A BCG referral is a recommendation by a current BCG employee that a candidate would be a good addition to the firm. It’s a vote of confidence in your skills and qualifications that can help you get an interview or even a job offer. Referrals can come from any BCG employee but give you the biggest boost if they are from someone on the consulting team, particularly a more senior consultant.
It’s daunting to apply for a consulting job at BCG. There are thousands of candidates for each open spot. But you’ll improve your odds of catching the recruiting team’s attention if you land a BCG referral.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- The process for getting a BCG referral.
- The right way to try and get a BCG referral…and the wrong way.
- FAQs on BCG Referrals.
Let’s get started!
The Process for Getting a BCG Referral
Getting a BCG referral might sound easy. After all, the process is as simple as meeting someone, submitting your application, and asking them to recommend you get an interview, right?
Sometimes that is the process, and other times it might require a bit more legwork. Here we will discuss some tangible steps to getting you one step closer to securing a BCG referral.
Step by Step - The Right Way to get a BCG Referral
- Take a broad look at your network (your school connections, club connections, sports connections, etc.) and build out a list of people you know. An easy way to do this is to put a list into an Excel spreadsheet.
- Figure out who in your network has connections to BCG, and list out how they are connected. Checking their LinkedIn profiles is a good way to do this.
- Identify the people you want to reach out to and how you know them.
- Start the networking process by reaching out to people with BCG connections to gain more information on the firm. Make sure you look at their background and prepare appropriate questions. Networking with intentionality is key!
- Based on these conversations either A) you can ask for a referral or B) the person you’re talking to will offer to refer you.
How Do You Know If You’ve Received a BCG Referral?
Informal BCG Referrals
A good first sign that you’ve been referred is that the BCG consultant will just let you know they have referred you. This is called an “informal referral,” or one that is done by word of mouth.
This solidifies the fact that the BCG network connection is excited about your candidacy and wants you to know about it! The person referring you could be a friend, a friend of a friend, or someone you just met at a networking event. Regardless, it’s a great first step.
The “trouble” with informal referrals is that you’re banking on the person actually speaking to the recruiter and submitting your name as a formal referral.
Formal BCG Referrals
A formal referral is when a BCG consultant (or associate, project leader, or principal) sends you a special application link. You can then apply through this special link rather than the traditional application link that general applications go through. This is your guarantee that you have received a unique link to apply as a formal referral in the application process.
It is best to apply through the formal BCG application link so that BCG can track you as someone who has support backing your application.
What If You’ve Been Told You’ve Been Referred But You Don’t Receive the Link?
Sometimes a BCG contact says they’ve referred you or will refer you, but you don’t receive a unique application link. This could mean one of two things:
- They did refer you, but just a verbal referral to the recruiting team, OR
- They said they referred you but actually did not. In this case, it’s always best to double-check and reach out to your BCG contact and see if they will be sending you a unique application link or not.
If you haven’t received a formal application link, a good rule of thumb is to follow up with your BCG referrer after a week to check-in. A good way to do this would be to email them and mention that you’re planning on applying soon but wanted to wait to apply until you heard back from them about next steps.
If you don’t hear back from them and your application deadline is approaching, you can shoot them a final email and let them know that you’ve applied via the general application link, and let them know you’ll keep them posted. They might respond and let you know they meant to send you the link, they might notify the recruiter of your application (therefore submitting an “informal referral”), or they might not respond at all.
Important Tip! It’s better to get your application in prior to the deadline than wait on a potential referral.
For campus recruiting deadlines, there is no benefit to applying before the deadline, especially if you go to a target school. All campus applications are processed after the application deadline and are reviewed at the same time, so you could apply 7 days before or 7 minutes before the deadline – it wouldn’t matter!
Tip the Odds of Getting a BCG Referral in Your Favor
Focus on Building Long-term Relationships.
To give yourself the best shot at landing a referral, don’t focus on how fast you can get one. Securing a referral is a long-term play, and ultimately your goal should be to establish a lasting relationship with several BCG employees throughout your recruiting process. Not only is this a great way to receive a referral, but it’s a great way to develop a solid career path at BCG.
Keep In Touch With Recruiters.
Think about the first people you’ve met in your journey within BCG. These might be from information sessions that BCG holds (either on campus or virtually). Most of the time, your first “face” of BCG is a recruiter, and so continuing to build out those relationships over the weeks/months leading up to the application process is crucial.
Recruiters are really intentional about keeping in touch with candidates during the recruiting process, staying “in the know” on who is going to be a quality candidate, and building relationships outside of just your resume. This is why recruiters play a crucial part in the recruiting process; their job is to get to know candidates holistically, so keep that in mind before you just pass them by for a higher-tenured consultant. Overall, recruiters are the first people to review your resume, and that means they have the first chance to pass on your application.
You can build a meaningful relationship with your recruiter by:
- Introducing yourself (whether it’s in person, or virtually – match your face to a name!)
- Asking at least one question at events. There won’t be a way for the recruiter to remember you if they don’t hear your voice at least once. People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel! You can’t do that if you don’t speak up.
- Sending a follow-up communication. Thank the recruiter and any attending consultants for their time at an event. It’s a great way to initiate a conversation while showing appreciation. Personalize the note by mentioning at least one thing that you enjoyed.
Following up once you apply. This reminds the recruiter to check out your application and that you’re still interested in the position.
Keep in Touch with Consultants.
Another great opportunity you have to secure referrals is with BCG consultants (at all levels). The point should be to build relationships with current BCG consultants by authentically being yourself, and using things that connect you to people (your school, your interests, your industry preferences, etc.) to generate organic conversations with people. You can do this using the initial list you built out in the step-by-step process above.
You can build a meaningful relationship with a consultant by:
- Making it personal. Don’t just send a generic email to 15 different people. People in the office will talk and you will get flagged as disingenuous.
- Doing your research. Let them know you want to specifically hear THEIR story. People love to talk about themselves, so make it about them and not you. Recruiting season is a time when BCG consultants dedicate hours to speaking with candidates. Your genuine interest in their story will make the conversation interesting.
- Connecting through shared interests in soccer, cooking, a country, etc.
- Following up. After your conversation, let them know you’re appreciative of their time. Make it a personal email, and let them know you’ll follow up with them to keep them posted on your application process. This is when they might step up and send you a referral link or offer to connect you with the recruiting team!
When you think about what consulting work is like, you’ll be “stuck” in a room (or virtual room) on the client site with the same team members for 10, 12, sometimes 14 hours a day! Your likability factor plays a huge role in whether or not you even get an interview. Building long-lasting relationships is one way in which you can solidify this “likeability” factor.
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The Wrong Way to Get a BCG Referral
Ask for a Referral from Someone You Have No Connection With
One of the more inappropriate and “thoughtless” ways to get a referral is to just blatantly ask someone you don’t even really know. The whole point of companies utilizing referrals is that they trust their current employees to supply the firm with well-rounded candidates. Why would a current employee put their neck on the line for someone they just met?
Asking for a referral before you’ve taken the time to get to know someone can come off as brash or desperate. Gauge whether or not your conversation with a BCG contact felt natural/organic or forced. If it felt forced, you’re probably not connecting and shouldn’t ask for a referral.
Get a Referral & Then Act Like Your Better Than Other Candidates
At one of the first recruiting events I hosted for BCG (on campus), I remember meeting a candidate who was extremely rude to several people in attendance at the event. After networking events, BCG consultants and recruiters usually gather together for dinner/drinks and quickly debrief on how the event went. They discuss any candidates that stood out during the event. During the debriefing, most people felt this candidate was extremely rude.
The following day, I received a referral from a principal at BCG for this candidate. The candidate had exemplary qualifications and it was easy to see that on paper that he’d make an exceptional consultant. However, because he received such consistent negative feedback from the BCG staff in attendance, I was able to decline giving the candidate an interview because he had such a cultural red flag associated with his name.
People talk and company culture is important to BCG.
BCG Referral FAQs
Who Can I Get a Referral From?
Ultimately, you can get a BCG referral from anyone who is a current employee of BCG, or even an alumni! The main things you should consider are:
- Can I establish a genuine connection with this person.
- The person’s level of influence.
It might go without saying, but the higher up in tenure you can get a referral from, the better your chances are of getting an immediate interview. A partner referral has more influence than a consultant referral would, and partner referrals are expected to get “VIP” treatment.
People referred BCG by partners are almost always interviewed. An example of a situation where they might not be is if a partner is trying to refer a current client’s child to a BCG office but the child does not speak the native language. Another example might be a partner trying to refer someone that has a 2.5 GPA. BCG standards don’t change just because someone has a BCG partner referral, but sometimes they do give interviews for these VIPs as a courtesy.
Either way though, it’s always better to have a referral than none at all.
What are Partner Referrals, and How Can I Get One?
Partner referrals are candidates that are informally submitted by a partner to the recruiting team. Unless the candidate is completely unqualified, the rule of thumb is that partner referrals automatically get first round interviews.
Most of the time this is seen as a courtesy to a family member, a client, or a friend. Sometimes it works out well and this is a great way for BCG to get quality employees, and sometimes it is just a nice gesture to ensure that BCG maintains relationships.
Unless you have a close connection to a partner or can build one, you won’t be able to get a referral. Partners will sometimes stick sometimes their neck on the line for quality candidates they meet in person at events or through others, but it isn’t something you could or SHOULD ask for. It’s considered tacky.
Does It Matter If I Include a BCG Consultant’s Name Listed in My Cover Letter?
Sometimes candidates submit a cover letter and mention a BCG employee they’ve met, especially someone with a high tenure. They think that throwing around a name might make it seem like they have a relationship with the person, but recruiters pay no attention to names within a cover letter. What matters is if you’ve been sent a link to apply through your referral.
Use your cover letter to express how you have impacted your current place of employment and not name-drop people you have weak relationships with. Find out more about best practices for consulting cover letters in our article.
Do Recruiters Really Review My Resume as a Referral?
Yes. Although referrals are a trusted way for BCG to gain access to great, quality candidates, all candidates have to go through the same screening process. The only candidates that do not need to go through a formal screening are referrals from partners.
Not all referrals are weighted equally, so it’s best to make sure your documents are in tip-top shape.
What If I Don’t Get a Referral?
If you don’t get a referral, don’t worry! You can still apply and be a competitive applicant.
In this article, we’ve covered:
- How to get a BCG referral.
- The best process for getting a BCG referral.
- Frequently asked questions on BCG Referrals.
Still have questions?
Help with Your Consulting Application
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