The Experienced Hire Route: The Alternative Path to Breaking into McKinsey, BCG and Bain

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

Let’s face it, getting into McKinsey, BCG, Bain (MBB) is notoriously difficult and the odds may seem close to winning the lottery. Interestingly, as it stands the chances of getting accepted into Harvard, Princeton and Stanford are significantly higher than getting into McKinsey which in 2017 received more than 750,000 applications and ended up hiring less than 1% of those.

The Rumoured Blacklist

For a long time there has been a rumour that McKinsey maintains a database of rejected applicants. To be honest, I don’t know whether there is truth to that.

However, I would still keep it in mind in crafting my application strategy. Therefore, if you’re applying right out of school it might make sense to avoid to but yourself on such a list at all of the three MBBs, of those are your absolute dream employers.

I would however think that even if such a “blacklist” exists, that after gathering 2-3 years of work experience at another top-notch employer you shouldn’t worry too much about reapplying to McKinsey, BCG etc.

Jobs That Maximize Your Chances To Move Back into McKinsey, BCG, Bain

So what can you do if you failed to break into the “Promised Land” after undergraduate or business school? The best strategy is to secure a great job at firms that tend to be feeder firms to consulting,, This will allow you to boost your CV and allow you to gain experiences that you can leverage later in the application process.

In our experience most Experienced Hires come from the following industries:

  • Investment Banking or top law firms: in my experience bankers and lawyers make up a large part of the experienced hires in my experience. Reason being that hires from these fields will know how to work hard, the have worked under tremendous pressure, and had exposure to high-ranking clients such as CEOs, etc. Also, Investment Banks and Law firms tend to have a very similar organizational system with Partners at the top and a defined hierarchy.

  • Blue Chips: think P&G, Unilever, etc

  • Started their own company: not only by VC firms but also management consulting firms seek employees with an entrepreneurial mind-set, who are self-starters and possess great communication and organizational skills

  • Large tech firms (e.g. Alphabet, Facebook). The problem here is that it might be as difficult to break into as into top management consulting firm

  • Other Consulting Firms: McKinsey and other top management consulting firms are experiencing rapid growth. Therefore, many have started to hire less experienced consultants from competitors such as smaller well-regarded strategy consulting firms. The advantage here, is that working at another consulting firm will allows you to already practice the exact skills required to excel at the top firms.

When is The Best Time to Apply?

Ideally, you want to have worked long enough at your employer to have something to show for. This will allow you to have great recommendations, evidence that you (out-)performed your peers (e.g. internal HR rankings, early promotions, etc.).

Also, you will hopefully have worked on high profile projects (i.e. you worked on a mega cap M&A deal widely covered in the press). This experience will provide you with great stories to draw upon in your McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI). Check out our article for more details.

If you attended grad school and want to reapply to McKinsey after having gained some work experience you should try aim to do it latest after 4 years out of school. Most Experienced Hires join at the Associate rank, therefore, you want to make sure that you’re still in the age band and that this move will not mean a “demotion” for you.

How Attending Recruiting Events Can Significantly Boost Your Chances

While the interview process will likely be very similar to what you would expect as a normal hire out of business school, getting to the interview stage is often the main hurdle people face.

Therefore, applying for recruiting events organized by McKinsey, BCG or Bain may a less travelled route in. to be clear we don’t have evidence that the hurdle to get invited is lower. However, if you think about the potential “cost” of making a mistake, those costs are comparatively lower for HR to invite someone to a recruiting event rather than finding out during a “Superday” that the candidate lacks the required skills.

So how can you leverage your recruiting event? Firstly, behave at your best, ask questions and try to learn as much about the firm in general.

Also make sure to get to know all of the HR representatives. They are the gatekeepers to the interview process. While the process might differ from firm to firm, in our experience once you get invited to a recruiting event you will most likely be given the chance to schedule your personal “Superday”.

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