The McKinsey recruiting process is a relatively standardized process that can be broken down into a few different buckets:
- Job for which you are recruiting:
- Business Analyst jobs (undergraduate candidates; professionals with a few years of experience)
- Associate jobs (MBA and advanced degree candidates)
- Process through which you are interviewing
- “Entry point” into McKinsey
- Target school
- All other entry points
The recruitment process differs based on which “path” you are following – most notably, the timelines and the types of events you may attend differ based on whether you are an on-cycle or off-cycle candidate and based on whether you are coming from a target school or another route. The most standardized process is on-cycle on campus recruiting from a target school.
This article will share additional information on the McKinsey recruiting process for undergraduates and advanced degree candidates as well as additional resources, tips and tricks for the recruiting process.
Table of Contents:
- McKinsey Recruiting Process
- McKinsey Recruiting Events
- Common Questions
- McKinsey Recruitment Resources
McKinsey Recruiting Process
The McKinsey recruiting process is a relatively regimented process that is designed to narrow down the candidate pool from >200K applicants. In fact, the McKinsey recruitment process is considered one of the most competitive processes in the corporate world with just a ~1% acceptance rate. For reference, Harvard’s acceptance rate is ~5%.
The McKinsey recruiting process consists of several steps including:
- Application / resume and cover letter screens – see Management Consulted’s guides for resumes here and cover letters here.
- McKinsey Problem Solving Test (note: not all candidates are required to take the PST, and most US offices have phased out the requirement) – see Management Consulted’s guide for the Problem Solving Test here.
- Recruiter screen
- Interviews with consulting professionals (consists of the Personal Experience Interview and case interviews) – see Management Consulted’s guides for the PEI here and the case interview here.
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McKinsey Recruiting Cycle
McKinsey has two main cycles for recruiting: on-cycle and off-cycle. On-cycle generally refers to interviewing in the fall and starting in conjunction with a large cohort, generally in the summer / fall months. Undergrad, MBA, and APD recruiting are generally on-cycle.
Professional hires generally go through off-cycle recruiting and can interview for McKinsey throughout the year.
McKinsey Recruiting Timeline
The McKinsey recruiting timeline differs by the path you use to get into the process. Generally, recruiting for full time roles is in the fall whereas recruiting off cycle can be anytime during the year. While the recruiting process for on campus recruiting is generally clear, it can be more nebulous and bespoke for off-cycle candidates. As such, the best advice for off-cycle recruiting is to always clarify the recruiting timeline directly with a McKinsey recruiter. While off-cycle candidates can interview year round, we’ve found the best times to apply are spring (March-May) and late summer (July-September).
McKinsey Undergrad Recruiting
The undergrad recruiting process can often creep up on you, with McKinsey offering freshmen and sophomore internships primarily to diverse candidates. McKinsey also offers a more robust internship program for students finishing their junior year that is a feeder program for full time opportunities. The key to undergrad recruiting is to network and to express interest through attending events…it is also important to prep, prep, and do more prep for the interviews, as the process can move quickly.
Application deadlines for undergraduate students start to appear in July, so word to the wise: begin your prep in the spring!
McKinsey MBA Recruiting
The McKinsey MBA recruiting process is similar to the undergrad process. However, the expectations for MBA candidates are generally higher than the expectations for undergraduate candidates. In addition, there is less time to network with McKinsey professionals, so it is important to be on your A game.
Internship application drops are usually in November, with interviews taking place in January. Interviews for full time roles take place in September. For more information on the McKinsey MBA recruiting process and to see a list of MBA McKinsey recruiting events, please click here.
McKinsey APD Recruiting (Advanced Professional Degree)
McKinsey consciously recruits advanced professional degree candidates. In fact, over 50% of consultants have an advanced professional degree. Generally, the interview process for APDs is like the interview process for MBAs. However, the timelines differ – application drops happen in June/July and interviews take place in July/August.
We always recommend that advanced professional degree candidates apply to McKinsey Insight, which is the firm’s selective APD program that takes place every spring. For more information on the McKinsey APD process, please see McKinsey’s website here and here.
McKinsey Recruiting Events
McKinsey hosts different types of recruiting events to help them connect with prospective consulting candidates. If you’re attending a target school, you’ll have a little easier access. But even if you’re not at a target school, it’s still possible to successfully get recruited. So see more on that, check out our article on Breaking Into McKinsey From a Non-Target School.
McKinsey Campus Recruiting
McKinsey campus recruiting refers to when McKinsey representatives will come to your campus to conduct events (info sessions; coffee chats; dinners; etc.) and then eventually come back to your school to conduct interviews. McKinsey generally does campus recruiting at target schools (see below for more info!).
McKinsey Target Schools
McKinsey Target Schools Undergrad
The McKinsey target schools for undergrad are relatively predictable, spanning the Ivy League and other top tier schools (e.g., Northwestern, Duke, etc.). The full list of schools ordered alphabetically is:
- University of Michigan
- Notre Dame
- University of Texas at Austin
For more details on McKinsey’s representation across target schools, please see Management Consulted’s article here.
McKinsey Target Schools MBA
The McKinsey target schools for MBA recruiting are what you may expect (e.g., HBS, Wharton, Stanford GSB, and other MBA programs with name recognition). Per our research, the following schools are McKinsey target schools for MBA recruiting.
- Anderson School of Management (University of California-Los Angeles)
- Booth School of Business (University of Chicago)
- Columbia Business School (Columbia University)
- Darden School of Business (University of Virginia)
- Fuqua School of Business (Duke University)
- Haas School of Business (University of California-Berkeley)
- Harvard Business School (Harvard University)
- Johnson Graduate School of Management (Cornell University)
- Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University)
- Kenan-Flagler Business School (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
- Ross School of Business (University of Michigan)
- Sloan School of Management (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Stanford Graduate School of Business (Stanford University)
- Stern School of Business (New York University)
- The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania)
- Tuck School of Business (Dartmouth College)
- Yale School of Management (Yale University)
Generally, the target school list that McKinsey uses is a bit narrower than the ones used by Bain and BCG. For more information on MBA target schools, please see the Management Consulted article on MBB target schools here.
When Does McKinsey Recruit?
As mentioned earlier in the article, the timeline for McKinsey recruiting differs by what type of process you are going for. While on-campus recruiting is generally in the fall for full-time positions, the timeline for off-cycle recruiting (or even internships) may vary. The best way to ensure you do not miss a deadline is to either check your school’s campus recruiting website, go to a larger McKinsey event where they nearly always post the main deadlines, or stay up-to-date through MC’s deadline tracker. Contacting your recruiter is generally the best step if you are going through an off-cycle process.
Where Does McKinsey Recruit Besides Target Schools?
Outside of the target schools, McKinsey doesn’t have a hard and fast list of schools it recruits from. However, in 2021, the firm hired analysts from more than 370 universities, so don’t discount your chances just because you’re not at a target school! It is easier to get your foot in the door if you are at a school where a lot of alumni went on to work at McKinsey. If you are a non-target candidate, networking is key – see below for more details.
How Long Does McKinsey Recruitment Process Take?
The McKinsey recruitment process generally takes place within one to a few months, depending on the route that you are taking. On campus recruiting generally has a shorter and more defined timeline, given a lot of the interview dates are pre-set. If you have an exploding offer from another firm or company, tell your recruiter – the firm will generally shift its timelines in these circumstances.
Questions To Ask McKinsey Recruiter
At the end of the phone screen with the McKinsey recruiter, there will always be an opportunity to ask questions. You should come prepared with questions that are both process-oriented and content-oriented, with more focus on the content-oriented questions. Ideally, the content-oriented questions should show that you care about an opportunity at McKinsey given the fit it would be for you (not just because it is a prestigious firm). Example questions include:
- What does the recruiting process look like and what is the associated timeline?
- I would love to learn more about the women in business group in the New York Office given my involvement with a women in business club at NYU Stern. May you put me in touch with the right point of contact to learn more about the program?
- From what I understand, one thing that stands out about McKinsey is the ability to make your own McKinsey. May you elaborate on that more?
McKinsey Recruitment Resources
McKinsey Recruiting Podcast
The McKinsey recruiting podcast answers common questions from candidates and allows candidates to learn more about McKinsey employees. For more information on the podcast, please click here. You can also learn more about the McKinsey recruiting process through our podcast Strategy Simplified. New episodes drop twice weekly.
McKinsey Recruiting Videos
McKinsey also publishes videos focused on the recruiting process. Three good videos are:
Find more helpful McKinsey recruiting videos on our YouTube channel.
McKinsey Case Interviews
During the recruiting process, you must be prepared for the challenge that is a McKinsey case interview. McKinsey case interviews are unique as they are command and control style and often designed around a small number of distinct questions. For more information on McKinsey case interviews, please see Management Consulted’s article here.
McKinsey Resume and Cover Letter
To get an interview at McKinsey, it is essential to have an A+ resume. Resume screeners may be reading 20+ resumes at a time, so it is important to have a crisp, action-oriented resume that stands out. For more information on the McKinsey resume, please click here.
While the cover letter will not get you an interview by itself, it can stop you from getting one if it’s not (e.g., if you write your letter to BCG, not McKinsey). In addition, a strong cover letter that distinctly pinpoints why you want to work at McKinsey can move a borderline candidate over the line. For more information on the McKinsey cover letter, please click here.
Given how competitive the process is overall and the incremental difficulty of getting into McKinsey from a non-target school, it is important to network, network, and network some more. Consulting is a human capital driven business – because of this, the industry takes its recruitment and screening of human capital seriously. This begins during the networking process! Networking can enable you to have a warm intro to the firm and can help you get a sense of the firm’s culture. For an inside look at networking, please see Management Consulted’s overview here.
While the McKinsey recruiting process is structured for candidates completing on-cycle recruiting from target schools, the process is more bespoke for candidates completing off-cycle recruiting and for candidates from non-target schools. When in doubt over the process or the timeline, it is best to seek clarity from the recruiter or contact our team, given you do not want to miss a deadline.
The McKinsey recruiting process can move quickly, so it is important to be fully prepped by the time you start the process. Book one-on-one interview prep with an ex-McKinsey consultant today!
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