McKinsey Internship Application Guide – How to Succeed Throughout the Process

McKinsey & Company consistently ranks among the best consulting companies in the world. The Firm is always looking for the best and the brightest around the world and hires less than 1% of its total applicants every year.

Getting an offer from McKinsey is not an easy task, especially for young professionals who want to jumpstart their career at the company. This article deals with McKinsey Internship and specifically:

  • Requirements
  • How to apply
  • Details about the job
  • How to succeed throughout the process

The information presented in this article can be reviewed on the McKinsey Careers portal and refers to the position of Business Analyst Intern. Please note that there might be differences in the application and recruiting processes across global offices as for the timeline, application material needed, number of interviews, etc.

McKinsey Internship - Expert Article by Antonello

Table of contents

Application Requirements

McKinsey Careers classifies application requirements into two main categories: Academic and professional qualifications and Job-specific qualifications.

Academic and Professional Qualifications

  • In your junior year of an undergraduate degree; with an expected graduation date of December of the current year - August next year
  • Or in your senior year and planning to enter a 1-year master’s program
  • Or currently completing your first year in a non-business, 2-year master’s program and have less than 2 years of work experience
  • Or are in your first year of a two-year commitment with Teach for America and have 3 years or fewer of work experience to date

Job-Specific Qualifications

  • Ability to work collaboratively in a team and create an inclusive environment with people at all levels of an organization
  • Capability to drive an independent workstream in the context of a broader team project
  • Comfort with ambiguous, ever-changing situations
  • Ability to break down and solve problems through quantitative thinking and analysis
  • Ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, in English and local office language(s)

Candidates MUST satisfy the academic and professional requirements to apply. This is a necessary condition to be eligible and therefore considered for the Business Analyst Intern position.

Job-specific requirements are the skills you must possess to be an interesting candidate to interview. They should sound familiar to the more experienced aspiring consultants while they might be relatively new to beginners. Successful candidates are those who can demonstrate to have every requirement (e.g., “Ability to break down and solve problems through quantitative thinking and analysis”) during the whole recruitment process, from application to interview rounds. I have developed my coaching packages exactly on these must-have skills which can transform any candidate from average to a top performer.

Important note: consultants must speak and write proficiently in the language of the office they wish to apply for. If this condition is not met, you will likely be rejected!

There are two main application methods: online via McKinsey Careers or via referral. In this article, I will discuss only the first, “traditional” method, but I highly encourage candidates to network their way to a referral.

Networking is a great way to learn more about the job, the culture of the firm and office, the lifestyle, and the people working at McKinsey. And it might also lead you to a referral, which will not get you an offer, but it definitely helps in getting an interview.

The online portal is extremely well structured, and my candidates have all reported smooth experiences with it. Thus, I will not go through the stages of the process (which takes about 15-20 minutes) but rather focus on which essential materials you need to prepare.

CV

CV Key Success Factors

Candidates sometimes ignore the importance of their resume while it is the most fundamental component of your application. McKinsey receives around one million applications every year, so you must ensure that your CV stands out from the crowd. To be successful you need to work both on its content and structure.

As for content, recruiters will mainly look at:

  • Academic background
  • McKinsey recruits from a great variety of schools and backgrounds (engineering, business, psychology, etc.). The Firm highly values above-average academic results (i.e., your GPA) and other relevant achievements (e.g., winner of Mathematical Olympiad).
  • Relevant experience (professional and/or extracurricular)
  • Previous work experience is usually not demanded, although it can significantly increase the chances to get through the screening stage. Recruiters also consider other relevant experience such as volunteering, involvement with student association, entrepreneurial activities, etc.

A key success factor here is that you can demonstrate impact on 4 key skills and traits that are essential to be successful at McKinsey:

Demonstrating impact means that you are able to quantify the results of your work (e.g., 15% increase in sales) in a clear and concise manner. I know what you are thinking: I cannot quantify the impact of my work as my tasks were mainly qualitative. My answer is that it might be complex, but you can definitely do it. Think about the results from a different perspective and you will find a way to show impact for every single task you have done.

Tip: structure the content of your CV thinking about these 4 pillars. Ideally, you should have at least one bullet point for each of them.

As for structure, think about these statistics: recruiters spend an average of six seconds reading a resume. While content is king, you must structure your CV to make it stand out. There are three general criteria to follow:

  • Be clear: write about your impact in a clear and concise manner, using action verbs to highlight your achievements
  • Be consistent: if you use italics to describe your job positions, stick to this format throughout the entire resume
  • Be clean: let your content breathe. Use spaces and indentations smartly and do not make your CV overcrowded
Cover Letter Guidelines

The cover letter is a way to improve your application and sell your experience and impact. Thus, it should not be generic, and you need to spend time tailoring it as it demonstrates your specific interest for the company.

I recommend the cover letter to have the following paragraphs:

Here are other guidelines on how to create a killer cover letter:

  • Tell a story: you should describe your experience, motivation and fit as a story rather than a list of bullet points taken from you CV
  • Make it personal: do not use cliches. Try to think about your unique motivation to join McKinsey vs all other companies
  • Highlight impact: you should be able to showcase your fit with the company in every interaction you have with them, being it an interview or a cover letter
  • Avoid grammatical errors: this may sound trivial, but I usually find 1-2 grammatical errors in every cover letter I review. Ask your friends, professors, or university career coach to review your story before sending it
  • Keep it short: one page maximum
Other Relevant Material

It should be easy for you to download your transcript of records. Even non-official ones should be enough for the application stage. If your school allows it, ask for GPA and percentile; this will show that not only you have a 3.90 GPA but that you are in the top 3% of your class/school.

Some candidates send other relevant materials such as portfolios (some of my mentees were architects / photographers) or business models they developed in university courses/challenges. The only rules here is to be relevant. If you think you have interesting material to show your recruiters, let them see it!

What Does an Intern Do

Let’s start with a general introduction to the role.

Business Analyst Interns usually stay at the Firm for around 10-12 weeks. They are an active part of client engagement teams, which are usually composed of 3-5 consultants, i.e., Business Analysts, Associates, Managers, Partners.

Interns take on a variety of tasks and support the team with project-specific analyses. The main difference with respect to a Business Analyst is the level of complexity of the task as well as its scope and degree of autonomy expected. Typical activities vary according to the engagement and include, but are not limited to analyzing data, building analytical models (e.g., on Excel), summarizing documents, developing slides for client presentations, and organizing logistics and internal requests/activities.

It is hard to cover all the main tasks carried out by an Intern at the Firm, which is why I have created a summary table below to give you a general but comprehensive overview of the job.

  • Typical activities:
    • Analyze data, summarize data, generate insights, communicate results
  • Tools used:
    • Excel for data analysis
    • PowerPoint for presentations
    • Some projects might require big data tools such as PowerBI, Alteryx, Tableau, but the knowledge of these tools is not mandatory, and it is rather taught on the job
  • Time split client vs non client-facing activities:
    • 80% non-client facing activities (e.g., daily check-ins/outs with Manager, conduct data analyses, etc.)
    • 20% client facing activities (e.g., data request meetings, client updates, steering committee, etc.)
  • Skills learned:
    • How to master the fundamentals of Excel and PowerPoint
    • How to format and proof-read client documents (e.g., client presentations)
    • How to perform detailed, repetitive tasks with high quality and dependability
    • How to manage a workstream
    • How to coordinate internal and external stakeholders
How to Prepare for Success

First and foremost, if you are reading this article, you are on the right platform! PrepLounge has great content to start your application and boost your interview preparation at every step.

I encourage you to practice with the best candidates you can find around. Look for partners you can learn from and who also value your growth by giving you accurate and fact-based feedback.

Once you have done some practice, start working on really-assigned cases such as this link one and see how you compare to those contained in casebooks.

Working with a coach is also a great way to improve your preparation. Coaches help you define the optimal interview preparation plan based on your strengths and weaknesses and they give you additional insights on how McKinsey and other top consultancies evaluate their candidates. This is true at any stage of your recruitment process, from the development of CV and cover letter to your first and second round interviews.

 

I hope you found this article useful. Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you want to know more about Internships at McKinsey or if you would like to discuss how I coached hundreds to get their dream job.

Good luck!

About the Author

Profile Picture AntonelloAntonello

McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

  • Professional Experience: McKinsey & Company, NASA
  • Languages: English, Italian
  • Location: Switzerland