What McKinsey Seeks In MBA Hires


San Francisco office participating in a Habitat for Humanity build

San Francisco office participating in a Habitat for Humanity build

Could you give us an overview of your MBA recruiting and interview process? What are the steps that students should expect? How can they make a good impression and stay on your radar? 

McKinsey is interested in finding talented people from global MBA schools who want to work on meaningful challenges in the private, public and social sectors. To help find individuals who are a good fit, we focus on personally getting to know students and offering them a lot of ways to get to know us. This means our recruiting and interview processes are based on personal interactions in many settings so students may see us on campus quite a bit and be invited to several events.  Students often ask – and should know – that if you’re interested in McKinsey, you aren’t expected to come to every event. We encourage students to think about having quality interactions over quantity and we know that the semester is busy and school should be their main focus.

In terms of process, we have a two round interview process where we focus on assessing problem solving skills as well as understanding leadership, entrepreneurship and achievement potential.  There are two parts to a McKinsey interview – the case study and the personal experience interview.

I advise students to genuinely be themselves and to ask the questions they really want answers to, those that will help them learn about consulting and McKinsey.

[Editor’s Note: To learn more about McKinsey’s interview process, click here.

When it comes to consulting, what are some of the biggest misconceptions that students may have about your organization (and your industry)?

With regard to consulting overall, a lot of people don’t fully understand what management consulting is, so it’s difficult for them to see where their skills and interests fit. I describe consulting as the science and art of working with organizations to solve their most complex problems and opportunities. And, yes, the scope is that large.

One misconception is the supposed ‘up or out’ model. This is a misunderstood concept. While there are no ‘permanent associates’ and we expect people to progress in their career, ours is not a strict ‘up or out’ environment. We believe people’s careers play out over time and, accordingly, we have developed a flexible and very supportive environment.

New York Office Speak Easy Event

New York Office Speak Easy Event

As the head of recruiting I can tell you that we spend so much time and effort finding the right people for McKinsey that it’s in our interest to make each person successful. And we do everything we can – training, mentorship, coaching – to help our people succeed and reach their potential.

Lastly, we get a fair number of questions about our staffing model, as people are concerned about travel and creating a solid network in their home office. We use a local office-driven staffing model where staffing people on projects with local leadership is the default. This is important because our people are typically interested in creating a great network and they want that network to start in their home office.

Where we differ from other organizations is that our consultants have access to client engagements all over the world, including their home office. Our consultants have a great deal of input about which client studies they work on. Consultants work with their professional development manager on which dimensions of a study (location, industry, team, etc.) are most important to them. For one person, it may be to work close to home. For another, it may be to work with a certain team or partner.  For another, using or gaining industry experience could be the priority. Our scale makes it so that we can staff people according to what fits them best, helps them grow and aligns with their priorities.

What are your expectations for entry level MBAs? What are your most successful new hires doing to hit the ground running and quickly add value? 

We see that MBAs with their business background tend to hit the ground running and have the ability to engage in a wide variety of client studies spanning industries and functions. MBAs tend to have minimal up-to-speed time because of their strength in the intrinsics we look for – abilities in problem-solving, leadership, teaming, etc.

New hires who are comfortable diving in and playing a full role on their teams enjoy more early success. We expect the most junior to the most senior people on our teams to participate fully so those who don’t wait to participate tend to do the best. One core value of the firm is the obligation to dissent so we expect to hear from everyone… those who can offer new ideas and perspectives can add value on day one.

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