How to Get Hired by McKinsey & Company

How to Get Hired by McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is one of the ‘Big Three’ management consulting firms (along with the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company). Based in New York City, with 104 offices in over 50 countries worldwide, they cover a vast number of industries, including oil and gas, private equity, aerospace and defense, telecommunications, and retail.

McKinsey are a dream company for many business-minded undergraduates and MBA students alike, with thousands applying for junior roles every year. McKinsey are also prolific recruiters on lots of business school campuses, including Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management.

While a job at McKinsey sets you up for a fantastic career in management consulting, it’s also notoriously one of the hardest companies to get an offer from. Read on for our top tips to help you land that coveted first consulting role.

What should I consider before applying?

If you’re applying as an undergraduate or non-MBA holder, you will come into the company at Business Analyst level. With an advanced degree, it’s possible to join at Associate level, which is the second rung up the ladder.

If you join the firm as an undergraduate, you’ll be expected to get an MBA after around two years, which will usually be paid for by McKinsey if you agree to work for them for two years after graduating.

Before you apply, make sure you’re willing and able to take on the lifestyle of a McKinsey employee. This means long hours (early mornings and late nights), loads of travelling, lots of time with co-workers and high stakes, high pressure work.

To get a head start on the application process, don’t underestimate the power of networking. See if there are alumni from your business school employed by McKinsey, and see if you can have an informational interview or informal chat with them about the company (they may be able to put in a good word for you in the hiring process, or even coach you through it).

Your university careers service should be able to put you in touch with the relevant alumni – and don’t discount your undergraduate alumni network either.

What should I include in my application?

It’s not enough to just have an MBA from a top business school, you must be the best of the best to get hired by McKinsey. Highlight all your significant achievements, such as exams where you topped the class, clubs or societies you had a senior role in, or summer internships you participated in.

You need to be able to demonstrate you have qualities valued by McKinsey. Three major qualities McKinsey want to identify in potential hires are:

    • Structure: McKinsey want employees who take a structured approach to problem-solving, as on the job you will use a lot of best practice work.
    • Credibility: This can be proved by previous internships or work experience – a previous internship at McKinsey is ideal but other Fortune 500 companies are good too. Even non-business-related experience where you’ve had to go through a rigorous selection process, like Teach for America or Teach First (in the UK), are compelling.
    • Credentials: This not only includes a degree from a top-ranked school (with honors), but also any impressive scholarships, industry awards or merit awards. If you’re struggling to think of anything, McKinsey might not be the right place for you.

Your job will be global, so you need to prove you’re willing to work globally and in international teams. Work experience away from your home country in a global company is a good example of this, as are international exchanges or study abroad programs. Speaking more than one language would also be a great asset as it widens the scope of cases you can take on.

Specialized work experience is valued, as McKinsey has both a generalized track and subject matter expert track. McKinsey is more open to hiring candidates from non-traditional business backgrounds than other top management consulting firms – around 50 percent of McKinsey consultants don’t have a graduate business degree. Logistics, HR, manufacturing and marketing are popular specialization tracks.

Make sure your resume is well structured and simple: basic black and white text, no funky fonts, and not too long (around one page in the US, and up to two elsewhere). Recruiters will want to see concrete examples of what you’ve achieved in simple terms, so avoid lengthy sentences and instead stick to past-tense action verbs (such as ‘coordinated’, ‘analyzed’ and ‘executed’) to describe your previous experience.

How do I handle the interview process?

The multi-step interview process is tough, but with every stage you’ll get a better idea of what McKinsey consultants do which can help you decide if the job would be a good fit.

Prepare yourself for the Problem-Solving Test (PST), which is in the first stage of the interview process. The PST is a 26-question quantitative and business reasoning test that you have an hour to finish. The test is famously difficult and intended to separate the wheat from the chaff, so make sure you do several practice tests and maybe even consider getting a tutor. McKinsey offers practice tests on their website.

The interview process at McKinsey for a Business Analyst is as follows:

First Round

PST and one/two group interviews and/or a one-case phone screen.

Second Round

One/two one-on-one case interviews, with around five minutes of a ‘fit’ interview (to see how well you’d fit into the company based on your previous experience).

Third Round

Two one-on-one case interviews with around 15 minutes of fit interview and one deep-dive fit interview.

 

Make sure you prepare just as well for the fit interviews as the case interviews. This is where a lot of people often slip up as they are preoccupied by the case interviews.

You should practice cases in preparation for your interview, particularly if your case-solving skills are a bit rusty – you can find example cases on McKinsey’s website. It’s a good idea to practice solving cases verbally, i.e. to talk through what you’re doing out loud, as this is how you will be expected to solve the case in an interview.

Getting hired by McKinsey isn’t easy, and their lengthy interview process can seem daunting. However, if you’re a born winner who achieves whatever you put your mind to, a proven problem-solver with a track record of great leadership, you have nothing to lose by submitting an application to potentially win a job with one of the best management consulting firms in the world.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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