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Boston Consulting Group (London)

 
#1 Boston Consulting Group (London)
28/09/2004 17:06

Talbot

Just browsing through the BCG London website, and noticed that every one of the case study employees have degrees from either Oxford or Cambridge. The company also only conducts recruitment events at these universities (and LSE). Is this evidence of some kind of implicit elitist clique, or do non-Oxbridge graduates really stand a chance at BCG?

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#2 The best of the best
29/09/2004 08:27

Mike

Talbot - these top strategy firms hire * exceptional * candidates, ie. people that their clients are going to be hugely impressed to have working on their assignments. As a result they are able to charge considerably higher day rates than the strategy consulting practices of the accounting firms. But the implication of this is that they do have to be very elitist in their recruiting. So 9/10 recruits will be of Oxford / Cambridge calibre (stretching sometimes to LSE, Durham, Bristol). If you aren't an Oxbridge student, best advice would be to work for a consulting firm with lower entry requirements for a couple of years, and then use this as a stepping stone to doing an MBA at a top school (at which point you then could enter the likes of BCG). Best of luck Mike

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#3 Re: Boston Consulting Group (London)
30/09/2004 10:39

not interested in bcg

I found them very anal in application - wouldn't touch me for not having a 'top uni' on my cv (which is wrong)- I had interviews at all the other top strat firms and am going to one. I won't be considering them in future moves...

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#4 Re: Boston Consulting Group (London)
30/09/2004 12:20

Tony Restell (Top-Consultant)

BCG were one of the panelists at our careers event last week. There's some audio footage of the answers they gave to candidates on the day, which you can find at the URL below. Hope this helps:

<br>

<a href=http://www.top-consultant.com/access_audio_recording.asp>http://www.top-consultant.com/access_audio_recording.asp</a>

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#5 Re: The best of the best
30/09/2004 12:56

Redbrick and proud

What, and there are no top notch, straight-A students at Imperial / Warwick / UCL...well the list goes on. Just makes them seem like a bunch of pricks if you ask me. A lot of us went to other universities througf choice, either because we wanted to be with more normal people or because the course was actually better elsewhere.

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#6 Re: The best of the best
30/09/2004 23:53

Talbot

Personally, I'm not really bothered by the fact that they target what they see as &quot;exceptional&quot; candidates; if I was in their position, I'd want to employ the best. I do wish, however, that they'd be slightly more explicit about their selection policy. It would certainly save those of us who are under the impression that our degrees are as worthy or creditable as at least some of those from Oxbridge, the hassle of researching the company and filling in the application form. I've come up with a perfect solution: the London branch of BCG should simply re-name itself Oxbridge Consulting Group. That should keep the oiks from banging at the doors :-)

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#7 Re: The best of the best
01/10/2004 04:50

Toni

You have a good idea!

I agree if BCG thinks only oxbridge grads. are worth something-that is their loss!

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#8 Re: The best of the best
01/10/2004 12:06

Si

Does Mike honestly believe what he's saying, or is he just playing devils advocate?! Its rediculous to assume graduates not from oxbridge are somehow less &quot;exceptional&quot;!

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#9 Re: The best of the best (Bristol?!?)
01/10/2004 13:37

Greg

It may be a fair point regarding Oxbridge having more prestige but how on earth you think Bristol and Durham stand-out above 10 or more other red bricks (Manchester, UCL, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Warwick, Southampton etc etc) is beyond.

I think the real reason that BCG and some other recruiters will filter in such a fashion is that they have limited resource and it is a simple method of cutting the numbers down. A fighter pilot no longer needs 20:20 vision but excellent eye-sight is still a convenient method for the RAF to cut down the number of applicants. If BCG lose out then that's their problem.

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#10 Re: The best of the best
01/10/2004 14:26

Mike

I couldn't agree with you more Si! But put yourself in the shoes of consulting firms like BCG. Clients are paying over £1000 a day in fees to have recent University graduates working on assignments with them. Rightly or wrongly, clients attach greater value to having an Oxbridge graduate as part of the consulting team than a graduate from any of the other top UK universities. And when clients are paying £1000+ in fees per day (per graduate), they get to call the shots about the types of people they want on those consulting teams. The likes of BCG are simply responding to client demands in the profile of consultants that they hire.<br><br>

Later on in your career your expertise in a particular sector will become far more important than your academics when it comes to getting a job with such a firm. But at the graduate entry level your University background remains the most important hurdle to overcome, because that is what clients will be impressed by. This is in no way unique to BCG by the way. Look at any of the other top strategy firms and you will encounter pretty much the same thing! Mike

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#11 Re: The best of the best
01/10/2004 17:39

anon

I also find this a difficult pill to swallow, however the best graduates I have worked with come from Warwick, Nottingham, Strathclyde and Newcastle. Continually those that haven't impressed are Oxbridge (purely personal experience). I do agree with Mike that clients attach a greater value to Oxbridge graduates but that's the challenge/mindset that the rest of us non-oxbridge types have to prove wrong and change. Anon

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#12 Boston Consulting Group (London)
03/10/2004 20:08

OxbridgeStudent

Oxbridge candidates are among the better prepared candidates for a job in Consultancy and it is therefore natural that the leading consultancy firms will recruit from the leading universities. Ever heard of the Law of Natural Selection and 'Survival of the fittest'? Why are we better prepared? We have very short academic terms (8 weeks compared to 10 and even 12 at some universities) and are stretched to work under pressure, think creatively, work with equally capable students in highly competitive environments (think about how we got into Oxbridge!), pushed to our limits in thought processes (for example during the tutorials/supervisions) and the collegiate environment leads to a high degree of social interaction which is often absent at non-Collegiate universities (and which stretches further than 'meeting mates in a local pub'). Our weekly tutorials are held in small groups of 2-3 students in which our understanding of topics are challenged by members of staff who have years of experience, and a proven and highly successful track record. Doesn't that remind you of a consulting environment where people work in small groups in a highly competitive environment, under time pressure? We have this training for 3-4 years; more so than any other university of the country. There are also many Oxbridge candidates who do not get into consultancy: the geeky candidate lacking in social skills rarely finds his/her way in! Leading firms look for more than a top academic background: there is a range of factors looked for. Read the recent Times League Table of Universities (or the Guardian's), which ranks universities based on the A-Level grades of their students and the grades obtained by final-years and you'll find that Oxbridge almost always tops the list. London (and LSE in particular) leads closely behind. These are independent studies which don't have anything to do with BCG. If people who want to work in Consultancy have such a low level of maturity by questioning a firm with a proven track record of success, it makes me think that such people will always adopt a critical attitude towards success, which they do not really seem to understand. A consultancy firm (and indeed any people-based businesses) will be as good as its people and no matter how amazing the training offered is on employment, you still need to show that you will make the most of the training during the recruitment process. Why not contact BCG and ask why they won't consider your application (assuming they haven't) if you're not at Oxbridge or LSE? If you have an exceptional CV, with the required skills, the company will most definitely consider your application and call you for a case interview: it is not unkown for exceptional candidates from non-targeted universities to be offered jobs in the leading management consultancies, including BCG. Some more thorough research into the application process and companies may help you understand how and why companies do things they way they do. The research should also show that BCG does not only go to Oxbridge and LSE as you pointed out, but was also at the recent TopConsultant.com recruitment event. Did you attend it to meet the BCG reps? I don't think that the event was only intended for Oxbridge graduates...

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#13 Re: Boston Consulting Group (London)
04/10/2004 12:35

Not Oxbridge and Proud!

I think alot of what you said may be true, but your attitude stinks. If you think straight academic record is all that matters in terms of what employers look for and more to the point what enables you to succeed once recruited, you are going to be sadly disapointed. The people I know who are succeeding in consulting had good academics, yes, but their extra-curriculars are where their university CV's shine.

As a non-Oxbridger in consulting, I have to say it's people like you that give Oxbridgers a bad name...

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#14 Re: Boston Consulting Group (London)
04/10/2004 21:40

Talbot

How you can imply that it is immature to question the selection policy of a company such as BCG is simply beyond me. Critical thinking is perhaps the key ability acquired through a decent university education – and one that I am sure forms an essential part of a consultant’s skills-set. I haven't actually applied to BCG, since, before I spend a considerable amount of time doing so, I want to be sure that they will look at my qualifications and my achievements, rather than simply the name of my chosen university.

Whilst I agree that, overall, the standards of teaching and research at Oxford and Cambridge are probably the best in this country, there is, however, no evidence to suggest that the best individual Oxbridge graduates are better than the best graduates of other top universities. Indeed, The Times are keen to stress that their league tables vary across subjects (e.g. Imperial is the best for Engineering, Durham for Physics, Glasgow for medicine etc.). I am certain that within these courses you will find students who “are stretched to work under pressure, think creatively, work with equally capable students in highly competitive environments”. It is enormously ignorant and narrow-minded to imply that the conditions you describe are not present at these other universities, especially if you have no grounding in experience from which to pass judgement.

I don't actually remember Darwin supporting his theories through references to his experiences at Cambridge. In fact, if he did, I'm sure we'd all be talking about Wallace's theory of natural selection instead. In fact, the metaphor you describe is far more akin to artificial selection - the kind employed in dog-breeding, eugenics and Nazi Germany. Candidates secure a place at Oxbridge, and are then ‘selected’ by BCG recruiters on the basis of this acquired characteristic.

What I want know to is whether is whether HR at BCG share your particular bigoted viewpoint on the suitability of candidates, or whether they are prepared to look at and consider the merits of the individual. I have used this forum as my first port of call in this research, and the responses I’ve received so far have only confirmed my suspicions. The sheer ferocity and extent of your particular diatribe suggests that the futures of companies such as BCG may continue to be a self-perpetuating Oxbridge cliques. On the plus side, I’m considering sending a copy of it for submission to the Oxford English Dictionary… under the definition for ‘arrogance’.

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#15 Re: Oxbridge Student
04/10/2004 21:42

Talbot

How you can imply that it is immature to question the selection policy of a company such as BCG is simply beyond me. Critical thinking is perhaps the key ability acquired through a decent university education – and one that I am sure forms an essential part of a consultant’s skills-set. I haven't actually applied to BCG, since, before I spend a considerable amount of time doing so, I want to be sure that they will look at my qualifications and my achievements, rather than simply the name of my chosen university.

Whilst I agree that, overall, the standards of teaching and research at Oxford and Cambridge are probably the best in this country, there is, however, no evidence to suggest that the best individual Oxbridge graduates are better than the best graduates of other top universities. Indeed, The Times are keen to stress that their league tables vary across subjects (e.g. Imperial is the best for Engineering, Durham for Physics, Glasgow for medicine etc.). I am certain that within these courses you will find students who “are stretched to work under pressure, think creatively, work with equally capable students in highly competitive environments”. It is enormously ignorant and narrow-minded to imply that the conditions you describe are not present at these other universities, especially if you have no grounding in experience from which to pass judgement.

I don't actually remember Darwin supporting his theories through references to his experiences at Cambridge. In fact, if he did, I'm sure we'd all be talking about Wallace's theory of natural selection instead. In fact, the metaphor you describe is far more akin to artificial selection - the kind employed in dog-breeding, eugenics and Nazi Germany. Candidates secure a place at Oxbridge, and are then ‘selected’ by BCG recruiters on the basis of this acquired characteristic.

What I want know to is whether is whether HR at BCG share your particular bigoted viewpoint on the suitability of candidates, or whether they are prepared to look at and consider the merits of the individual. I have used this forum as my first port of call in this research, and the responses I’ve received so far have only confirmed my suspicions. The sheer ferocity and extent of your particular diatribe suggests that the futures of companies such as BCG may continue to be a self-perpetuating Oxbridge cliques. On the plus side, I’m considering sending a copy of it for submission to the Oxford English Dictionary… under the definition for ‘arrogance’.

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#16 Re: Oxbridge Student
04/10/2004 22:47

Oxbridge Student

Get over the frustrations mate! You sound like one of those who tried to get into Oxbridge but never did... and now hate anything Oxbridge-related. If you have everything it takes, just go for it!!! Why waste time discussing all this when you have already made up your mind? Is that a fear of failure? Peace!

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#17 Oxbridge recrutiment
05/10/2004 09:23

Another Oxbridge Student

I agree entirely that it is a bitter pill to swallow and that there are fantastic non-Oxbridge graduates out there. A large number of the best people at Oxbridge were rejected first time and so great people like them will end up graduating from elsewhere - in addition, there are many reasons why someone might not prefer an Oxbridge education (tutorial system, particular faculty etc). Therefore there is no doubt that the best strategy firms should take non-Oxbridge graduates (note: this is not just about BCG - go to a McK or Bain recruitment event or read their consultant profiles and they are all pretty much the same - mostly Oxbridge, some London at the graduate entry level).

The problem however is that the top firms will receive 1000s of applications for between 5-20 places. It is an oft-repeated cliche, but the length of time that a recruitment person at each of these firms will have to look over the CV of an applicant is very very short indeed. Therefore, the CV needs to have things on it to keep people reading. I have never done CV screening, but I can imagine that Oxbridge (particularly 'predicted 1st from...') keeps people reading because in a sense we have already been 'pre-screened' (entrance exam, three interviews, flawless A-levels), and yes I hate to say it but probably on average the Oxbridge candidate is going to be brighter and better prepared - this is not a universal truth, but a useful rule-of-thumb for recruiters who are very pushed for time.

Thus, it is going to be slightly harder for non-Oxbridge graduates to keep the recruiter reading a bit longer down their CV. But if you have something which makes you 'exceptional' and jumps out of the CV then this is also going to interest the reader. Therefore relevant other experience, positions of responsibility and crucially a well-crafted CV are all going to equal the playing field and mean that your CV isn't gone within the first 5 seconds. Of course Oxbridge graduates need these as well, but having the rule-of-thumb advantages discussed above means that their CVs aren't required to have these things jumping out of the page quite so much to keep the recruiter reading.

Once you are at interview then I'm sure there will be no bias, the interviewers I've had with various firms (consulting and non-) have said that once at interview, it is that far more than the CV which matters and so non-Oxbridge graduates are back on a level playing field.

I'm sorry that this has gone on longer than I wanted but I just wanted to make three further points:

1) What I have said applies far more to the strategy firms than the massive IT consultancies (Acn, IBM) because being much larger they have more places and recruiting staff per applicant than the smaller strategy firms and thus because they have more places and more staff time they can afford to go out to red bricks and also take more time over CVs. So it is obvious that they will be less reliant on using Oxbridge as a pre-screen.

2) It is always possible for non-Oxbridge graduates who miss out on a top strategy firm to apply again as experienced hires when people will have more on their CVs to distinguish them and thus university choice will look less and less important than what job or MBA you are coming from.

3) Unfortunately there is one other bias in the recruiting process which I don't think has been mentioned so far. As has rightly been pointed out, academics are not everything and extra-curricular activities are very important. However, Oxbridge students have an inherent advantage here - being a Collegiate university we don't have 1 student union committee each but around 30 JCR committees and these are serious amounts of work (handling budgets of tens of thousands of pounds) and look good on a CV. The number of Colleges also means that there are many times the number of student societies as are found in other universities. There are also more student newspapers and other publications than elsewhere and more student start-up companies in my experience (including even some 'consulting-ish' firms). Thus, there are more opportunities in Oxbridge to rack up CV points. I think this is an issue which recruiters should be more aware of (and speaking to some of them at the MilkRound, they seem to be now more understanding about) and possibly could further explain the fact that BCG along with other top strategy firms employ more Oxbridge candidates. It is still however my belief that candidates from non-Oxbridge unis if they are predicted 1sts, have great extra-curriculars and exceptional work experience can get themselves past the CV stage.

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#18 Re: The best of the best
05/10/2004 16:42

oxbridge

As a strategy consultant who has worked for not 1 but 2 of the top strat firms in the country I can confirm that having an Oxbridge degree makes a difference. Yes there are people from other universities but they are in the minority. Also having conducted the milk rounds in a number of universities over a 5 year period my experience has been that the average quality in OXbridge is far greater than in other places. Basically if you were sitting in my shoes and were time constrained its just easier to go to Oxbridge and get people who have been pre-selected and whose A'level grades and educational environment is much more superior and rigorous.

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#19 Re: The best of the best
07/10/2004 14:21

ex-Oxford ex-Consultant

It comes down to economics: Recruiting is an expensive process - screening hundreds of CV's, multiple rounds of interviews (typically 6-8 per candidate) taking revenue generating staff off of assignemnts.

In my experience the reason Oxbridge is the 'favoured' recruiting ground of most of the strategy consultancies is that the ratio of suitable candidates to total applicants is much greater than other universities. This is not to say that there are not outstanding candidates at other universities, its just more costly per candidate to identify them. Given the poor climate (and sharply lower graduate intake) for consulting firms in recent years its not surprising that they choose to focus on Oxbridge. As the industry picks up and recruitment becomes more difficult expect consultancies to cast a wider net.

All the consulting firms I've worked for will look at CV's from non-Oxbridge applicants, but they generally don't go out of their way to recruit applicants from outside of their normal pool of universities. If you are really keen it may pay to send of a speculative CV even if the firm you are interested in doesn't recruit on campus

Finally, none of the above excuses the fact that for most UK strategy consultancies the intake of graduates is virtually a monoculture with very little diversity. I can think of several firms where each years graduate intake is almost exclusively white, male, middle class, and studied engineering, economics and management (EEM) at Oxford

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#20 Re: The best of the best
07/10/2004 18:28

Redbrick and proud

Good grammar there.

Usual Oxbridge blinkers. You will find that most Imperial students have 3A's too; all medics; all vets; all Law or English students at a Russell Gp university....the list goes on.

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#21 The best of the best
14/11/2004 15:39

david

The truth is that exceptional candidates can come from a wide range of universities, however when competition is fierce for jobs, the recruiters can demand the highest level of qualifications, i.e Oxbridge. It is simply supply and demand. I do not beleive that you must have 3A'S to be a good consultant, but they will not look at you if you do not - simply beacause they do not have to - there are so many people who do! It may not be the fairest selection procedure - but it clearly works, the firms recruit from Oxbridge and remain the best firms in the world. Its just the way it goes! As for Oxbridge student - your comments have an element of truth in them - (I am studying at Oxbridge at postgraduate level, having completed an undergraduate degree eleswhere) - there were however people at my fisrt Uni, who were extremely intelligent and well rounded people who would be excellent consultants.

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