We are the only firm worldwide using ex-partners. We do this because we believe only partners who make the final hiring decision in the final round case interview should be training you.
My name is Kris Safarova and I am the CEO FIRMSconsulting.com and the holding company The Strategy Media Group LLC. I work with a network of eminent ex-McKinsey, BCG et al. partners, like Kevin, Bill, Michael etc. who produce all the content on the site and run our coaching programs.
Since 2010, when FIRMSconsulting.com was founded, I have assembled a universe of digital platforms teaching case interviews and business strategy. Our goal is not only to get you into McKinsey but to help you succeed far beyond the firm. We see McKinsey and BCG as mere stepping stones and while we focus on case interviews, we use ex-partners to equip clients with the broader thinking skills to solve mankind’s toughest problems.
I have noticed one thing in common with everyone who either comments on FIRMSconsulting.com or our case interviews podcast channel which is ranked #1 in the world for case interviews: everyone is unsure of what to do and/or starting with little prior knowledge of cases.
I know it can be scary. It can seem overwhelming and intimidating. You may not even live in a country with a McKinsey office. I am here to tell you that with focus, the right attitude and deliberate preparation you can do very well.
I know this to be true since we have coached >1,200 clients into elite consulting firms, with an 80% success rate for McKinsey, Bain, and BCG. We coach clients trying to enter McKinsey and BCG at all levels from business analyst to equity partner.
We also run the unique TCO program where partners take real participants and coach them for McKinsey, BCG et al. interviews. We record this process and make it available to clients. We have always successfully placed a participant in every season and we are now in the 6th season.
Successful coaching and TCO candidates have typically failed in their past attempts into MBB, before working with us. We selected such clients with challenging backgrounds because it allows us to show clients that anyone can get in. If they can do well, so can you if you put in the required effort with sufficient time.
My final advice is to have fun doing this. Do it for the right reasons. Do it to learn the skills to solve really complex business problems and make a genuine difference in the world.
Management consulting is such a tough field that if you are doing it for just the money or prestige, it is unlikely you will last long. Our goal is not to get you into McKinsey. Our goal is to prepare you for a great career that comes within and after McKinsey.
Different websites will offer different definitions for a case interview. I am going to offer you the explanations our partners use when training TCO participants, coaching case interview clients or producing the numerous podcasts and Youtube videos we produce.
This is meant to be a practical definition that you can use to improve your results in actual interviews.
A case interview is one part of the interview process that consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain etc., use to determine if you should be hired, but it is not the overall interview process.
This is an important definition.
Newcomers to the case interview process or casual readers use the term case interview to collectively refer to the entire interview process when the case component is actually just one part of the overall interview process.
Other common parts of the overall interview process built around the case interview include:
(1) PST (Problem Solving Test)
(2) PEI/FIT Interviews (Personal Experience Interview)
(3) General small talk where fit is being assessed
(4) Estimation questions
(5) Brainstorming questions
(6) Brainteasers (uncommon at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain)
Below you can see the type of interview you will have is determined by your educational level.
For someone joining as a Business Analyst at McKinsey, you may never receive a full case interview. Your interview experience may only comprise the 6 steps above.
PhDs and some other advanced degree holders like lawyers will go through all 6 steps above but may also go through more than one case interview, including a group case interview.
Your interview format can also be driven by the seniority you wish to join.
Someone hoping to join McKinsey as a Principal will go through all 6 steps plus case interviews, including interviews with more than one partner and senior partner.
Someone hoping to join McKinsey as an Equity Partner (Director) will usually only meet other partners and senior partners. There will be no cases, no PST and it’s largely PEI.
Your interview format can also be driven by the part of McKinsey, BCG or Bain you intend to join
McKinsey Implementation applicants go through more detailed FIT/PEI questions to see how they were able to influence colleagues to change their behavior on critical path tasks, without alienating or sidelining the colleague.
McKinsey Solutions applicants will receive cases but the structure and approach are unique to that part of solutions. The case may look nothing like a typical case or may resemble a typical case. In some parts, you may need to build a model as part of the interview.
So here is another definition of a case interview.
A case interview is that part of the interview process where the firm tests your ability to solve a general business problem where there is either so much information or paths to the solution, that the interview must bring some order/structure to co-solve the problem with the interviewer.
The part about co-solving is important. Interviewers always have tips, data, hints, and guidance to offer, but they will slowly release it over the duration of the case interview. The role of the interviewee is to manage the case interview so that the interviewer offers this advice. This is what we mean by co-solving. The interviewee must find ways to extract this information versus trying to do everything by themselves.
FIRMSconsulting.com teaches all steps of the overall case interview process, including the case interview itself.
We practice seven values. We impart seven values.
Our values define us and our independence is sacrosanct. Every decision we make at FIRMSconsulting and every action we take is always in keeping with our curated value system. We always place our clients’ interest first and do not disclose client identities. We treat client information as if it were our own. We make recommendations which we would personally follow, no matter how unpopular or controversial they may be.
We are not a business. We are a philosophy practiced by professionals who view ethical business as the highest calling. We use a simple test to determine if we are honoring our principles: can we routinely cite instances were we declined a potentially lucrative deal because it was not in keeping with our value system? We believe there is no point in having principles if we refuse to follow them when it counts the most.
As a member of the FIRMSconsulting community, users and readers must adhere to our value system.
Our decisions do not compromise our values.
We are not a value-driven organization pursuing profits. We are a values-driven organization following an internal code of conduct which we always place before monetary gain. Our independence allows us to routinely disagree with clients and share unpopular ideas when doing so places a client’s best interests before our own. We build long-term client relationships and champion counter-intuitive views which may be unpopular to hear, and difficult to execute, but are required to bring about the required changes in clients.
We display the highest standards of professional integrity.
Both during our pursuit of your goals and thereafter, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of professional conduct. We honor our commitments. We hold our clients to equally high standards.
We manage our clients’ resources and reputations as if they were our own.
We bring the best of the Firm to every client relationship and may take unpopular steps to enhance our clients’ reputations. We take great pride in refusing to follow conventional wisdom when the data suggests a different approach.
We practice intellectual humility.
We generously dispense advice while engaging stakeholders on the belief that respect is a right. It need not be earned. We treat all clients in a manner demonstrating our belief they will one day take a leadership role.
We keep all information confidential.
We do not advertise nor market ourselves nor disclose confidential information. We best serve our clients by only enacting discrete initiatives to support their ambitions.
We let our impact speak for itself.
We do not advertise. We do not sell. We do not solicit clients. We strictly work on a referral basis. Our intentions and results will determine our destiny.
We strive to develop balanced consulting leaders.
We will develop our clients’ will, character, capacity, and capability to accomplish their goals.
Every client in both coaching and TCO is always unsure of their performance on the day of the last interview. This has been consistent across all the years, countries, degrees and entry levels. Clients may be optimistic but they are just not sure. And how can they know what will happen? Much is outside their control.
What do you think happens after they receive an offer?
While they may initially be unsure, we find that almost all clients eventually decide that they know with absolute certainty why they received an offer.
Some believe it was because their PEI was excellent.
Others believe it was their networking.
Some believe it was because they practiced 120 cases.
Everyone believes they know exactly why they received an offer with a great degree of confidence.
They take this knowledge, from just one experience and some anecdotal evidence from colleagues, and begin extrapolating it when they offer advice to everyone.
If Ekta did not have a problem getting an interview, she will assume all interviews are very easy to obtain.
If Rohan faced an interviewee-led case at McKinsey, he assumes everyone should expect this.
If Zhifei shared the same background as the interviewer, then that must be the reason she received the offer and she will assume everyone should look for similarities with their interviewer.
Consultants and ex-consultants tend to take their singular experience and assume it is representative of all experiences that all case interview applicants will go through.
Firms and even offices are not homogenous. That is a mistake many applicants make. What works in one office will loosely work everywhere but there are huge differences.
Firms are also legally risk averse in stating the real reason an applicant was denied. Firms always present reasons for a denial or offer in language that is legally defensible even if it may not be the correct reason.
Let’s explain this in a different way, and why you should be critical in any advice you receive, no matter how well weaning.
If Ekta received an offer at Bain it is very possible that Bain’s first choice for that role, Rajesh, took another offer and Ekta was the backup offer.
Bain would never tell her this but of course, this happens very often. In general, if you do not receive a call within 5 minutes of leaving the interview, you were not the first choice since the firm had to think about the decision.
In her mind, any advice Ekta offers would be about how she was good enough for the role. However, the reality is her advice is really about how to be the lucky one who was the backup.
There is a cultural ranking of the firms where many assume McKinsey is better than BCG which is better than Bain which is better than etc. When someone tells you why they selected a firm it is usually a case where they had no offers from their first choice firm and had to settle for just one offer. It was not really in their control.
When someone says I chose to work at BCG because of the culture, it is usually the case they ended up with BCG because McKinsey declined them. It is the rare applicant who receives offers from 2 or 3 firms and is making a true choice.
Firms do not know if you will succeed when they hire you. That is why they have an up and out policy. Think about being hired as an audition to be a partner. If the firms do not know if a successful hire will succeed, how can the hire know?
The point is to be very careful with the advice you receive from consultants and ex-consultants because no one really and truly knows why they received the offer, no matter their convictions about why they received the offer.
Without really knowing why and how an offer was extended (or declined) do not try to precisely follow and understand feedback and advice. There are just a few things you need to do well and it better to focus on that.
Across TCO and coaching >1,200 clients, we find the initial goal you have in mind determines how you prepare and how far you will go. There is nothing wrong with simply wanting to join McKinsey and hoping for the best. You may get lucky and pick up great mentors who broaden your horizons. For most, however, you will have little control over the long-term unless your goals and progress are deliberate.
We also find that it is difficult to change the long-term outcome later if you started with the wrong goal in mind. And the long-term outcome is the only outcome that matters.
Almost making it to McKinsey.
People who tried really hard and just did not make are rarely lacking in intellect and skill. They did not fail because they were not smart. They did not fail because they did not try. They did not fail because they did not follow best-practice. They did not fail because they’re bad.
Applicants who do all of the above and just fail to get an offer usually did not know what to do and how to do it. It’s not that they were bad at doing the right things. It usually because they did not do something.
This is an important distinction. If you have followed the profiles of clients like Sveta, Irina, Sanda etc., you know they had challenging backgrounds with no support. They knew nothing about business, nothing about the western world and nothing about elite strategy consulting. What they did have is a coach who knew what they needed to know and taught them these skills.
He filled the gaps in what they did not know. It’s not as if they knew what to do and needed help improving it.
Applicants who fall into this group simply lack good guidance. You need to focus on finding the right guidance. Without the right guidance, they are forced to search on Google, sift through thousands of pieces of feedback and ultimately rely on the most popular tips even if it may not work.
Relying on the most popular case interview advice online is the equivalent of noticing that the Toyota Corolla is the most prevalent car on the roads, assuming it has the best design and designing all cars to look like a Toyota Corolla. If you are doing this type of preparation then you will likely not quite make it.
Joining McKinsey but never getting Promoted
The majority of applicants just want to join McKinsey. They believe that if they just joined McKinsey everything would take care of itself. The firm will guide them through the promotions to partner, they will succeed in the industry and retire as a successful business person.
Think of it this way. When you are were trying to join McKinsey you were up against a pool of applicants with a range of skills. Most were weak, some average and a small number were good, and an even smaller number were exceptional to receive an offer.
Even within that weaker pool, it was hard. Getting the offer was not easy.
Once you join McKinsey you are up only against the good and exceptional pool who received offers. If case interviews were hard, imagine how hard real engagements must be? If you needed help to join McKinsey, shouldn’t you have a deliberate plan to excel at McKinsey beyond simply going with the flow?
All the training you receive at McKinsey is the same as all the training everyone else receives so the training’s positive impact cancels itself out. You are all by yourself.
To get promoted you need to have the mindset of understanding joining McKinsey confers no advantages on you with respect to excelling at the firm. You are essentially at the starting point again.
You need to tailor your case interview preparation not only to receive an offer, but to excel once you receive an offer. We focus on both.
Joining McKinsey and rising to EM
An Engagement Manager is essentially someone whom a partner trusts to understand the analyses and complete the analyses. In addition, they can complete the analyses not by doing it all by themselves, but by parceling out work to associates and controlling the final result.
Engagement managers essentially have such a mastery of the analyses that they can guide associates and spot problems without digging into the details or owning the details of analyses.
The inflection point most clients reach is that mastery of the analyses led to the engagement manager level, but it is not enough to move to senior engagement manager and associate manager.
Soft skills like building followers at the firm who want to be on your engagement, becoming part of a family (not a typo) within the firm, building client relationships, defending revenue streams etc., are things not explicitly taught anywhere.
Many clients believe since analytic skills took them to the engagement manager level, they try to build on this skill to get to the next level. It will not work unless a partner mentors you to the next level.
We use ex-partners to train our clients so you can see how partners work and learn to work with them. Yet, you need to explicitly start out your preparation knowing that you need a range of skills to progress.
Joining McKinsey and Rising to Partner
Partners sell work. Period.
If you find partners who write books, write articles, present at conferences, host events, appear on TV or do none of the above, know that they all have one thing in common. They know how to use the activities listed earlier to convince clients to give them a lot of money to solve problems.
So you can see there are different ways to sell aka become a partner.
We do well here and focus here since FIRMSconsulting exclusively uses ex-partners of McKinsey, BCG et al., to prepare all our content and run our coaching programs. We know how to move all the way from business analyst/associate to the partnership.
The challenge in rising to the partnership is not about knowing how to sell. That is the mistake most clients make.
Both Michael and Kevin teach separate programs on sales and they both stress this point in different ways. It’s best to think of McKinsey, BCG, and Bain as made up of mini-consulting firms each headed by a senior partner. All these senior partners choose to work together under one brand and share resources.
When you join McKinsey as an associate or business analyst, you are hired by the firm. You are then auditioning to join one of these mini-consulting firms within McKinsey that will groom you in their unique approach to selling.
Your job is to figure out how to join this mini-consulting firm and that is what we teach.
It is that mini-consulting firm headed by a senior partner that nominates you to the firm-wide partnership. The firm does not nominate you to join a senior partners’ mini-consulting team.
Knowing this and knowing how to join those senior partners’ mini-consulting firm at the junior levels is how you become good at sales at the senior level. Far too many clients focus on sales when it is far too late.
Succeeding as an ex-McKinsey Partner.
Do you think becoming a partner at McKinsey is an achievement? You would say yes if you are an associate.
What would you say on the day you were nominated a partner? Probably, still yes.
What would you say after having served as a McKinsey senior partner for 12 years? It’s probably less of an achievement.
What about 10 years after leaving McKinsey as a senior partner? It’s probably not much of an achievement.
The partnership is like the summit of a mountain. From where you are standing as an associate it seems like the final remarkable goal. As you climb it, it is all you can see. Once you get to the top and look around, you realize there are other mountains. And many of those mountains are even bigger.
Even as you are climbing the mountain your aspirations and dreams adjust. They become bigger.
Would you brag about climbing the highest peak in Wales when many others have conquered K2 and Everest?
That’s just the point being made. If you assume becoming a partner at McKinsey is the greatest prize and plan your life such that you assume things will automatically work after the partnership, it’s going to be a bleak few decades after.
Again, don’t think about the value of the partnership from your associate lens. It’s all relative to the lens you will have once you get to the partnership. Imagine the value of the partnership when you have been a partner for a few years, other more successful partners operate at the firm and younger less successful partners have gone on to become captains of industry.
We all know about the partners who become captains of industry. Many more are not so successful and end up serving on boards, starting boutique firms that eventually close or try their hands at other things that don’t do as well.
If a McKinsey partnership is the peak in your mind, then what comes next is always a descent from the peak.
Our goal is to prepare you for what comes after McKinsey. Our training is to give you the skills to join McKinsey, along with the viewpoint to understand and prepare your yourself for life after McKinsey.
We take a lifetime view of clients and try to prepare them for success in their lifetime.
We exclusively use ex-partners to prepare all our content and conduct all our coaching. Given high partner salaries, it is fair to assume they don’t need the money and don’t do this for the money. They do it because we have the platform reach literally hundreds of thousands of podcast listeners, Youtube followers, paid subscribers and coaching clients who want to change the world.
They do it because they want to scale their impact by helping others.
The partners are less enthusiastic about someone who wants to join McKinsey and sees that as the pinnacle of their career.
The partners are focused on finding those people whom they can pass their skills onto, but whom want to use these skills to join McKinsey as the starting point to solve ambitious, inspiring and challenging problems.
We focus on those clients.
We want to offer you the best possible experience and value. To do that, we need to decide whom we will serve as clients and whom we will not serve. We focus all our resources on giving the clients we choose to serve the tools they need to be successful. This is actually a good thing for everyone.
Our content tends to be longer since we explain how and why we did things. We do not provide answers but teach you how to arrive at answers by yourself.
I know we are choosing not to serve some clients. That is okay. We cannot be everything to everyone and its better for everyone, especially you, if we clearly define our ideal client.
The clients we choose to serve share several characteristics.
They understand the responsibility of being a strategy consultant. They understand it is not their right to serve a client. It is a privilege that is unregulated, non-transparent and leads to decisions that can move markets. They need to possess a strong internal compass and code of conduct. They will not abuse their power and privilege for monetary gain.
They understand that excellence takes effort, and being the best in a field does not happen overnight. There is a reason we don’t admit clients with just a few months to go before interviews. We believe it takes time to transfer all our skills to clients. It cannot be rushed and even if we could get you into McKinsey in a few weeks, which we have done very often, we want to help you succeed in the long term. Transferring a value system cannot be done quickly.
They are good people with a solid value system. We only admit applicants to our coaching programs, our flagship program, who have received a non-solicited referral from a past coaching client. We could significantly raise our revenue by accepting all applications but in this model, we know that someone we know and trust, a past client, is vetting and recommending a future client.
They want to become partners. There are some skills that only partners learn and have, that even the most gifted engagement manager will never have. We use partners. And they want to train future partners. They want to give you the skills needed to solve complex problems after you leave McKinsey or BCG.
They don’t look for shortcuts. There is a reason we don’t teach you to memorize frameworks, rather teaching you to create bespoke frameworks. Many applicants join McKinsey by memorizing frameworks, but we know that in the long term the lack of a skill to develop bespoke solutions will be an impediment. And we always take the long term view.
So there it is. That is our target audience. It is perfectly fine if you need something else that we do not offer. I feel that by being fully transparent about this, you will not be disappointed.
You do not need to spend any money, and should not spend any money, to initially develop a deep understanding of case interviews and even receive an offer. Many listeners just use our podcasts.
Our podcast channel on iTunes is ranked #1 in the world for case interviews and management consulting. It has 370 episodes and counting. It is free. Start there. Avoid complex casebooks and guides. You are not ready for that. Start simply and learn at your own pace.
Here are some tips for you when starting your preparation with our podcasts.
Start with the podcasts with sufficient time to spare. If you start early you can take your time and learn how the partners think versus skipping to all the episodes that seem important. If you are new to case interviews, you generally will not know what is important. Let the partners hosting the podcasts decide this for you.
Also, if the thought of learning about case interviews over 6 months of podcasts fatigues you, then it is generally a sign management consulting may not be a good fit for you.
Don’t take notes. Internalize and immediately practice the concepts from the podcasts. Note taking rarely works since very few people ever refer to them. Notes are there should you ever need them, but most times we lose them or ignore them. If you must take notes, jot down just a few points but immediately start applying them.
Pay attention to the non-technical episodes. The episodes about values, ethics, consulting rules etc., will help you understand management consulting in broader terms. You want to succeed and knowing this will set you up for the future.
We focus on ethics, values, and culture. This is the DNA of a successful partner and firm. You can certainly join McKinsey without knowing all of this, but the question is whether can you be the best at McKinsey and your field without knowing this?
Make it fun. Don’t set aside time to sit at a table with a notepad and pencil. The podcasts are designed to be consumed on the go. Case interviews should be fun. Test the ideas with your friends and family. Don’t turn this into tedious work. You are learning a valuable skill. It should be a fun experience.
If learning cases are difficult it is almost always because you are trying to do things you don’t understand.
Trying to learn cases without understanding the material is like trying to assemble IKEA furniture without the guide. You will not succeed. In this case, step back and focus on slowly building your skills.
Above all avoid any source that makes you feel bad about yourself. Even if you made a terrible mistake and were completely at fault it’s important to keep things in context. Anyone can get into any firm provided you have sufficient time to fix problems and sufficient will power to go out and find the right advice and apply it.
There are some building blocks to your application. If you want them to be good enough then you can prepare them in 2 to 4 weeks. But if you want to excel and are doing this all by yourself, then it makes sense to start on them as early as possible. Resume editing in particular takes a very long time.
This is going to be hard. Editing a resume is tough. It took us about 6 hours to edit the resumes of TCO participants and this was while they were on a video call with us, and excludes the time they spent between calls making the changes.
It is our firm belief that resume editing services work only in cases where someone has a good profile requiring little editing help. If you are struggling with your profile, then you will have to edit it yourself. No amount of money is going to create a service where three rounds of edits can create the perfect resume that truly understands your strengths and reflect them on paper.
Alice’s before-our-editing-resume and the after-our-editing-resume from TCO 2 provides a great example of good resumes. These resumes were tailored to her. So focus on the style and structure but use content specific to what you are trying to demonstrate and the weaknesses you need to mitigate.
The cover letter always comes after networking. Once you have your resume and networking done, you know what gaps people see in your resume. You can thereafter address those gaps in your cover letter.
The cover letter we edited for Alice from TCO 2 is good example. It was written to show her strengths and mitigate the weaknesses firms assume Ph.D.’s to have.
Download a good podcast player like Acast or Spotify so that you can download our podcasts and listen to them at 1.5x or 2x speed. Even the iTunes podcast player will do.
Getting into an elite school like INSEAD and Harvard will get me into McKinsey. Going to Harvard only increases your probability of receiving an interview invite. Once you receive the interview you still have to do well in the interviews and that is completely separate from the Harvard halo.
It is not as if the interviewer thinks your answer is superior because you went to Harvard.
You will be assessed like everyone else. On your merits and not your pending degree.
If you assume getting into Harvard somehow makes you think and act smarter, than that is possible but unlikely.
I need analytic subjects like math, statistics to show my thinking abilities. There is a difference between analytic and mathematical. And there is a difference between quantitative and analytic. You can be incredibly insightful and analytic in non-math subjects like art, history, law etc. Most applicants confuse analytic with quantitative.
You can major in a quantitative field and lack analytic skills and vice-versa. Lawyers can be very analytic. All Supreme Court and Federal Judges are impressively analytic.
Federal judges who analyze and decide major M&A, anti-trust and competition law are incredibly analytic. This piece on Amazon by a legal scholar is one of the defining pieces of insightful and brilliant business analytics.
Those judges and the legal scholar did not major in quantitative fields.
If all quantitative fields produced analytic thinkers then McKinsey would be dominated by MIT graduates. It does not and they do not.
Don’t believe the myth that only business and engineering majors have the permission and skills to be analytic. You have to change that mindset.
It is more important for you to be analytical and obtain very good grades than to be quantitative. You have to be good at basic math. That is all. Do not sacrifice grades for quantitative majors that you incorrectly assume will improve your analytic skills. Grades are incredibly important. Never ever sacrifice them since they will trail you forever.
Having “With Distinction” behind your degree is going to be the gift that keeps on giving.
I have an unusual profile and should explain my situation to a recruiter or associate. Recruiters and junior consultants are focused on identifying and bringing in the 80% of people who fit the average profile.
If you are different from that average profile then you need someone who can understand the difference, the value of that difference and motivate for you to be brought it.
That is a partner.
A recruiter and associate are busy. They do not have the time nor abilities to determine if unusual profile XP45 can fit into McKinsey. How could they have that ability? The time to evaluate that one unusual profile means they are not able to evaluate 15 normal profiles that are easier to hire. If your profile is unusual, go to the one person who can override recruiting interview decisions. The partner.
That is not to say it is easy, but it is the best route you have to an interview. Since we actively focus on challenging/unusual profiles, almost all our clients network with partners to secure an interview.
All the firms want me to apply on campus. So I will. Firms and universities want you to apply during the recruitment period since it is easier for them. For the firms, they have a system set up and have already assigned consultants and partners to campuses. It is a fixed cost. They need to push volume through it and that makes it efficient.
Universities need large numbers of applications to justify encouraging consulting firms to run their interviews on campus or close to campus.
You can apply outside the normal recruiting schedule.
It is, of course, harder to get an interviewer, because there are fewer dedicated interviewers and few open positions, but your odds of getting an offer are roughly the same. Most of our coaching clients apply off-cycle by design.
The most important factor in deciding when to interview is determining when you are ready. Do not apply until you are ready because you will not be successful.
I will only apply to McKinsey Strategy. McKinsey only hires generalists for their main consulting practice. So if you join McKinsey on the generalist path you could end up being staffed in strategy, operations, organizational design or many other types of studies. It is not possible to exclusively join the strategy practice.
Most McKinsey consultants do very little strategy work and it is the rare consultant who is lucky to be staffed onto one, let alone several corporate strategy engagements.
And do not be too obsessed with strategy. Some of the best partners in the history of consulting like Tom Peters etc. were not even in the strategy practice. Since strategy has such a powerful pull to it, many applicants just assume a famous partner was a strategy partner when most were not.
Don’t believe myths on the internet. Just because many believe something and repeat it often enough, it tends to become the de-facto truth when it is not. In 1997 the book Dangerous Company was published. The book summarized that BCG focused on analytics, McKinsey focused on influence and Bain on implementation. From that book, those sound-bites became the way each firm was described up until today.
People love sound-bites. But are they true?
Is BCG really superior to McKinsey on analytics?
Is Bain the leading firm on implementation?
Always apply common sense and judgment because this is your life and career. Make the right decisions and make smart decisions.
Case interviews are not like a real engagement with a real client. Real engagements are harder and messy. They are far from the perfect experiences many assume them to be.
If your goal is to join McKinsey and leave after 2 years, then it does not matter if consulting is not going to work for you.
If you want to commit for the long term than you can follow a real engagement narrated by a partner.
Strategy Skills Podcast
This is a free program for you to follow and explains how real engagements work. The entire podcast series just follow one engagement.
In Phase 1, a 3.5-month study, the consulting team recommended Empire International refocuses on the core business of Designing-Building-Operating-Maintaining (DBOM) Gx-Tx-Dx infrastructure.
Empire International is a power company created to invest in non-regulated businesses. All these investment markets exist outside of the parent company’s local market.
Since Empire Int.’s founding, that core/local market has undergone a shift where there is a renewed focus on expanding and maintaining the crumbling and outdated infrastructure base to meet surging electricity demand.
Unless Empire Energy, Empire International’s parent company, focuses on meeting rapidly growing energy demand, electricity blackouts remain a real threat that will impact the country’s productivity and attractiveness for FDI.
Yet Empire Energy does not have the skills to do all the DBOM work and does see the emergency of rebuilding the infrastructure.
Therefore, Empire Int. Is recommended to become the in-house construction arm of Empire Energy to build new power stations and transmission lines, and prepare for a smart-grid increasingly powered by wind, solar and other renewables, while the parent company does not endorse the plan – yet.
We asked the partner leading the US Banking study, Michael, to document each day of the study as he thought through the issues, managed the client and led the engagement team on this complex assignment.
The subsequent live-blog was one of the most popular programs we ever released. The posts were prepared at the end of each day of the study so you can see how the thinking on the study evolved. We have since re-edited the live blog.
At 600 pages long, the re-edited live blog is probably the most detailed guide anywhere demonstrating how a partner thinks on a study. You will see that it is not a linear process. It is not a function of simply finding and plugging in a framework. Though there is a clear logic to the thought process.
On StrategyJournal.com we are publishing the entire re-edited live-blog
On the Strategy Skills podcast channel, we will publish an accompanying free podcast series. The podcast accompanying an article can be found at the bottom of the article.
This study was unique in that many members of our community joined the engagement team in conducting the analyses. For example, when we needed to conduct focus interviews across the Southern USA, our community of readers went out and completed the focus interviews and collected photos.
When we wanted to document the process to apply for a small business loan our community took on the task of visiting bank branches and documented the process. All of this happened under our careful guidance and all of this information was fed back to the engagement team who led the study.
The engagement team itself was also selected from our 1-on-1 coaching clients.
We wanted to demonstrate that anyone could learn how to do insightful and influential strategy work under the right guidance.
Especially if one lacked a consulting background. Our goal was to show readers in boutique and smaller firms that great work can be done by anyone.
By following this series, you will effectively be thinking through the entire set of issues to determine if Latin American Bank (LAB) should enter the very profitable US retail banking sector. Any detailed training program must be set in a region, covering a sector and solving a functional problem.
We need to go into the details to teach you how to make judgment calls and interpret the data. This program is no different. It is set in the US, the retail banking sector and tackling a strategy problem.
That said, we teach from 1st principles so the training is relevant to anyone trying to learn how partners at McKinsey, BCG et al. think.
Given how large the study is, it may help to visualize each step.
If you are new to case interviews or just struggling to show any real improvement, that is okay. Not everyone learns at the same pace nor finds the right type of material that they need.
We publish new podcasts and articles about case interviews monthly and sometimes weekly: all prepared by ex-partners. If you would like to be notified of those podcasts and articles then register on this site for free or opt-in to any email prompt you find on the website.
We may also send you updates on other content we produce or samples of our more advanced strategy programs.
The newsletter is the only way to get updates on the podcasts and articles.
I wish you the best in this journey and look forward to hearing some great news soon.
You are welcome to post any comments and questions below. As you can imagine we receive many requests for help and as much as we would like to respond to them all, we just do not have the time. To ensure our responses reach as many readers as possible, questions will only be answered in our iTunes podcasts. This allows us to offer both thoughtful and meaningful answers that help improve your career. If you ask a question please offer as many details as possible. It is difficult to offer customized and valuable feedback if the details are vague or missing. It helps to provide more facts and leave out your interpretation of what happened. It is better to write “Duke MBA, graduated 2 years ago and working in Wells Fargo Technology Support,” than “a Top-10 MBA, recent graduate working for a large bank’s internal technology team.” The advice we offer would be very different for each and we would select the first type of question to answer.