Q&A: 2nd Year Analyst at McKinsey in Europe

Open to answering questions regarding MBB, recruiting, breaking in, day to day life, career choices, etc.

Background

  • Academic: MSc in Finance (Europe) - top GPA, public undergrad b-school (target locally)
  • Internships: Summer analyst at MBB; Summer analyst at Goldman Sachs (IMD London); Off-cycle analyst at European Private Equity FOFs. Received full-time offers from all three
  • Other: GMAT 730

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Comments (36)

Most Helpful
Nov 5, 2020 - 5:38pm

Great question!
Let me give you a bit more context to help me address it and explain why it wasn't necessarily pivoting.
I've started a BSc in Economics (3 years) with no idea of what I wanted to do after uni; in my senior year did a Summer internship at McKinsey (from which I received a full-time offer). I had a great time during that Summer and accepted the offer, but asked to do an MSc in Finance (2 years) before joining full-time for 2 reasons:
i) I felt that I would benefit from spending more time at university (genuinely enjoyed Finance and wanted to learn more)
ii) I would have two more summers to try out different industries (I felt that I shouldn't go for it without trying out other things first)

With a full-time contract from McKinsey in my pocket, I applied to Banking and ended up accepting an offer from GS - Investment Management Division (I enjoyed markets). Had a great Summer experience but realized that there were not many transferable skills in that job, so I turned down the offer (I didn't want to narrow my options that early in my career).
Then, I decided to try Private Equity and submitted a few spontaneous applications for an off-cycle internship. Ended up in a mid-market FoFs, which was a great experience because I got to know the industry inside out and had a lot of direct senior exposure. Despite receiving an offer, the fund's senior partners (McKinsey alumni) highly recommended me to start my career at McKinsey (for the usual reasons: work with smart people, try several industries, solve complex problems, learn how to think and communicate, etc.) and I took their advice. At that time, my plan was (I'm currently reassessing it) to do 2 years at McKinsey, go for an MBA in the US and then pivot into PE (not straightforward but doable IMO).
That being said, I would probably have gone into PE directly but wasn't successful in recruiting out of university (the best I could do was getting a final interview at Blackstone).

Nevertheless, while at McKinsey I still get to work in Finance-related topics (DD, banking, etc.). Moreover, I feel that I learn more transferable skills working in strategy related topics (appealing to me as one option is to switch to entrepreneurship at a point in my life).

Nov 5, 2020 - 6:25pm

Thank you for the question!

1. Recruitment process is pretty straightforward. I interviewed for a Summer internship (in theory, the recruitment process is exactly the same for a full-time position).
The process was: McKinsey presentation dinner (top students were invited) >> CV submission >> McKinsey PST (Problem-Solving Test, sort of a ~1hour GMAT-like questions) >> First-round case interviews (two 1-hour interviews; ~15min for personal questions and ~45min to solve a consulting case) >> Second-round case interviews (another two interviews following the same structure, but this time with Partners) >> Offer for summer internship >> Performed well during the summer and received an offer to join full-time

2. Two prep tips that can increase your chances of getting in:
i) Do not underestimate the "personal questions" part of the interview. First impressions matter. McKinsey is obsessed with structure, so you need to make sure that your answers are sharp right from the beginning. Besides the classic personal pitch ("Why are you here?"), you are usually asked "situational questions" (e.g., tell me about a time in which you led a team, disagreed with someone and had him/her change his/her opinion). Ideally, your answer should be different (meaning that you should not talk about a time in which you had a group work at university in which one of the members didn't contribute much - we all did) and follow the STAR method (i.e. Situation, Task, Action, Results).
ii) It is crucial to prepare "face-to-face" for the case interview (i.e. not reading prep books but instead training with someone else - preferably someone that already did a "real interview"). My tip here is: apply to second-tier consulting firms (and go through the interview process) before applying to MBB. I'll give you my personal experience:
I didn't even know what a case interview was when I got invited by a 2nd-tier firm (the likes of AT Kearney / Oliver Wyman) to join their recruitment process. I went for the 1st round with near-zero preparation. Luckily, one of the interviews went very well and the other one not that much, but I got invited for the second round anyway. Then, I realized that, whereas I had gone through the first phase successfully, I had to practice if I wanted to pass the second one. As such, I did ~5 mock interviews with some friends that had already started the MBB process. Successfully passed the second round afterward. When I started the recruitment at McKinsey I had already an offer (and 4 real case interviews). That's the best preparation you can get.

3. Networking is overrated in consulting. I didn't do any networking whatsoever to get in. As I said before, I got invited for a company dinner, in which I met some consultants but the truth is that my chances of getting in would be the same if I didn't (they won't remember nor interview you and you basically spend one night with other 50 overly excited students trying to impress them).
Nevertheless, it's always useful to talk to people who already went through the process. I believe that the most helpful are either peers that recently completed the process or junior consultants (they will remember what's like to be at university). You can try to connect with them via personal connections / alumni relationships. If you don't know anyone there, you can always try to leverage career offices or join a "company presentation event". I would say that reaching out to consultants in LinkedIn, for example, would have low response rates given that we are busy most of times.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions :)

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Nov 5, 2020 - 6:38pm

Thank you for the question.

Personal questions: I've launched a company while at uni and that helped me a lot giving interesting answers to the situational questions.
Case interview: I tried to be very structured (highly valued at McKinsey) and to think about the corollary of my answers (i.e. sort of overdelivering in my answers discussing potential causes behind the fact being discussed). Moreover, I never bullshitted (it's better to ask for clarification / more information - you're not supposed to have any background knowledge).

Feel free to ask me any follow-up questions :)

  • Intern in Consulting
Dec 21, 2020 - 12:45pm

tips on how to become more structured? i have the problem of having a lot of different ideas that interviewers say are unique/out of the box, but didn't pass the interviews because these ideas were not communicated in a structured enough way. I want to continue to show all of my different ideas, but think that i am shooting myself in the foot by talking too much.

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Nov 5, 2020 - 1:05pm

How is consulting in Europe at MBB considered vs. in the US? Have heard of many trying to transfer to the major US offices like New York, Chicago, etc. 

Seems to me like they'd largely be the same though

Nov 5, 2020 - 6:48pm

You're right. They are largely the same: the same type of studies, people, prestige, etc. One thing that might be different is that travelling is more frequent in the US (pre-COVID).
Nevertheless, it's true that several European consultants try to transfer to major US offices but that's usually driven by reasons such as higher compensation, more exit options (PE, tech, industry), prestige that society assigns to work in the US, and/or desire to live abroad.
Moreover, to move to a different office you need to speak the local language, so English is not a barrier to move to the US (might be to move to other European countries).

Nov 6, 2020 - 5:59am

Are LBS and Oxbridge viewed similarly in terms of recruitment? I am currently deciding between a Masters in Physics at Oxford (integrated Masters, I have been studying BA Physics for the past 3 years) and a Masters in Management from LBS. Personally I want to do the LBS MiM but I am not sure whether this will hurt my chances

Nov 6, 2020 - 7:25am

Yes, I would say so.

Both are "prestigious enough" to get you an invitation for the first phase of the recruitment process. From then onwards, what university you graduated from is secondary (it might help you engage with the interviewer in case he/she is an alumnus, but I wouldn't consider it - it's purely random and you don't need it whatsoever).
If I were you, I would go for the LBS MiM for the following reasons:
- It's your personal choice (following your preferences/instinct is always good)
- It will not hurt your chances of being invited for the interviews
- You already have the Oxford stamp/brand on your CV
- You will expand your skillset - an engineering background with management knowledge is always a plus
- LBS will probably prepare you better for the recruitment process (e.g., help from the careers office, more peers also interviewing)

I hope it helps! Feel free to ask any further questions.

Nov 6, 2020 - 9:58am

Thank you for the question.

Cohort sizes vary from office to office (but are usually proportional to the size of the economy/country). Regarding backgrounds, those are pretty similar across offices.

From my experience, analyst classes in Europe have a similar background to mine (i.e. economics / management background from top European university, good academic performance, several extracurricular activities, international studies/internships). Engineering profiles are also very common but in much lower numbers.
Besides econ/math/engineering, other academic backgrounds (e.g., Medicine) also exist. For smaller offices, those are rare (meaning that you can have an entire class with no one with that background). That being said, it's much more common to have diverse profiles in more international offices (e.g., London or major US offices).

Nov 30, 2020 - 12:58am

Hello not_MECE, I appreciate your messages. I'm wondering about my chances being recruited in MBB Europe as a consultant / analyst with a medicine background. Let me explain this to you, I'm 35 years old, I have a degree in medicine, but I haven't done a formal degree in business nor management. Do you think that I can get interviews with my profile? Or do you think that I have more chances of getting something from the US offices? 

Thanks mate,

Nov 6, 2020 - 9:34am

Good Q&A, man. Pretty detailed responses. I have a couple questions:

-How do the practice cases on the McK website compare to cases you'd be presented with at the interview? Are they generally a good way to prep? I did all of them in preparation for interviews for two T2 firms and I found them helpful. Unfortunately, even after going through all rounds of interviews and psychometric tests, I did not get the position.

-How helpful is it to have a second/additional language when it comes to recruiting? In your experience, does it make a difference at all?

-Is having any coding/programming background beneficial? Everywhere I look companies are looking for hires who have experience with coding even though the roles are far from tech-related.

Thanks.

Nov 6, 2020 - 10:13am

I appreciate that!

1. Practice cases on the McKinsey website are actually very good interview prep. The type of problem formulation and questions is exactly what you should expect in your interview.

2. Additional languages are always useful since you become more versatile (e.g., can do projects abroad using the local language) and show that you enjoy learning. That being said, McKinsey only requires that you speak the local office language and English (if you are not based in an English-speaking country already). Speaking more languages is a plus but it is not required whatsoever and I would argue that not speaking other languages do not hurt your chances. All in all, I believe it has no impact on recruiting.

3. Similar to languages, it is always good to know more (again, it shows that you enjoy learning, especially if it's extracurricular) but it should not have an impact in recruiting (assuming you're applying to an integrative role; the answer might change if you are applying to the Analytics team). More and more, companies across industries look for coding skills just because it is a signal that you can think logically about problems. However, you can be a great consultant without any programming skills (the large majority of consultants do not have any tech-skills beyond Excel/PPT).

Hope it helps. Let me know if you have any further questions :)

Nov 6, 2020 - 10:26am

Thanks for the response.

1. Good to hear that they're a pretty accurate representation of what one can expect IRL. I always felt they were more manageable than practice cases I've found on other websites. Hopefully I'll get another shot.

2. Yeah, honestly I figured as much. It's a 'nice to have' but not an essential. I have a second language, however, I haven't been in an environment in which I have to use it regularly so my proficiency has definitely declined. I even have an international language cert. for the language but it has never really been brought up in interviews or anything. Still, I think it's in my best interest to polish the skill. It's important beyond for reasons beyond employment.

3. I have been learning some python since I'm unemployed, so I guess if I keep going it can only help. My goal isn't to get to an analytics/tech/data-intensive team but just to have additional skills to make me more employable and valuable once I find employment. Kind of been slacking of late but I'll get back to it.

  • Analyst 2 in Consulting
Nov 6, 2020 - 11:02am

What does it take to stand out as a first year consultant at MBB?

Nov 6, 2020 - 1:44pm

Thank you for the question. It's not science, but in my opinion there are 3+1 factors defining it (ranked per order of importance):

1. Attitude
It's all about your attitude. A distinctive 1st-year analyst is eager to learn, eager to help and eager to be in a good mood all the time (especially in difficult and/or more stressful times). The corollary of this is that you always go the extra mile (e.g., take notes in meetings and share it with the team even when no one asks you to do so, offer your help to your teammates before leaving, are not defensive, seek feedback and act on it, don't mind the long hours, etc.)

2. "Intrinsics" (intelligence, communication skills and Excel/PPT skills)
This depends on genes (higher IQ helps), previous experience (you get better in Excel, PPT, presenting, problem-solving with time; you can clearly understand who are the analysts that already have some experience before joining) and mentoring (learning from others helps) 

3. Luck
I wouldn't downplay the importance of luck. The project you start with, the type of people you work with, who your evaluators are, etc. all play a role in how successful you are. Nevertheless, luck is not automatically out of your control. It's critical for analysts to proactively reach out to people they would like to work with, for example. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. At the end of the day, it's life.

First impressions / cycles
I believe that the first project has a disproportionate influence on your perceived performance. It's almost self-fulfilling: if it goes very well, then you are great and everyone will want to work with you, which in turn allows you to choose the best projects, having a better performance and so on (positive cycle). However, if the opposite happens you can enter a negative cycle that is not easy to leave... 

Let me know if you have any additional questions.

  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
Nov 30, 2020 - 1:27am

Any advice on what type of cases someone can try to do to learn finance and modelling for PE recruiting? Seems like DD's are good for the resume but largely don't involve financial modelling 

Dec 2, 2020 - 4:50am

I agree - DDs are good for the resume but are not heavy in financial modelling. The exceptions are when you own a (difficult) market model or the target's business case. So, my advice would be to try to own those workstreams whenever possible. Apart from that, it is useful to also engage in more model-focused projects (usually, in banking / risk).
Thank you for the question. Let me know if you have any further questions.

  • Prospect in PE - LBOs
Dec 17, 2020 - 11:02pm

Concur with the previous comments. You're clearly an intelligent guy and will go far. Thanks for making the recruiting process at MBB accessible to the masses.

One question: Is moving laterally from PE (GS MBD ; MS REI /REPE ; Blackstone; KKR; Cinven; Carlyle; BainCap) into MBB possible. Could you describe the process without going to an MBA or MFin route in between? Will they still look at university and A-Levels / GCSEs? What position would you start at should you be successful?

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas. Hopefully 2021 is a good year for all!

Dec 19, 2020 - 12:09pm

Thank you for the kind words.

The short answer is: yes, it is possible (on a side note: usually, more people are trying to do the opposite move - higher compensation in PE and lifestyle is not necessarily better in MBB).
Candidates with large-cap PE background are very attractive to MBB (they already check the "smart and hard-worker" criteria), so I don't see why they wouldn't be invited to the recruitment process. Besides, the PE practices at MBB love to have people with buyside experience.
University scores might be checked but wouldn't be deal-breakers. Moreover, candidates would still need to perform well on the case interviews (quite different interview processes) but nothing that a bit of preparation wouldn't solve. 

That being said, it is a tricky move... MBB do not like to recruit Associates without an MBA, so you would probably be hired as an Analyst (which means that you might spend 2 years in PE and still not receive an Associate offer at MBB, so you would not get promoted and would make way less money). An alternative would be to do your 2-years analyst at PE, a 1-2 years MBA and then recruit to post-MBA Associate at MBB.

Wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy 2021!

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Gen
Dec 21, 2020 - 6:25am

Hi not_MECE and thank you for doing this! As already mentioned, you're clearly a sharp guy - all the best for your future endeavours. Silver banana from me :)

If I may ask, what's your take on hiring in European offices going into 2021? I guess this varies massively from office to office and that as a junior there may be very limited visibility, but any views from you would be much appreciated!

To give you some context, I recruited for McK (in my home country, think France, Switzerland, Italy...) at the beginning of 2019, just before graduation, but with no success as I unfortunately bombed a case. We were supposed to start a new process after 18 months, but when the time arrived, HR asked me to wait another 12 months (i.e. until after summer 2021). FWIW, BCG and Bain also gave me a similar feedback.

I tick all the boxes (e.g. professional experience, education, etc) and my understanding is that this situation has been driven mainly (solely?) by COVID (e.g. less projects in pipeline, lower churn rate at the junior level), but I become slightly disheartened and can't stop wondering whether I'll get a similar answer next year.

Thanks in advance, and wish you (and everyone else on the forum) happy holidays!

  • Intern in Consulting
Dec 21, 2020 - 12:50pm

thanks for the great Q+A! I know i will definitely bookmark this to review.

One question asked about going from a MF to MBB,  but was wondering about if you've seen MBB consultants go to MF PE firm, especially since many of these firms seem to be considered not friendly to consultants

Have you seen American consultants transfer over to your European office, and if so, how smooth do you think their transition is, their reasoning, and if they regret it?

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