Interviewing With Mckinsey: Case Study Interview
What is McKinsey’s overall hiring policy? It is McKinsey’s policy that all recruiting, hiring, and promoting decisions for all job classifications shall be based solely on valid requirements, and all other personnel actions—such as compensation, benefits, transfers, separations, firm-sponsored training, tuition assistance, and social and recreational programs—will be administered in an impartial manner without regard to an individual’s race, color, religion, disability, veteran status, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, or national origin. For which role should I apply if I am seeking a generalist consulting position? If you are pursuing a master’s degree and you earned an undergraduate degree fewer than 4 years ago, you will be considered for a business analyst position. If you hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 4 years of work experience or you have completed or expect to complete your master’s program 4 years from the time you received your bachelor’s degree, you will join as an associate. What is the difference between joining McKinsey as a generalist versus joining a specific practice (for example, Business Technology or Operations)? Many candidates join as generalists if they don’t have a particular area they want to focus on and would like to explore work across areas. If you already have a strong interest in a functional practice we encourage you to apply to that practice specifically. The majority of your work will be in that practice, but there is opportunity for you to work in other industries and functions as well. What can I expect at McKinsey? What is the travel and lifestyle like for consultants at McKinsey? Your travel and lifestyle will vary depending on the client engagement you are working on at any given time. However, an average McKinsey consultant travels 40 percent of the time. Sometimes travel is heavily concentrated between Monday and Thursday, and other times it is fairly infrequent. Some industries are very geographic in nature (for example, pharmaceuticals, banking, high tech), and if those industries and locations are part of your focus, you could travel less than the average consultant. Striking the right work life balance is important to sustaining a long-term consulting career, so our weekends are guarded and it is rare to work on the weekend unless you are traveling internationally. What can I expect when starting with McKinsey? Solid consulting skills are crucial for a successful career at McKinsey. The focus for most of your first year is on building and rounding out the core consulting skills that will be important to your longer-term success as a consultant, such as skills in structured problem solving, client communications, influencing, or analytics. All McKinsey consultants begin in a formal training program that helps to introduce these core consulting skills before working on client engagements. Once you begin client work, the staffing process is focused primarily on what will be optimal for your development. While we usually try to place you on projects that leverage some aspect of your background, we will intentionally give you opportunities to solve problems you haven’t encountered before. We have found this to be valuable in building the general problem-solving skills that will make you successful at the firm over the long term. Your first year is always a time of tremendous growth and learning, which can sometimes be a difficult adjustment. We have both formal and informal processes to help support you, such as a training program designed exclusively for experienced professional hires where you can meet McKinsey people from all over the world. What is it like joining McKinsey as an experienced professional? The number of experienced professional hires at McKinsey is growing, and we now have a rich community of professionals joining from many different industries and backgrounds. McKinsey’s clients value the diversity of knowledge and insight that our experienced consultants bring to engagements and it is quite common for our more experienced professionals to play a key-client-leadership role on teams. As an experienced hire, what type of special training and development should I expect? Training and development is a constant at McKinsey across all tenure levels, from business analyst to director. All consultants attend regular programs tailored to accommodate their specific needs and background. For example, consultants hired with more than 3 years of work experience will attend McKinsey’s experienced hire workshop within your first 9 months. This dynamic workshop is designed to give you the opportunity to identify and develop techniques for integrating successfully in McKinsey as an experienced hire. Our learning programs are broad ranging from specific knowledge building to public speaking and problem solving, as well as to personal communication and influencing skill building. How are consultants assigned to projects? Consultants are staffed on one study at a time. Staffing assignments are made by considering clients’ needs and the kind of work, client interaction and experience the business analyst needs to continue improving his or her skills, in addition to other factors. As this suggests, there are many elements that go into each staffing decision. In your first year, while you are able to express project preferences, you typically do not choose your own projects. When available for staffing, you have the opportunity to review a list of confirmed engagements and discuss the pros and cons of a handful of these with your professional-development manager. Final staffing assignments are made by professional development with input from both teams and individual consultants. How is a typical client team structured? The team is the center of McKinsey life. You’ll find that teams are made up of a diverse mix of people from many different countries as well as educational and professional backgrounds. This diversity not only makes our work enjoyable but also enables us to bring a broad range of perspectives to solving our clients’ problem. As a new consultant, you will work closely with a small team of four or five people. Every member of the team is expected to make a significant contribution. From brainstorming sessions to client presentations, your team will look to you to participate actively by voicing your opinions, challenging findings, responding to client concerns, and presenting recommendations. Everyone, from the most junior consultant to the most tenured partner, has a voice and an obligation to use it. Have a non-business background? How can I build the business knowledge I need to be a successful consultant? You don’t need a business background to succeed at McKinsey. More than one-third of McKinsey consultants don’t have business degrees, and about half don’t have MBAs. Our mini-MBA program will help you learn what you need to know about business. In this intensive course, you and other new consultants will learn core skills in subjects such as microeconomics, accounting, finance, marketing, and business strategy, taught by professors from the world’s top business schools. Beyond the formal training programs, you will learn quickly by working with other McKinsey consultants on client engagements, and you will find that McKinsey has a supportive environment, with both formal and informal mentoring to promote development. Why do people with law degrees come to McKinsey? McKinsey allows you to use your legal training to make an immediate and dramatic impact. Consultants need the very skills that lead to success in law school, including strong leadership and communication skills and the ability to address multiple conflicting points of view to solve complex problems. At McKinsey, you also have the opportunity to advance more rapidly than you might in the legal profession. Whereas it can take years for new associates at a law firm to advance to a position of responsibility, new McKinsey consultants frequently find themselves directly advising CEOs and other leaders within months of joining the firm. McKinsey has a long-standing interest in attracting and retaining lawyers. In fact, Marvin Bower, the father of the modern McKinsey organization, was a lawyer, and he built McKinsey based on the professional principles he learned from his experience in law. Today, more than 250 consultants at McKinsey have law degrees. They joined McKinsey at various points in their careers—some immediately after law school and some after practicing law for years. How do consultants with master’s degrees fit in at McKinsey? Where would I start? Consultants with master’s degrees represent a broad spectrum of experience. Your role upon beginning your career at McKinsey depends on your academic and professional background. Generally, if you are pursuing a master’s degree and you earned an undergraduate degree fewer than 4 years ago, you will be considered for a business analyst position. If you hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 4 years of work experience, or you completed or expect to complete your master’s program 4 years from the time you received your bachelor’s degree, you will join as an associate. We understand that the additional training you received and the expertise you developed by attaining a master’s degree add value to your work as a McKinsey consultant. McKinsey was the first consulting firm to systematically hire consultants with advanced professional degrees outside of business; currently, more than 3,000 of our consultants worldwide hold master’s degrees in fields other than business. Often, because of their professional experience, business analysts with master’s degrees show promise immediately, putting them on a fast track for promotion to associate. At McKinsey, consultants advance based on performance—not background or tenure—so if you perform well, you’ll be considered for early promotion. Here are some example scenarios for possible entry points to a career at McKinsey. If you are interested in the German office and hold a bachelor’s degree and completed a 1-year master’s program, you will join as a fellow. If you are interested in joining the UK and Ireland office with a master’s degree, you will typically join as a business analyst. If you are interested in a North American office and hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 4 years of work experience, or you completed or expect to complete your master’s program 4 years from the time you received your bachelor’s degree, you will join as an associate. Why does McKinsey hire MDs? Nearly 200 McKinsey consultants around the world have medical degrees. Some joined the firm right out of medical school, others after years of leading clinical departments at major medical centers. McKinsey has found that the consulting world needs many of the same attributes and skills that contribute to MDs’ success in medicine, including being intellectually curious, creative, and analytically talented. MDs bring their teams not only relevant skills but also a valuable clinical perspective that allows them to approach healthcare problems distinctively. On healthcare projects, MDs understand the context deeply from day one and can speak the language of medicine with clients and external experts. What role do MDs play at McKinsey? McKinsey typically hires MDs as generalist consultants into an associate role, the same roles as their colleagues with MBAs. While most McKinsey MDs focus on healthcare over time, all McKinsey consultants, regardless of background, are encouraged to pursue a range of interests across a wide array of industries and countries. On McKinsey teams, MDs find many opportunities to contribute their medical knowledge, but the strong problem-solving and people skills developed during their medical careers are often their most important assets. What do McKinsey MDs find most rewarding about consulting? Practicing medicine can be fulfilling, emotional work. As a physician, you establish relationships with individuals and often see your influence immediately. Performing a difficult surgery, diagnosing a disease accurately, or giving hope to patients and their families can bring tremendous satisfaction. McKinsey offers a different kind of satisfaction. Rather than influencing one patient at a time, you can help shape the systems and strategies that have much broader impact. We help our clients tackle some of their toughest problems. As a consultant, you have the potential to help shape the way healthcare decisions are made—decisions that influence the care of thousands or even millions of patients. Additionally, McKinsey MDs enjoy the opportunity for learning and personal development. Through the combination of diverse and challenging client work, high-quality training programs, and one-on-one apprenticeship, McKinsey creates an unparalleled learning environment that most McKinsey MDs value greatly. Finally, McKinsey MDs greatly enjoy their colleagues; McKinsey is a diverse, talented, and engaging group of people who do their best work as part of a team. Why do people with PhDs come to McKinsey? Currently, there are more than 1,400 consultants with PhDs at McKinsey globally, and most say they came to McKinsey to broaden their horizons beyond the academic setting. As consultants, they find they can apply their problem-solving skills in new ways, work in fun and stimulating team settings, and make a measurable impact more quickly and more often. Many came from careers in basic research, where they often worked in isolation and where it can take years to achieve tangible results. As McKinsey consultants, they work through their clients’ problems in months or even weeks rather than years. To solve those problems, they work side by side with other consultants and with their clients. As in academia, the environment at McKinsey is intellectually stimulating and competitive, but it’s also ever changing and supportive. PhDs who come to McKinsey appreciate the chance to tackle a new challenge with each engagement, and they develop personally and professionally as they go, with mentoring support, on-the-job training, and more formal learning opportunities such as mini-MBA and leadership courses. For someone who has spent years conducting research within the same field, coming to McKinsey offers the chance to branch out—to explore new industries and new ways of thinking. Many consultants with PhDs in fields such as pharmaceuticals or high-tech go on to work in those areas, but some choose to enter industries they might never have been exposed to before joining McKinsey, including media, private equity, consumer goods, and banking. How will a career with McKinsey be different from academia? Every McKinsey engagement demands the same qualities you need to succeed in academia: strong problem-solving skills, intellectual curiosity, and the drive to achieve results. The difference is, at McKinsey you’ll be working with and presenting your findings to business, government, or social-sector leaders. McKinsey consultants learn to solve problems quickly and make fast decisions, even when they don’t have all the information about a particular subject. Consultants with PhDs say one of the biggest challenges—and most attractive aspects—of a career with McKinsey is this shift in thinking. In the academic setting, they grew accustomed to diving deep into a subject, often spending years gathering and analyzing data. At McKinsey, consultants learn to work with the most important information, whittle a problem down to its core, and offer a solution that helps a client make better decisions, often when it’s not a clear-cut, easy answer. Joining McKinsey would be a major career change for me. How can I ensure my success in the long term? Consultants with advanced professional degrees outside of business are elected to partner at McKinsey just as often as consultants with MBAs. We want you to succeed, and we’ll support your growth with formal training and development programs to continually strengthen your business and leadership skills. Our apprenticeship model ensures you’ll always have experienced consultants to turn to for advice or insight. Expectations are high—McKinsey consultants handle some of the most sensitive, critical issues faced by the world’s top organizations—but they’re also clear. You’ll know your responsibilities before beginning each client engagement, and when you need help, you can turn to one of your fellow consultants or one of our 30,000 plus alumni worldwide. You’ll grow with each engagement, but you’ll be the one directing that growth. We understand that not everyone wants to become a partner. If you find another opportunity that interests you, we’ll support you as you pursue it. You’ll take the skills and knowledge you built at McKinsey with you into your chosen field, and you’ll stay connected as part of the global McKinsey alumni network. How can I use my experience and expertise when I join? McKinsey can enable you to build skills in new industries and functional areas as well as use and build on the skills and experience you have already gained. After building on your core consulting skills, you can choose to craft a program that leverages your background, experience, and knowledge by serving clients on topics close to your background area, or you can choose to focus your program on completely new client topics. In either case, you should be prepared to increase your knowledge base of new industries and functional topics. What will my development be like? What will my career path be like at McKinsey? It all depends on your interests and goals. As a consultant, you have the potential to progress more quickly than you would might in another field like academia or medicine. Some people stay at McKinsey and eventually become partners of the firm. Others stay at McKinsey long enough to achieve personal goals, such as learning about particular industries or working in other countries. Still others benefit from the options McKinsey provides to expand their skills and their network of contacts. What opportunities for professional growth and development does McKinsey offer? McKinsey promotes consultants based on their potential, and there are no restrictions on the number of people we promote or elect to partner. Our mentorship model creates a culture in which every member of McKinsey is invested in the success of others. You’ll be challenged to broaden your skill set and step into leadership positions. The environment can be intense, but you won’t compete with other consultants. You’ll push yourself to take on new responsibilities, understand new industries, help your colleagues, and work with top-caliber clients around the globe. You’ll also build knowledge in formal training programs and through mentoring relationships, you’ll learn from others’ experiences and apply what you’ve learned in client engagements. Are there differences in progression and advancement for experienced professionals? For all our consultants, the role you play is purely contingent on your own abilities and aspirations, rather than your title or background. McKinsey is a non-hierarchical organization and is organizationally flat. In this respect, McKinsey operates as a true meritocracy, where consultants advanced when they are ready, based on their own abilities. What should I know about applying through a campus process? If I am interested in applying to a specific McKinsey practice, is there a separate application process? No, there is only one application regardless of generalist or practice preferences. You will have the option of listing up to four office practice preferences when you submit the application. What if I apply for a summer internship and am not selected? Can I still apply for a full-time position with McKinsey? Absolutely. We look forward to hearing from all internship applicants in the early fall (or the relevant time period for your campus) if they are interested in full-time career opportunities with McKinsey. What if I am interested in both local and international offices? This is perfectly acceptable. We strongly encourage you to express your interests in both local and international locations in true order of interest. This again will ensure that you are considered by both local and international offices for interviews. Ultimately, you will be invited to interview for one location only. What if I am open to any McKinsey location? We encourage you to get to know the various McKinsey offices and practices during the recruiting season so that you have a better sense of where you would like to be when completing your application. On the application, you will have the opportunity to list your preference for up to four office and/or practice locations. If you are truly location agnostic, you can indicate that when submitting your application. Will my office preference affect whether or not I receive an interview? We select candidates to interview based on the criteria listed in the “What we look for” section, not on geographic preference. Are there any offices where it is easier to obtain an interview or offer? No. The standards for success in obtaining a McKinsey interview and offer are the same across the world. All offices look for the same qualities in a résumé and a candidate.