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It's a Numbers GameEven though McKinsey is a large Firm with thousands of active consultants, it can only send interviewers to a finite number of schools each season. For interview days at big MBA programs that send many graduates to McKinsey (e.g., HBS, Wharton, Kellogg), the Firm will send dozens of consultants, often at the expense of client engagements. So, the Firm fishes where the fish are. In other words, McKinsey focuses its efforts on the programs that are likely to have the best candidates and the most potential hires as a percentage of candidates interviewed.
Track Records of SuccessPerformance in past years can inform how much attention a school gets from McKinsey. Schools that have candidates who do well in interviews, accept their offers, and do well at the Firm can create a virtuous cycle. Those successes can then encourage McKinsey to return to campus to recruit more candidates who will go on to do well at the Firm, encouraging more interviews, and so on. This results in a robust pipeline of talent that can be relied upon to provide good hires year in and year out.
The reverse can also happen. While I was at the Firm, a McKinsey office complex dropped a certain Top 5 MBA program from its list of "core" schools after too many that b-school's students accepted McKinsey WCO job offers, then reneged.
Pre-screened CandidatesMost companies, including McKinsey, benefit from the de facto pre-screening that top schools provide via their admissions process. First, they only admit high-potential, high-performing, high-character applicants - the kinds of students who could make great McKinsey consultants. Second, only the brightest, hardest-working students - grade inflation aside - will earn the kinds of GPAs that will earn invitations to interview.
The Firm knows there might be great candidates at less selective programs. We also see plenty of bad candidates at good schools. But, overall, the caliber of candidates we see at the best schools is incredibly high, which encourages a recruiting focus.
Performance Matters, Not PedigreeAlthough the Firm tends to focus on programs with sterling reputations, it's because of the quality of candidates, not the name of the school. I was pleasantly surprised to see how little McKinsey consultants, engagement teams, and leadership seem to care about where someone went to school. For example, during staffing, I have never heard of a McKinsey Partner or Engagement Manager asking where a potential engagement team member went to school - the questions are always about what their strengths and opportunity areas are and what their semi-annual review ("SAR") ratings have been.
As long as you have what it takes to "clear the bar" during interviews, and are diligent about getting into the interview process at the right time, you can a) can pass the resume screen, b) do well on your interviews, and c) get a job offer strictly based on the merits of your performance, regardless of where you go to school.