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IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONSYour answers to the personal experience interview (PEI) and case questions are not the only things your McKinsey interviewer is learning about you. Intentionally or not, consciously or not, they're also getting an overall impression of you that's informing their opinion of you as a potential colleague. Everything from how you carry yourself, your greeting, your handshake, eye contact, the small talk on the way to the interview room, your final Q&A, and more all inform your interviewers assessment of you.
THREE QUESTIONS YOUR INTERVIEWERS ARE ASKING THEMSELVES
1. DO I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH THIS PERSON?McKinsey teams spend a lot of time with each other during client engagements. Typical days are long, often extending late into the night and much of that time is spent together in cramped team rooms at client sites. The lifestyle of a management consultant is tough enough - it's even harder if you don't like the people you work with. No one wants to work that closely with someone who's arrogant, obnoxious, or boring. Fortunately, the interview process must be successfully screening for those traits because nearly everyone I worked with on my McKinsey teams was down-to-Earth, interesting, and fun.
2. WOULD I STAFF THIS PERSON?Even though each consultant is responsible for their individual workstream(s), the team is ultimately judged on its collective performance. If one person drops the ball, it's likely that the entire team will feel the pain in the form of extra work, unhappy clients, or upset McKinsey leadership. So, interviewers will be wondering if you'll be able to carry your weight or if you'll be creating headaches and inconveniencing the team.
The more senior your interviewer, the more important this question is. During the 1st round, about half of your interviewers might be Engagement Mangers. Once you advance to the 2nd round, all of your interviewers will be Engagement Managers or higher, often Associate Principals, Principals, and Directors. These more senior consultants are held directly accountable for the success of each engagement by the client and the Firm. So, if you screw something up, you're not just inconveniencing them, you're potentially impacting their performance reviews and careers.
3. CAN I PUT THIS PERSON IN FRONT OF A CLIENT?There's never enough time in the day for McKinsey teams to accomplish everything on their to do lists. That means your Engagement Manager has to trust every Associate and Business Analyst to get things done on their own. Often, that means early tenure consultants are entrusted with client relationships. Sometimes it's building relationships with client analysts to find the right data. Other times it's working with line employees to understand the work being done in the trenches. Often, it's presenting elements of your workstream to very senior clients.
Regardless of the context, your team has to trust that you won't embarrass yourself, the team, or the Firm in front of the client. There's no shortage of things that can go wrong in a client meeting so this is a difficult question to answer, especially after only an hour of interviewing. So, your interviewer will be looking for red flags like poor judgment, lack of professionalism, poor social skills, arrogance, and lack of self-confidence.
WHY ARE THESE QUESTIONS IMPORTANT?Not only are your interviewers asking themselves these questions, but the same questions are often asked during the decision meeting. When interviewers have a "split read" (one pass, one turndown) - or a "flat read" (average performance with a weak spike) on a candidate, it's common for these questions to be asked of the interviewers. If the interviewers cannot answer "yes" to the question "would you staff this candidate?", the outcome will be a turndown. Sometimes, during first-round interviews, an interviewer will feel very strongly that the answer to these questions is "yes" and go to bat for a split read or flat read candidate, passing them to the next round with the understanding that interviewer will help coach the candidate to improve.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT ITBe aware of what your interviewers are looking for and put your best foot forward. Make sure the aspects of your personality that make you someone people want to work with, McKinsey leadership can rely on, and clients can trust shine through during your interviews.
Ultimately, you should be yourself. If you have to adopt a completely different personality during the interview to get past these 3 questions, consider how happy you can be keeping that act up for your entire career at McKinsey.