Nate: Both Audrey and I are actually “Shell Babies” – we both joined Shell on the Graduate Programme right out of college and stayed there until we enrolled in the business school. I joined Shell in 2014 as a Production Engineer in their newly constructed lubricants blending plant in Indonesia and have moved on across various roles since. My pre-MBA role was as a Country Planning Manager in which I led a team of ten planners to supply Shell Indonesia’s lubricants business.
Audrey: As for me, I was in a variety of HR specialist and business partnering roles over 10 years. Immediately before the MBA, I was the Lead HR Consultant for Shell Singapore and led a team of internal consultants to design and deliver strategic people projects that would support the business agenda across all our Downstream and Integrated Gas businesses which were represented in Singapore. Interestingly, both of us had only ever been in one company (and industry)!
Audrey: I was keen to broaden my horizons. Consulting grants me exposure to a myriad of industries within a condensed period. At the same time, I wanted to challenge myself beyond the people strategy arena and further stretch myself in the space of business/commercial acumen and strategic thinking and analysis, and again Consulting is one of the best places to sharpen these skillsets.
Nate: Audrey took the words right off my mouth! I suppose another reason for joining consulting is because I wanted to advance the public purpose, especially in my country of Indonesia. During the MBA, I learned that management consultants play a key role in massive government projects, from transforming energy landscapes to moving capital cities. I wanted to be a part of making the change that matters and leave a lasting positive impact on my nation.
Which firm will you be joining, where, and why did you choose to join them?
Nate: I’ll be joining McKinsey Jakarta. I chose McKinsey because I see them as the epitome of management consulting. In our MBA classes, their frameworks, lasting impacts, and top-notch ways of working are often discussed, which appealed to my sense of personal growth, as I perceive it as an organisation that I can grow with together. Furthermore, speaking to McKinsey consultants before and during the interview process, especially those from the Jakarta office, showed me that the company only tackled projects that matter and create a lasting, positive change. I find that super energising!
Audrey: I’ll be joining Bain Singapore. Aside from being a top consulting firm globally, Bain is also well-known for its very supportive and strong people culture. I was impressed by how sharp, yet humble and approachable, every “Bainie” with whom I interacted was and I felt like these were people I could enjoy learning from and working with! Singapore was a natural choice because it’s home and I see myself being based out of Asia in the long-term, given many of the markets are still emerging and have very exciting growth trajectories, in my personal view.
What did you do to prepare yourself for the interview?
Audrey: A lot of case interview preparation for sure! Thankfully, it paid off in the end because the Bain Southeast Asia office is also very “case-centric” in its recruitment processes and there are no fit interviews at all; hence you only have one chance, so to speak, to get it right. It was also helpful to connect with actual ex/current Bain managers who can share at a high level what they’re looking for in the interview process. That said, I had also been preparing my personal stories for fit interviews with other applications and was ready to draw on snippets of those that were relevant in more casual conversations, which still helps with reinforcing positive impressions.
Nate: I echo what Audrey said – I started practising cases a couple of months before my Cambridge MBA, and by the time the recruitment cycle began, I must’ve done over 100 cases! I was thankful to have found supportive case partners (Audrey included) in Cambridge, who are equally invested in joining management consulting firms, so it made the process much less stressful. For the fit segment of the interview, I worked with the CJBS Careers Team to sharpen my stories and then created ‘flash cards’ so that I was well prepared for any experiential questions.
What surprised you the most about the recruiting process of the top consulting firms?
Nate: I’m not going to lie – the interviews were very rigorous and at times stressful. However, I was very surprised at how friendly everyone was across all the consulting firms. The HR teams were very supportive and gave many useful pointers on how to ace the interviews, and McKinsey even gave us “case partners” to practice the interview before the real one starts. The interviewers were also very helpful, providing nudges when I go off-track. I initially thought that consulting interviews are very cut-throat, but it’s clear that everyone just really wants you to succeed.
Audrey: It’s the variety for me. Even though consulting firms broadly use a combination of case and fit interviews in the assessment process, the essence (and hence experience) of these can be drastically different. From the interviewing experiences of my MBA classmates, we have observed that some firms are a lot more quantitative/data-heavy, whereas others are more free-form and abstract, for example. Within the same firm, different offices could have very different assessment components as well, so be sure to do your homework in advance so you can prepare in a targeted manner.
What tips would you give consulting applicants who also want to do a career switch?
Audrey: Have conversations with as many and as broad a variety of people who used to be or are currently in your target firms as possible. In the best-case scenario, it gets you a strong referral and even if not, it’s beneficial for building an accurate mental picture as to what the industry, firm and specific office is truly like. On that note, it helps to know which business sectors the firm you’re applying to has a stronger presence in or is trying to build up, as you probably will stand a higher chance of being shortlisted if your industry experience is aligned to those sectors as well. Keep an open mind on the range of firms you would be willing to explore. Lastly, interview preparation (particularly case interviews) is a marathon, rather than a sprint, so better to start early and pace yourself rather than stressing out at the last minute.
Nate: To add to Audrey, it’s important to find the right “partner” during the interview preparation phase. Finding a practice partner that can give (and receive) constructive feedback, who is equally dedicated to joining top consulting firms, and also knows how to conduct cases well, is easier said than done. A good partner is hard to find, and harder to keep especially as the MBA year becomes much, much busier. Keep your best partners close to heart!