Ask Me Anything: I went from a non-target to McKinsey, MIT Sloan and BCG

Hey guys,

An undergraduate I am mentoring sent me a link to an AMA from this site from someone in business school. I was reminded that I was using this site 9 years ago in 2006. Back then I still hadn't accomplished much. Through focus. belief in myself and failing MANY times, I've built the career of my dreams. I am now at the point where I have amazing options and the hardest part is determining where and how to spend my time to stay focused on my life goals in the future. Back as a senior in college, I applied to over 100 consulting firms and ultimately got rejected from every single one. I wish I knew what I know now. I really had no chance.

Ultimately, through trial and error, I landed a job at McKinsey & Company. This opened up so many doors and really has shaped my career.

I'd love to take questions and answer them to help others. What do you have for me?

Mod Note (Andy) - this AMA originally went up last December but @consultantguy12 " wrote and said he could still answer questions

Comments (41)

Dec 13, 2015

What were you doing before you landed an offer at McK? Were they also part of the 100 where you applied previously when you were a senior?

Dec 13, 2015

Can you tell us how you got to McKinsey?

Dec 13, 2015

How many years at Mck before MIT?

Dec 13, 2015

Can you explain how/why you switched from McKinsey to BCG? Did you have a back-office role at McKinsey as opposed to a consulting role?

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Dec 14, 2015

how did you overcome being "that guy" without a prestigious background - what is your actual job in McKinsey and what industry. Also do you have examples of the type of work you do now.

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Dec 14, 2015
undefined:

how did you overcome being "that guy" without a prestigious background - what is your actual job in McKinsey and what industry. Also do you have examples of the type of work you do now.

Surprisingly this is not as big of a deal as you would expect. Firms like McKinsey have grown a ton over the past 15 years. There are certainly a disproportionate number of people with Harvard degrees (probably like 1000) versus the 5 from my school, but people assume everyone that works there is top notch. Also, it was quite international and nobody really knows all the schools from across the world that are supposed to be seen as "elite."

Basically, I never felt insecure about it so it didn't really matter.

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Dec 14, 2015
undefined:

What were you doing before you landed an offer at McK? Were they also part of the 100 where you applied previously when you were a senior?

When I was a senior in college, I had done internships at Pratt & Whitney in operations and manufacturing and then my junior year I did an internship for GE in product management for electrical distribution products. While at GE I applied for both the Commercial Leadership Program at Consumer & industrial and the Financial Management Program (which I got placed to GE Aviation). I ended up doing the GE FMP job.

undefined:

Can you tell us how you got to McKinsey?

This is crazy, but I applied on Monster.com. I think the equivalent today would be Linkedin. Basically, I found a posting for a manufacturing research analyst in the North American Knowledge Center in Boston. I knew this wasn't a front line consulting role, but I just wanted to be in consulting because it seemed like such a great fit for what I liked doing (problem solving) and also the type of people I liked being around (high performers, no BS people)

undefined:

How many years at Mck before MIT?

I worked there for two years.

undefined:

Can you explain how/why you switched from McKinsey to BCG? Did you have a back-office role at McKinsey as opposed to a consulting role?

I didn't plan to go to Boston Consulting Group. After business school, I joined a startup consulting firm that was staffing independent consultants on client projects that was founded by ex-McKinsey Directors. They had some leadership shakeups and was left uninspired by the new head of the US. At this time, a recruiter called saying they were looking for someone at BCG doing similar stuff that I did at McKinsey - basically organizational change. This was still in the knowledge network but it was a senior role working with a Senior Partner helping to shape a new practice area. It was a great role and I loved it.

Note: I consciously have avoided switching to the consulting track at McKinsey or BCG. I was able to develop a lot of the same skills and work with the same people, I just knew I would burn out too fast working the hours and travel.

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Dec 14, 2015

1) How much of a non-target undergrad? Top 100? Top 50? Top 25? It doesn't seem that bad since you were able to get GE at your school, but nonetheless still a non-target for MBB.

2) How did you spin your McK research experience vs. the hundreds of other MBB guys who were in a consulting role for bschool apps?

Congrats though, interesting story compared to what's usually on this board.

EDIT:

One more question.

How common are Big 4 Consulting alum at Sloan? And what career paths have you seen them take? Do many try to "trade up" to MBB?

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

1) How much of a non-target undergrad? Top 100? Top 50? Top 25? It doesn't seem that bad since you were able to get GE at your school, but nonetheless still a non-target for MBB.

2) How did you spin your McK research experience vs. the hundreds of other MBB guys who were in a consulting role for bschool apps?

Congrats though, interesting story compared to what's usually on this board.

EDIT:

One more question.

How common are Big 4 Consulting alum at Sloan? And what career paths have you seen them take? Do many try to "trade up" to MBB?

Top 25.

I after McKinsey I had unique experience. I had worked in manufacturing operations in college, finance @ GE and then research for lean manufacturing and organizational change at McKinsey. I basically said I bring a unique perspective and a humble mindset to driving change since I've worked on manufacturing floors. I said I wanted to lead change through inspiring people which was authentic and what I really cared about. I also applied to the MIT LGO program which fit well with my Operations background.

I am not sure how many big 4 alums - I don't think that matters. Big 4 tends to attract a lot of people who may not want to get an MBA. Consulting firms on the other hand - a lot of people think about getting an MBA at some point.

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Dec 14, 2015

Do you have advice on how to go about networking for not just MBB, but other strategy consulting roles? Since I went to a non-target and only work in auditing at a big 4, I'm not really sure what the best way to convince people at MBB to hear me out is.

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

Do you have advice on how to go about networking for not just MBB, but other strategy consulting roles? Since I went to a non-target and only work in auditing at a big 4, I'm not really sure what the best way to convince people at MBB to hear me out is.

Step 1: What are you excited about? Like truly passionate about?
Step 2: Find people at MBB doing those things and are equally as passionate about it - try to build a connection with them

Other ways:
- Find alums from your school - this is how I got an interview at BCG when I was in college - I found the one alum at the school
- Go to networking events in that city

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Dec 14, 2015

Hey,

Thanks for doing this. This is a bit of an egoist question, but frankly I am at a point where I need some guidance. My GPA is not stellar (around 3.4), I have a PE internship my belt and I am graduating in December. I would ultimately like to work at a top management consulting firm, but I did not get any management consulting interviews during FT recruiting last Sept. I am studying at a semi target in the states and I recently got an offer to intern for the next six months at a MM IB and another offer to work at a PE Impact Investing Fund in Africa for about the same time frame. I ultimately want to do consulting and I need to make up a choice on which internship to pick.

The IB internship is much more traditional, but I feel like the internship in Africa would make me stand out a lot more and help my chances of landing an interview during FT recruiting in 2016. I am pretty set on taking the opportunity in Africa, but I would just like to get your insight on how a firm like McKinsey would view the these two opportunities.

Thanks!

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

Hey,

Thanks for doing this. This is a bit of an egoist question, but frankly I am at a point where I need some guidance. My GPA is not stellar (around 3.4), I have a PE internship my belt and I am graduating in December. I would ultimately like to work at a top management consulting firm, but I did not get any management consulting interviews during FT recruiting last Sept. I am studying at a semi target in the states and I recently got an offer to intern for the next six months at a MM IB and another offer to work at a PE Impact Investing Fund in Africa for about the same time frame. I ultimately want to do consulting and I need to make up a choice on which internship to pick.

The IB internship is much more traditional, but I feel like the internship in Africa would make me stand out a lot more and help my chances of landing an interview during FT recruiting in 2016. I am pretty set on taking the opportunity in Africa, but I would just like to get your insight on how a firm like McKinsey would view the these two opportunities.

Thanks!

You have amazing opportunities and shouldn't worry as much. You should take the opportunity that seems exciting to you from a personal standpoint - not what McKinsey might like. If you are passionate about what you are doing, that energy will be more contagious than having the right internship on a resume.

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Dec 14, 2015

If you could go back to junior year of college, what would you have done differently?

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Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

If you could go back to junior year of college, what would you have done differently?

Great question!

Hmmm - this is a challenge. At that point, to quote Donald Rumsfeld there were "unknown unknowns." That is, I didn't know what I didn't know.

One thing I realized once I broke into McKinsey was how much preparation and practice students at MIT, Harvard etc... spend on case practice, networking and preparation for interviews. Not to mention the connections to friends working at the firms already. This blew me away. Someone like me literally had no chance at a non-target.

To be honest I don't really have any regrets. If anything, I wish I read a little more. I didn't catch the reading bug until I was a senior in college.

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Dec 14, 2015

Can you explain your interview process, preparations, what the regional office you worked in was like and how the internal roles at McKinsey are like. Which would be good roles and easy roles to get into, and which roles would you avoid applying to. i.e. Avoid MIG...
Also, what is your profile like, GMAT %, GPA 3.7+, STEM major?
How long did you work at GE, why did you apply to MIT?
Why did you go to boutique, what about prestige and the dream?
Are you being compensated well at the boutique?
What are is this boutique in HighTech space in West or FS in East etc or perhaps some kind of manufacturing given your background.
Where did you intern during your year at MIT

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Best Response
Dec 15, 2015
undefined:

Can you explain your interview process, preparations, what the regional office you worked in was like and how the internal roles at McKinsey are like. Which would be good roles and easy roles to get into, and which roles would you avoid applying to. i.e. Avoid MIG...Also, what is your profile like, GMAT %, GPA 3.7+, STEM major?How long did you work at GE, why did you apply to MIT?Why did you go to boutique, what about prestige and the dream?Are you being compensated well at the boutique?What are is this boutique in HighTech space in West or FS in East etc or perhaps some kind of manufacturing given your background.Where did you intern during your year at MIT

calm down

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Dec 15, 2015

It's an ama - I'm sure that others have the same questions as well and besides, it's better to get a holistic picture than just bits and pieces throughout 100+ posts right my friend?

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Dec 15, 2015

delete

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Apr 12, 2016
undefined:

undefined:Can you explain your interview process, preparations, what the regional office you worked in was like and how the internal roles at McKinsey are like. Which would be good roles and easy roles to get into, and which roles would you avoid applying to. i.e. Avoid MIG...Also, what is your profile like, GMAT %, GPA 3.7+, STEM major?How long did you work at GE, why did you apply to MIT?Why did you go to boutique, what about prestige and the dream?Are you being compensated well at the boutique?What are is this boutique in HighTech space in West or FS in East etc or perhaps some kind of manufacturing given your background.Where did you intern during your year at MIT

dutchduke:

calm down

Lol I think Andy and Patrick needs to build in a minimum word count function into the 'Best Response' mod

Dec 15, 2015

He might as well write an entire post just on this question. Ease up on the caffeine bro.

I think- therefore I fuck

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

Can you explain your interview process, preparations, what the regional office you worked in was like and how the internal roles at McKinsey are like. Which would be good roles and easy roles to get into, and which roles would you avoid applying to. i.e. Avoid MIG...Also, what is your profile like, GMAT %, GPA 3.7+, STEM major?How long did you work at GE, why did you apply to MIT?Why did you go to boutique, what about prestige and the dream?Are you being compensated well at the boutique?What are is this boutique in HighTech space in West or FS in East etc or perhaps some kind of manufacturing given your background.Where did you intern during your year at MIT

This is a lot of questions.

Let me ask you a question - what are the point of these questions? If you have all the answers, what does it help you figure out?

One thing I learned at McKinsey was synthesizing communication to what matters. When I read this it is a challenge because I have no idea what you are trying to understand other than get a lot of information.

Just being honest.

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Dec 14, 2015

Were there many misconceptions about working in the industry that you worked in, prior to starting your role? What are some things that you learned/realized as you went through the recruiting process for both the job, and the school that you otherwise didn't know?

I think- therefore I fuck

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

Were there many misconceptions about working in the industry that you worked in, prior to starting your role? What are some things that you learned/realized as you went through the recruiting process for both the job, and the school that you otherwise didn't know?

See above about how much other students prepare.

When I went through the MIT recruiting process it was relatively simple. It was the only school/program I applied to and I poured all my energy into it. I probably spent 50+ hours on the essays and put a lot of effort into getting good recommendations from people that knew me and could add unique perspectives.

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Dec 16, 2015

Lol, QatalystV2 wins this thread. But those are all good questions and haven't been answered yet.

And so OP's big break in life came from monster.com? Wtf

My question:

How easy is it to move internally within a firm? Let's say you get some "mid-office" role and then beast out. Would the firm consider any networking efforts for a more front-office role, or would you have to go for the FO role at a smaller firm first or via business school?

Dec 18, 2015
undefined:

Lol, QatalystV2 wins this thread. But those are all good questions and haven't been answered yet.

And so OP's big break in life came from monster.com? Wtf

My question:

How easy is it to move internally within a firm? Let's say you get some "mid-office" role and then beast out. Would the firm consider any networking efforts for a more front-office role, or would you have to go for the FO role at a smaller firm first or via business school?

Yes, monster.com - it still seems absurd. One thing is - I spent at least 30 minutes EVERY DAY looking for job postings. People always tell me they want to change careers and In ask how many days they looked for a job in the last week - the answers are always disappointing.

Dec 18, 2015

Great post, really appreciate it.

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Jan 8, 2016

I am also from a non-target undergrad. Presently I'm a medical resident but I wish to leave clinical medicine behind (after getting my medical license but not after completing residency). Is it worth applying for an analyst position given a complete lack prior consulting / business experience. If I apply now and fail to secure a position, does MBB look unfavorably on re-applicants.

Jan 8, 2016

Basically: did you meet or hire any medical doctors at McKinsey who wanted to work as general business analysts rather than just in medicine.

Jan 14, 2016
Epishock:

Basically: did you meet or hire any medical doctors at McKinsey who wanted to work as general business analysts rather than just in medicine.

Yes - McKinsey recruited these people at the Associate level. Same with JDs.

You wouldn't go in at analyst level - however, that may be an effective strategy at other firms. Especially ones without the robust training of BCG/McK

Jan 14, 2016
Epishock:

I am also from a non-target undergrad. Presently I'm a medical resident but I wish to leave clinical medicine behind (after getting my medical license but not after completing residency). Is it worth applying for an analyst position given a complete lack prior consulting / business experience. If I apply now and fail to secure a position, does MBB look unfavorably on re-applicants.

You should apply for an "Associate" level position. Getting into Med School is impressive and will help. However, you will need a compelling, enthusiastic story as to "Why Consulting?" other than deciding not to be a doctor.

Also how can you gain business experience? Are there free courses you can take on Coursera that signal your high natural interest in business? Is there a pro-bono consulting group you can get involved in? Is there a consulting group on campus?

You don't need to land a consulting gig to start building the skills they are looking for...

Jan 8, 2016

Question: I have a strong desire to work at BCG and I applied for two different research positions. I have an exceptional resume but I was not invited to interview for the associate researcher role, whose qualifications I overly exceed. I do not understand why. Is there a chance that I will be invited to interview for the researcher role, a position with higher qualification requirements, but which I also meet? In your opinion... Thank you!! ps. my background is in healthcare and I have worked for prestigious institutions.

Jan 14, 2016
bellierh:

Question: I have a strong desire to work at BCG and I applied for two different research positions. I have an exceptional resume but I was not invited to interview for the associate researcher role, whose qualifications I overly exceed. I do not understand why. Is there a chance that I will be invited to interview for the researcher role, a position with higher qualification requirements, but which I also meet? In your opinion... Thank you!! ps. my background is in healthcare and I have worked for prestigious institutions.

I would talk with the recruiter. Hiring is a mystery sometimes.

I got rejected by BCG ~3 times before I worked there.

I got rejected from McKinsey AFTER I worked there one time.

True story.

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Apr 13, 2016

What sectors and which countries in Africa are 'hot' for PE equity funding?

Apr 14, 2016
Mutant_Pig:

What sectors and which countries in Africa are 'hot' for PE equity funding?

I have no idea

Apr 13, 2016

I graduated university last year with a masters in maths. Just like you I have been applying to over 100 places and I'm still not getting any replies. I have applied to small and big firms, but I just can't get myself noticed. What would you do differently if you could go back to when you were applying to all these places and getting rejected?

Apr 14, 2016
Zandera:

I graduated university last year with a masters in maths. Just like you I have been applying to over 100 places and I'm still not getting any replies. I have applied to small and big firms, but I just can't get myself noticed. What would you do differently if you could go back to when you were applying to all these places and getting rejected?

In short:
Find alums.
Leverage linkedin.
Hone in on a specific interest or service area a firm has.
Ask family members.
Keep trying.

I'm not sure I would do anything differently.

Nov 2, 2016

Is there any way to make up for low UG scores (3.0) or less if you are looking to break into consulting industry? What if you had a very good Masters gpa and stellar MBA GPA and some certificates such as CMC? If these are not sufficient, then are there any alternative ways or are you sc***ed for life?!

Jul 19, 2017
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