What's the best way to get a job at McKinsey?

17 January
21 February
You’ll find it hard to work under such pressure without a sense of humor.

Creating an unrivalled environment for exceptional people – this is one of the key values of the McKinsey company. But what does it mean to be exceptional? Which qualities should such person have? Here are some useful pieces of advice you should have in mind if you want to build a career in the Consulting World.

  • The main characteristic of a successful newcomer is self-discipline. You must be capable of setting a problem, and defining the resources and opportunities for solving it. You must have a picture of an ultimate result in your head.
  • Get rid of prejudices. For instance, if you are asked to evaluate the volume of a country’s chocolate market, it doesn’t mean that you’re expected to calculate only chocolate bars.
  • Clarify. Always clarify and make concrete what you are required to in do dealing with a particular industry.
  • Time-management. You must determine the precise time you need to perform a task. It will allow you to compose a plan correctly, and you will not let your project manager down.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Someone has probably already done your task, so don’t waste time reinventing the wheel.
  • Prioritise. The amount of work always exceeds the amount of time for completing it. Learn to tell important things from insignificant ones.
  • Standards. McKinsey has developed a range of work standards within the company. Follow the rules and you’ll avoid running intro trouble for inappropriate work.
  • Find something interesting in each problem. Exhausting months or even years inside one project may lead to job burnout and loss of motivation.
  • Development. Never let up. The company operates an “Up or Out” system: once you’ve been with the company for half a year (or once a year) you will either be promoted or dismissed according to your results. 
  • Learn to cope with stress, overwork and frustration. It will happen 20 times a day so you’d better be able to deal with it.
  • Humour. You’ll find it hard to work under such pressure without a sense of humour. You’ll need to keep being optimistic and get on well with your colleagues.
  • Let go of shyness. Problem-solving, negotiations and appointments all mean that you’ll need to communicate clearly and easily, and get the necessary information from the person you’re talking to. The model is “facts-summary-conclusion” – you’ll need to be a clear and forthright communicator to work within it.

Prepare for the McKinsey Problem Solving Test. This is the key part of McKinsey recruitment and there is no substitute for experience here. There is a huge variety of materials for PST preparation on the Internet, including those from McKinsey itself. Practice, practice and practice again. Start two months before you apply – it will cut the stress and enable you to be confident with the PST.

Prepare carefully for your interview. Interviews consist of two parts – the “about me” part and a case. A lot of people think that the first part is insignificant and forget about it, but they’re seriously mistaken. You must be a person with a story, and that means three stories for each instance as you will have several interviews. Learn them by heart and rehearse so you can tell them in a natural way, not like a robot.

Do not stick to existing frameworks, they do not help a lot in real life.

Regarding the cases, everything is on the Internet and I would especially recommend Victor Chang’s course. Again, practice – with friends, with your colleagues or any McKinsey employees that you know. They always understand how to solve the sort of problems that McKinsey comes up with. Remember, a case is always a story, so learn how to tell a good story. Do not stick to existing frameworks, they do not help a lot in real life. None of the projects comes from a ready template. They are all about creativity.

A final piece of advice: don’t be afraid of seeking out recruiters and McKinsey employees in your city. They are all kind and outgoing people, and they’ll be happy to answer the most difficult questions about selection process. Communication is the key. If you’re going to make an appointment, make it close to the office and don’t waste their time (they don’t have a lot of it) on pointless conversations. Google all the questions first – a lot of information is available online.

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