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Unlocking Networking Mastery: Essential Strategies for Consulting Applicants

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Networking has always been at the core of management consulting, since consultants are expected to know how to approach customers and sell themselves, as well as the firm, and foster relationships with them throughout projects and beyond.

Now more than ever, with the advent of AI and the anticipation that a significant portion of the analytical component of the job will be automated, consultants have stressed the growing importance of soft skills.

There is no better way for candidates to showcase these skills than by networking, which requires a significant part of the tools mandatory for a consultant: the ability to conduct quick, efficient research, conciseness when delivering a pitch and building long-lasting relationships

Laptop in the dark that can be used to network online

Networking to get an interview: what you need to know in a nut-shell

Recruiters are very busy people. Even with a top-notch resume and cover letter but you have to consider the high caliber of the competition. You will need an edge to make sure your application gets noticed, and a referral (that is, a recommendation from a consultant working for your target company) will make sure that you are known by the recruiters and significantly increases your chances of passing the screening process.

For a recruiter, it’s easier to advance a candidate to the next round if they have reliable data from a trusted source, than to take a gamble on a completely unknown variable. A candidate with a good CV and endorsements from a consultant working for the firm will have an edge over one with a stellar CV but no ties to the firm

Networking is not a quick fix and it doesn’t happen overnight, so make sure you start well ahead of the actual application process (at least 6 months) to make sure you can ask for a referral when the time comes. However, you should aim to make genuine, long-lasting connections, not only exploit relationships for a referral. You should be networking because you are passionate about consulting and really want to meet people engaged in it and learn about their experience, projects, highs and lows. As such, any interaction is a win, since it not only brings a better understanding of the field but brings you closer to the people working in it. Being familiar with consulting fundamentals is a major plus when networking; if you are new to the sector, our Case Academy and case interview article are a great place to start.

Networking tends to work best when done outside of the usual channels (which doesn’t mean you should not take advantage of them). Consider this: when it comes to an event organized at a target school consultants will potentially meet hundreds of candidates and therefore being memorable will be quite a task. Someone with an interesting LinkedIn profile who writes a very well organized and professional message is more likely to get a conversation started that will lead to a one-on-one meeting which will definitely make them more memorable.

Along the way you will maybe find out that you love that big MBB firm and really would like to work there or that maybe it’s not really a good fit for you and you should be looking at a boutique one. The point here is make sure you get the right fit and are not afraid to adjust along the way.

Networking is important for everyone for the aforementioned reasons, but especially so for candidates with unusual backgrounds (e.g. non-target schools) and experienced hires. Depending on geography and office, if they leverage their networking skills, experienced hires may be able to skip some of the requirements which are standard for other candidates. For example, a candidate reaching out to the managing partner of the Bucharest office to inquire about potential opportunities was invited directly to a chat about their skills and how they could contribute to the firm, skipping the CV screening stage and the Problem Solving Game.

A very important point when networking is to show you fit into the target firm and that what you care about aligns with the firm’s mindset and objectives. What this means is you should actually share the passions and drives of the consultants working there - for your own sake as well. So make sure you do your research and apply to the places where you’d really like to work. That way, when you approach a member of that firm, your passion will shine through and speak for itself. You should avoid bending yourself too much into the mold of a specific firm because if you identify aspects of working there which you don’t like from the get-go, chances are when the work load increases, these issues will as well so you’ll end up burned out and unhappy!

Whom you should approach for a referral

The rule of thumb is: the better the referee knows you, the more chances you will have. The principle is the same, namely you will want the referee to tailor their recommendation to you specifically and show that they really know you and what makes you tick. You want to be fleshed out as a real person, not just a passing contact.

Woman networking online on her phone

As such, when networking, work your way from your inner circle outwards. If anyone in your family or friends is a consultant, reach out to them, no matter the firm where they work, since consultants generally know other consultants.

Then move on to former colleagues who work in consulting, friends of friends etc. The better they know you the better the referral they will be able to give you, and the more likelihood of them being an advocate for you with the firm. Also, the more senior they are, the better but a recommendation from two Associates who know you better is worth than few lines from a Partner. As a general note, it’s always good to keep in touch with all your contacts even if they cannot help you at this stage, because they may well be able to in the future.

Despite referrals being in a sense contractual for consultants - they get paid a finder’s fee which is quite significant - try not to make the interaction contractual. Of course, it’s up to you to gauge the relationship (if the consultant is your best friend then you can simply ask for a referral) but if you are approaching someone you know tangentially or have not spoken to in a while try to find a natural point of entry into the conversation - maybe congratulate them on a recent achievement or ask to catch up.

The key to good networking is having a genuine bond and to do that you should be genuinely interested in the person, listen to them and respond, interspersing topics that vary from personal interests and life to work life and career (obviously be mindful of not getting too personal with people you don’t know very well)

The last port of call should be consultants you don’t know - and we’ll get to how to approach them now

Networking in person

In our personal experience networking in person is always the best option. There is a huge advantage to being able to see the way someone reacts to what you’re saying, read their body language and generally try to charm them if they’re physically standing there.

As such, you should make the most of the in-person networking opportunities that you might have. If you come from a target school, consultants will come to you and you will have the opportunity to go to dinners or informal coffee chats. Despite what we said previously about these types of meetings you should still use them if they present themselves! Consultants are busy people and in general in-person meetings tend to run longer than those over the phone or Zoom, and so too the opportunities to learn more and create a bond increase.

You will undoubtedly be nervous on these occasions as the pressure to talk and get noticed is higher. However, listening is one of the best things you can do as well as asking questions that naturally tie into the discussion. Self promotion is great but put yourself in the consultant’s shoes: they will spend a significant amount of time listening to people talk about themselves so they will welcome genuine questions about their own experience and pain points as consultants. As previously stated, since you’re doing this you’re actually interested in the topic so it should be very useful to listen to them anyway.

Here - just like with friends or people who are closer to you - try to find a point of natural connection. If consultants come to your campus it will be possible to find out who they are so make sure you do your research. Perhaps you went to the same uni as some, or maybe you were on the athletics team just like them - anything that will give you an opportunity to make it about more than just work will help you build a stronger relationship.

Cables in a network showing networking but in a different context

Cold networking

If there are no direct opportunities to network in person, you are left with cold networking which can be done in three ways (which can also be combined): over Linkedin, over email or on dedicated online spaces.


Generally LinkedIn is a good source of information for professional background and areas of expertise. Again, rule of thumb is to do your research on whomever you’re trying to contact/your target firm and capitalize on any mutual connections you might share. If that’s the case, try to get some information about the consultant you plan to approach - or better yet an introduction. We cannot stress enough the value of an endorsement from someone who is already familiar with you and your work and a few kind words go a long way in opening doors. It’s great if you can find someone who works in your target office but if not don’t worry - consultants know other consultants.

The principles of in-person networking still apply here as well. Make sure your profile is updated and you have a professional looking picture. Include bullet-point descriptions of what you did in all your roles - whether it be an internship, PhD program/assignment or full-time position and, if possible, add links that showcase those skills in the Projects section.

The most common scenario is you’ll be approaching someone you don’t know, so you’ll have to ask them to connect. Make sure to include a personalized note when sending the request! This should be brief (unless you’re using LinkedIn Premium you will only be given 300 characters anyway) and explain that you’re looking to get more information about the firm they’re working with. If you have a well structured and professional looking page, at least some consultants should accept to connect with you (see more details below about the networking funnel). The message you send should be a slightly more simplified version of the networking email described below, so we’ll move on to that.


You can also use the information you find about the consultants on LinkedIn to craft an email to approach them. It’s always useful to include your LinkedIn profile in your email signature as well - from personal experience we can tell you when someone contacts us, we want to see exactly who they are and what their credentials are.

The principle of cold-networking is similar to the sales funnel. You more or less will have to write 10 emails (or indeed 10 LinkedIn messages) to get 1 response - long story short is don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back. Networking is a marathon, not a sprint.

The email you send should be clearly organized and to the point. The subject should indicate precisely what you want to achieve - e.g. 20 min call. As JFK used to say about speeches, tell people exactly what you’re going to tell them!

You should always use first names, show you’ve done your research and if possible include one point of connection, which you can use as an ‘in’ - this could be the university of which you are both alumni, a whitepaper the consultant might have published or maybe an event that you both attended.

Explain briefly what your career trajectory has been and bullet-point three of your achievements so far (remember the rule of three!) but also make sure that your resume is up to date since consultants may ask for it as a follow-up.

Ask them for an informal meeting - ideally this would happen on a platform that uses video as well (see aforementioned comments about meetings in person) but don’t be discouraged if you just get a call - a yes is still a yes!

When cold-emailing make sure to track whom you write to (target this as well to the most relevant person possible and no more than 2 people in the same office) and follow up within a week or so if you don’t get a reply.

When you manage to secure the meeting, make sure to prepare in advance and to do so based on whom it is you’re meeting. If you’ve reached out to a partner, they may decide to give you a short case as a test (or just for fun!) so don’t let that take you by surprise. It may well be that the consultant you initially approached is busy and they may refer you to someone else. This may be someone directly involved with recruiting, so be prepared to talk about why you want to be in consulting and why you want to apply to that specific firm.

Networking online

As our lives move online, there are more and more opportunities to make connections online. You can do so in two ways: either passively or actively, with the two not being mutually exclusive.

Passive networking

This is possibly the most relevant one.

In the digital age, crafting an online presence is essential for effective networking within the consulting industry. Begin by establishing a professional profile on platforms like LinkedIn, where you can share articles, post insights, and participate in discussions that align with your consulting interests. Regularly updating your profile with relevant content not only showcases your expertise but also keeps you visible in your network’s feed. Additionally, consider contributing to industry blogs or starting your own to further highlight your knowledge and engage with like-minded professionals. This strategy not only enhances your visibility but also establishes you as a thought leader in your field, making you a magnet for networking opportunities and potential collaborations. Don't forget that you can easily start a personal blog or webpage using Notion for free.

Active networking

Active networking is a dynamic approach to building professional relationships and is crucial for success in the consulting industry. To effectively engage in active networking, start by participating in industry-specific forums and online platforms like LinkedIn groups, professional associations. Even MyConsultingCoach meeting board or candidate listing can be a good starting point. Make it a habit to contribute meaningfully to discussions by sharing insights, asking informed questions, and offering solutions to challenges faced by peers. Additionally, attending virtual webinars can significantly enhance your visibility and establish you as an engaged, knowledgeable member of your professional community.

As consulting firms become increasingly selective, networking has become crucial. While all the strategies outlined are beneficial in securing an interview, it’s vital to remember that networking should be a core element of your professional life. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, this should feel natural if consulting truly aligns with your passions—allowing you to forge connections with those who share your business interests. If networking feels like a chore or if you struggle to form authentic relationships, you might want to reconsider your career path. Life is short, and you shouldn’t spend the majority of it engaged in activities that don't bring you joy!