"I have an average profile, can I still get into consulting at IIMs?", "Do consulting companies shortlist students with less than 8 CGPA in undergrad?" - these are just a couple of questions that often run in the minds of IIM aspirants who wish to get into consulting. From the moment I've started this blog, so many aspirants have reached out to ask these questions and their answers have been long due!
Today, I wish to share with you a post that is going to become one of the most important ones. All those unaddressed questions will be answered by none other than Prakhar Tosniwal, Institute Rank 17 of IIM Ahmedabad (Batch of 2020) who got into BCG in the final placement after working hard on his profile.
Prakhar is one of the most inspiring people I've met at IIM Ahmedabad and his journey, from getting only one consulting shortlist in the summers to getting all the top notch consulting shortlists in the finals, is worth being called an IIM Ahmedabad success story!
In Prakhar's Words:
B.Tech (EEE), IIT Guwahati
99.96 in CAT 2017
Analytical Consultant, EXL
IR-17, IIM-A, BCG'20
CV Before Joining IIM-A
My profile before joining IIM-A constituted of the following main points:
Work Experience: I had worked in the analytical consulting domain at EXL Services for 21 months. That was one of my strongest buckets in the CV.
Scholastic Achievements: Some above average, but not extraordinary achievements.
Graduation CGPA: My CGPA at IIT Guwahati was less than 8. This was one of my biggest fears as academics is considered to be of paramount importance at IIM-A.
Extra-curricular Achievements: Again, above average but not worth being called a spike.
Feedback from Seniors
Before joining IIM-A, I sought advice from some of my seniors, who told me that because of my CGPA, getting a shortlist from the top consulting companies during summers at IIM-A was going to be tough.
So, I was mentally prepared for a lot of things before entering IIM-A:
Focus on Academics: From Day 1, I knew I'd have to amp up my profile. Academic brilliance at IIM-A is one of most valuable CV points one can have, hence, I put my focus into academics from Day 1.
Have a Second Option: If you feel getting shortlists from your desired function is difficult, have a back up option. For me, it was PM Tech. I was okay with getting into a Tier-1 PM Tech firm but I knew I'd prefer a consulting firm if I get a shortlist.
Summer Placements at IIM-A
During the summers process, my 2 years of work-experience in the analytics domain helped me bag all the PM tech shortlists (except one) but I could get only one consulting shortlist which was Mastercard Advisors (that too in the second shortlist).
I appeared for the Mastercard interview and the interviewers liked my background, a lot of it aligned with the role they were offering and I got selected. I interned at Mastercard for summers and got a PPO.
Second Year at IIM-A
At the end of the first year, I had two good points to add to my CV - the first being my CGPA, which was decent (but I knew I could push it further) and the second being the PPO from Mastercard.
In order to improve my CV for grabbing the consulting shortlists in the finals, I used a two-pronged strategy:
Improving my existing CV
Adding new points to my CV
Improving my Existing CV
Upon getting the feedback from my seniors and some of the other folks who had worked at EXL, I got to know that my existing CV points could be framed better. So, the first thing I did was to re-write my CV points using the hacks shared by seniors and fellow batch mates.
The refined version, when reviewed by seniors, stood out from their point of view and that gave the much needed boost to my existing CV. Honestly, how you frame your CV points can have a lot of impact!
Adding New Points to my CV
The second thing I did was to focus on what else I could do to improve my profile further for consulting. I shortlisted three activities to focus on:
Academics: In the second year, you can choose subjects basis your own interests. This was a great opportunity for me to pick the subjects I liked, which eventually helped me score well.
PORs: Having great PORs (like being a Placecommer or a position holder in Student Union) can add a lot of value to your CV. But, I wasn't able to get a lot of points here.
Extra-Curricular: I put effort in winning national level case study competitions at IIM-A and by the time I applied for the finals, my team had won 4 such competitions.
Tips for Academics
The reason I wish to emphasize on academics is that having a great CGPA at IIM-A can offset many of your past performances. Some of the things I'd want to share:
Choose subjects wisely - I chose a mix of all kinds of courses because choosing only one kind of courses can become boring at times. Not all my courses were high-scoring, I also chose OB and Marketing electives. That helped me remain interested in academics.
Take onus in groups - A lot of your submissions in the second year courses will require group work and in the second year many students take academics lightly. So, make sure to take charge of the group submissions and allocate work if you want those grades.
Keep up your motivation - There might be PPO holders around you who are not planning to sit in the finals. Don't take things lightly or get distracted, you must know why you need what you've been working for. I made sure to keep my goal straight.
Avoid negativity - Some people around will discourage you saying these things don't matter - case competitions don't matter, academic scores don't matter. Trust me, having gone through the process, I know that they do.
By the time I applied for finals, my CGPA had improved considerably. I was quite surprised to see that when our CVs were frozen for the finals placement process, I was the first ranker of the second year. That helped me a lot!
Feedback from Seniors
When I got my CV reviewed after adding the above mentioned points, my seniors shared a very positive feedback. They explained how the consulting shortlists work. Most tier-1 consulting companies look for at least 3 spikes in your CV (spikes refer to any great achievements).
Now, if your CV has 1-2 above average points and 1 extraordinary spike, then that one spike is enough to get you the consulting shortlist. The seniors told me that in my case, being IR-1 of the second year at that point of time ensured all the consulting shortlists.
And that's what happened, I got a shortlist from all the top consulting firms including MBB. The first interview that I went for was that of BCG and I accepted its offer.
Yes, it can be challenging for someone who comes with a not-so-loaded CV to IIM-A to get into consulting during summers. But, if you have the right attitude and desire to get into this field, you can make it happen by working hard during the two years and compensating for everything in your CV, even your past academics.
I'll give you a case in point from my experience - during the summers, I had put the academics bucket on the 3rd number after work-ex and PORs because of my undergrad scores. But, during the finals, I had put the same bucket on the top due to my academic scores at IIM-A.
So, yes, you can turnaround the situation, but it needs a lot of effort from your end. And I would just like to point out that even in the finals, I kept two options - consulting and PM Tech, so keep your backup ready. You'll eventually be, where you want to be :)
So, this was Prakhar Tosniwal sharing his journey at IIM Ahmedabad and answering all those questions that aspirants often feel discouraged thinking about. Hope this post gives a lot of courage to the aspirants!
I've known Prakhar for two years now and let me tell you something he wouldn't disclose - he is one of the smartest people I've met at IIM-A. If you think he became IR-17 by slogging day and night, that would be untrue. Yes, he has worked very hard, but he's known to put in the effort where it is needed the most!
I sincerely hope this post acts like a guiding light for the consulting aspirants. If you have any questions for Prakhar, please do share them in the comments.
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