In March, the world stopped for many businesses. COVID-19 raced across Europe and America – mysterious, relentless, impervious, and lethal. In the process, the pandemic exposed every vulnerability and widened every gap. Facing global disruption, leaders fled their sleek suites for the comforts of home. For many businesses, the spring was their moment of truth, a no-holds-barred brawl for survival. At the same time, it served as the world’s most expensive corporate retreat, a time to reimagine tired beliefs and adapt to shifting demands.
McKinsey & Company was launched in the aftermath of another pandemic, the Spanish Flu. The oldest of the MBB royalty, McKinsey treasures feedback and fellowship as much as excellence and expertise. As the pandemic intensified, the firm was able to quickly pivot. The reason: McKinsey had long embraced the digital world, investing in technologies, talents, and tactics that amplified its culture and reinforced its value proposition. In particular, the firm had mastered virtual communication long before it became a necessity, says senior partner Danielle Bozarth during a June 25th interview with Poets&Quants.
VIRTUAL BETTER CONNECTS CONSULTANTS AND CLIENTS
“We’ve used Zoom for quite a while and we were very active and regular video conferencers even prior to the pandemic. Obviously, our adoption has increased even further. We’re used to doing quite a few things with people in various locations. Relative to a traditional workplace, the level of change is quite a bit less.”
Such tools have also deepened the relationships between team members – and the clients they serve. McKinsey has long been hailed as an egalitarian organization. It is one where everyone – from partners on down – are placed on equal footing. Here, junior team members enjoy an “obligation to dissent,” where they can challenge decisions that run counter to a client’s needs or an engagement’s mission. By bringing everyone together, Bozarth explains, McKinsey’s virtual tools have fostered greater problem-solving and creativity on both sides of the table.
“These virtual tools provided a lot of benefits to all of us, not only were their interactions better with us but also their interactions amongst their senior team. This came in terms of how everyone sits at the table together and how everyone is able to communicate and express themselves. [Clients] also talk about how much easier it is because, regardless of where people are, we’re all in the virtual room together as opposed to some people being on the phone or out of the room. This has actually made working a lot easier.”
HONORING ALL HIRING COMMITMENTS
In a June blog post by Brian Rolfes, a McKinsey partner who heads global recruiting, he notes that McKinsey is taking a through cycle approach. He adds that he didn’t “foresee any significant changes to our hiring goals, are honoring all the extended offers we’ve made across the globe, including for our full-time hires and our summer interns.” In addition, Rolfes writes, his recruiting team has taken a highly-personalized approach to walk every hire and intern through these unprecedented times.
“Our recruiters have made hundreds of individual calls in the last few weeks and continue those calls to work with each person to understand where they are, special needs and to determine the best timing, what questions they have and what support they need.”
By the numbers, McKinsey foresees hiring and internships holding steady with 2019 totals. Last year, according to the firm, McKinsey hired more than 1,000 people from MBA programs, not counting 500+ interns. While the firm declined to divulge a specific percentage of interns who ultimately accept an offer, McKinsey pegs it as the “vast majority.” Overall, roughly 8,000 people joined the firm in 2019. What’s more, according to an email to P&Q, McKinsey has no plans to cut staff. In fact, the firm has paid in full those interns who were unable to participate due to COVID or VISA issues.
INTERNSHIPS GET RAVE REVIEWS FROM SUMMER CLASS
Aside from honoring all offers, McKinsey has now launched all summer internships, with groups starting in three tiers: mid-May, early June, and late June. Fully virtual, the internships have been producing some “great summer experiences” according to Bozarth. McKinsey’s anonymous surveys of interns who completed their virtual Embark orientation have backed up her assertion.
“I did not expect it to be so interactive and engaging and really appreciated and enjoyed that,” writes one respondent.
“I think my expectations and experience are pretty in-line with each other,” adds another. “I had my first day on my project yesterday, and it was every bit as intense and fulfilling as I expected.”
Despite McKinsey’s digital prowess, virtual orientation is a relatively new approach. As such, McKinsey still has a few bugs to work out according to another intern. “The social events were interesting and fun, but did not help us get to know each other. Maybe find a way to make the social events more interactive where we can talk with each other more.”
MORE ACCESS AND INTIMACY IN VIRTUAL
Looking ahead, Bozarth emphasizes that McKinsey will be conducting “almost all” of its recruiting virtually this fall. However, the firm is leaving the door open depending on how conditions evolve over the fall. One factor remains schools’ uncertainty on whether students will be returning to campus. While the format has changed, Bozarth notes, McKinsey will continue to recruit at its typical levels during the fall. In fact, virtual technology provides the firm with the flexibility to reach more people while enabling students to interact with consultants and partners who share their passions. That has produced a better experience for everyone involved.
“I think the virtual world allows us do an awful lot more than the traditional world,” she adds. “Before, there was obviously travel time and all the work it takes for me to get to campus. Whereas now, I can do multiple events in the same amount of time from a travel perspective. In addition, we can be a lot more targeted in making sure the people with specific interests are able to speak to people who are like them or working in areas that they are excited about.”
This increased access, coupled with McKinsey’s increased reliance on virtual platforms, taps into McKinsey’s biggest strength, Rolfes asserts. “The most special thing about the firm is our people. And mentorship, coaching and apprenticeship are truly part of the McKinsey DNA, so please jump in and take advantage of that.”
GETTING ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF A POST-COVID WORLD
More than that, Bozarth adds, COVID-19 has created an unparalleled opportunity for McKinsey MBAs. Due to the firm’s wide reach and expertise in nearly every industry and region, MBAs can achieve an immediate impact that simply isn’t available anywhere else.
“We are helping our clients contribute to and shape the new normal that is coming out of the post-COVID era. As consumer behavior is going to change dramatically based on what we’ve been through over the past several months, I think the world will obviously feel different. One of the things MBAs have been very excited about is their ability to contribute – whether it be healthcare, hospitality, retail or financial services – to how these businesses serve their customers in a much better way, using this moment to learn how to shape this new offering.”
What are the latest developments at McKinsey that impact MBAs? Why does McKinsey rank among the most-friendly firms for women? What does it take to make partner at the firm? Find out the answers to these questions – along with additional information on recruiting, internships, and hiring – in P&Q’s exclusive interview with senior partner Danielle Bozarth starting below.
P&Q: How did the pandemic change how McKinsey recruited for internships and full-time MBAs?
DB: When the pandemic started and we all went home, we were essentially done with summer intern recruiting season. We were obviously in regular touch with our summer interns over the course of the spring. More or less, we haven’t been recruiting outside of our ongoing experienced hires that we do off-cycle since the pandemic started.
We are spending a ton of time thinking about what we will do in the fall. We’re very excited about the opportunities that virtual recruiting will provide for us. We think it will give our candidates the ability to get to know us much, much better. They will be able to speak with a broader set of consultants than who maybe would’ve been able to get to campus. Students will also find folks who are doing things they are excited about or are like them and having a great career at McKinsey. We’re excited about what virtual will do for us as we move into the fall. We’re planning to do almost all of our recruiting virtually unless conditions dramatically change in the fall.