Business casual season: A look into recruiting at CMC consulting groups

Members of the Claremont Consulting Group sit around a conference table at a weekly dinner meeting.
With CMC consulting groups — such as the Claremont Consulting Group — having acceptance rates as low as 10 percent, the application process can be stressful, according to some students. (Julian Chapin • The Student Life)

These past few weeks, Claremont McKenna College has been overrun by blazer-clad first-years and sophomores rushing to interviews for the many pre-professional groups on campus. Recruitment season, a CMC staple, has been in full swing since the third week of the semester, and the three consulting groups based at the college have been busy finding their next generation of consultants.

The Claremont Consulting Group (CCG) mostly works with for-profit businesses and is an independent organization solely composed of CMC students. SOURCE Nonprofit Consulting, like the name suggests, works closely with nonprofit groups. Graphite Group is more centered around consulting for small businesses and start-ups and is the only CMC-based group that hires students from across the 5Cs. 

According to CCG managing director Arielle Lui CM ’22, some consulting groups’ communities are very “tight-knit.” 

“Two of my three roommates are in [CCG] as well,” Lui said. “And I think that that’s pretty common year over year, where most of your friends will be from [CCG].” 

Jasmine Tan CM ’25, who applied to both CCG and Graphite, also noted this sense of community in Graphite, where she recently accepted a position as an associate consultant. 

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, we’re gonna work on a consulting project together,’” Tan said. “There are events, meetups — people just hang out.” 

The process to get into these close-knit clubs can be difficult, taking weeks and several interview rounds. Some groups are also highly selective; CCG, for example, has a 10 percent acceptance rate.

This semester, all three clubs had a written application as their first round. For qualifying applicants, CCG and Graphite then had an in-person practical group interview with a business-casual dress code, in which prospective members worked on a case with other applicants. Finally, the two groups had behavioral interviews for qualifying applicants. At SOURCE, after the written application, applicants had an individual assessment and interview through Zoom.

Yahya Yousef CM ’25 noted a dichotomy between collaboration and competition throughout his application process for CCG.

“It’s definitely incredibly competitive,” Yousef said. “But at the same time, a lot of people were very collaborative as well. Like, helping each other out, advising each other … and explaining different business terminology.”

Yousef thinks that this sense of community makes the process enjoyable.

“Honestly, I think it was just fun to see people dressed up and go into interviews for all these clubs and things,” Yousef said. “We’d always gas each other up whenever people were walking by, just ‘Alright buddy, looking fresh. Looking fresh.’ It was a good time.”

Tan also said that these applications could get competitive, especially in the group round of the application process, when applicants were expected to collaborate with each other.

“I think I got pretty lucky, and everyone in my group was pretty chill,” Tan said. “I think we were all really desperate to prove ourselves, which is to be expected. I did hear stories about a couple other interview groups. There was one where apparently two guys were really trying to struggle over who got to lead the group, and it was kind of detrimental to the group dynamic because instead of working together, it was the two of them trying to fight for power.” 

To Henry Long CM ’25, the application process at the beginning of the semester can be overwhelming, but he also finds it rewarding.

“We always joke that it’s like we’re applying to college again … It’s kind of intimidating.” —Henry Long CM ’25

I’ve definitely talked with my friends about this,” Long said. “We always joke that it’s like we’re applying to college again … It’s kind of intimidating. You get on campus, you’re trying to acclimate to your classes and all of a sudden, you have to apply to these new organizations, research institutes, pre-professional clubs,” Long said. “… At the same time, it can be really rewarding to see your application to one of these places come to fruition.”

Despite the application process’ intimidating nature, current members from the three consulting groups noted that the recruitment season was less overwhelming this year. This was partly due to CMC’s policy change, as well as modifications of some consulting groups’ application structures.

“I think all of the clubs on campus now are required to recruit later,” Lui said. “[Before] applications were due the first week. And now they’re due the third week, so it’s a lot less overwhelming than it used to be. But obviously, it’s still a lot, especially if you don’t know what you want to do as a freshman.” 

SOURCE junior manager Kira Hirsch CM ’23 said that the group is actively taking steps to become more accessible and less intimidating to students, efforts which can be found in their spring hiring report. These efforts include moving SOURCE’s first application deadline to Sept. 24, conducting interviews through Zoom, making applications anonymous to reduce biases, removing the business casual dress code and being more flexible with their requirements.

“We are really cognizant of the fact that people are coming in with very different experiences and very different privileges,” Hirsch said. “In our application process, we want to make sure that we’re minimizing the impact that having those experiences, privileges and previous opportunities will give you.”

This year, Graphite Group accepted record numbers of applications and second-round interviews in an effort to provide more people with the experience of a group interview. However, Matthew San Luis CM ’23, Graphite’s director of talent acquisition, still believes steps need to be taken to reduce these groups’ high selectivity. 

I want to find a way to make the process more equitable.” —Matthew San Luis CM ’23

“The thing with some of these organizations is they get like 67, maybe even 100 applicants and only 10 get in,” San Luis said. “… And the kids who do get into one of the organizations have that on their resume. And they have that validation, which helps them get into the other organization, which helps them to get the job. … I want to find a way to make the process more equitable, or maybe incorporate another part of our organization that doesn’t reject individuals to give everyone that shot to learn as much as they can and give them an opportunity.”

San Luis thinks that some aspects of the current recruitment season are worth keeping, though.

“We want to keep up that culture of being an organization that expects a lot out of their applicants and their members,” San Luis said.

Meanwhile, Lui doubts the overall culture surrounding application season at CMC will change much, as it has become expected for students.  

“There’s a lot of criticism at least at CMC around freshman year being very stressful because you’re trying to get into a lot of clubs and institutes,” Lui said. “And I don’t see that ever changing … just because I think people come to CMC for that pressure. People know it’s a very pre-professional college, and I think that they’re getting what they expect.”

Facebook Comments