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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  • 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!