Though my school is a top 30 b-school, none of the consulting companies recruit at our campus. I am quite interested in consulting as a career and I am currently interning with a small consulting firm in India.

I have four years of experience in the field of Technology Consulting. Further, I have worked as a freelance consultant with XXXXX and XXXXXX during the spring of my first year working with their strategy department.

I have a good GPA (3.9 in MBA and 3.5 in Engineering) and I am planning to apply to the top tier firms. I am not sure about how much my consulting resume would be weighed when compared to the Ivy leagues. So I am applying to second tier consulting firms as well and just thought of asking you about some names in the industry. It will be great if you can share your thoughts/views on this.

My Response:

From a top 3 firm’s perspective, I would say your chances are much more remote–but not totally impossible. I worked with a woman from a top 30 school at McKinsey and she was super sharp. So in some respects, it’s more important to be good than to have the top names on your resume.

What the top names on your resumes does give you is ACCESS to an interview. Without the top name, you could be great but it is not easy to get noticed and to get the opportunity even if you have a strong consulting cover letter. That’s the main problem with not having a top name on your consulting resume.

Once you get the interview, if you are brilliant, that matters much more than the names.

So long story short, if you want to apply to the top firms expect to work really hard to even get a round 1. The standard process probably won’t work – your resume isn’t strong enough. You’ll need to network your way in – a friend of a friend or a friend… that kind of thing. And when you get your chance, you’d better be stellar.

As for the so called second tier firms, they are definitely worth applying to. They are easier to get into and all the folks I know who went to such firms, most were very pleased with the experience. Those who weren’t pleased with the experience, were generally those people who wouldn’t have liked any consulting firm and probably would have enjoyed working in an entirely different industry.