First of all, thank you for your LOMS program! It was so helpful and really helped me to learn structuring and the language I should use during case interviews. I am currently an experienced hire with no previous experience in consulting and am looking to make a move into consulting. I have been networking extensively during the past few months and have developed some good professional relationships with consultants at different firms.
What do you recommend if I am farther along the interview process with certain firms, but it seems likely that I may start the interview process at another firm which I prefer (yet there is no guarantee that an interview invite will be extended)? Would you recommend that I push back the interviews at the firms I am currently interviewing at? Or try to get an offer from these firms and then wait to accept, or accept and then decline if I get an offer from the firm I prefer?
I am not sure how to handle this. Since I am getting all my interviews through referrals, I would feel bad getting an offer and then delaying or accepting and then declining.
This is a tricky situation (but you already knew that!). For your backup firms whose recruiting process happens to occur earlier than your target firms, you can try to drag out the process from a scheduling stand point. So if they want to interview you this week, you're busy and try to schedule it for next week. Across 3 rounds of interviews, you might be able to buy yourself 3 weeks of time. It's not a lot, but it helps close the gap.
If you get an offer, a lot of people accept and then quit. I personally am not a fan of this, even though it does happen. The problem with this is it makes the person who helped you get the interview look bad -- not because you turned down the offer for a better one, but how you turned down their offer for a better one. It causes some problems on their end because they rejected someone else, because you said "yes," etc…
I personally tend to prefer a more straight forward approach. If you get an offer from your backup firm first, you would say, "That's great. I'm still in my recruiting process and expect to be done by X date. I'd like to make a well-informed decision; would it be okay if I let you know my decision by X date?"
Ninety-five percent of the time this will be acceptable on their end, provided X date is not too far in the future. If it's two to four weeks, you're probably fine. If it's more than that, 50/50 chance they get irritated. If it's two or more months, that's going to be a problem for them. So your strategy is to drag your feet a little on the scheduling earlier in the process so that you get closer to X date, without having to stretch out the time difference between X date and the date you got the offer.