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.

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  • Xthinker

    You said that McKinsey makes almost as much than Bain and BCG but according to Wikipedia, McKinsey has 9,000 consultants; BCG has 4,500 and Bain has 4,000 consultants -> McKinsey might not be doing so well after all…

  • Marchin’ Lootin’ King

    The article is like Karl Marx telling us how successful and happy the Soviet Union is. No one can be bothered.

  • MckinseyAssociate-14

    Unfortunately, I have to agree.

  • sad

    lol, you need to walk around an english classroom

  • RedRiser

    Poetsandquants already did that for us:

    MBB at #2, Bain at #4, BCG at #6

  • ivyelite30

    why do u dont walk around the ivies or in the valley or nyc and see if anyone’s jaw drops that you got an MBB offer

  • RedRiser

    Sounds like someone’s a little bitter…

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Yes. Recruiters do a quick phone screen and then schedule a interview for you with the company.

  • MBBplease

    What do you mean by “job invites”? Like opportunities to interview?

  • JohnnyGorgeous

    Actually ivyelite30, MBB is good for all of those things. I was at Bain this last summer, and my team ran 100% of the product launch for a Fortune 50 pharma firm. I was the one making the phone calls to low level vendors. I was in the room helping negotiate deals. I know friends at McKinsey operations who completely redid supply chains. Because of the breadth and depth of the projects offered, you DO get to do all of those things.

    Three other major things come to mind.

    a) Filter – MBB is a pedigree, just like a Harvard or MIT. And recruiters use it. Comparing what my Linkedin activity was like PRE-Bain and POST-Bain, it’s like night and day. I get 3-4 job invites a week now (Amazon, Mastercard, Whirlpool, Redbox, small consulting boutiques this month alone) whereas before I’d be lucky to get 3-4 job invites in like 6 months.
    a) An accelerator for your career. Using Kellogg as a example, if you look at alumni, people who went to MBB then into industry are almost always at a higher level than people who just started in industry.
    c) White Shoe Finance – Like top investment banks, MBB is a stepping stone for private equity, hedge fund, and VC. It’d be much much harder to get in from other ways. VC is the exception through top level jobs in startups and bigtech.

  • ivyelite30

    actually MBB is not some super star route
    Do you learn to run a biz at MBB? No
    Do you launch a prouct at MBB? No
    Do you have P&L responsibilty? No
    Do you manage a team of normal people – egineers/designers/avg joe’s ? No
    MBB was great in the 1980’s/90’s before the tech revolution
    Noone at any ivy school or in the valley/nyc is awed with a MBB job these days, lets be honest! Its a good job, dont get me wrong, but not the prestige it once had

  • Yup

    MBB is a good place to go if you’re still undecided on what to do with your career as there’s a ton of option value. But I will agree that the amount of value they’re actually creating is pretty limited given the amount of resources they utilize. It’s similar to why so many exiting consultants need to go into strategy roles vs. actual operating roles – giving advice is completely different from actually running a company.

  • ivyelite30

    who cares of MBB prestige ! Most founders of silicon valley start ups are not MBB. This is not 1985!
    Can you code and run a company? Thats all the matters today
    most MBB have never run a business! only presentation decks

  • Anon

    Great article! Very thorough but also insightful because it goes beyond just facts and figures.

  • MBBplease

    Good company, obviously, but I haven’t loved a lot of the people I’ve met who work there or who recruit on my campus. Some were cool, but others just seemed arrogant and annoyed to be doing recruiting stuff. Also seems like they really work you hard. All consulting is hard and long hours, but just got the sense the Bain and BCG care more about their people in terms of making sure you’re having a good experience, trying not to burn you out, etc. The global staffing thing is tough too. People I’ve met from McKinsey are flying all over the country or world for projects. While that sounds cool, I think it would get old fast. If I had an offer from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG, I’m just not sure the extra bit of “prestige” would outweigh some of the culture benefits of Bain and BCG. But, maybe others disagree.

  • HSWpleaseletmein

    Great article. I can see why management consulting firms attract so much talent from other fields. I’ve heard of everything from brain surgeons to rocket scientists going into consulting after otherwise successful careers.

  • Flareups

    Shocked at how little interest this article has generated. Is McKinsey just boring now?

  • Qiuyidio

    Lots of smart people here.

  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Thanks Jeff and Brian! Great article and great insights into McKinsey! I know sometimes people say that MBA recruiting is a black box but this is great explanation about the process and what McKinsey is looking for. You can see why McKinsey has been able to maintain its prestige while expanding so globally. I only hope that I have the opportunity to join one day!