9yrs of experience hire - atypical journey - Worth trying MBB?

Paul asked on Apr 16, 2019 - 5 answers

Dear all,

I have 9 years of experience, incl. 3 in operations consulting at EY (TMT & Public sectors), 3 in internal audit for EU's largest media group and then 3 in corporate strategy for this same group. I'm currently VP Strategy but have to move to Switzerland due to my wife's landing her dream job. Was thinking of applying to McKinsey, probably pre-EM anyway.

I speak FR, EN, DE. Have not graduated from a top school but attended several INSEAD executive education courses through my company's talent management program.

Is there any chance to swing an interview? I might have a referral (working on that).

Thanks for any thoughts, positive or negative.

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Anonymous replied on Apr 17, 2019

Hi Paul,

Absolutely you have a shot. Speaking just in regards to my time at BCG, we have a significant number of lateral hires. However, it should be noted that you will likely experience a step "down". For example, a colleague with equivalent work experience (though +2 years work experience compared to my MBA) was hired as a junior consultant while I was hired as a consultant. Similarly, I was hired as a consultant with 4 years work experience and an MBA, while I know people who needed 4 years work experience (no MBA) just to come in as an Associate.

So, you certainly can get into MBB, though I echo the concerns from other commentors around whether it is worth it (a common career path is to go from MBB to the very role you have). If you come in as an expert, you may need to go down a rung.

Hope this helps!

Hi Ian, Thank you for the clear answer. I understand very well the various points. I have already applied to 10-15 firms in corporate strategy position with no success, and often no feedback. When I managed to get some, they said the lack of MBB or industry experience was the main reason. While I am absolutely sure I will learn a great deal of things at an MBB, I would avoid it if I could. Best, — Paul on Apr 17, 2019

Anonymous replied on Apr 20, 2019

Considering your experience and potential for a referral, a simple answer to your question would be YES you have a significant chance.

updated his answer on Apr 17, 2019
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Hi Paul,

With your background and possible referrals, I think you have a fair shot at MBB despite not having graduated from a top school. Realistically, you will start as a Senior Associate. I know McKinsey is hesitant to make you begin as an EM since there is a steep learning curve associated, which is different from what you will experience in industry (e.g., gettin alignment from all stakeholders in PS sessions, having a week 1 answer, etc.). Having said that, you could get an accelerated bump to EM (6 months-1year) if your first couple of studies go very well.

Based on your comment that you would want to eventually transition into a role that enables you to run your own P&L, an expert track is not the right answer here.

PS - Even if you start as a Senior Associate, you should still be able to negotiate your salary significantly :)

Hope this helps!



Hi Nirmit, thank you for the detailed answer. If there is a chance, I would also bet on Senior Associate. This is precisely what they've offered to a former SME CFO friend of mine - Senior Associate with quick bump to EM if performance allows. I would also prefer to stick to the generalist track. Thank you for the tip on salary negotiations, good to know! Best, Paul — Paul on Apr 17, 2019

Vlad replied on Apr 16, 2019
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I think with your experience you can be considered for a Manager role or an experts role. In the first case, I believe your experience will be more diverse and it will be in line with your overall goal of changing the sector. The second option will give you the brand but less diverse exit opportunities.


Thank you, Vlad. Now is the time to see whether I can network my way to an interview. I know the standard HR way would probably mean a blackball. Cheers! — Paul on Apr 16, 2019

updated his answer on Apr 16, 2019
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I think the first question you need to ask yourself is where you want to go. Is strategy your long term goal, or are you thinking of moving back to Finance or Operations as most Strat guys end up doing ("I want to run a P&L")? And is the MBB brand such a significant appeal that you would be willling to start as a consultant (pre-EM)? As a VP Strat already, this will definitely not be a career accelerator.

Once you decide what you really want, then we can thinik of what companies to join. France puts a premium on the school, Germany puts a premium on the degree... I think Switzerland is somewhere in the middle, but could be wrong. Either way - not having an advanced degree from a brand name will be a negative. Is MBB right then? You may have better odds at a Tier2, unless you are open to join an expert track perhaps.

Based on what little you tell us, my gut feel is you should stay in a big group and hire the MBB folks to work for you instead. :)


Thank you Guennael, that is helpful. We do have a full set of McK coming each year for various things. I totally get your answers. My goal is to use McK as a way to end up running a P&L in a few years. My industry (media) is almost non-existent in Switzerland and landing in another industry's strat department has so far proved impossible. That's why I considered McK as a way in and I additionally though I'd learn a few things in the process. — Paul on Apr 16, 2019

I do think the brand name is worth it but Tier2 also possible — Paul on Apr 16, 2019

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