What should I do as an undergrad if I want to work for Mckinsey?

mindyana's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 43

Currently, in my sophomore year, have a 3.5 GPA- I think it is a little low for Mckinsey so I am trying to get it up. I go to a target school. It's my dream to work at Mckinsey and consulting is definitely what I want to do after graduating. I want to maximize my chances of getting in at Mckinsey. Currently making sophomore summer plans and want to know how to best position myself to get an interview for a junior summer internship. What activities should I do? What should I do with my summers/time outside of class? Should I take extra classes over the summer to raise my GPA or should I do an internship/ business research? Options are study abroad, international internship, internship in the US or doing research for a business school. All help appreciated!

Comments (30)

Most Helpful
Nov 10, 2018

It sounds like you're off to a good start. I don't have any specific knowledge of what McKinsey's recruiting process is like or what they value, but given what you've said, my first thought is that you should try to spend the summer doing a consulting internship.

It's not just so you can get relevant experience, although that's part of it. But the more important thing, at least in my view, is that you'll be signaling early that you're interested in consulting.

I think your GPA is fine. It could be better, but unless McKinsey is just that uptight, I don't see it being a dealbreaker, but maybe some of the top-tier consulting guys will tell me I'm wrong there, and I might be. If they say you need to work on it, then you need to work on it.

But look, if I'm interviewing two kids, and I have one kid with a 3.8 GPA and no consulting internships and no tangible, demonstrated interest in a consulting and a second kid who has a 3.5 GPA but who's been going after consulting internships, I'm taking the second kid all day. They're both smart enough to do the job, but one of them definitely wants to do the job (the one with a prior internship last summer) whereas the other kid may or may not.

People can teach you how to do the job, but they can't teach you to want to do it, Speaking from experience, the only thing that sucks worse than being stuck in an office on a team with people who hate their jobs and don't want to be there is being stuck on the road on a business trip with someone who feels that way. Not only are you working together all day, but the team is grabbing dinner (and often, drinks) at night. So the last thing you want is to hire someone who ends up not really liking the job and just sticking around for a brief period before jumping to something else.

An internship, if you can land one, tells people you're more likely to be someone who's happy in consulting because you tried it for a summer and you're coming back for more.

If you can travel during the internship, that's even better. Everybody thinks they want to travel for work until they actually have to do it when they don't want to, week after week. Some business trips are truly priceless memories you'll cherish for life...and other business trips are fucking awful. I spent a large portion of my 20's on the road, and not every business trip made it to Instagram. Sometimes, you're going to have to go to Wichita, Kansas in freezing February weather doing a project you don't want to be on and it's going to suck. And it's also harder to get work done when traveling because your routine is disrupted, and there's free booze and food flowing from the company card and you and your team want to make time to see a few local sites.

So if you can travel during an internship and get a taste of consulting life on the road, you'll do a better job during the non-technical portions of interviews.

I hope that helps. I work in asset management now, but I worked with a small consulting startup in the past. Although I never actually wanted to do consulting long term, I just needed somewhere to make a buck and bide my time while finishing CFA exams and networking for asset management roles.

"Now you's can't leave." -Sonny LoSpecchio

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Nov 12, 2018

Thank you so much for your answer. It's very helpful!!

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Nov 10, 2018

I have no direct experience with McK undergrad recruitment, (i am a phd), but met a bunch along the way.

For every undergrad McK recruits, there must be a dozen camdidates who have high GPA and had consulting internships before at the same time. It is a very competitive field. From my experience, they must have some sort of cutoff there, if you just apply normally online with other kids. (Correct me if wrong!) So make it as high as possible. Unless you are the founder of Facebook.... that might be able to offset that. Truth is, GPA only gets you pass resume screening, and everything beyond is solely based on your interview.

On the other hand, applying to consulting internship, especially MBB ones, are very important. It at least gives you a first hand feel of whether your resume is compelling and appealing to MBB recruiters. And it may land you return offers....

Good luck! Plus, nothing compares to learning from your aumni!

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Nov 10, 2018

What'd you do a PhD in?

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Nov 10, 2018

I've heard 3.7 to get an interview. All the other stuff is very important but getting the interview is the most important.

Check out the site: Management Consulted. It's very informative. Essentially they are trying to sell you resources (resume / cover letter writing, case interview bootcamps, etc.), but lots of great free info.

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Nov 10, 2018

Hey there! I just got done recruiting full time for MBB (got an offer!), and I've got some thoughts on this.

Quick answer to questions:

TLDR: Don't pigeonhole to just Mck. Join your management consulting club. Pick internships that either have really high impact or have a big name, consulting internships aren't necessary. Start networking NOW with alumni from your school. Start case practice.

So, it's great to hear that you're being proactive now, and planning for the future. I remember that I decided to switch to consulting from a Biotech PhD route during the summer before my junior year, and I had wished that I had know about it sooner. You're on the right track!

As far as advice goes, the first (and biggest) piece of advice I can give is that you want to cast your net wide in order to land a consulting job. McK is great, but I've never heard a strong/valid reason to recruit only for them and not for Bain and BCG as well. If you're recruting only for Mck, then your odds are less than 1% for getting in, and 10% if you get a first round interview. If you recruit for all three, your odds go up significantly. Don't place al your eggs in one basket- especially a basket that usually likes to see a 3.85+ GPA (I had a 3.9+ in STEM and still didn't get an interview from one of the big three!).

So, you asked for what you need to do to maximize your chances working at McK specifically. A lot of these tips also apply for Bain and BCG. Here are the things that are tried and proven to work:

1) Join your school's management consulting club. If they don't have one, then start it. A club like this will let you connect with like-minded people that are going for the same goal, and will show you how to properly write a resume, cover letter, and give you access to practicing cases. In preparing for consulting, the case interview is a big, and you need to practice. If you're going for McK, you'll also need to start gathering really, really high-impact stories about yourself, and what you've done in order to prepare for their Personal Experience Interview (PEI). Your club will help you round that out, help you practice, and shape you so that you'll be a good candidate.

2) Forget what people tell you about getting a consulting internship specifically to get into MBB. It's simply not true that you need a consulting internship to get in. Imagine a 2x2 qualitative graph, the x axis being the prestige or brand, and the y axis being the impact you have in a company. For an internship, you want to be either in the bottom left corner or top right corner (top left corner is like for a VP of a f500 company, you can't really go there). Mck is a bit of a brand whore, so try and get an internship in f100 companies, doing basically anything (just go outside your state). For the high impact, think about a startup that you either create or help during the summer, where you drive 50% of their sales or you redevelop their product, or something scrappy like that. MBB loves those stories, and they help a lot. For me, I didn't have any f100 internship, just a local ventue capital fund for my business exposure, but I also had a side company that made 28k in profit, a failed biotech startup, and a potential cancer treatment I discovered. None of those are sexy like apple or facebook, but they were more than good enough. If you can get out of the US and do social impact work, that's also a FANTASTIC way to go. You asked the question about raising GPA or do an internship: Do the internship. It's way better. If you can't get F100, then go with a local startup and work your tail off, hell , they may even give you some sweat equity.

3) The network. Almost everyone that gets and MBB offer does so because they have had multiple positive interactions with the consultants at the firms, over a long period of time, and almost everyone that doesn't wishes that they had. Your resume will only get you so far. If I'm evaluating 2 resumes that are basically the same (sameish ACT, gpa, internships, etc), but I've done a case or two over the phone with one of them and she nailed it, I'm gonna push her through to the next round and forget about the other one. I cannot stress enough how important a network at the firm is. It's not only the recruiting team connections that matter: find anyone. They will help you polish your resume, if you're worth their time (read: don't act like an entitled ass). They'll help you with cover letter. They'll connect you with decision makers. If you prove to them that you're worth your salt, you'll have great help. I even remember, this time around recruitng, one of the recruitng leads that liked me gave me a call halfway through sorting resumes, and then asked if he could tweak a couple of things on the resume to give me a better shot at getting an interview. I had already submitted! But we were friends, and he wanted me to succeed. That NEVER would have happened without the network.

4) Start the case practice now, if not sooner. You should get good enough that you can hold your own, and then reach out to alumni from your school and ask to practice with you, they're usually really, really down. Practice 1 a week, in person or over the phone. Do NOT just practice by getting a case book and working through it: that doesn't work. You need to learn how to interact during a case, and just reading won't do it. I've seen this habit especially in undergrads with asian/southeast asian ancestry, and it's to their detriment. Practice in person. Find a way. Over the phone also works, but in person is the best way to go about it: it lets them check your structure, shows that you can signpost well, lets them tweak you as you go, etc.

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

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Nov 10, 2018

What was your biotech PhD experience like? What are you doing now?

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Nov 10, 2018

Sorry, the way I wrote was confusing. I I meant was that I was in my undergrad doing research on the path to start a biotech PhD (I was doing my own lab work and running my own experiments as an undergrad), but then I switched out of that path and into a consulting path. Sorry for the confusion! I wasn't in a PhD program, I was going into one (my professor had put a slot aside for me).

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

Nov 12, 2018

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your answer!

Nov 10, 2018

No problem! feel free to reach out if you have any more questions.

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

Nov 19, 2018
kindheartedconsultant:

and a potential cancer treatment I discovered. None of those are sexy like apple or facebook

...?????????????

Nov 10, 2018

Yeah, it sounds kinda crazy, but undergrad cancer researchers these days are a dime a dozen. The problem is that there are tons of types of cancer that respond differently to types of treatment, so your odds of finding the "golden molecule" that can cure them all is non-existent. What ends up happening is you really only get your shot at one molecule. Mine was a type of flavonoid which usually have some anti-cancer effect, but not all are documented. So, as far as a "sexy job" goes, cancer research is only cool if you are leading a lab and have lots of grants: outside of that, you end up just being a pipette monkey. Tech jobs with big names are way more sexy to MBB roles, even if you were doing cool research. Usually they can identify with that a bit more than, say, finding a novel kinase inhibitor in lipid rafts of the cell membrane that downregulates a g4 protein. That's hard to understand. But supply chain management at Apple? That's easy to understand.

Remember, always be kind-hearted.

Learn More

2,037 questions across 209 consulting firms. 11 Cases developed by a McKinsey Associate, 10+ hours of video. The WSO Consulting Interview Prep Course has everything you’ll ever need to ace your consulting case interviews. Learn more.

Nov 10, 2018

If you can't figure out how to use the search bar, then you're not cut out for management consulting.

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Nov 12, 2018

Well actually, I just used the most efficient way of getting the answers I needed which is what you need to do as a management consultant as you need to work faster than your clients and produce more. Why go through so many records and try to see how they can apply to my specific situation when I can just ask?

  • I don't mean to be rude. I just thought this was worth saying.
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Nov 10, 2018
  1. It demonstrates you are incapable of getting the answer yourself. For example... yeah, it may be quick and easy to walk into your boss's office every 6 seconds and ask about the firm's accepted color schemes for models, and so on, but that's really irritating and shows that you are too lazy and stupid to ask your co-workers.
  2. You mistyped McKinsey. The "K" is capital. You don't even know how to write out the name of the company you want to work for.
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Nov 10, 2018

I started my career at MBB. Intern is the hardest job to get at MBB is intern but I say practice case studies and be open to engagements. GPA is a little low but I had a 3.3 from a target an 3.8 from a top tier MSF.

Be a team player and open to travel. I think analytically and use case studies that are heavy power point.

Nov 12, 2018

Thank you for your input!!

Funniest
Nov 10, 2018

You should try and get laid in college, buddy boy.

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Nov 10, 2018

A 3.5 is on the lower side of what McKinsey is looking for--especially for the more competitive internship positions. That being said, they definitely look at your profile holistically, and if your experience and leadership are top notch, you can still get in with a 3.5. Also keep in mind that if you're at a target school, there's likely people with a higher GPA in a harder major, with better experience, and more leadership experience. When that's the case, you can still come out ahead if you have better relationships with the firm than those people!

Other than networking and obviously doing your best to raise your GPA this semester and next, you should try and build a unique profile. While studying abroad would definitely be the most fun out of the options you listed, doing an international internships or an internship with a name brand company is your best bet. In terms of what activities you should do, you can pick whatever you want--just make sure that you get yourself into a significant leadership role where you can make an impact.

When your junior summer recruiting cycle comes in the fall, keep your options open and apply to every consulting firm that targets your school as well as all the name brand companies that might be recruiting. It was my dream to work in consulting too, but I didn't get an internship. Instead I worked at a place with a solid reputation and was able to get a full-time offer the next year. Most people I know in consulting, didn't intern in consulting.

Most importantly, don't let one company define your college experience. Like I mentioned earlier, get involved in things you're actually interested in, hang out with friends, and enjoy life!

Nov 12, 2018

Thank you! This is very helpful!!

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Nov 13, 2018

I can chime in as a recent undergrad hire. If we approach this linearly, there's three events to account for: networking, resumes, and interviews.

Networking is important in an indirect way. Of all the consulting firms, McKinsey puts the least in stock for networking. They do this because they don't want outside influences to cloud their judgement in selecting the best candidates. With that being said, it's human nature to think more highly of people if they present themselves well. Given that you're a sophomore, I'd focus on getting to know one or two junior employees so that you have people who are willing to spread the word of how great you are when it comes time for applications.

Resumes: McKinsey has 4 criteria they grade a resume on: Leadership, Personal Impact, Entrepreneurship, and Analytic Ability. Leadership is straightforward: do you have some role where you lead teams/groups? Personal impact is where big numbers come into play: how has a project of yours manifested in tangible results? Analytic ability is where GPA, school prestige, and test scores come up: it's proof you have the ability to learn. Lastly is entrepreneurship: what do you personally create. Resumes are graded on a points based system; each category is equally important. You are allowed one recommendation from someone you networked with, which provides bonus points, but aside from that, you do not receive any special advantages.

I can go into the actual interview process if you'd like, but that would require another lengthy post: its more important for you to get your GPA to as close to 3.7 as you can, and find ways to boost those other categories (clubs, internships, volunteer work). Otherwise there's no point in me breaking down the interviews

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Nov 12, 2018

Thank you very much! I'm definitely working hard on my GPA and the resume aspect. I need to step up the networking part. This is very helpful.

Nov 13, 2018

Are there talent shows and swim suit competitions to get in as well?

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Jan 8, 2019

I also went to a target, had a 3.5~3.7 GPA in a normal major (aka not engineering or something crazy) and yet got interviews from all MBB. I'm now working at one of them.

What I'm trying to say is that it helps to have a higher GPA (think maybe 3.6~3.7?) but you can compensate for that by demonstrating impact through your leadership roles, experience through client-oriented/analytical internships, and interest by networking with various consultants and understanding the difference between each firm. Once you get an interview, your GPA doesn't matter. It's all about how well your cases and behavioral questions go. Best of luck!