Tuesday, December 3, 2013

McKinsey Interviews - Not All Advice Is Created Equal

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As McKinsey candidates prepare for interviews, they eagerly seek out information and are often bombarded with advice from a variety of sources.  However, it's important to remember that not all interview prep advice is created equal.  In this post I'll discuss which sources are more or less valuable and why...

Focus on Advice from Assessment-Trained Consultants...

The biggest driver of quality and reliability of McKinsey interview advice is whether or not the source has been "assessment trained".  The Firm requires a constant and robust flow of new consultants, so the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes are designed to be consistent as they are selective.  Therefore, every consultant who interviews candidates goes through an assessment training program to teach them the McKinsey method for evaluating applicants. 

...Who Have Interviewed Candidates For McKinsey

Assessment-trained consultants understand the process and theory of how candidates get evaluated and hired.  However, unless they have actually conducted interviews and participated in post-interview "decision meetings" for McKinsey, they won't fully understand or appreciate the behind-the-scenes realities and details of how candidates are assessed.  It's the difference between taking a Driver's Ed class and learning by driving, even if it's just with a learner's permit.

Take Advice From Anyone Else (Except Recruiters) With a Grain of Salt

Anyone giving you McKinsey interview advice likely has the best intentions and wants to help you do well.  However, if they haven't been assessment trained and interviewed candidates for the Firm, they really don't know what they're talking about (unless they are McKinsey Recruiters - see the next section for information on advice from Recruiters).  They simply will not know how what they did during their interview process maps to why they got a job offer.

Consider the advice you could give to someone applying to your school (assuming you're currently in business school, APD, or undergrad program).  You know a) what you did, said in interviews, and wrote in your application and that b) got you accepted.  However, unless you've volunteered for your school's admissions office, you don't really know which specific things you did made a difference in getting that acceptance

For those reasons, do NOT put too much faith in interview advice you get from the following:
  • Business Analysts (BAs)
  • Former BAs
  • Returning Summer BAs (SBAs)
  • Returning Summer Associates (SAs)
  • Early-tenure Associates who have not been assessment trained

Go To Recruiters With Questions About the Interview Process

Recruiters are the most knowledgeable sources for information and advice on the interview process - topics like how to apply, when to submit your resume, or how to participate in networking events like coffee chats and the on-campus company presentation.  McKinsey Recruiters also facilitate decision meetings so they know the types of things consultants weigh and debate when deciding whether or not to pass a candidate to the next round or make them a job offer.

Some Recruiters Have Interviewing Experience

Some Recruiters, especially the more senior ones, are former consultants and might have been assessment trained, conducted interviews, and attended decision meetings.  They will have valuable insights into all aspects of McKinsey interviews and the interview process.


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