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Big MBA Employers Are Tough Interviewers

Getting a job offer from consulting giant McKinsey & Co. is the equivalent of running a triathlon—or worse.

“I applied directly on the McKinsey site for the junior research analyst position and had a 1-on-1 initial interview with HR before two 1-on-1 interviews with Research Associates,” one applicant tells Glassdoor, the company ratings website. “I was then asked to go in for the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, which I passed. Then I had three 1-on-1 interviews with Senior Research Associates from the teams in Chicago, Toronto, and Seattle. … Overall, I had a good experience interviewing with McKinsey (despite not getting an offer after all of that). 1-on-1 interviews were non-technical and more fit-based. There were questions about background in research and quantitative analysis experience.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, Glassdoor today (July 27) put McKinsey at the top of its annual list of the 25 most difficult companies to interview with. The list is based on 80,000 interview ratings and reviewed sharing on the website over the past year.

Many of the highest ranked firms are major hirers of MBA students. Right after McKinsey, for example, is Boston Consulting Group, Oliver Wyman, and AT Kearney, all consulting firms which are major recruiters at top business schools. Bain & Co. is sixth on the list, while Google, long known for its difficult hiring process, is eighth.

Students who spend time in their schools’ career development centers will find many of the names on the list as active recruiters, including Teach For America, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Facebook, and Amazon.

Below are some other highlights from the Glassdoor study:

Toughest Interview Process: Consulting firms lead the way with McKinsey & Company (Interview difficulty: 3.9) taking top honors, followed by Boston Consulting Group (Interview difficulty: 3.8), and Oliver Wyman (Interview difficulty: 3.7) . Interestingly, almost half of the companies represent the tech industry with companies like Google (Interview difficulty: 3.5) and Facebook (Interview difficulty: 3.3), who are famous in Silicon Valley for their tough interview techniques.

Difficult Interviews Don’t Necessarily Mean Negative Experiences: Despite a tough interview, positive interview experiences outweigh negative interview experiences at all of the companies on the list. Cypress Semiconductor receives the highest rate of candidates experiencing a positive interview (76% positive, 10% negative), followed by Sapient (75% positive, 6% negative) and Bain & Company (73% positive, 2% negative).

Veterans and Newcomers: For the second year in a row, McKinsey & Company (Interview difficulty 2012: 3.9; 2011: 3.9) tops the list, and several other companies on last year’s report have made it into the top 25 again, including Oliver Wyman (Interview difficulty 2012: 3.7; 2011: 3.4) and Teach for America (Interview difficulty 2012: 3.4; 2011: 3.5). Newcomers to this list include Shell Oil (Interview difficulty: 3.6), Google (Interview difficulty: 3.5), Rackspace (Interview difficulty: 3.4), Facebook (Interview difficulty: 3.3) and Progressive Corporation (Interview difficulty: 3.3).

Some of the most daunting questions candidates have recently been asked include:

“There are 3 products: tomatoes, luxury cars, t-shirts. What value added tax is applied to each product type?” – McKinsey & Company Junior Consultant Candidate (location n/a)

“How many people would use a drug that prevents baldness?” – Boston Consulting Group Associate Candidate (Boston, MA)

“What is the marginal cost of a gigabyte in gmail?” – Google Associate Product Manager Candidate (Mountain View, CA)

(See the complete list of the top 25 on the following page)