Saturday, February 2, 2013

McKinsey and APD (Advanced Professional Degree) Candidates

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Many management consulting firms hire non-MBAs.  However, few, if any, hire them to the extent that McKinsey does.  This post will cover a few of the basics of APD recruiting at McKinsey...

What is an APD?

Most McKinsey Associates are hired out of top MBA programs from around the world.  However, non-MBAs are also a significant proportion of McKinsey Associates.  At McKinsey, APDs are defined as JDs, MDs, and PhDs and typically comprise more than 1/3 of each incoming McKinsey Associate class.  Unfortunately for Dr. Stephen Colbert, DFA, honorary degrees do not qualify!

Why does McKinsey hire APDs?

Each year, McKinsey has to hire an army of new consultants to fuel the Firm's growth and to backfill for consultants who have left the Firm.  With thousands of consultants worldwide and an average tenure of ~2.5 years, it doesn't take a PhD in Math to realize McKinsey needs to recruit many people each year.  MBA programs supply lots of qualified candidates, but the Firm is always looking for more and top APD programs are rich sources for other, great candidates who exhibit the traits McKinsey looks for in candidates...

What does McKinsey look for in APD candidates?

McKinsey wants to hire people with intellectual horsepower and distinctive problem-solving abilities.  MBA programs do not have a monopoly on those traits - top JD, MD, and PhD programs also have incredibly bright, capable candidates.  Furthermore, the Firm values the intellectual curiosity that is often found in people pursuing advance degrees.  Finally, your APD might align with specific knowledge or expertise that McKinsey and their clients value.  For example, clients in healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech might assume consultants with MDs are more credible than their fellow MBA consultants.

Does the type of APD matter?

This question is asked more frequently by PhD candidates but, from what I've, the type of APD itself does not matter - I've had McKinsey PhD colleagues whose thesis topics ranged from astrophysics to spiders.  All MBA and APD candidates are held to the same interview assessment standards - even those APD candidates with specific expertise that might be highly relevant to clients (e.g., MDs) have to perform as well as those pursuing PhDs in less client-applicable fields.  That said, MBA programs tend to have more focus on networking, teamwork, and professionalism that tend to help candidates come across well during interviews and while serving clients.

What if I don't know anything about business?

Then McKinsey's Mini-MBA is for you!

Many APD candidates are concerned about applying to McKinsey or going to work for clients despite having no business background.  In particular, this concern is voiced by PhD candidates who mistakenly think McKinsey only values PhDs in business-related topics like Economics or Finance.  McKinsey's belief is that the Firm can teach you about business and management consulting if you have the right traits - distinctive intellectual horsepower, problem-solving abilities, leadership, and intellectual curiosity.

To teach APDs about business, McKinsey runs month-long immersions in business topics called "Mini-MBA" that are required for all APD hires.  Topics at Mini-MBA include Economics, Finance, and Strategy.  There are several Mini-MBA sessions held throughout the year to accommodate APDs joining the Firm at different times.

That said, you'll need to understand some basics of business to do well in the interview process.  So, prior to recruiting season, you'll want to familiarize yourself with basic business concepts, levers, and frameworks commonly used in case interviews.  Good resources to learn about them include:
  • The career office and Consulting Club of the MBA program at your school
  • Case prep websites of consulting firms, including McKinsey, Bain, and BCG
  • Countless books and online articles about cracking case interviews
In addition, you might want to start reading the Wall Street Journal and visiting other business news sites and blogs.  Not only will it 1) give you a chance to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, but it will also 2) help you put your case interviews in the context of current events in business - not critical for cracking the case, but helpful for thinking about relevant implications and caveats for your answers.

How do APDs get interviews?

Unfortunately for APDs, their recruiting process is not as clear or straightforward as the MBA recruiting process.  APDs often have to be more proactive and opportunistic during recruiting season than MBAs.

If your APD program has been identified as a "core" program, McKinsey will be more active on campus, sometimes giving presentations and reaching out to candidates.  Even then, the outreach will not be as robust or consistent as it is at MBA programs.  So, your best bet is to use McKinsey's website for APD applications.  In parallel, you should seek out and participate in as many McKinsey APD recruiting events that you can find.


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