During the month of October (for full-time candidates) or December-January (for internship candidates), consulting firms will scan your resumes for interesting people and begin to assess the people that they have talked to. The resumes will come either from your submissions to the companies directly (if they have a formal submission method) or from your school's Resume Book. Their goal: find interesting, intelligent people to invite to dinner to get to know them.
Typically the firm will invite approximately 30-50 people to dinner. At each table, you will find 1 or 2 employees (anywhere from partner to consultant) and 6-10 of your classmates. Sometimes the employees will switch tables so you can meet everyone. The purpose: you get to answer your questions, and the employees of the firm get to form an opinion about you.
If it sounds intimidating, it can be. You may feel like it is a competition with your classmates to see who can talk the most. This is not the wisest approach - if you are not a natural conversationalist, the best way to contribute is to ask intelligent questions. Beyond just asking questions, however, you should try to show your personality with a story or two that is tied to the conversation.
Your goal: have the employees walk away with a favorable impression of you. Show that you have a personality. Show that you can carry on a conversation with others, that you would be fun/interesting to be with if stuck in an airport.
A successful dinner for a borderline closed/open-list candidate gets them on the closed list. A successful dinner for a strong closed-list candidate keeps them on the closed list. Beyond free drinks, a nice meal, and these results, there is very little else that comes from a successful dinner.
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