What are key skills or resume highlighters that one would require to catch the eye of tier-1 consulting firm (for, say, an Analyst position) if you haven't graduated from a famous school?
Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I will say upfront that it is extremely difficult to catch the eye of a top-tier consulting firm for an Analyst role from a not-famous school, especially in our current era of decreased hiring and selective bias.The exception to this is if said firm is coming to your school via campus recruiting to hire, because in this case the firms usually have a projected headcount that they are trying to fill from specific schools. For not-famous schools, however, there are often some caveats here. An example: McKinsey and Goldman Sachs do come to The University of Texas at Austin, but largely are only interested in and hire exclusively from the College of Business and College of Engineering. I could go more into detail about this somewhere else.The greatest barrier to entry to these top-tier firms is passing the resume review. Barring exceptions like the one mentioned above or something like an internal referral, the initial resume review is the single point of greatest rejection for most companies generally.The resume screening process varies, but the firms/companies that receive absurd numbers of candidates (e.g. top consulting/banking firms, top tech companies, etc) are the ones that tend to utilize digital/electronic searches for keywords in candidate-submitted documents. As the OP rightly assumes, the first pass here is for "famous things." This could include name-brand universities, noteworthy internships at similarly tiered companies, other jobs in similar industries, and so on.Another caveat (I'm full of them today), if the role being applied for is specific (e.g. Analyst @ Bain Consulting in Technology/Media/Telecom group) - then it's entirely possible and even likely that relevant experience, especially for an experienced hire role, will make a resume stand out considerably. The OP has an advantage in that he/she is currently working in a consulting company for Fortune 500 clients - this will definitely get noticed, especially from an experienced hire perspective, as it implies the OP will require less training and therefore potentially cost less money to hire at the Analyst level. Once the resume comes under human eyes, they'll perhaps notice the not-famous school and look for things to compensate. What do your current coworkers currently say about you on LinkedIn? What was your GPA at your not-famous university? What about SAT/ACT (I have no idea why they still look at this)? The resume reviewer may like cats, do you list cats in your interests? Score! In summary, after your initial hook, much of what gets you noticed is half relevant/interesting experience (e.g. beached whales as Ilan mentions) and half mood/personality of the reviewer.So now you've been noticed, how do you seal the deal for getting the interview? Answer: the much debated and often mythical cover letter. I've heard lots of interesting things about the cover letter over the years - the most interesting thing is that supposedly, many recruiting teams/companies/firms barely glance at it, if at all. The takeaway that I've gleaned from this is a good cover letter is critical, because even if it doesn't help you, a bad one will certainly hurt you in the off-chance the recruiters actually read it.In the cover letter, you need to detail in a concise/precise way exactly why you want to work for said firm (you won't believe how many cover letters forget to explain this, and instead just talk about general goals or restate resume points), and explain why A) your experience matters to the firm and B) how you feel you would contribute to the firm in question. A is kind of general, B is pretty important because it demonstrates that you've done your research and you know what sets the firm apart from other companies.My disclaimer - as I mentioned earlier, these points stem from anecdotal experiences, particularly my own while working in consulting recruiting as well as speaking with colleagues and friends across many companies. Every company handles recruiting differently and there are very few absolutes out there (especially now as informal hiring freezes strike without warning).