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What McKinsey Seeks In MBA Hires

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Have those changed in the last decade or two, if so, how?

Looking for problem solvers with excellent analytical skills and leadership abilities has not changed.  Those are constants and core to how we work with clients.

In the last decade, our reach as a global firm has expanded – we now have more than 9,000 consultants in 107 locations in 63 countries, with 21 industry practices, seven functional practices, and four new client service areas, including McKinsey Solutions and McKinsey Implementation.  Our consultants collectively speak more than 130 languages and represent more than 120 countries.

Today, we put an increasingly strong emphasis on how we tap into all relevant talent pools to find the best people and encourage diversity in interests, age, gender, sexual orientation, leadership style, education and culture.

We also have expanded the educational and experiential backgrounds we look for.  While almost half of our people hold MBAs, we hire an increasing number of people we call advanced degree professionals – those with Masters in non-business subjects – MDs, PhDs, JDs – as well as experienced professionals who bring years of industry experience.  As an example of our growth in new client service areas, we hire people with deep industry experience as well as project and change management skills for McKinsey Implementation, which helps clients execute our recommendations and make sure they realize the full benefits. One area I find particularly inspiring is how many doctors we hire. A colleague I recently spoke to said that he loved treating individual patients, but when he realized he could help transform whole healthcare systems and help thousands (maybe millions) of people, that’s when he decided to join McKinsey.

How much in-house training and development do you have for new hires? (Do you expect grads to come out of school job-ready or does your firm hire on potential and train from there?) 

McKinsey hires exceptionally talented people and a common quality among them is the desire to learn and grow so training is core to all levels of McKinsey.  We don’t, however, expect our people to know everything on day one (and our website is clear about this) so training starts as soon as you join.

Within two weeks of starting, new consultants go through Embark, which is our basic consultant readiness program that teaches new joiners how to serve clients and helps them build their McKinsey network. People joining without an MBA also take our mini-MBA program to get business skills not taught in MD, PhD or JD programs.  Each year we invest more than $100 million dollars in training and learning, and cover everything from a quick online course to learn Excel pivot tables to our annual Engagement Manager College program in Cambridge, England.

While formal training is robust at McKinsey, the most important learning occurs on the job. Our culture is built on apprenticeship and mentorship and we believe in a strengths-based feedback approach to professional development to help everyone grow to their full potential.

How have you noticed MBA grads changing in the last several years? (Ex. Are they coming out with specialized skills? More general skills? An interest in the triple bottom line, or are they the same foundational skills of a generation ago?)

One of the most common questions recruits ask – especially those coming out of university – is if they should be a generalist consultant for a few years or specialize right away. While the answer depends on each person, we see a good number of students identifying core interests – technology, operations, etc. – early on.  If you have industry experience or are interested in a certain area, you may choose to specialize early. By the way, there’s no right or wrong answer here as it all depends on the person.

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We also see that students today are incredibly focused on the impact they can have. This is great as impact is a key word at McKinsey. We won’t take an engagement unless we believe we can have meaningful impact. I talk to students about the significant impact they can have through a McKinsey engagement and throughout their career. Everyone on our teams – junior and senior – is expected to fully participate and a first year consultant needs to be able to work with senior clients from early on.

We also see a steady trend of people who want to have impact in their communities and the world at large. Our social sector and education practices are buzzing with activity in North America and around the world.

What additional experience or qualities do you look for in grads that may not be covered in an MBA program?

Leadership skills and working in teams are qualities that are invaluable. While students may not take a course in leadership per se, there are many opportunities to gain and refine those skills as they go through their MBA programs. These skills will serve you well no matter your path, but this is especially true in consulting.  eadership is tied to knowing how to effectively work in teams and is something millennials and MBA grads tend to excel in. McKinsey’s client service is based on working in teams and using the power of collaboration to solve problems no one else can.

What is the single most useful piece of advice you can offer an MBA grad looking to join your company?

Be yourself and show us who you are. Tell us what you’re interested in and be ready with examples of how you’ve solved problems and created impact.

Sometimes MBAs and other recruits think they have to fit into a mold, have a certain profile, or think a certain way to fit into consulting and into McKinsey.  As a former human rights lawyer and wannabe academic who joined McKinsey 20 years ago and is now one of the global leaders of diversity within the firm, I can personally attest there is no mold.

We want you to bring your talented, interesting, authentic self to work and to clients. You’ll be more successful in the recruiting process – and in your career – if you show who you are and how you’re distinctive in your thinking.

(Editor’s Note: To see examples of people who brought their true selves to McKinsey, check out McKinsey’s new interview tips videos here.