Breaking into Consulting: Are you McKinsey or Boston Consulting material?
What’s the best way to know if you could make a go of it at McKinsey or BCG?
There are three main intake points for people joining McKinsey, BCG, or any leading multi-practice strategy consulting firm: “business analyst” (undergraduate hire), “associate” (MBA hire), and “experienced” (mid-career, executive hire). The nomenclature can differ from firm to firm, but the categories hold in general.
At each level, the requirements are different … raw analytic capability, academic achievement, and a capacity to learn matter more on the early / analyst end of the spectrum, while experience overseeing key functions or projects, domain expertise, managing people and being able to serve senior clients matter significantly more on the later / experienced hire end of the spectrum.
It should also be said that for consulting, one needs not only intellectual, number-crunching capacity, but also emotional intelligence, a facility for speaking and listening, delivering presentations, etc. … all of the communication and social skills one would expect to come in handy in client service-focused environment.
So, whether you can make it at McKinsey and BCG depends in part on what your background is (academic achievement is critical in the early stages, on-the-job success and deep knowledge of a specific industry or function in the more advanced stages). For MBAs, it’s a balanced mix … you need to be a top student, with a broad range of interests and abilities (intellectual horse power), and you need to have at least some track record of leadership and success working in a commercial capacity (or something that translates well … even experience in realms as disparate as military service or social sector work), It’s a broad answer, but the best one for a broad question.
Last, and of course, BCG and McKinsey are similar to the extent that they are leading global strategy firms, but they can feel different across practice areas and offices in terms of culture, history, their own competitive strategy, approach to client service, etc.
If you’d like to take the next step in figuring out whether you would be a great ‘fit’ for either firm, I encourage you to seek out alumni and current firm members who can share their own personal, first-hand experiences with you.
[Check out Where Top MBAs Work in Consulting]