Saturday, October 5, 2013

McKinsey Interviews - What Happens on First-Round Interview Days

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Interviewing for any job is stressful, and McKinsey and other consulting firms have some of the toughest interviews you'll ever face.  However, understanding what will happen on your interview day can help you prepare, relax, and improve your performance.  In this post I'll describe how a typical early-round interview day is structured so you'll know what to expect.

I will follow-up this post with two posts - one on what happens on second-round interview days and another with suggestions for how to make the most of your interview days.

The details of the first-round interview process will vary by school.  The biggest differences from school to school are driven by specific interview locations - whether it's on-campus in a career center or off-campus in a hotel - that drive certain logistical differences.  In this post I'll cover what I've seen most frequently across many first-round interview days dozens of MBA and undergraduate institutions.


If first-round interviews are held on-campus, they will typically be in your school's career center, with check-in occurring in the primary common area and interviews conducted in small, private rooms.  If the interviews are off-campus, they are typically held in hotels.  Check-in will be in a large ballroom or conference room and interviews will be conducted, with only a little bit of added awkwardness, in individual hotel rooms.


When you arrive at the interview location, you will see signs guiding you to the proper location for check-in.  This is usually a large room that can accommodate the many - often over a hundred - candidates interviewing that day and you'll see many of your classmates waiting for or wrapping up their interview days.  Once you get there, you'll check-in with someone and be given a folder that contains information from recruiting and one-page biographies of your interviewers.  Often, your folder will include a form for selecting office preferences that you'll be asked to fill out and hand in before you leave for the day.  There will be racks to hang your coat and places for you to hang your coat before you find a seat to...

Wait for your first interviewer

There will be plenty of seating for you and your fellow classmates.  Depending on the location, there might be refreshments for candidates waiting for or returning from their interviews.  There is usually at least one consultant assigned to spend time in this waiting area greeting, chatting with, and answering any questions that candidates have.  Most candidates will occupy themselves with small talk with classmates, last minute review of case interview frameworks, or reading interviewer bios.

You will usually have two, sometimes three, first-round interviews.  Your first interviewer will come to the waiting area to find you.  He or she will then escort you to the room where your first interview will be conducted.

Have your first interview

Each interview is scheduled for an hour, but many interviewers will target wrapping up a few minutes early to give themselves time to take care of a few things - like completing their notes on your performance - between interviews.  When I was assessing candidates, I would limit my interviews to 55 minutes.  Since letting interviews run long backs up everyone else downstream, it's best practice for interviewers to wrap-up a bit early and remain on schedule.

I've compared notes with other interviewers and we all managed our time similarly.
Your interviewer is primarily assessing your PEI and case performance using a standardized scoring matrix and rubric.  But your interviewer is also asking him or herself, "do I want this person on my engagement team?"

Transition to your next interview

Depending on how the interview environment is set up, you'll either return or be escorted to the waiting area or your next interviewer's room.  Your next interviewer will find you and take you to your next interview location.  This will be repeated if you have a third interview.

Have your next interview

Your second interview (and third, if you have one) will be very similar to your first.  The primary differences will be:
  • Interviewer
  • PEI question
  • Case

Wrap up your McKinsey interview day

After your final interview, you'd be escorted back to the waiting area.  You might have some final paperwork to take care of - like submitting your location preference sheet - before you find your coat and head out to resume your day.

Wait for your decision phone call

Congratulations!  You've now done all you can to earn an invitation to final-round interviews.  Or, if you think you've performed poorly, condolences.  In either case, McKinsey does its best to communicate their decisions to candidates on the same day as interviews.  One of your interviewers will phone you to give you the news so keep your phone handy and if you get a call from a number you don't recognize, answer it!


  1. Thanks for the information. There are a lot of things to take note for a second interview, some even get Interview Coaching Calgary in order to make sure that they answer the questions right. And it's quite effective. The coaching was really helpful.


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