A Boston Consulting Group internship is a great way to learn what working in management consulting is like while building your skills for a career in the industry. However, BCG summer internships are not easy to land due to the limited number of positions available every year.
But don’t worry! My Consulting Offer is a team of former BCG, Bain, and McKinsey consultants and recruiters. We can tell you what it takes to land a BCG internship and help you prepare.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- Benefits of a consulting internship.
- What a BCG internship is like.
- Responsibilities BCG interns typically handle.
- How to apply for a BCG internship.
- How to succeed at your internship once you land it.
- What consulting firms look for in summer interns.
Also, look out for the “Pro-Tips!” throughout this article!
Let’s get started!
The Benefits of a Consulting Internship
Management consulting internships are temporary positions in a consulting firm where you work as part of a project team to help business leaders analyze and fix complex business problems.
If you are just starting your research on consulting internships, you’ll find our compiled list of consulting internships helpful.
So, why apply for a consulting internship? Some of the key benefits you can gain from a consulting internship include:
- Learn important skills. Interns receive extensive on-the-job consultant training that will enable you to take your critical thinking, data analysis, PowerPoint, and Excel skills to another level.
- Meet smart and passionate professionals who could be valuable mentors for the rest of your life.
- Land a full-time job before you graduate. Interns who perform well and fit with the firm’s culture often receive an offer to return full-time when they graduate.
- Decide whether consulting is the right career for you and if the firm is the right fit.
- Travel (in some cases). If travel restrictions allow for it and the consulting intern is staffed on a case outside of their city, interns also have the opportunity to travel with their project team to work on location with their clients.
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What is a BCG Internship Like?
BCG is one of the top-tier consulting firms referred to as “MBB” (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) firms. BCG internships are typically 10- to 12-week programs for undergraduate or Master’s students. Interns are also sometimes referred to as summer associates or summer consultants.
A BCG internship gives you a true taste of what being a full-time associate or consultant is like. BCG interns are staffed on a case with a project team and expected to:
- Work with the project team to solve a business problem posed by the clients.
- Own a module or a smaller scope deliverable within the team’s project.
- Contribute to recommendations for the client along with the BCG team and client counterparts.
- Develop and present client deliverables – be it Tableau dashboards, PowerPoint slides, or Excel models to name a few.
Within the project team, you can expect to work very closely with another consultant or the project leader to define the business problem you are trying to solve. BCG interns often have discussions with this consultant or project leader at the start of the week to align on their problem-solving approach, which could include collecting and synthesizing information from desktop research, analyzing data from market research, conducting market sizing exercises, and more. Interns then work independently on the tasks and later regroup with the full team to share their work and get feedback or buy-in for the recommendations.
Outside of the project team, BCG interns are also sometimes paired with a “buddy,” usually an associate or consultant, who can guide them around the office or give tips to be successful. Before COVID-required social distancing began, office-wide events such as town halls, home office days, movie nights, and more allowed interns to meet more people.
Pro-tip! Take advantage of your “buddy” and socialize with other associates and consultants. They can provide tips on things such as working with your case project leader and partners.
What Responsibilities Do BCG Interns Typically Handle?
BCG interns have similar responsibilities to full-time associates, though an intern may receive more guidance from the project leader on how to approach tasks. (Full-time associates and consultants also have these opportunities to seek guidance.)
What Is It Like to Be Part of a Project Team as an Intern?
BCG interns are usually staffed on large case teams with other associates or consultants, a project leader, and partners. In rare cases, the intern could get staffed a case with only a project leader or partner.
The scope of the case is usually defined during the proposal stage, before the team begins formal work with the client. Once the project is officially launched, the project leader delegates different sections (also referred to as “modules”) to the rest of the team.
For example, the project team could be working on a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) case, where the client has stagnant revenue growth. The project’s scope is to identify growth opportunities across their product portfolio, which includes personal care products, beauty, and household products. The project leader could assign each product category as one “module” for each team member.
As a BCG intern, you could receive a smaller section of that module or own the entire module, depending on the size of the project team. Assuming you are tasked to own the module and identify the growth opportunities for the beauty category, you may expect to:
- Run business diagnostics – Analyze client data (for example, revenue and costs) to identify patterns and provide insight on whether the beauty category has opportunities to improve.
- Lead qualitative analyses – Conduct desktop research or expert calls to gather industry benchmarks or case studies that could help you develop recommendations to grow the category.
- Develop quantitative models – Build Excel spreadsheets to size the opportunity for your client to “win” or project the investments required to undertake that opportunity.
- Synthesize your findings and recommendations on slides – Create a storyline with backup data to share your recommendations in a concise and compelling manner.
- Present your findings and refine the deliverables – Present the documents you have developed to the project team or clients to gather feedback or obtain buy-in.
Pro-tip! Getting feedback is good! Sometimes the feedback could send you in a completely new direction or sometimes it could just require some minor formatting tweaks. Either way, we share our work with others to collectively build the best answer that will deliver the most positive impact for the client. Your teammates and clients may have other perspectives, data, experience, or simply a better understanding of the company’s values and culture. No one on the team, interns included, is expected to know everything.
What Is It Like to Work with Clients as a BCG Intern?
BCG interns also gain the experience of working directly with client counterparts.
Client teams often have some form of hierarchy similar to the project teams you work with. Client teams consist of:
- Project Sponsor(s): The C-suite executives that are funding the project.
- Project Lead/Manager: The client lead that is in charge of ensuring that BCG is delivering the agreed deliverables on time and within cost. The client lead will also provide valuable feedback on the deliverables to ensure that the recommendations make sense for the clients.
- Working team: The associate- or consultant-equivalents from the client’s firm. They are often assistant managers or managers who provide data and may work collaboratively with the project team to problem-solve, develop Excel models, PowerPoint slides, or present the findings.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the project team would usually work at the client’s office and sometimes share a conference room with the working team to facilitate discussions and co-development of the deliverables. With the requirement for social distancing, discussions moved to video conferencing. Teams scheduled more frequent team check-ins to drive collaboration with the client working team.
Nonetheless, as a BCG intern, you can still expect to:
- Be part of discussions with the clients.
- Gather information and data from clients to get a better understanding of the business problem.
- Present your findings and recommendations in meetings with more senior stakeholders.
Working directly with clients is valuable for interns as it helps sharpen communication and stakeholder management skills. For example, you could gain experience building professional relationships with people from other backgrounds, communicating to drive action, and encouraging collaboration and idea-sharing. In addition, working directly with clients will help you gain more understanding of the real problems that companies face.
How to Apply for a BCG Internship.
Are you excited to apply for a BCG internship? If so, it’s best to start preparing as early as the year before you want to join. You’ll need to stand out among many other applicants and pass BCG’s high bar because there are a limited number of summer internship positions every year.
Check your campus Careers Department or the BCG website for application deadlines. BCG internship application deadlines are usually 3-6 months before the summer internship begins, but this varies for different geographic regions.
BCG has a 3-step application process for their internship program.
Step #1 – Apply Online with a Cover Letter and Resume/CV
Candidates need to apply for the internship roles on BCG’s career page. Create a profile and upload your cover letter and resume or CV (curriculum vitae). Candidates commonly start the application process for these internship positions in their sophomore or junior years and complete the internships during the summer before their junior or senior years.
If you are new to writing cover letters and CVs, our step-by-step guides to writing consulting cover letters and resumes can help make the process a lot more effective.
In summary, a good cover letter includes:
- Opening – keep your opening short and sweet. Briefly introduce yourself and express interest in working for the firm you’re applying to, mentioning the specific position you want. Include 1-2 sentences on why you want to work in consulting here.
- Paragraph 1 – Explain why you chose the firm you are writing to and why you would be a good fit for the firm.
- Paragraph 2 – Find what the firm is looking for in their consultants and highlight how you fit those characteristics.
- Paragraph 3 – Share a story from your experience that shows you have the characteristics the firm is looking for. Highlight the skills and capabilities you’ve demonstrated in the past. It’s even better if you can quantify the impact you’ve driven in that experience.
- Paragraph 4 (optional) – Share other stories that could work to your advantage. Order these stories with the strongest story first, the second-strongest last, and the least strong (but still good) stories in the middle.
- Paragraph 5 (optional) – Address any red flags in your application – for example, low GPA.
- Closing – Express your interest again and close the letter.
Cover Letter Pro-tip! Try to highlight your key selling points by answering 3 key questions in a standout cover letter – why consulting, why BCG, and how you can contribute to the firm.
For a strong resume, you should use standard sections in the following order:
- Personal Information
- Work Experience
- Non-work Experience or Extracurricular Activities
- Other – Additional Skills & Interests
Resume Pro-tip! Showcasing previous internship experience will help distinguish your resume from other applicants, especially if you can measure the impact you delivered or highlight transferable skills, such as Excel and PowerPoint skills.
Resume Pro-tip! You do not need to have directly applicable business experience to land a consulting internship. Roles that include client management, problem-solving, quantitative skills, and/or managing complex deliverables on a tight timeline will stand out on a consulting resume.
Step #2 – Pass the Online Assessment
The online assessment is applicable only to some geographic locations and BCG has a couple of different versions of the test. It’s best to check with your HR representative on the application process for the role you are applying for.
The BCG online assessment is an online test in which the candidate is asked questions with multiple-choice answers. Many of the questions in the online test are quantitative. Candidates are given an overview of a client, their business problem, and data relevant to the client’s business and the overall market (revenues, costs, business lines, market size, etc.)
These tests are designed to assess the following skills:
- Business judgment,
- Logical reasoning, and
- Quantitative aptitude.
We share some examples and more tips in our article on the BCG online case and chatbot interview.
Step #3 – Attend the Interview Rounds
BCG interns go through 2 rounds of case interviews before they are considered for an offer. Our Complete Guide to BCG Case Interviews provides more details about BCG, the qualities the firm looks for, and what to expect in the interview. BCG internship candidates go through similar interviews as full-time associates.
These interviews are broken down into two sections:
Section #1: Behavioral Fit Questions
The interviewer spends approximately 10 to 15 minutes on behavioral questions to understand more about the applicant and their fit for the firm. Common questions include:
- Why consulting?
- Why BCG?
- Tell me a time where you had a conflict and how you solved issues.
In our article on Behavioral Interviews, we introduce the A STAR(E) structure to help you prepare your stories in a more structured manner. To recap, A STAR(E) stands for:
A – Answer – Start with a 1-sentence answer to the interviewer’s question.
S – Situation – Describe the situation. When and where did the events in the story happen? Who was involved?
T – Tension – What was the conflict?
A – Action – What actions did you take to resolve the tension?
R – Result – What were the results of your action?
(E) – Effect – What did you learn from the situation and the events that followed it?
(E) or Effect is in parentheses because it will not be essential to every story.
Section #2: Case Interview
The interviewer spends approximately 30 to 55 minutes on a business case to assess your ability to structure and solve business problems.
BCG case interviews are candidate-led, which means you will need to lead the interviewer through your logic to solve the problem. Candidates can ask for data and, if data is shared, they will be expected to provide insights or estimates based on data and graphs.
If you are completely new to case interviews, our Comprehensive Guide to Case Interviews will familiarize you with the process and expectations. With this guide, you should be able to master the 4 key success factors to ace a case interview:
- Step 1: Understand the question you are being asked.
- Step 2: Take time to think through all the key aspects of the problem and structure your approach to solving it.
- Step 3: Ask pertinent questions and use information from the interviewer to form hypotheses about the problem and explore potential options.
- Step 4: Summarize your case interview conclusion in a persuasive manner.
5 Tips to Help You Succeed as a BCG Intern
Once you land the offer, the next question you might have is “How do I succeed as a BCG intern?” BCG interns usually have 2 key goals throughout their internship – contribute to the team and obtain a full-time offer.
These tips will help you succeed:
Tip #1: Be Curious
Start by having the right mindset. You’ll have a lot of opportunities to learn but you have to be proactive in taking them. Go the extra mile to learn a new skill or research more to gain a better understanding of a problem. Or simply raise your hand to help the team if you have extra capacity.
Tip #2: Manage Expectations and Focus on Quality
As an intern, you may be tempted to take on more work to show that you can do more and to help the team or perhaps even learn more. However, the risk to this is that you could end up not completing the tasks on time – which would delay team deliverables or lead to low quality work.
To balance your workload, talk through expectations with your project leader by highlighting the tasks you’re working on, how long you think they will take to complete, and expected deliverables. Your project leader will then be able to give you guidance on whether you are in line with what the team needs.
Tip #3: Ask Questions
This goes beyond the case setting and into the office setting in general. If you’re unsure about anything, it’s best to ask questions. As mentioned above, there’s no expectation that you know everything. On the contrary, BCG appreciates people who show the drive to learn and the ability to challenge a thought in the right way. BCG is also a firm that values collaboration, thus, everyone on your case and outside it will share their knowledge and experience with you.
Tip #4: Assess Whether the Firm Is Right for You
While you are contributing to your case team, take some time to figure out if the firm has the right kind of cases, work on topics that excite you, and the people and culture you want to work with. Would you be excited to receive a full-time offer for when you graduate? You will continue to spend a lot of time with these people so make sure you’ll find joy in the work.
Tip #5: Meet People and Have Fun!
Although the stakes and pressure are high during the internship, remind yourself that this is a valuable opportunity to meet new people. BCG also has numerous team- and company-wide events to allow you to socialize with other people in the firm. You could end up discovering new interests or talents, which might shape you to be a better consultant and a more interesting person.
What Consulting Firms Look for in Summer Interns
All firms are looking for the same basics: smart people who can structure a problem quickly, think fast, accurately, and creatively, work independently and as part of a team, and communicate clearly and concisely.
Our article on Passing the BCG Interview also highlights the 3 key qualities BCG emphasizes more than other consulting firms.
Drive basically means the ability to move forward to solve a problem. It’s a key quality BCG looks for during the interview to identify high potentials who will not give up when faced with a problem.
One way to show drive during the interviews or as a BCG intern is to adopt a “hypothesis-driven” approach, which simply means having a running hypothesis and driving toward testing it. For example, after identifying that the beauty category of your FMCG client has declining profitability, share your thoughts on what you think is driving the decline.
Drive goes beyond explaining why a problem exists but also includes the ability to think of solutions or tests you can run to prove or disprove your hypothesis. This shows your interviewer and case team that you can not only structure and guide people through your thought process but develop recommendations that will drive impact. As a team member, your manager will have much more confidence working with you if, after a meeting, you take the initiative to stress-test your analysis and incorporate the feedback received into your deliverables. They’ll know that you are clear on what needs to get done and they won’t have to micromanage your work in addition to doing theirs.
2. A Tailored Approach
BCG is proud of being able to work collaboratively with their clients to develop customized solutions that will drive impact for the client. BCG also wants to see its consultants tailor their approaches and recommendations for the client. The goal is really to show your team that you are not just a machine that rehashes models and frameworks. You know how to look at every situation with new eyes, and you’ll be able to catch the nuances of each client.
3. The BCG Attitude
The BCG attitude is a combination of being personable, being coachable, and having a go-getter mindset.
Project teams can spend 8 to 12 hours a day together. Therefore, it is critical to find and hire consultants who they’d feel comfortable working long hours with and putting in front of clients. The right mindset makes a big difference in establishing this comfort.
That being said, BCG is also not looking for cookie-cutter consultants. The firm appreciates people that have interests outside of consulting. You will find yourself speaking to BCGers from a variety of backgrounds and interests, from engineers to performing artists (John Legend was a BCG consultant before his music career took off), Ph.D.s, and more. This is because BCG values the variety of experiences and the perspectives they can bring to a case.
– – – – –
In this article, we’ve covered:
- What you can get out of a consulting internship.
- What a BCG internship entails.
- The roles and expectations of a BCG intern in a team setting and a client setting.
- The BCG internship application and interview processes.
- 5 tips to succeed as a BCG intern.
- The qualities consulting firms look for in the interns.
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about the BCG internships or BCG sophomore consulting internships, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.
Other people prepping for applying to BCG internships found the following pages helpful:
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