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What McKinsey Seeks In MBA Hires

Consultants at company event

What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

I’ll share something Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s global managing director, told summer associates this past July at our North America Summer’s Conference in Miami. During a Q&A session, someone asked him what he’d suggest people focus on for a successful career. His answer was deceptively simple – “be interesting.”  He went on to tell a few stories of how much he enjoys getting to know colleagues and clients as he travels around the world and those who have more than work to talk about stand out – as colleagues and client leaders.  They have interests, hobbies, skills, and passions.  They are excellent business people who relate well to others, have empathy and know who they are themselves. That’s what makes them distinctive and interesting and successful.

If an MBA was weighing an offer from McKinsey and another firm, what would give you the edge?

I would talk to the person about a couple things. First of all, scale matters so make sure you know how the firms you’re considering compare. McKinsey is in more than 60 countries with more than 100 offices, which translates into enormous depth, breadth and opportunity. Our people have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world – near home or on the other side of the world – and they can tap into a truly global network of experts and expertise, of research, of colleagues who work to serve clients and find the best answers to the most complex questions.

I often say to candidates that if you know what you want to do, come to McKinsey because we likely do it. I also say that if you don’t know what you want to do, you should also come to McKinsey because it’s an excellent place to test out different industries and functions and find out where your passion is.

Beyond the impact of scale on client service, scale helps your career trajectory and a McKinsey network can be the best career tool a person can have. There is someone at McKinsey – or among our 28,000 alumni – who knows a lot about almost any topic you can imagine. Our culture is such that an email or phone call is all you need to connect with that person. And that goes for questions about client work or for when it’s time to take your next step within or beyond McKinsey.

Secondly, I would talk to the person about how McKinsey is evolving and reinventing the consulting industry.  Professor Clay Christianson at Harvard wrote about the disruption of the management consulting industry and specifically cited McKinsey as a best practice. This is important from both a client service and career standpoint… a candidate should join an organization that is vibrant and strategically positioned.

Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has McKinsey done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates?

Not surprisingly, we do a lot of analysis of what our people and recruits value in their careers. We are always looking at what we can offer our people to help them grow and get the most out of their career and life. One theme is flexibility: A single program doesn’t fit everyone so we encourage people to ask for what they need and we promote an environment of flexibility and respect.

A couple initiatives I will mention are Take Time and Pace.

Take TIme

Our Take Time program allows consultants to take extra time off (typically 5-10 weeks per year beyond vacation time) between engagements for their personal interests and passions. It could be to spend time with family, study, pursue a hobby or go on a dream trip. This model takes advantage of the project-based nature of consulting and helps consultants take additional time away so they can focus on other areas of their lives. The initiative has been around for a few years and has been wildly popular.  he stories I’ve heard of what people do – play in a concert series, write a novel, finish a degree, travel and volunteer abroad – are cool and inspiring.

[Editor’s Note: To read some of these inspiring stories, click here.]

Another great initiative is the Pace program, which recognizes that not everyone wants to advance their career at the same speed and gives consultants more control over their career trajectory.  While professional services traditionally used the ‘up or out’ model where people had to advance at a standard rate, McKinsey doesn’t adhere to that strict model and, again, recognizes that flexibility is key.

Pace provides the option for consultants to stay in their current role longer, while continuing to develop and be challenged professionally. The program gives participants greater control over their career progression by reducing the pressure to fulfill requirements for the next role. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive and we find our consultants appreciate the flexibility and alternative ways to manage their careers.