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McKinsey Partners Advise Ex-McKinsey Consultant

mckinsey partners

This new article series will share advise our clients receive from consulting partners during the networking phase of the case interview process, as well as our feedback on how to make networking more effective.

In this first article we introduce Martin’s networking. Martin is an ex-McKinsey associate trying to rejoin the firm. The names and some details have been modified for confidentiality reasons. In the articles to follow in this series, we will follow all of Martin’s networking efforts to get back into management consulting.

Below you will find a unique opportunity to see the actual emails, communication, advice and information McKinsey partners shared with Martin, an ex-McKinsey associate who wants to return to the firm.

As you will probably realize, on average, McKinsey alumni will get additional help and more open advice from McKinsey partners versus candidates who are not McKinsey alums. You will also see that it is actually quite hard to rejoin the firm. The longer you are out, the harder it is to get in.

Enjoy an account of Martin’s two networking calls with McKinsey partners, along with our feedback and advice.

Networking calls with McKinsey partner part 1: Scott Boland


I had my call with Scott. We were interrupted for a half hour when a client called him, but, in large part due to his personality, we covered a lot of ground and he was very informative.

Scott discussed the differences in the firm since I left (more building of client capabilities, different billing arrangements/at risk, more sector orientation, less geographic orientation, etc.). He stressed that all the “real things” about the firm are still the same though. He encouraged me to speak with McKinsey partners in the mid-atlantic since “the South office really has the best culture in the firm and those offices are a bit different.”

Scott told me the firm is very open to former members returning after their time in industry (a change since I left). He ran through a list of names of people I knew that left the firm and recently returned.

He asked what other firms I was speaking with. I ran through the names and he told me I was “nuts to go to any of those places over returning to the Firm”.

We finished up by talking about functional versus industry expertise. He suggested that my background matches up with the Consumer Packaged Goods industry sector probably a bit better than the Operations functional practice. He told me to reach out to Darrell McDonald (Director who I knew) and Richard Young (Director in New York who I worked with in UK). He told me to keep him in the loop as I go through the process and to give him a call before the interviews start.



Michael’s Feedback:

Excellent call. Notice how Martin is only networking with partners. That is a Firmsconsulting rule. We strongly discourage our clients from networking with anyone but partners. Recruiters tend to go through checklists and if your profile is unique, recruiters will not be able to assess you, and they will probably decline you. More importantly, only partners make the final hiring decision and it is best to get comfortable speaking to them earlier in the process.

The thing that stands out here is the referral to speak to other partners. In a manner of speaking, that is an endorsement. Scott is basically saying, “I like you Martin and think you are a good fit, so I am going to ask you to speak to some of my colleagues, and feel free to mention I sent you.”

mckinsey partners ex-mckinsey

Too many candidates worry about getting a quick referral for their resume. That is a very weak accomplishment. Martin is now building a coalition of partners who will guide him and help him through the process. Getting the interview is the easy part. Getting the help to go through it is the harder part.

The key thing here is the willingness to share the differences about McKinsey. This would rarely happen if a non-McKinsey person wanted the call. So this information is unique and sincere. The firm has changed. It is great it is being discussed so openly.

Networking calls with McKinsey partners part 2: Paul Williams


I spoke with Paul Williams this afternoon. He joined the Firm as a lateral hire from Booz at the time of the acquisition by PwC. He focuses on total supply chain within CPG (a new approach he calls “integrated operations”). It was a longer call (a bit more than 45 minutes). He was open, informative and referred me to a couple of other McKinsey partners and a professional development director within McKinsey for additional dialogue.

Highlights of the call include:

Paul left Booz because PwC performed audits for his major clients and he was going to have to “start-over”.

He discussed his preconceptions about McKinsey (arrogant, superior, over-priced, not as good as they think they are, etc.), but thinks none of that is true now.

He discussed the McKinsey value system of putting clients first above all else, real sense of partnership, etc. Said it was “massively different from Booz, but much closer to the old Booz before the problems began”.

Paul said coming in new to the Firm was very difficult – he cultivated 2 key mentors that are fairly senior in the firm who have helped champion him.

He discussed the importance of being humble – he took a step back from Sr. Partner at Booz to Principal at McKinsey (junior partner).

Paul said the first project was the single most important thing in building his reputation in the Firm.

From a work perspective, Paul noticed a void in partners doing end-to-end supply chain work – the Operations practice was fairly “silo’d.” He teamed up with several other partners to create a new offering.

Paul walked me through how he is helping food and beverage clients deal with their complete supply chain, and leveraging the “big data,” BTO and MI teams in his work. We had a nice 10 minute conversation about the work he is doing, the issues he is running into with clients, and other industries that this broad-based approach would fit.

He asked for my current thinking on where I thought I fit into McKinsey, since from our call he thought I sounded a bit like a generalist, a bit like an expert and a bit like MI. He encouraged me to really look at what the day-to-day work is for each role to determine what I would enjoy the most.

Paul volunteered to help me more, but wasn’t sure what he could do since he is fairly new. He suggested I reach out to Nora McMurray (and say he referred me to her) who does professional development in the Operations practice – he thought she could help me think about the right role for me back at the Firm and steer me to additional people to speak with.

Paul also said I should call Darrell McDonald. He thought Darrell would be a good resource (I have emailed him previously).

Paul also suggested reaching out to Natalie Chen, a McKinsey partner in the New York office doing Operations work in CPG.

He asked what other firms I was considering, I ran through the list, he told me he thought McKinsey was the best of the bunch and told me that S& was a mess right now and only going to be more revenue driven as it integrated into PwC – he thought I’d be much happier at McKinsey.

At the end of the call he asked me to stay in touch, wished me good luck and said he hopes to work with me in the future.

As a next step, I plan to reach out to the people he listed. I e-mailed Darrell a little over a week ago, but haven’t heard back. Both Scott and now Paul have suggested I “call” Darrell. Should I consider picking up the phone and call him in the office?

Finally, I plan to send the following email back to Paul, please comment as you feel necessary:


I really appreciate the time you spent discussing McKinsey with me this afternoon. I enjoyed hearing about your new offering and the success you are having in helping clients look at end-to-end supply chain solutions. I appreciate your advice and recommendations of additional people within the Firm for me to contact.

I will follow-up with you soon as I continue through the process. Thanks again for a very enjoyable conversation.



Michael’s Feedback:

This is good. I would continue down this path for now while we learn more. There is a lot of great insights here. Again, we see the candor of the partner. And it is not simply because Martin is ex-McKinsey. It is because Martin is sincere and he has the presence of a senior person, so partners are more willing to trust him.

An ex-McKinsey analyst, associate or manager would never really get this type of information from a partner. Again, Paul is willing to refer Martin and this a big win.

Martin’s follow-up email to Paul is great. He writes as if Paul is his peer. The gratitude for the call is not profuse. Martin does not ask for much and simply says he will keep Paul updated. He does not ask for Paul to review his resume etc., because to do so would imply that Martin is really junior and think his resume is the main stumbling block.

To come in at a senior level, it is about much more than your resume. It is about the ability to have a discussion with a partner as a peer. Martin is doing that in every possible way.

Thank you Martin for sharing this information and advice with Firmsconsulting community. In future articles we will continue to follow Martin’s networking journey into the partnership.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Why do you think so many candidates prefer to network with recruiters, versus partners, when partners have all the power in the hiring process? Please share in the comments.

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Image from Javi Sánchez de la viña under cc, cropped, added text.

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