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Consulting Club Recruitment Guide

Updated: Feb 9


consulting (noun) - the business of giving expert advice to other professionals, typically in financial and business matters.


 

So.


You’ve decided to join a consulting club. Congratulations!


Now what?


For many (and probably most) UCLA students, the process of applying to, and eventually joining, a student consulting club seems like an unclear, daunting task.


Well, we are here to help!


This guide will be broken up into three main parts:


  1. What consulting and student consulting clubs are.

  2. A breakdown of the consulting club recruiting process, with tips and tricks on how to ensure recruitment success.

  3. Some extra resources and good reads to learn more about consulting clubs and the industry in general.

So with that being said, let’s dive right in!


 

What consulting and student consulting club are.


There are a lot of unknowns associated with consulting clubs at UCLA, especially for those who find themselves in the situation of not being in one.


Naturally, the first question to ask is, what in the world is consulting?


Likely, you’ve heard this word thrown around (along with its cousin “ib”, or investment banking) when business students are asked what industry or profession they are interesting in pursuing after graduation. Yet the actual meaning of the word “consulting” is unclear for many.


Long story short, consulting is an industry where professionals (consultants) advise or sometimes temporarily join other companies to improve their operations and efficiency in the goal of making the company more profitable, stable, or appealing to investors. This can come in a lot of different ways — advising a company on the optimal pricing for a new product, recommending strategies on entering a new market (with a new consumer or even an entirely new country), restructuring a company to make it more efficient with a clearer chain of command, cutting costs by laying off workers, etc. The exact job requirements vary tremendously.


There are many factors that drive many students to pursue consulting as a career after undergrad, but here are the main three:


  1. Consulting, especially management consulting, is a very lucrative industry. Six-figure salaries for entry-level jobs straight out of undergrad are common.

  2. Consulting offers a stimulating and low-commitment way to explore many industries before deciding which one to dive into professionally. Junior consultants typically work on projects across a variety of industries, allowing them to learn more about what sectors are out there before pivoting into one. The role is challenging, you work with smart colleagues, and you learn a lot, quickly.

  3. With the above point being said, consulting offers excellent “exit opportunities” (a common term to describe the careers or professions you can join, or exit into, after moving on from a company or role). It is very common for junior consultants to stay at a consulting firm for 2-3 years, then move on to another company completely or to grad school for an MBA.

With that being said, a natural follow-up question would be, what is a student consulting club?


A student consulting club is basically a group of ambitious, like-minded students that do consulting projects for clients that are one or several quarters in length. Students complete projects for clients from a variety of industries, helping boost the resumes of students as they prepare to apply for summer internships (especially for the summer after junior year) or full-time roles after graduation. Students have the opportunity to hold leadership positions and be involved in the management of the club, further giving students something to discuss with interviewers and recruiters as they hunt for competitive jobs. These clubs have many social events and lots of opportunities to make close, lifelong friends. And, they provide a large network for you when applying for internships/jobs, preparing for interviews, and looking for referrals.


At UCLA, there are many different student consulting clubs, each offering a great group of students to join, interesting projects to work on, and social events to partake in. Typically, these clubs also have a specific focus on the type of clients that they take for (the healthcare industry, tech, retail, environment, etc.). Here at TBG, for example, our focus is on start-up and nonprofit clients, though we occasionally take on other types of clients as well.


Here is a helpful list of some major student consulting clubs at UCLA, along with their website links to explore further. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and new clubs are founded almost every year.



Do your research into the clubs you find interesting, and apply away!


 

A breakdown of the consulting club recruiting process, with tips and tricks on how to ensure recruitment success.


Note: This article was written by The Bruin Group (TBG), so this does not reflect the exact recruiting process for all consulting clubs at UCLA.


First and foremost, it must be said that these consulting club are extremely competitive to get into. Most clubs recruit at the beginning of each fall and winter quarter (with a few recruiting in spring quarter as well) and receive hundreds of applications per cycle. More often than not, less than a dozen students are admitted, creating acceptance rates lower than that of UCLA itself.


And, you find yourself competing against other UCLA students. Yikes.


The process of applying and getting into a consulting club at UCLA is shrouded in mystery and the source of much stress for many. Generally speaking, consulting club recruitment can be separated into a few different phrases, which we will dive into individually:


  1. Learning about the club and meeting its members.

  2. Online application with resume and written responses.

  3. Coffee chats / first round group case interview.

  4. Final round interview (and hopefully, an offer!).

Let’s get started.


 

Learning about the club and meeting its members.


Most consulting clubs have events before the application deadline for prospective applicants to learn more about the club, meets its members, and figure out if you want to apply. There can also be a workshop to learn more about the casing process for the interviews. Clubs will post about and promote their recruiting events on their websites, Instagrams, and newsletters. We cannot stress enough the importance and benefits of attending these events and meeting members of the club, especially if you do not know anyone in the club beforehand.


Meeting current members at these events allows you to interact in an informal environment and make yourself known to the club. This becomes very important because active club members can vouch for you during application deliberations based on your good impression. Since hundreds of students apply to the club each cycle, being vouched for by an existing member is an extremely beneficial way to move on through the recruitment process.


Needless to say, attending these info sessions and speaking with current members gives you an idea of what the club does, what its vibe is, and gives you a better idea on if you’d like to apply for the club.


Online application with resume and written responses.


You will initially apply to a consulting club through an online application, typically a Google Form. You’ll be asked for your name, email, grade, etc. as well as a resume and a few written response questions.


A guide to formatting your resume can be found here.


Make sure your resume is formatted top notch, as a poor resume format (inconsistent spacing, color on the page, more than 1 page long, etc.) is nearly certain to end your recruitment journey with the club you applied to. The importance of having a correctly formatted resume cannot be stressed enough.


The written responses typically ask about your interest in consulting and the particular club you are applying to (with sometimes a fun question in there as well). We read a lot of these applications, so make sure to put effort into your responses. Some common mistakes to be avoided are these:


  • Using ChatGPT in your responses. Trust us, we notice.

  • Mentioning another club in your responses for a different club. Don’t bring down other clubs. And definitely don’t forget to change the name of the club you’re applying to when you copy and paste a response from another club’s application. Yes, we know what you’re doing. Yes, try to differentiate your club application responses. We understand that you may be applying to different clubs in the same quarter, but put some effort and thought into each application you submit. Respect the time of everyone involved.

  • Being cliché. Enough said about this.


Stand out and be memorable in your responses. Remember, we are reading dozens of these. For TBG, one fun question we previously had on our application was “What kind of cake would you be, and why?”


Many applicants went with the cliché of being a layer cake because they have many layers. Oof.


But someone said that they would be a Costco carrot cheesecake for no particular reason except for the fact that they like the Costco carrot cheesecake, and included the link for Costco’s listing for that exact cake.


They moved on to coffee chats.


Coffee chats / first round group case interview.


The first round of interviews is typically in the form of coffee chats or group case interviews. In TBG, we go with coffee chats, so we will focus on them here.


Coffee chats are basically informal but structured ways for active club members to learn more about applicants and see if they are good fits for the club.


A vibe check, if you will.


Remember that club members work on projects together for months at a time, so being a good culture fit is very important for us. If you’re qualified but rude, you won’t make it through to the next round. But if you’re a bit underqualified but interesting, interested in others, and willing to work hard, you likely will.


At the coffee chats, groups of 4-5 candidates sit at tables and take turns answering questions from active club members, who rotate between tables about every 10-15 minutes. Common questions include these:


  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What is your biggest strength/weakness?

  • What is an interesting piece of news you read recently, and why did you find it interesting?

  • What is your biggest accomplishment?

  • What are some of your hobbies?

  • Why do you want to join this club?

  • Toothpaste or water first? (please don’t say neither)


Basically, we're trying to get a feel for who you are as a person.


What’s important to focus on here is your impression to the active members, both in your responses and in the way you act when you are not speaking yourself. Dress professionally and presentably. Good posture, eye contact, and confident speaking are important. So is your attention on the other members of your group when they are speaking. Don’t interrupt, but appear interested in what they are saying. Nod as needed. Needless to say, don’t go on your phone (some did this once) during coffee chats.


Respond confidently and thoughtfully, show you’re an interesting person, and be respectful.


Final case interview.


The most important, and challenging, part of the consulting club recruitment process is the case interview.


Basically, a case interview (or a case, for short) is a hypothetical business situation where the interviewer presents a business problem to the interviewee. The interviewee is tasked with finding a reasonable solution and/or a series of next steps to address the business problem, using extra information provided by the interviewer as needed.


Cases can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but for our purposes of recruitment, they will come in two forms: market sizing and profitability. Typically, freshman applicants will be given a market sizing case, and sophomore applicants and above will be given a profitability case.

In a market sizing case, the interviewee is tasked with finding the size of a given market, typically in the form of total revenue or number of units. For a case interview for a student consulting club, there will be a market sizing exercise; then, you will use your analysis and other provided information to recommend whether or not to enter a new market.


Here are a few examples of what a market sizing case may look like:


  • A water bottling company is considering expanding operations into Canada. Should they do so?

  • A shipping company specializing in container shipping is considering expanding into oil shipping. Should they?

  • How many hot dog stands are there in New York City? Do you recommend opening your own stand in NYC?

A profitability case is more challenging, and will involve being presented with a business with declining profitability that you are tasked with solving. You will need to identify why a business is seeing declining profits, and recommend strategies on how to combat it.


Here are some examples of a profitability case:


  • Your client is a mining company experiencing declining profits the last 5 years. What should we do to turn things around?

  • A software company is experiencing declining sales in one particular product it sells. What should it do?

  • A restaurant has declining profits despite increasing the number of customers it serves. Why is this, and what can it do to return back to normal profit levels?


Case interviews are modeled after work that real consultants do and test the thinking process, problem-solving, and mental math skills of candidates. Every consulting club at UCLA, and nearly every consulting firm, uses case interviews to assess their candidates at some point throughout the recruitment process. The most important thing to remember about these cases is that they test how you think and approach problems. The focus is less on your final answer and more on how you got to it.


For an in-depth example of a previous TBG final round case interview, see our case workshop slides here.


For an in-depth guide of market sizing case interviews (common for freshmen applicants), click here.


For an in-depth guide of profitability case interviews (common for sophomore applicants and above), click here.


For some more information on case interview frameworks, click here.


An important note: Cases are similar to day-to-day consulting work, so if you find yourself enjoying practicing and preparing for case interviews, consulting will likely be enjoyable for you professionally. If you find yourself dreading cases, consulting may not be the profession for you.


 

Some extra resources and good reads to learn more about consulting clubs, the consulting industry, and the business world in general.



If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email us at thebruingroup@gmail.com.


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