Transitioning from Tier 2 to MBB Consulting Firms

Can You Move from Tier 2 to MBB Consulting Firms?
Erica Suesserman
Erica Suesserman

ex-BCG Recruiter

You landed a consulting job. Yay!

But not at your dream firm. 

It’s okay to feel disappointed that you didn’t get the offer you were hoping for. We’re frequently asked by candidates whether there’s any way to transition to your top choice firm in the future. Most often, this comes from candidates who’ve landed offers with Tier 2 consulting firms and who were hoping to work at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG.

The short answer is yes, you can transition from a Tier 2 to an MBB consulting firm, but it will require hard work.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How to think about your current position,
  • What you should do now to position yourself to transition from Tier 2 to an MBB consulting firm,
  • What you should do over the next year to transition to an MBB firm,
  • 3 success stories, and
  • 7 tips on transitioning from a tier 2 to an MBB consulting firm.

Let’s get started!

Landing a Job at a Tier 2 Consulting Firm Sets You Up For Future Success

There is tough competition for the few positions at MBB firms. So if you’re rejected, don’t take it personally. Many people don’t land consulting roles at McKinsey, Bain, and BCG the first time they interview with them. 

A consulting position at a Tier 2 firm is a great opportunity. You’ll learn a lot about solving tough business problems and position yourself well for a wide range of future positions. You worked hard to get to this place in your career, so celebrate your accomplishment!

Enjoy meeting your new consulting class and getting an introduction to the consulting industry. The best way to launch your career is to embrace your current job and learn everything you can from it.

If in the future, you decide that you’d still prefer to work at an MBB firm, your experience at your current firm will help you get there. Bain, BCG, and McKinsey are hiring more experienced professionals now than they ever have in the past, including from other consulting firms.

If you think you may want to reapply to the MBB firms in the future, focus on 3 things:

  • Building your consulting skills,
  • Assessing whether the consulting industry is right for you, and
  • Developing expertise in an industry or functional area that is in demand.
Landing a job at tier 2 consulting firm
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Build Your Consulting Skills

Tier 2 and MBB consulting firms look for the same skills and experience:

  • Structured problem-solving,
  • Analytic skills,
  • Teamwork, and
  • Leadership.

You’ll gain invaluable experience at a Tier 2 firm through hands-on exposure to the skills you need at any consulting firm. These include hard skills like problem-solving and analytics. They also include soft skills like client management, communication, and the ability to influence people in different parts of the organization to ensure they buy into the case team’s recommendations. 

Get yourself staffed on projects with great managers so that you can maximize what you learn. 

Your first years in consulting will help you develop skills you will carry with you throughout your career and make you more attractive to an MBB firm if you reapply. 

Test Whether You Like Working in the Consulting Industry

See if you like working in consulting

You learned a good bit about the consulting industry during the recruiting process. You’ll learn more by working in the industry.

As you live the day-to-day life of a consultant, check whether this is a career you truly enjoy. Are you up for the 60-100 hour work weeks? The intense intellectual challenge? The travel? The change of industry, teammates, and problem to be solved every 3-4 months?

Keep in mind that an MBB lifestyle will be just as fast-paced and stressful, if not more.

Gain Valuable Expertise

Most Tier 2 firms have expertise in specific functional areas or industries. 

For example, the firm you’re hired by may have expertise and a strong industry reputation in the tech space. By getting staffed on these tech projects, you’ll be able to learn how to solve them and develop experience that will make you valuable to other consulting firms. 

You’ll also be able to develop an expertise earlier in your career than you would as a generalist at an MBB firm since they encourage you to try several different industries and functions in your first couple years at the firm.

Success Story! Transition from Accenture to BCG Digital

While at BCG, I watched a candidate go through the recruiting process in several consecutive years. He started by applying to BCG’s summer internship program early in his junior year, but didn’t make the cut. Even though this candidate was extremely smart and analytical, internship hiring is extremely competitive. 

We stayed in touch, and in his senior year, he reapplied and made it through to first round interviews! Sadly, the feedback was that his case experience was average, not exceptional, and he didn’t have the consulting internship experience some of the people he was competing against had. He didn’t make it to final rounds. 

We continued to stay in touch. After graduation, he received an offer from Accenture. It wasn’t his dream firm, but he was very excited to have an offer in consulting! He worked at Accenture for almost 2 years and continued to deepen his knowledge and consulting skillset. He also developed a heavy focus on data science and analytics because Accenture is known for this type of work. Then he applied to BCG Gamma and finally got an offer at his dream firm. 

MBB firms look for the impact you’ve had since last applying to the firm. This candidate was able to show high-impact results on several cases.  

Position Yourself to Transition From Tier 2 to MBB Consulting Firms 

What to Do NOW

Transition from tier 2 to mbb

Bring a positive attitude to your work. Hard work and a good attitude will make you stand out among your peers and ensure you are someone managers want to have on their teams.

Seek out strong managers. Strong managers can help you make the most of your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. You’ll learn key consulting skills quickly and develop a strong reputation at your firm.

Make friends with your incoming class. Your colleagues will be connections who will support you throughout your career. You never know who might have the insight you might need to solve a case or a job at a future employer that you’d love an introduction to. Developing these relationships is easy and something you can do right away that will have lasting results. 

Consider what didn’t go well with your MBB applications or interviews. Now may not be the time you want to dwell on what went wrong, but it’s fresh in your mind. Ask for feedback from interviewers or recruiters so you know what you need to work on. 

Recruiters and interviewers keep track of all candidates’ interview feedback throughout the years, and if you are to reapply, they will look for significant growth from past interviews. The feedback you receive could be anything ranging from a weak framework on a case, to lack of experience, not enough eye contact, or a poor attitude. 

Sometimes interviewers and recruiters will provide you with this feedback via a phone call, and sometimes you will need to reach out and ask for it. Either way, make sure you gather feedback; it’s valuable and can be a stepping stone for improvement in your candidacy. 

Success story! Transition from Tier 2 Consulting Firm to Bain

Sometimes, this feedback from recruiters and interviewers can be vague. Amar, one of our Bain case coaches, had a client who’d interviewed with the MBB firms but didn’t pass final rounds for summer internships. The client was given the feedback that he needed to be more “structured,” but that was all the feedback provided.

As a candidate, it’s always hard to hear that kind of feedback because it’s not specifically tied to something “concrete” like math (which is easier to tell if you’re right or wrong!) This candidate had to take a deep look at how he walked through the interview and evaluate himself on where exactly he was lacking structure. 

“When we started working together, we realized that while he had a lot of great ideas, but he wasn’t necessarily putting them into logical, MECE (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive) buckets when presenting them to the interviewer,” Amar said. 

“It took away from his great ideas because his interviewers couldn’t see how this client’s thought process was pushing the answer forward and leading towards good hypotheses to solve the case. By forcing himself to add this structure, he elevated his overall performance and approached the next round of interviews for full-time recruiting with more confidence!”

Overall, it’s not just enough to get feedback from your interviewer/recruiter. You’ll have to think deeply about it and work hard to change your case performance. 

What to Do Long Term

What to do long term to transition

Continue to update your resume and cover letter.  Your resume is a document you’ll need to continue to revise with new skills and experiences over your entire career. Any time you have a high-impact project, add it to your resume. This is easiest to do when your memory and the data on client impact are fresh. 

When it comes time to apply to Bain, BCG, and McKinsey as an experienced hire, you’ll have a variety of experiences to choose to talk about.

Don’t Worry that Recruiters or Interviewers Will Look Down on You for Reapplying. There is nothing more exciting for a recruiter than to see someone who didn’t get an offer with the firm go on to reapply and successfully receive an offer their second (or third) time around. The people who bounce back from rejections are typically ones that have shown they plan to stay in the consulting industry for the long haul.  They have grit, work ethic, and raw skills that are necessary to be successful and rejection only pushed them closer to their goal because they used it as motivation.

Keep in touch with your recruiter. If you interviewed at MBB, you can expect the recruiter to remember you, so use this to your advantage. Reach out to stay in touch with them but be mindful that they might not get back to you right away especially during their busy season, when school visits are happening, resumes and cover letters are due, and interviews are being conducted. This happens in 2 waves, for full-time positions in the fall and summer internships early in the calendar year. 

A kind message acknowledging their help with interviews, or wishing them “good luck” in their upcoming recruiting season can go a long way.

Keeping in touch ensures they let you know about the next round of application deadlines you will be eligible for (typically 6-18 months after your last application.) This time will allow you to take advantage of any feedback you’re received and make your application and interviews stronger. 

It’s also important to continue this relationship so they can inform you of any off-cycle experienced hire openings that you might be a good candidate for. 

Staying connected and in-the-know shows that you’re dedicated and determined to get an offer.

Consider whether you really want to change firms. It’s important to not lose sight of your long-term goals, but over time, these goals often shift. 

And that is okay! 

Sometimes candidates establish themselves in their first job and find that they are happy there. They’re getting staffed on projects that interest them, they like their colleagues, and they’re learning a ton. They might be positioned for an early promotion.

If you still want to move from a Tier 2 to MBB, then that is also excellent. 

Success Story! Transition from Tier 2 to BCG

Another example of a candidate going from a Tier 2 to MBB consulting firm was someone I met during one of my first recruiting seasons at BCG. He had applied as a junior for our summer internship program, but was unsuccessful at even landing an interview. At the time, our internship program had few open positions. It was very competitive and we were only able to take people with very high GPAs. 

He applied for full-time roles the following year. I noticed he’d improved his GPA. For full-time hiring, we had more open positions and he was invited to first round interviews. Unfortunately, that was as far as he made it as his nerves got the best of him and he had a poor case performance during interviews.

He overcame his nerves in interviews with other firms, though, and got an offer from EY Parthenon. 

Looking back after I had moved on from BCG, I saw that he had landed a job at an MBB firm. I messaged him on LinkedIn and had found out that after spending several years at EY-Parthenon, he decided to reapply as an experienced hire and ended up receiving offers from 2 of the 3 MBB firms! 

He ended up just where he wanted to be . . . just a couple years later.

7 Tips to Position Yourself to Transition to an MBB Firm

Positioning yourself to transition from tier 2 to MBB
  1. Verify the waiting period from your first application to your next. This can be from 6 to 18 months. Find out what your timeline looks like based on your last application and give yourself enough time to make yourself a stronger candidate. 
  2. Work on engagements that will showcase your problem-solving, analytical capabilities, and drive. The key skills MBB consulting firms look for will now be part of your everyday job. Take advantage of that.
  3. Keep track of what industries or functional areas are “hot” and position yourself on those projects to make yourself more valuable. Example: digital experienced hires are in demand now, so try to get on cases that boost your digital acumen. 
  4. Continue solidifying your casing skills. Continue casing with experienced case partners. While case interviews mimic consulting engagements, they move at a much faster pace (30 minutes to solve a business problem). You don’t want to lose that muscle.
  5. Work on improving the points of feedback from your last interview. Your next interviewers will take a closer look at your points of weakness from your previous interviews, so make sure you exceed expectations.
  6. Network with intentionality. Network with your past recruiter, with people currently working for MBB firms, consultants who have left MBB firms, or those who have experience at a Tier 2 firm before joining an MBB firm. It’s always good to expand your network, and potentially gain a referral in the process. 
  7. Strengthen your consulting resume and cover letter based on your updated work experiences. Rocking your first cases will give you great new experiences to put on your resume and discuss when you interview again. Keep your resume up to date, highlighting your growth in problem-solving, leadership, drive, impact, teamwork. Update your cover letter before the application deadline.
Moving from a Tier 2 to MBB consulting firm takes time, determination, and career growth, but it is an achievable goal. These tips will help you become a well-rounded candidate and ultimately increase your chances of working for your dream firm. 

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • How to think about your position as a consultant at a tier 2 consulting firm,
  • How to position yourself to transition from tier 2 to an MBB consulting firm,
  • 3 success stories, and 
  • 7 tips on transitioning from a tier 2 to an MBB firm.

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about the transitioning from Tier 2 to MBB consulting firms, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.

Other people prepping to move from a Tier 2 to an MBB consulting firm found the following pages helpful:

Help with Your Consulting Application

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