One of the frustrating things about the consulting recruitment process is how structured it is. In the United States, the recruiting cycle looks as follows:
1. September – November: Interviews for Full Time Positions
2. December – February: Interviews for Internship Positions
3. Rest of the Year: Ad- Hoc Recruiting for Experienced Hires
and positions don’t typically start until June – September of the next year.
If you are an undergraduate, graduate student, or only a few years out of school you should pay very close attention to these timings. There’s nothing more frustrating than missing the prime recruiting season and having to hope and dream that things will open up off cycle.
Respect the cycle and it will reward you.
Most people start preparing for cases and networking in the August – September time frame if they’re aiming for full time and later if they’re aiming for internships. Because these positions are so competitive I would recommend starting earlier.
The *best* time to network in my experience is March – June. By then, internship recruiting has finished and people are no longer being barraged by networking requests. At the same time, people haven’t left for their vacations yet (many people take vacations during the summer).
There are two main risks with starting the networking process early:
1. You may end up making connections with people who are planning to leave in June (when many people leave) and if you’d started in the summer you wouldn’t have this problem. However, this is relatively easy to deal with – choose to network with people who are farther along in their careers and less likely to leave. Plus, you can gauge how likely they are to be around in 6 months when you talk to them.
2. Your connections may forget about you, or not do as promised. The remedy here is to ask for the referral now. Get your contact to pass your resume to HR now and you’ll be on their list. If you need to remind the firm you exist in a few months, fine. It’ll be easier to get your contact to help you again if they’ve helped you before.
Starting early will give you a big leg up on your competitors. When recruiting season comes and everyone else is scrambling to get their resumes in before midnight deadlines you’ll be sipping martinis on the beach and watching the interview offers roll in.
And make sure you’ve got something to do between when the offers come rolling in and your proposed start date 🙂