone has something that has their name on it, like a resume or a business card. Because if I’m meeting 40 kids, I’m sorry, I’m not going to remember your name. I remember people that I have some sort of personal connection with. Not exactly like why they tell me they’re qualified, but why exactly they want the job and how they fit into that, and why they’d be a good candidate. A lot of times it can be kind of stressful when I’m one recruiter and there are five kids in a circle like all trying to get individual time with me.”


Jay: “Yeah.”


Gretel: “But what I noticed that stands out is when another person is engaged kind of with everyone in the conversation. So it’s not just a one-on-one conversation I have with five people in a circle, it’s that’s they’re also engaged in what someone else is saying. Because to me, that means they’re a team player, and that they have confidence, and they’re interested in other people. And I find that an attractive quality in a candidate.”


Jay: “It’s almost like a test where you think we’re only watching you, but we’re also watching how you interact with others.”


Gretel: “Exactly.”


Jay: “I think that recruiters are just looking for people who they think are cool, people who they’ll want to hang out with at work, after work.”


Gretel: “Don’t they call it the airport test?”


Jay: “The airport test.”


Gretel: “If your flight is delayed three hours, are you going to be upset that you have to stick around with this person for another three hours, or are you going to think that they’re cool and you’re like, okay let’s just go get a beer and hang out until our flight’s back on time.”


Jay: “Exactly. That’s probably more important than some of the actual things on paper to get the job.”


Gretel: “Exactly.”


Jay: “Let’s touch upon some things to avoid when you’re at these informal events. Now I’ll start with one. You mentioned we want to see people interact positively with other people in a group setting. I would avoid cutting somebody off in a group setting, or talking over them, or trying to get in front of the recruiter by stepping over somebody else.”


Gretel: “Yeah, we see that and it’s kind of rude. And we take note of that.”


Jay: “We definitely take note of that. What are some good questions to have in your back pocket?”


Gretel: “I think you could ask the person: What made you interested in this firm over others? What was it about consulting that made you want to get involved?”


Jay: “For, at least the analysts that are there, you can ask them about the projects they were on, their own experiences.”


Gretel: “Or you can ask them, what sort of stuff were you involved in on campus that helped prepare you the most for your role? And maybe it wasn’t even their classes. Maybe it was stuff they did outside of school.”


Jay: “That’s fair. Another question that somebody has written into the show with is: How do you write a follow-up email to somebody you met at the event. What do you put in the subject line? What do you put in the body? And kind of, how do you phrase it?”


Gretel: “That’s an excellent question. The most critical step is most often forgotten, and that is getting their contact information in the first place. It’s so easy to forget to ask for a business card, or to ask for their email. So I would try and remember to do that, because if you don’t have an email, how are you going to write them a thank you note?”


Jay: “Exactly.”


Gretel: “Granted, maybe you could do it via LinkedIn, but it’s probably a lot better if you ask for their business card.”


Jay: “So, okay you write the email. The subject, so just say thank you.”


Gretel: “Yeah, or thank you for your time.


Jay: “And then, in the body I would write: Hey Jay, really enjoyed meeting you at the recruiting at ABC University. Looking forward to connecting with you. And then, maybe mention…”


Gretel: “Reference something from your conversation. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on X, Y, or X. Or I appreciate your perspective on X. Or, so cool to find a fellow…”


Jay: “Dog-lover.”


Gretel: “Varsity volleyball alumni thing. I don’t know, I’m not that athletic. But maybe something that you had in common. And then, like you said, mention looking forward to speaking with you soon. I also think that it’s fair game if you wanted to learn more about something they mentioned, you could ask: are you willing to put me into contact with someone that could speak more upon…”


Jay: “Government consulting.”


Gretel: “Yeah, and so that can be a way to still meet more people in the firm. Because the more people that know your name, or have seen it somewhere, or have spoken to you, the better.”

Jay: “After all this advice we’ve given on how to get ready for recruiting, how to tackle recruiting and think about it, is there anything we left out? Is there any other advice that you, Gretel, would give to a future consultant?”


Gretel: “I think that you really need to think long and hard if consulting is right for you. Because it is a different lifestyle, and you need to be able to evaluate if your life goals would align with that.”


Jay: “That’s fair.”


Gretel: “And I’m glad that I’m in consulting, and I’m really happy that I’m with the firm that I am. It’s just hard to explain to someone what it’s like before you’re actually in it. It is for me, but it’s not for everyone.”


Jay: “Fair enough. Gretel, thanks so much for coming on the show. It’s been fun having you.”


Gretel: “Yeah, thanks for finally letting me be on the mic.”


Jay: “You are very welcome.”


Gretel: “And everyone, good luck with recruiting.”


Jay: “Thank you for listening, and join us next time when we’ll be discussing how to prepare for a consulting interview. Please be sure to subscribe and give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts. Links can be found at Until next time, this Jay Alexander signing off. We’ll catch you at the client site.”


[Musical Outro]

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