It’s true that networking can make a difference in the application screening stage of the recruitment process and can increase your chances of being invited to an interview.
However, it’s worth noting that if you’re invited to interview, networking will not make a difference in whether or not you get an offer. The offer decision is strictly made by your interviewers without any input from a third party. This is in line with the firms’ meritocratic cultures where hiring and promotions are based on performance.
Ultimately, firms are looking for evidence of three things in a candidate when considering whether to invite them for an interview: Can they solve the problem? Can they get things done? Can they represent the firm?
These three factors are looked for in your resume, and in most cases networking is unlikely to make up for you failing to demonstrate them.
However, networking can provide the firms with additional data points such as your presence and communication skills, your potential in general, and your commitment to consulting as your next career move.
Being invited to interview in the first place is no easy ride, so knowing how to use networking to increase your chances is helpful.
There are three things that you can do.
Personally connect with the recruiting team
Connect with members of the team that lead the firm’s recruitment, for instance during a coffee chat or a recruitment event.
If you leave a positive impression, this will be taken into account at the screening. It can also prevent your resume from being overlooked.
In addition, conversations can help you learn more about the firm and their recruiting needs and to apply for the best role at the best time to maximize your chances.
Get referred by a consultant
Another option is to get referred by a former or current consultant who knows you well, for instance—if you’re a student—classmates who have completed an internship at the firm.
They should be able to email the recruiter that is in charge of screening your application, or refer you through an established referral process
Get referred by a Partner or senior client
Finally, and this is a real trump card, if you personally know a Partner or a senior client of the firm you’re applying to, they might be able to put in a request for you to be interviewed. And normally, the firms will do them the courtesy.
Overall, be mindful about your interactions with the recruiting team, and about who you ask for a referral, because this works both ways. Leaving a bad impression or getting a negative referral could easily derail your application. So only corral referrals if you know they’re going to be positive.
Equally, if your resume isn’t strong enough and your experience isn’t communicated in the right way, then referrals won’t necessarily be a magic bullet.
If you don’t have connections at the firm you’re hiring to, don’t worry. Many people are invited to interview every year without being referred. In fact, the former McKinsey consultant writing this article was one of those people!
Remember that your resume is the most important factor in making an invitation to interview, so focus on getting this right above all. To make sure it clearly articulates why you’re a compelling candidate, head over to our Resume courses here and make your application one the firms can’t ignore.