Kearney is a global consulting firm founded by a McKinsey partner in 1926. Since Andrew Thomas Kearney (A.T. Kearney) broke away from McKinsey to found his rival firm the company has grown to revenues of over $1.4 billion and 3500 employees in over 60 countries.
In 2020 the firm undertook a major rebranding, moving away from their founders name A.T. Kearney to simply ‘Kearney’. This is a move away from their single founder heritage into a wider, encompassing brand of Kearney that is focused around all of their people.
Kearney is considered a top strategy consulting firm and attracts top talent from undergraduates, MBAs, PhDs and industry every year. The firm uses multiple case interviews to assess all of their applicants.
2) What Kearney are looking for
As part of their rebranding, Kearney placed their people at the centre of their brand. On their website Kearney outline 6 attributes they are looking for in their people:
Analytical – The quantitative ability to aggregate, understand and manipulate large datasets is part of a consultant’s every day activities so being good with numbers is an important part of the Kearney skillset.
Insightful – The ability to understand and communicate complex concepts is what clients are looking for in a consulting firm. Being insightful empowers others to gain the knowledge they need to make key business decisions.
Inquisitive – The complex and unique nature of the business problems that consultants face cannot be answered with desktop research or through existing knowledge. The facts and data is often fragmented and unstructured so a natural inquisitiveness enables consultants to build a detailed understanding of the problem.
Collaborative – Consultants work in project teams, usually of 2-6 people so must be able to fit in quickly with new teams on a frequent basis. They also need to draw on knowledge and skills across the firm so need to be able to collaborate effectively with other colleagues regularly.
Genuine – Consulting has a reputation of being an industry full of buzzwords and deceptive language to make concepts and ideas seem elaborate without any substance behind them. Kearney has made being genuine and direct a key characteristic of their approach and people.
Unique thinker – As with other strategy consulting firms, Kearney are looking for people that can think differently and bring alternative ideas to the table. These new ideas can bring exceptional value to their clients strategy.
3) Kearney application process
There are four stages to the Kearney application process:
The interview process at Kearney begins with a resume and cover letter submission online. Their typical recruitment cycle is in the Autumn each year but they do sometimes hire off-cycle, especially at smaller network firms. They are looking for candidates that reflect their 5 traits in their applications along with strong academic records and relevant experience.
The Kearney online assessments consist of two tests; advanced numerical reasoning (35 questions) and a Watson Glaser test. They are one of the only firms to use a Watson Glazer (usually used by law firms), it is a critical thinking and judgement test format that focuses on understanding information and forming an argument.
Candidates that pass the online assessments are invited to first round interviews that are typically conducted by junior consultants and involve 15 minutes of a fit interview followed by a case interview question. There are two interviews in the first round.
The second round interviews are conducted by senior consultants (partners and directors) and follow the same format as the second round interviews. Following the second round interviews, candidates will be either given feedback or a job offer.
4) Types of interview
Kearney have a single interview format across their network; experience / fit questions followed by a case interview. The most weighting is given to the case interview and you need to be prepared, candidates that haven’t prepared for the case interview don’t progress to the final round.
The case interview’s that Kearney use are all based on real life client examples. The interviewer’s are encouraged to use their own client engagements for their case interview questions because they know them well and will be able to provide data and context easily. This format is the most common interview format used by Kearney because it is the closest resemblance to the work required on the job and allows the interviewer to answer the question ‘Can this person do the work of a Kearney consultant?’
They assess candidates over a number of different attributes during a case interview:
Approach and structure
Analytical and creative thinking
Application of data
Scoring well across all these attributes will result in being progressed to the next stage or ultimately, a job offer. For further information on how to demonstrate these skills see our full case interview guide here.
The experience questions are asked prior to beginning the case interview and Kearney will use questions such as:
Why are you interested in Kearney?
What experience are you most proud of?
What experience do you wish you could do over, and how would you do it differently?
What is a difficult decision you have made in the last year?
What is an example of a time when you showed initiative and leadership?
What aspects of your internship did you like less?
What do you most like to do in your free time?
What attributes would you bring to a case team?
Describe a role where you changed the direction of a team. How did you do it?
The key with these questions is to develop a structure that can be applied to all of them. By structuring your answer, you will show that even when discussing non-business related topics you apply a considered approach to your answer. We cover an approach in our case interview coaching sessions.
5) Case interview
The consulting case interview is the cornerstone of every strategy consulting firm’s interview process due to the ability to replicate the problems and challenges of the work they do.
To score well in a Kearney case interview, you must meet the criteria laid out above and you can do this following a structured approach to case interviews. The structure of a Kearney case interview is as follows:
1. Situation and problem
2. Hypothesis validation
3. Framework development
4. Root cause analysis
5. Mathematical calculation (sometimes)
6. Creativity test (sometimes)
At the start of the case, the interviewer will outline the context and the problem to be explored.
An example might be:
“A high street retailer wants to cut costs by 30% in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, how would you approach this?”
You would then be expected to put forward an initial hypothesis on what the answer might be and explain your intention to prove or disprove it.
From there you will be expected to develop a framework to conduct your analysis and test it with the interviewer.
If your framework is MECE and you explore it correctly then you will find the root cause of the issue for the client (in this case where costs can be reduced) and begin calculations if relevant.
The creativity test is when the interviewer asks you for an alternative to your findings or recommendation e.g. “Okay, the client says they do not want to shut stores, how else can they reduce cost?” They may ask this more than once and it tests the candidates ability to think of alternatives, even if their answer is appropriate.
Finally you will be asked to provide a recommendation whereby you need to synthesise your findings and give a clear and concise proposal.
For more information on how to approach and solve case interviews, read our full guidance here.
6) Additional tips
Case interviews are pressurised situations where your anxiety levels are heightened and you don’t have the safety net of notes or the internet to fall back on.
For in-person interviews it is common that one of the questions will have a mathematical element or be a market sizing question included. These require long maths calculations without a calculator. If you haven’t practised long addition, multiplication, division or subtraction recently then it is a good idea to do so. Being quick at maths shows your competent quantitative skills and reduces unnecessary pressure during the interview, increasing your overall performance.
We have published guidance and practice questions dedicated to case interview maths here.
As with the maths, practicing case interviews is the best way to improve your performance. Through practice you will begin to develop a robust approach that satisfies the structure and framework components of the case and you will recognise how to navigate the case successfully.
If you are applying to Kearney then you are probably applying to other strategy consulting firms too, this practice will be relevant to all of the firms you apply to as they all use case interviews in their application process.
We have published guidance and practice questions appropriate for Kearney cases here.
Apply structure to everything
The key requirement of a candidate in a case interview is the application of structure, specifically with a MECE approach. As mentioned above, you can even apply structure to the FIT questions and it is recommended you do so.
An example answer to the question ‘walk me through your CV’ would be to segment your experience into; 1) Experience relevant to consulting 2) Experience not relevant to consulting and then briefly cover the experience you have in each bucket. This shows you understand what consulting is and what is relevant and also a key skill of a consultant – structured thinking.
If you can demonstrate robust structured thinking in your interview, you will score highly.
If you’re upcoming interview involves technical questions then please see some of our other online resources here: