Founded in 1926, McKinsey & Company is arguably the most renowned management-consulting firm in the world. They are the biggest and oldest of the ‘Big 3’ consulting firms. They have over 27,000 employees globally and receive over 200,000 applications a year.
McKinsey offer various roles for graduates; the Business Analyst role is the entry-level role, typically for undergraduate candidates and MBA candidates typically join at Associate level. In both positions, however, you are expected to hit the ground running, working with a team of 3-4 consultants on a client project from day 1.
What are McKinsey looking for?
McKinsey say that there is no ‘right’ course to study or path to reach McKinsey. However, they do look for candidates with the following:
Excellent academic performance – For McKinsey this means top grades from top universities. They normally only recruit from a handful of universities around the world
Inclusive Leadership – Being able to lead teams of diverse backgrounds and talents is an important factor for McKinsey as this drives results
Entrepreneurial drive – An innovative mindset means you can overcome complex obstacles. Having an open mindset means you can adapt to new approaches
Strong problem solvers – Consulting requires creative problem solving and a practical mindset, being able to tackle unique problems is key
Personal Impact – The job requires the ability to interact with clients in challenging situations
When writing your CV and cover letter, highlight how you have demonstrated these characteristics in your prior experiences.
Application process – Online assessments
Applications for roles at McKinsey are similar to other consulting firms and roles usually open and close in the autumn.
At this stage, you will be asked for your basic personal information and to provide some documentation.
The information will include your preferred location, education history (including examination scores such as SAT, GRE, TOEFL), and your work history.
You will also need to upload your CV, transcripts, and an optional cover letter. You cannot edit these things once the application is submitted so attach your final draft.
REMEMBER to edit your CV to reflect the attributes for which McKinsey are looking. Also, although the cover letter is marked as optional, we always recommend that you write a cover letter. See our cover letter guides for more information.
McKinsey Problem Solving Game
In recent years, McKinsey has started using a problem solving game to differentiate between their candidates. It does not require any business knowledge or gaming experience or even any maths skills.
You don’t need to practice anything in particular but some familiarity with what kind of thing will be covered in the test is helpful. However, there will be a tutorial before each task which will show you how to navigate the task.
Progression to the next stage is not solely based on the test and will be considered along with the rest of your application. These are the only two stages before the interviews.
Check out our full guide to the McKinsey Digital Assessment here.
Application process - Interviews
There are various stages of interviews. Usually, there will be two rounds of interviews. The first round involves 1-2-1 interviews with junior positions, such as Associates and Engagement Managers, and Partners lead the second.
Personal Experience Interview (PEI)
The PEI part of your interview can come before or after the case section. This part will make up 10-15 minutes of the interview. The idea of this part of the interview is to demonstrate your soft skills. The goal for the interviewer is to ascertain whether you fit in well with the culture of the firm.
This part of the interview will not consist of your typical interview questions. Rather, this part of the interview will focus on one specific experience in detail. The focus of the questions will be based on the characteristics which McKinsey are looking for; leadership, personal impact and entrepreneurial drive.
McKinsey wants you to be able to demonstrate this skill as it is an essential part of being a consultant. The types of questions which will be asked are as follows:
- Tell me about a time when you led a team.
- Tell me about a time when there was a conflict in a team you were in which was keeping you from achieving the objective.
- How do you motivate people?
Personal impact is a key characteristic for a consultant at McKinsey. The types of questions you will be asked for this characteristic are as follows:
Tell me about a time when you had to change someone’s mind on something that is important to them.
What do you want people to say about you when you die and how do you plan on achieving this?
Tell me about a difficult situation you were in and how you had to rely on your communication skills.
Being as self-starter and being able to motivate yourself while working independently. The type of questions that will be asked to test this are as follows:
Have you ever had a goal that you were not able to reach? What did you do?
Tell me about a failure in your life.
Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult problem.
As you can see from the examples, there are a range of questions which you can be asked. Hence, to prepare for this section of the interview, try to identify 5-6 stories which demonstrate these characteristics. The reason for the number of stories is to be prepared as well as to not repeat the same experience in the same interview round.
For PEI, you need to tell the stories concisely while telling them enough to impress them. The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) interview framework is effective for getting this information across.
For this section, there is such thing as overpreparing, however. This part of the interview should be like a conversation and if you overprepare, you can start to sound scripted.
The case study is the part of the interview you will spend the most amount of time on. You will be presented with a case study about a company facing an issue. They are simplified versions of projects which you will face while working at McKinsey.
This section will start with the interviewer explaining the situation. You may also be provided with documents such as graphs, tables, and figures about the company. You will have scrap paper to structure your thoughts and for your calculations however you will not have a calculator.
Most of McKinsey case interviews follow structures as follows:
After presenting the problem, the interviewer will ask you which areas you would look at to solve the problem; this is the framework part. Following on from this, there will be quantitative questions, more open-ended questions and then some recommendations.
It is important to remember that case interviews at McKinsey are interview-led, or rather they will take you from one question to the next. If you are spending too much time on a question, for example, they will move you on to the next part.
To practice, see our list of case interview examples here.
Practice – It should go without saying but practicing before any interview is key. Using this guide, you can get a greater understanding of what kind of thing will be asked but it is imperative that you practice. In particular, practice WITH someone.
Maths skills – As you will not have access to a calculator in the interview, having fast maths skills is a must. If you haven’t practiced skills like this in a while, practice before the interview.
Use a structure – Keep in mind MECE principles when answering any interview questions. As well as this, keep your answers structured for the case interview.