Writing McKinsey Resumes

Application Documents Writing McKinsey Resumes


This podcast examines the 5 “hard” elements McKinsey looks for in a resume. Yet, the main value of this podcast is in discussing the things McKinsey looks for but is very hard to quantify and describe; what is the best bullet to write, what is an achievement oriented bullet, should education go to the top or bottom, should GMAT scores be included etc. These subtle inclusions all contribute to your resume profile and in our experience, we have never seen a resume that did not have to be substantially re-written.

Training by ex-McK, BCG et al. Partners

Receive free exclusive episodes to advanced strategy and case interview training programs, plus a chapter from Bill Matassoni's Memoir. This is the ONLY way to sample FC Insider material.

Where else can you learn from ex-partners?

Sign up to receive exclusive FC Insider episodes. Start now:

Privacy Policy


14 responses to Writing McKinsey Resumes

  1. Hi Kate,

    Now I understand! You are correct that the resume is the first hurdle to overcome and it is important. However, one small mistake is assuming the step after fixing the resume is the interview. Many applicants are non-traditional in that they do not have a profile that HR can easily assess. For example, they may be a 36 year old from industry or even a undergrad with an unusual background. In these situations, a good candidate can be rejected because HR is not able to determine their fit. So the solution is to network with someone who has 1) the ability to assess an unusual profile and 2) the authority to override HR and/or bring in the applicant for an interview. The networking process is actually very hard for non-traditional profiles because it means building a rapport with the partner and essentially convincing them to bring you in for an interview. In effect, it means preparing you for a fit interview and sometimes even a mini case all before the actual interviews. So all of these things are needed before an interview and it is not just about fixing the resume.

    If you apply to our programs we will assess your resume to determine if it could meet the requirements. Then, we may invite you to an interview to further assess your profile. There may be more than one interview and you can also ask all the questions needed. If we still feel you could possibly be placed, we will only then extend an offer for you to join our program. We will do so with a letter which explains the problems we see in your profile. You can then make a fully informed decision of whether or not you want to accept our offer to join the program. We select <10% of applicants and given the effort in our selection process, it does not make sense to apply this process only to admit someone to edit their resume.

    Our program is tailored to these types of applicants - those with challenging profiles or unusual circumstances. If you have a very strong profile and do not need such help, then by all means you should apply directly after the resume editing it done.


  2. Yes, sure. The point I was making is that in my humble opinion, a person needs to sort out his CV. As you said in the podcast yourself, it might take weeks of work. So, why would I buy the whole package i.e. case study preparation if I don’t know if my resume is good enough even to get through?

  3. Hi Eka,

    I do not understand your question since it is not written in a clear manner. It is ambiguous:-) You need to fix your resume and that is done as part of the coaching and if you subscribe to TCO you can see us edit resumes.

    If you could explain your question in a clear way, I am sure we can answer it.


  4. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for the response. What I am thinking is that one’s resume will open – or not – the doors. So, if the resume is not fixed, what’s the point of a person to check on cases studies? Just thinking aloud.


  5. Hello Eka.

    Thanks for the comments. The resume writing, if needed, is done within the hours allocated to coaching a client. Some clients do it themselves while watching TCO, but some do it with us within the coaching hours. We do not offer separate resume writing services. We find that a appropriate service requires us to know the client well and offering a once-off 2-hr package, while financially lucrative, will not allow us to produce the appropriate quality of service. That is why we do not offer it as a standalone service.


  6. Hi Michael,
    It was very ‘meaty’ podcast. Michael, I have checked the service offering but did not see a resume help. Is it a sort of complimentary services?

  7. You are welcome.

  8. Hi Michael – just a quick comment to say that I found this podcast useful. As an experienced hire I have received mixed messages on where to position education on my resume (pre vs post work experience), so was glad to have this addressed directly by you. Look forward to more experienced hire specific tips during my listening.

  9. Sami,

    As mentioned above, it really depends on which practice you intend joining, not your starting point. Implementation Group has lower salaries, different career paths and lower requirements.

    Personally, it is a bad idea for McKinsey to fragment their partnership to do this, but time will prove this point.


  10. Very interesting. Are the criteria exact same for people applying to consulting from industry?

  11. Hi AM,

    There is honestly nothing else we will look at – no other confirmation is necessary. Remember, I was the partner making the final say on hiring and rarely did such resumes get through to me from the recruiter.

    If it did, I would speak to the recruiter or recruiting director about tightening standards. And I did that a lot.

    The view we take is that you spent 3/4 years of your life not trying to excel. That is a long time. That lack of a track record of excellence makes us worry about how you will manage things in the future. I am not at all being mean but we think why it was okay for you to just be at school for so long and not excel.

    You may have extenuating circumstances like working, being ill, being born in violent country, not speaking English in a country where the language of instruction was English or having to flee a war torn country. Yet, that will not help you.

    First, it only explains why you performed below your potential. We still do not know if your potential was just average or exceptional. So without those extenuating circumstances we do not know if you would graduate with distinctions. The majority of average to below average students have no extenuating circumstances.

    Second, and this is the big one, at McKinsey and BCG there are a lot of examples of people who excelled despite medical, language, refugee status etc.

    I have personally hired/known/mentored the following types of consultants:

    – Arrived at HBS with no English skills and needed to use a dictionary for exams and reading cases – graduated as a Baker Scholar.

    – Fled the former Soviet Union with no degrees at 21 and ended up at McKinsey, as the top hire in that year.

    – A burn victim who was hospitalized during his last 2 years at school and went on to graduate first and join BCG.

    – Starts his education at 25 and bangs out a degree and MBA in 4 years graduating with distinctions and 100% in just about everything. English again was not the first language, no money, no family support etc.

    These are extreme examples, but there are other less extreme examples.

    For these two reasons above, firms are unwilling to take the risk. We look for demonstrated competency and not potential competency since everyone has potential but may never reach it.

    Hope that helps. Did not mean to be harsh – that is the last thing I would want to do to any person. Though I feel having the facts will allow you to plan better.

    There will always be exceptions, but they should not be used as a guide.


  12. Tough but true. I’m glad you even cared to comment, and I see your point about the MBA—especially if you consider the cost vs impact of doing it at an elite school.

    You said that you also were involved in hiring during your consulting career. I wonder if you can share what thoughts form in a recruiter’s mindset when they see a GPA (especially a bad one like mine). What kind of “functional” judgements they make, and what else would they look for in order to confirm or negate those hypotheses?

    I ask this just to understand what kind of “alternative” factors a person in my situation may be able to employ to lessen the impact of a lackluster academic credentials in the mind of a Big 3 recruiter. Sorry if my persistence offends.

  13. Hi AM,

    I generally like to encourage people but a 2.84 GPA is not likely to lead to an offer – at McKinsey, BCG or Bain anyway in the general roles. When I was a partner I never personally hired someone with a GPA below 3.5 or 3.6 (I cannot recall the actual number but we generally looked for distinctions).

    While saying “Finishing GPA” is not really lying by omission since you say “Finishing”, it is the same as setting up an online dating profile, saying you have blond hair, blue eyes, are a male doctor and managing to set up a date.

    Now assuming you have black hair, brown eyes and work at Burger King, your date is going to find out the difference eventually, which negates the need to set up the date in the first place.

    There is no point applying and getting the interview if the request for transcripts will eventually show the lower grades.

    All other things being equal, undergraduate GPA is more important than your MBA GPA.

    I was trying to think of an easy way to make this point but I really do not want you to spend time and get disappointed. Maybe consider doing another degree if you would like to, but always think about whether or not it is worth it. It may not be. That is one reason MBA programs are popular – candidates seek redemption and it works in just a few cases.

    I cannot speak for the other firms so please think about them as an alternative choice. McKinsey Implementation Group also hires on very different standards so you want to look at them or even the McKinsey Digital practices.


  14. Hello Michael,
    I wonder if you could share your opinion on how handle mentioning GPA on a consulting resume –if it isn’t good.
    Say in my own case I have a cumulative GPA of 2.84 and I did relatively well in the last 3-4 semesters at school (3.27, 3.33, and 3.80). Would saying something like “Finishing GPA: 3.8” etc count for lying by omission? Or should a person like me completely leave the GPA off the resume? Or just say “Cumulative GPA: 2.84”? Any other way?
    As always, thanks for the great content and this time also for the nice new email notification feature.


Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.