McKinsey’s Oops Recruiting Moment


Marvin Bower would be turning over in his grave.

Some MBA students at top three business schools who expressed an interest in working for McKinsey & Co. are steaming over an stock rejection letter they recently received via email from the prestigious global consulting firm.

The rejections began with the rather disinterested salutation: “Dear %PREFERRED.”

MBAs on the receiving end of the emails say they are startled that a firm as widely admired as McKinsey would fail to send out personalized letters to candidates when they are rejected for an associate consulting job. The largest single recruiter of elite MBAs in the world, McKinsey can hire nearly 500 MBA graduates a year. Surveys of MBA students consistently show that McKinsey is the second most desirable MBA employer, behind only Google.


“I am so shocked that recruiters can come to campus and get away with stuff like this,” complains one second-year student at a top two business school who asked that his name not be used. “I didn’t expect that out of McKinsey. given the history they have with the school and their reputation. It’s surprising. It feels like the HR people are being lazy. If they do this here, just imagine what it would be like at other schools?”

McKinsey's Eileen Coleman sent out the stock rejection letter

McKinsey’s Eileen Coleman sent out the stock rejection letter

Bower, the visionary who made McKinsey & Co. a powerhouse in the post-war period by heavily recruiting top MBAs, would probably be just as appalled. He was known as a stickler for professionalism and proper etiquette. Bower once insisted that his consultants wear long socks because, he said, “raw flesh in business meetings was simply not appropriate.”


The letters from McKinsey’s Eileen Coleman, manager of MBA recruiting operations, went out last Friday (Sept. 27). Less than 24 hours later on a Saturday afternoon, Coleman dispatched an apology to the MBA students who were rejected.

“I wanted to follow up on the recent email you received from me with our application decision and apologize for the impersonal salutation which was ultimately sent from our system incorrectly,” wrote Coleman, who works out of the firm’s Boston offices.  “As you can imagine, I am embarrassed this happened. I fully appreciate it was already a difficult message to receive and that getting a very impersonal greeting likely did not make it any better.”

Oops. An email to Ms. Coleman for comment was unanswered at publication time.

(Read the full letter of rejection on the following page)


  • WallstreetJunkie

    Unfortunately, every B-School and every top firm has an automated response. You cannot help it. This is the ugly truth.

  • WallstreetJunkie

    Every B-school, every firm has an automated response. The system glitch just made the obvious come out.

  • MBA 2011

    The simple thing to consider is that if a firm self proclaims itself as sterling and top notch and top MBA recruiter it better damn hold itself to that standard– no excuses for mistakes… what you miss is that McKinsey, like Goldman or like Blackstone, is held to a different standard… when you are the leader you better not take shortcuts like this, or suffer the PR consequences… be humble and well let you make mistakes… be arrogant and any mistake you make will be used against you

  • MBA 2011

    Agreed 100%. If you spend time and effort prepping for an application and the recruiter F’s up like this they deserve to shamed… don’t claim professionalism and prestige and “top 5 MBA employers” and not be held accountable for screw-ups like this! Its not so much the firm but the HR departments, they are shameless and unprofessional. The MDs are these firms are top class, but they need to bring the HR staff up to speed on what it means to hire professionally… otherwise don’t self proclaim yourself a “white shoe firm” with a sterling history if in 2013 you still screw up like this. There is no excuse for this lack of professionalism!

  • MBA Student

    The least a firm recruiting at any school can do is ensure that they reply back with a professional rejection letter that at least gets the person’s name right!! Its a cop out to say “its an IT glitch” because we all know most of these firms send prewritten stock emails as replies, the least they can do is send it to right person! Think about the time students put in to getting to know the firms, attending firm events, to preparing to interview, to applying which takes time and effort and is an opportunity cost because the student can spend that time applying to another firm… then get a stock rejection letter w/ the wrong salutation. This is not an H/S/W thing its just a matter of simple professionalism by recruiting firms that claim to be so. This, while I agree is not such a huge deal, is still good to keep these firms honest and professional. It also opens up the question about “did they even look at my application” if they are sending these template letters back what exactly do they do to select candidates, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the HR practices, what other shortcuts could they be taking… Applaud P&Q for this, hopefully big bad McKinsey learns a lesson!

  • leo rising

    I agree completely. The sense of entitlement comes across loud and clear in this sentence, “If they do this here, just imagine what it would be like at other schools?” It makes me question if the trend toward younger MBA candidates is misguided. Anyone with a decent amount of work experience (meaning held more than one or two jobs or experienced a layoff) would know that rejection letters are impersonal. While the error may be equivalent to rubbing salt on the wound, the rejected candidates need thicker skin. Going to a top tier school does not guarantee you a job at the firm of your choice nor does it insulate you from being rejected. I wouldn’t want to work next to these whiny brats.

  • justastudent

    And just got my McKinsey interview invite. They got the name this time…


    he/she will definitely move on BUT certainly not without a dust !!

  • P&QSupporter

    Well. I am not fighting for Mr Byrne, but the truth is that when thousands apply for Mckinsey and the majority of them are highly qualified and competitive, then Mckinsey use the very very small things to differentiate and offer the job for the “perfect” ones, So, giving this picture, I believe people have the right to count every micro mistake Mckinsey does, it is just treating Mckinsey the same way they treat prospective applicants. And when you say: recruiters help those candidates to get jobs, thats really not accurate, IT IS THEIR MAIN JOB to get mckinsey with talents that help the firm operate and make profit. Mckinsey does not hire people for charity it hires them because those people generate MONEY for Mckinsey. Mckinsey is a large firm and those candidates are the weaker side here, so, it is expect from this site to take side of them against the stronger one. I totally understand and support Mr Byrne in the ways he deal with those giants of banks, consultants and business schools. Just keep them awake Mr Byrne 🙂

  • cmd

    Shame on you Mr. Byrne for writing this article. Are you going to tell me that during your career as a journalist that you’ve never had anything get published with a misprint? I’m certain that’s not the case. Recruiters dedicate their time and energy to help candidates find jobs. When computer glitches like this happen it disappoints the Recruiter just as much as it does the candidate. Not everyone gets the offer, and mistakes happen – that’s life. Its how you move forward and rectify it that defines you as a professional. To go an slander this particular Recruiter (Eileen Coleman) for being honest and accountable with her applicants, is really awful. She’s built her career at McKinsey hiring countless people and you decide to throw her name and picture online, all for a small computer glitch triggered out of her in-box?! Anyone who’s ever worked with a good Recruiter, like the team of men and women over at McKinsey, would agree with me that this article is ridiculous. Go find something better to write about….perhaps counsel new job seekers on how to practice humility, or better yet, look it up yourself!

  • spidersrmean

    It sounds like one of the rejected candidates took a simple mistake to heart… this person needs to move on, find another job and to get a life.

  • sowhat

    John – Big fan of this site, but I don’t see the big deal? I don’t think they need to apologize. I’m at a top b school, and as others have stated, most other top firms in consulting, tech, cpg, and banking send out similar notices. I had a first round interview with McKinsey last year, and the interviewer was kind enough to call me the following day to let me know that I did not get the job. What’s unique is that he spent 10 – 20 minutes with me providing feedback on my responses during both the fit and case portion of the interview. I felt he was genuinely interested in preparing me for interviewing with McKinsey the following year and/or helping me to get a job at another firm. No other firm was willing to provide this level of feedback.

  • lalaland

    “I am so shocked that recruiters can come to campus and get away with stuff like this,”???Really??? Geez…what did they do, rob a bank or something? Get over yourself. You’re just jealous that the recruiter has a job and you don’t. That, or you asked her out and she turned you down. She’s way too hot for you. I’m sure you’ve never made a mistake or had a computer error in your life either, Mr. Unnamed MBA Student?

  • bgp

    Good lord, is this really a thing? What do people expect, a hand written letter because you go to H/S/W, but not other schools? You got rejected, who cares how they tell you. Would all really be better if they put your name in the salutation?

  • onandonitgoes

    Get over it, the world and other people’s time don’t revolve around you. Sorry if you haven’t been rejected before in your life but it happens and the world moves on, so stop whining to other people about it. Agreed with Renault, it was just a code glitch, so what’s the big deal?

  • justastudent

    Exactly. I got an e-mail yesterday with a: “Dear Candidate”… isn’t that the same as “%PREFERRED”? I mean, not ideal of course but also doesn’t warrant a full article on it…

  • Renault

    It’s a code glitch. What’s the big deal?

  • RejectedApp

    they put this thing “%PREFERRED” instead of the applicant name! did you get it now?

  • justastudent

    I don’t get this article. I’m in a top school and that is exactly the type of e-mail we get when rejected from banking/consulting/any job? Specially if this was just apps submission and not interviews.

  • semor

    Consulting and Banking recruiting is mostly about connections NOT professionalism, I see Mckinsey in particular hired people in some of global offices just because the relatives are powerful people in the businesses and government so that they can secure deals. Thats it..dont be trapped by the advertisements of those know galleon scandals,,enron..and GM cases..