Thursday, March 21, 2013

How the McKinsey Resume / CV Screening Process Works

McKinsey's success is built on its reputation and people.  To maintain a sufficient supply of the latter, every year McKinsey reviews thousands of resumes from the top undergrad and MBA programs around the world.  As a result, the Firm has gotten quite good at making a highly qualitative process more objective and consistent.  In this post I'll explain the resume review process...


There's a lot of conjecture from non-McKinsey consultants about the process the Firm uses to screen job applicants.  I'd like to dispel those myths by bringing some transparency to the process.  During my time at McKinsey I screened over a thousand resumes during the summer and full-time hiring cycles at undergrad, MBA, and APD sources (aka schools).  So, this article is based on first-hand experience and facts, not speculation or guesswork.


I'll be describing the process as it's applied in several US office complexes.  Having reviewed resumes and participated in resume review meetings for several US office complexes, these observations are representative of how the process works in the US.  However, McKinsey is a global Firm with hundreds of locations - it's likely there might be some variation from office to office and location to location, even within the US.

It's also worth noting that this process might not be used in the "experienced hire" process.


I find it interesting that the two McKinsey resume screen myths I see or hear most often polar opposites of one another.  On the one hand, some people seem to believe that there's a rigid, mindless algorithm that examines then accepts or rejects resumes.  On the other hand, other people believe that the process is completely subjective and determined by the whims and moods of someone in McKinsey HR. 

MYTH #1 - Resume-screening software

In this myth, there's some sort of automated McKinsey software that filters resumes based on keyword searches or similar algorithms.  This is absolutely incorrect.  Every resume is read by at least one McKinsey consultant and, because they have to score the resume - and often calibrate their scores with those of another consultant who is reviewing the same resumes - they actually have to read the resumes in some detail.

MYTH #2 - Subjective HR Reviewers

In this version, candidates' fates are determined by anonymous people in HR who apply highly subjective criteria to determine who passes and who doesn't.  The Firm tries to make this myth as incorrect as possible

Although resume screens are qualitative and, as a result, prone to subjectivity, McKinsey trains consultants to review resumes using objective criteria, standardized scales, and scoring rubrics to minimize the subjectivity of the process.  A typical batch consists of 50-60 resumes.  In my experience, our scores for most candidates will vary by less than 10% and very rarely (1 or 2 resumes per batch) vary enough for a candidate on the fence to make the decision to extend an interview invitation unclear.


STEP 1 - Applicants drop resumes

Each consulting season - fall for full-time hires and winter for summer internships - schools have deadlines for "dropping" or submitting resumes to McKinsey for consideration.  At some business schools, nearly half the class will drop resumes for McKinsey and other top management consulting programs.

STEP 2 - Assign resumes to reviewers

Once the Firm receives the resumes, they are assigned in batches to consultants for review.  Usually, pairs of consultants are assigned to each batch so they can score resumes independently and then compare results and calibrate.

STEP 3 - Read and score resumes

Resume reviewers read each resume and score them according to a standardized framework.  The dimensions and characteristics being sought during the resume screen are not mysteries and are clearly defined on the McKinsey website.  In addition, there are tips on how to do well on the McKinsey resume screen in a previous blog post.

Resumes are scored on several dimensions on a scale of 0-4.  There is a scoring rubric that clearly defines objective criteria and examples of what it takes to receive each score on each dimension (e.g., it takes X to receive a "3" on "Leadership")

STEP 4 - Resume reviewer pairs compare scores

Ideally, each resume reviewer will compare scores with their partner to confirm that they are well-calibrated.  If there is a significant difference it will be reconciled by the reviewers walking through the resume together and - using the scoring rubric as a guide - discuss why each score was given.

STEP 5 - Resume review meeting

Once the resume batches have been reviewed, scores are submitted to the recruiting team to be compiled and stack-ranked from the highest to lowest.  The reviewers then participate in a resume review meeting (often done via conference call) to determine which candidates should be invited to interview.  Candidates with the highest resume scores are "clear passes" and invited to interview, and those with the lowest are "clear turndowns" and not invited to interview.  Applying the 80/20 rule, most of the time is spent discussing the candidates in the middle of the pack


  1. Great blog. A lot of the info you have regarding candidate prepartion is useful but I wanted to know if you could expand upon the role of the Waltham knowledge center team at McKinsey. In your former role as a consultant at McK, how did you interact with the NAKC in Waltham?

    The candidate process for NAKC Research roles so far has been similar to what you have spelled out for consulting role (PST, two rounds of interiews, similar cases, PIE/fit portion). Since the NAKC/Research roles don't seem to recruit from the same caliber of schools that consulting roles do, will I be held to a comparatively lower standard for my case interiews?

    Furthermore, do you have any insight as to the types of exit ops that NAKC/Research staff are competitive for?

    You can email me directly at if you want to discuss this 1v1.


  2. This is the reason why resumes should be written perfectly. Many people go to resume writer Calgary to get some advice from professional writers. Sometimes, there are things that must be included or information that must be removed from the resume. People who have errors in the format for example have less chances of getting the job they applied for. The screening here is really tough and I heard, the competition is tough as well.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! Screening is an essential part before employment because this is the time where deserving individuals are picked to work for the company. A miscalculation of evaluations might allow a volatile person to work in a high-stress environment, which can cause trouble sooner or later. Good day! :)

    Philip Watkins @ USA Fact

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