The Top 5 Reasons Why an MBA Will Help You Break Into McKinsey

Do you need to have an MBA to break into McKinsey? The short answer is no – you do not have to have an MBA to break into McKinsey. Didn’t Michael Wolf, former Director of McKinsey’s Global Media & Entertainment Practice, do it with a BA in international politics from Columbia? Here at Management Consulted we’ve known candidates, and have even coached a few, who got offers with McKinsey with no MBA. Some of them were just out of undergrad, others had Advanced Professional Degrees (JD, MD, etc.), and others were experts in their field.

So does that mean you have the same chances at breaking into McKinsey with or without an MBA? Not exactly.

You may not have to go to business school to get an interview with The Firm, but an MBA is still the best way to break into McKinsey.

McKinsey’s reputation for creating CEOs and other business leaders speaks for itself. There’s a long list of McKinsey alum who are proof that a career at McKinsey will take you places. And there’s more than 1 reason why the most prestigious management consulting firm has been a top destination for MBAs for 75+ years.

Here are the top 5 reasons why an MBA is great for breaking into McKinsey.

1) You’re Making It Easy For Recruiters

McKinsey recruits MBA candidates for 2 reasons. #1, it’s easy – they’ve set up a recruiting system that’s super efficient for them, targeting the best schools, and #2, the success ratio from target MBA programs is higher, meaning they have to spend less time and money on finding candidates they want.

When you’re an MBA candidate at a target school, you’re already part of the recruiting pool. You’ve been automatically granted access to the secret recruiting system of the firm.

2) You’re Demonstrating Consulting Skills

With an MBA from a top-tier school, you’re demonstrating that you have the baseline skills and characteristics required in a consultant, like the ability to multi-task, awesome prioritization skills, and a results-oriented approach.

3) You’ve Answered The “Why consulting” Question

When candidates apply from random backgrounds – imagine a dual degree in philosophy and math, a stint with Teach for America, and a summer internship with the State Department – their applications beg the question, “why is this person interested in consulting?” With an MBA, you’ve already answered that, so the focus is less on “why consulting?” and more on “why our firm?”

4) You’ve Created A Valuable Network

You’ll make some great connections in your MBA program. Lots of the people you went to school with will one day be leaders, experts, and business owners in their own industries. Your access to these people gives McKinsey access to them – as future clients.

5) It’s Been Proven

McKinsey hires MBAs – it’s a fact. Some people have even spent time proving it – like in Bloomberg’s Top MBA schools McK hired from and Top 25 b-schools to attend if you want to secure a career with MBB.

We just covered all the reasons you SHOULD get an MBA if you want to work at McKinsey, but what if you’re not in that boat? Maybe you want to break in after undergrad, or mid-career? What are your options then?

Here are 3 ways you can break into McKinsey without an MBA.

1)     Networking

Access your network to connect with current or former McKinsey consultants. Use tools like LinkedIn to hone in on people you know who know McKinsey-ites. Your goal is NOT to ask for a job. The key is to get advice – recruiting insights, resume feedback, info on which offices are hiring, which locations are more competitive, etc. Leverage insiders to get your application in front of a recruiter. If you’re in dire straits, get MC’s Networking Bible that explains, step-by-step how to build relationships with consultants and recruiters to network your way into an interview.

2)     Strong Undergrad Education

McKinsey does have an undergrad recruiting program, so if you stand out as an exceptional undergrad, you’ve got a chance at joining the firm as a Business Analyst. Here are the 4 key components you’ll need to demonstrate in your undergrad application:

  • Pedigree – Ivy League and other top brand name schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley are best
  • Degree – Economics, Business, Finance, etc. show your ability to be analytical. Unrelated degrees can be a much harder sell (Spanish, Communications, etc.)
  • GPA – The higher the better. You won’t even be considered if you’re below a 3.5.
  • Leadership – Something very impressive, like Student Body President, prestigious awards and honors, etc.

3)     Expertise In A Specific Area

Obtained either through an advanced degree (JD, PhD, Masters) or through work experience in a particular field (health care, medical, operations, law, IT). In both cases, you’re demonstrating that you’re an expert in your field. Just having worked in an area for 10 years doesn’t make you an expert…the time itself must be backed up with expertise. The more you know about something very few people understand, the more attractive you’ll be to the firm.

What’s a typical bio look like for a McKinsey consultant who broke in without an MBA? These will give you an idea. Enjoy!

Brett, Engagement Manager in the U.S. with a BA from Columbia

Jennifer, Business Analyst in Manila with a BSc from Ateneo de Manila University

Naomi, Associate in Japan with a BA from Keio University

Richard, Business Analyst in London with a BS from University of Warwick

Have specific questions about breaking into McKinsey, with or without an MBA? Schedule a Power Half Hour with one of our ex-MBB consultants!

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