I’ve written on networking before, but after connecting with a lot more applicants, I have a few more tips to provide. Specifically I want to talk about the components of reaching out to consultants. I’ll also include some examples of what people have done well and poorly.
I can think of three big ways to reach out (ordered best to less good):
- Via an organic recommendation from another
- By asking for a recommendation from another
- By reaching out without a connection
I don’t think I need to say much here. When someone offers to put you in touch with someone else without you asking, you can often consider that a good sign. Don’t let a recommendation go to your head since sometimes consultants will feel like they need a second opinion on you, but at least an offered connection at least means they have not decided against you.
When a consultant does offer to put you in touch with another consultant, make sure they request permission from the ultimate receiver. If consultant A sends includes an applicant an email to consultant B without warning, consultant B might feel imposed upon. Obviously, this is not the applicant’s fault, but so much of recruiting seems to hinge on emotions that you should manage every human aspect that you can. This might mean that when consultant A offers to put you in touch with consultant B, you say something like:
“That would be great! Could you check with him/her that he/she is ok talking to me, and send us an introduction email if so?”
Do most consultants need to be told to check before making an introduction? No. But do you want to find out that you ended up with the one consultant who doesn’t check? No. Obviously, this courtesy rule applies to all recommendations.
A recommendation that you ask for can be better than no recommendation at all, unless you mess it up. Don’t end up like Oliver Twist, ending up in major trouble by asking for more.
To avoid trouble, first, try to have a specific reason to ask for consultant A to introduce you to consultant B. Good reasons include things like wanting to talk to someone in a different office, or who has experience in a different industry or practice area, or who shares your background in an important way. You can still ask for another connection just to get a second perspective on things, but sharing specifics indicates that you know what you need, and helps direct consultant A to the right consultant B.
Second, try to have some sort of a relationship before asking for additional connections. Asking to get connected with another consultant at the end of your first 20 minute phone call might work (especially if you have a specific reason to talk to someone else), but most people come off as pushy or impersonal when they do so. Do more to build your current contact’s confidence in you before asking for more help. As I mentioned in my first networking post, we put our own reputations on the line when suggesting candidates to others. Respect and protect that reputation.
Before joining BCG, I had some great conversations with consultants I reached out to with no introduction. I used multiple channels to find them. Some came from using the public emails or twitter accounts of offices to which I wanted to apply. Others came through LinkedIn searches. Sometimes I could find contact information through clubs or other events. Whatever the source, do a few things to get started on the right foot.
First, when you find a contact, search the person’s name through your email account, especially if you went to the same school. This serves two functions: (1)You should make sure that this “new” contact isn’t someone that you met before and then forgot, and (2)You might have been on the same newsletters/email blasts that could reveal a common interest or activity.
Next, craft a solid email to the contact. You should include how you got their info, one or two relevant things about yourself (school and major frequently come up), your interest in consulting, a clear ask, and gratitude for his or her time. Try to include something that shows an interest in the person if at all possible too.
I also recommend including a resume. You don’t want the consultant to wonder if you’re worth the time, and your resume hopefully assures him or her that you are.
Here’s an adequate example:
My name is John Smith and I am studying Engineering with a minor in English at BYU. I got your email from the MCC at BYU. I am very interesting in management consulting and would love to talk to you sometime about your experience at BCG and your interviewing process. I understand that you are busy, but if you have time, please let me know.
To the above example, I would add something personal about the consultant if at all possible.
Here’s another example:
I’m Jane Brown, a junior majoring in strategy here at BYU. I attended the club meeting you spoke at, and appreciated your presentation! Your comments about having autonomy and flexibility especially caught my interest.
You mentioned that you are willing to talk with prospective applicants, and I would love a chance to talk at a convenient time for you. Would you be available for a 15 minute call in the next few weeks?
The above example does a better job at identifying specifics about the consultant. Not only did “Jane” mention the presentation, but identified something specific she took from it. Some consultants will consider that unnecessary babble before getting to the point, but many really appreciate applicants who take the time to show real interest and gratitude.
Also note that the above example increases the level of specificity in the ask. Instead of just asking to chat sometime, Jane gives a specific time-based ask.
Here’s a bad first email:
I heard that BCG is accepting applications soon. What office is best to apply to?
This email is fine if you already personally know the recipient. If you aren’t on chummy terms, many consultants will have a bad taste in their mouth if this gets used as a first impression. The consultant will likely immediately start asking “who is this person, and how did he get my email?” The consultant will have no idea if this person has the mental power to do the job, and a hunch that this person lacks appropriate social and interpersonal prowess to work with clients. Consultants are not databases to query. Consultants are people.
To kill a good first impression, never make a second.
If you only talk to a consultant once, you might know more than before, but you probably have not increased your odds of getting the job. Not only do few consultants feel comfortable going to bat for someone they met once, but consultants must form relationships as part of the job. You don’t need to be perfect, but try to demonstrate your ability to keep a conversation going.
The way you follow-up will depend on the situation, but a few things stay consistent. You should express gratitude for the consultant’s time, remind the consultant of something you discussed, include any requested items/answers to questions (attached resume, etc.), and preferably include a clear, easy ask.
Navigating a sea
If you met the consultant as part of a sea of applicants (such as in a career fair or “coffee chat”) you might include a reminder of who you are. This works best if you discussed something adequately unique that referring to it will do the job. Here’s a good example (with the identifying reminder in bold):
I hope you are doing well. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk with me last week. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences thus far and loved talking to you about my passions, specifically within infrastructure and housing finance development in Chicago. Do you have any more time this week to answer other questions I had about the recruiting process and casing? If so, I would greatly appreciate it. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
If you had a relatively generic conversation, you might need to use other unique attributes for identification, such as a unique major of study, something you were wearing, etc. I wanted to give you an example, but I haven’t seen a great one yet, so just try to have a good, unique, interesting conversation.
Following-up after a personal encounter is usually easier, and often happens in two parts. First, you should send a quick “thank-you” shortly after your communication. You don’t usually need much more than gratitude. The example below works well.
Thank you your feedback in the case today. It was fun solving the problem with you and hope we can do that again! I’ll keep you updated through the recruiting process.
Later, you will probably need to send a second email to get back in touch. Hopefully you kept this option explicitly available through your most recent communication. In this case, just follow-up on where you left off:
Hope you’re enjoying your time in DC! Last time we talked you asked me to reach out again when recruiting started up, and ’tis the season! I would love to catch up sometime, and maybe practice another case if you have a spare moment. Do you have 15 minutes to catch up sometime next week?
In an ideal situation you can set up a specific time to reconnect in the future. This will happen relatively rarely since consultants often don’t have capacity to speak with any individual candidate more than one or two times. This will happen more frequently if you end up on the list to get an interview and the consultant has time to give you extra preparation. You probably don’t need much help following-up in that situation, but here’s a good example anyway:
I hope you’ve enjoyed your week. I just wanted to follow up and see if you’re still available next Wednesday at 7pm MST to run through another practice case. If not, I’m pretty flexible during the week and can reschedule.
Thanks again for all your help! I look forward to talking with you again soon.
Make yourself accessible
Besides having active conversations, make yourself easily accessible. First, update your contact info. Anything on your resume should still connect to you. If you include contact info on your email signatures, make sure they reflect your current information. Obvious stuff, but sometimes people need a reminder to check.
Second, make sure the internet can find you. Having an updated LinkedIn is still the best way to help employers find and research you. Most people will stop looking you up if they find a good enough LinkedIn page, which lets you manage your public image.
LinkedIn has built-in tools to help you complete your profile – use them. Make sure you have a solid picture that a stranger can recognize you with. List your job experience, and include detail on your achievements at each one (just pull bullets from your resume if nothing else, and take advantage of the extra space to write more if you’d like). These two things really make a difference, and when screening applicants or preparing for a phone call it can be a tad frustrating to find a poorly constructed LinkedIn profile, or no profile at all. We meet a lot of people, so if we can remind ourselves who you and and how you look by just Googling your name, it’s a huge help.
Finally, respond to emails quickly. If you don’t normally check your email frequently, you will need to during recruiting season.
Hopefully some of this will help, and that a lot of this seems obvious. Some consultants will have different opinions on how to contact them, so adjust your approach according to who you talk to.
Keep seeking truth.
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