Are MBB's truly more similar than different? (I think not...)

Bain BCG McKinsey
New answer on Jun 23, 2022
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 20, 2022

I've read many many comments from consultants here stating that MBBs are pretty much the same and that the differences are marginal. Well, I would like to share my story and have your take on it.

I interviewed with all MBBs. got rejected at Bain's final round, and received offers from McK & BCG. I now try to decide between the two and when contemplating my process with each one I notice a major difference in my experience between the two.

McK

HR: Behaviour was questionable. My interviews were rescheduled three times which is ok, but the thing is HR changed the dates on her own mind without even asking me if the new date suits me, and casually informed me they had to move it. Also, the overall communication was very distanced and formal. 

Networking: I Approached 10+ consultants from the office via LinkedIn, only 2-3 responded, had two calls which were ok. When I asked if it was possible to have a mock case interview was told that they are really busy and can't. later when preparing for the final round I messaged them and got ghosted.

Interviews: All interviewers were very impressive people, but the conversation felt distant and like there is no real interest in me as a person, only to understand if I check their boxes. Also, at one interview the interviewer was extremely not nice, seemed to be angry for some reason, and had overall really bad vibes. Also, at no point did I have an HR interview which I find odd.

BCG

HR: Was super nice from day one, took a genuine interest in me. Took the time to explain everything, and any change that had to be made was communicated beforehand to make sure it was ok on my side.

Networking: I Approached 10+ consultants from the office via LinkedIn, had 7-8 replies, had 4 phone calls with consultants that took the time to explain to me a lot of things about the job and the office. One of them even circled back to me after two weeks to asking how was my process doing and if I'd want to do a mock interview, without me even asking. 

Interviews: Had a blast in all interviews. The conversation seemed genuine and went both ways, the people were very nice, and not distant at all. I clicked with an MDP that made the interview feel like we were on the same level and was genuinely curious about me. Also had an hour-long HR interview that made me feel that personal fit is extremely important to them. 

Synthesis

Overall there was a stark difference in my experience at both firms. McK felt really distant, with a clear hierarchy, and very very formal. Also, the behavior to me as a candidate was questionable. Whereas the process at BCG felt fun and inviting. the people were extremely nice (all the way up to MDPs) and the overall atmosphere was great.

This obviously makes me inclined to opt for BCG but I have two considerations about it:

1) What if that's just an anecdotal experience that won't represent my experience working for these firms? As I noted in the headline, most consultants seem to agree both firms are more or less the same.

2) Regarding prestige and pay, McK is considered more prestigious overall, and pays ~10% more in base salary than BCG.

(edited)

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Ian
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replied on Jun 21, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

It's all about context/perspective here!

Danes feel different to Norwegians, and South Carolinans feel different to Texans…but if you zoom out to the whole world you better believe Scandinavians are “more similar” than to Egyptians and Americans from the South are “more similar” than to Chinese!

In the grand scheme of the business world, MBBs are very similar to each other…

In the consulting world, MBBs are actually quite different (in my view). I think most of the stereotypes of MBB generally hold true. I saw this in my MBA program (who went where), I saw this on the job, and I've seen this in my candidates. I think your assessment of BCG/McK is about right.

That said, remember there are immense office/regional differences as well.

Finally, I personally would NOT discredit your interview/networking experience at all. Networking/interviewing is as much about you interviewing the firm as them interviewing you…people forget this!

Trust your gut here.

On a personal note, I trusted mine and worked for Appian instead of the Federal Reserve of the US….I went to a no-name Tech company instead of a revered institution because I could just sense from the interviews that it would be a great firm/culture/choice…I've never looked back :)

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Ken
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updated an answer on Jun 21, 2022
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

It's great that you're being so thoughtful about the decision!  There's also clear variation between offices/practices to be mindful of.  Personally, I would be slightly hesitant to extrapolate your personal experience (I have heard many opposite cases too) to be representative as both are large firms but your experience as a candidate is definitely a worthwhile consideration.

If helpful, I would add my experience being a client to both McKinsey and BCG now.  I find BCG much more collaborative (with their clients) by listening, understanding stakeholders and delivering what is being asked even if mundane tasks.  For example, I seen BCG senior partners engaging with junior members in my company and not feeling the need to drive the conversation either.  On the flip side, McKinsey has brought a more independent perspective which has been valuable in certain situations where they don't allow the company politics to drive the answer they present.  Again, this is n=1, but I was aware of this general nuance on average when I was at McKinsey although it really depends on the individual teams of consultants.  

If you are clear of the type of work/people you want to work with then I would solve for them.  If not, the experience can be so similar that I would just go with where you feel a stronger overall fit for you to be successful which is far more important than the company name, especially when you're comparing McK vs. BCG. 

Good luck!

(edited)

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Kurt
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replied on Jun 21, 2022
Conducted over 100 interviews for grads, interns & experienced hires

There are some great answers here already from people who know MBB better than I do (I worked at Oliver Wyman for 11 years) so I won't opine on which is better between the three.

One piece of advice I often give mentees who are struggling with the decision around multiple offers - there may be differences but all firms (and others like OW / ATK etc.) are all pretty good places to start your career. You shouldn't feel anxious about your decision because it's likely that no matter what your choice it will leave you in a great place in a few years' time.

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Clara
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replied on Jun 21, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Huge congrats!

I do think that they are VERY VERY similar, particularly related to the fact that what matters most, the people, is quite similar (talented, friendly, overachievers -insecure overachievers actually-, eager to learn and teach, curious…)

I think you are being very thoughtful about the process and it´s great. Honestly, I would do what a parter with whom I used to work with did: ask to spend a day in each of them. She had it clear then … ;) ;)

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Adi
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replied on Jun 20, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

At the core of it- behaviours, performance expectations, type of work & general well-being, I am going to say that they will all be pretty similar. Of course there will be variations in various aspects by office/country, but broadly the core will be same. Same thing different logo :).

As a candidate, I always advice people to go for mutual FIT! This includes strong FIT in terms of:

  1. Personal and professional values (culture, leadership, ways of working, reputation, etc
  2. Career aspirations
  3. Will this job allow me to give my best and be happier
  4. Are any underlying risks of taking this job manageable

Please have a browse of this article which provides more guidance on how to choose between jobs/careers- https://www.preplounge.com/en/articles/how-do-i-know-which-career-is-right-for-me

All the best!

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Moritz
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
McKinsey | 100+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Top rated for experienced hires & career transitioners

Hi there,

With regards to your own experience - I would suggest that you have to few data points. That's because:

  • For any given firm and office, you may get lucky or unlucky with interviewers depending on the day
  • For any given firm, you may get big differences between offices and regions e.g. Germany vs. Chile (my own experience with McK)
  • For any given firm, you may get big differences between practices e.g. M&A vs. Ops

Hence, what it comes down to is what you make out of your time in any of those firms! You could join either one and have a VERY different experience, depending on what path you take. They're not homogenous at all…

Hope this helps a bit. Best of luck!

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Cristian
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
Highest recommendation rate / Top McKinsey coach / 100% success rate at >4 sessions / Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

From personal experience, they are very similar. 

My wife and I joined BCG and McK respectively at around the same time and both spent close to five years in the firms. We had very similar experience overall and the people in the firms are very similar as well. 

You are likely to find bigger differences within the offices inside the same firm (e.g., BCG US vs BCG Europe) than between firms within the same geography (e.g., McK Europe vs BCG Europe). 

I think you should do whatever has a better vibe for you and based on your story, it sounds like it's rather BCG. Of course, it's also fair to say that your story is not representative of everybody and many tends to have the opposite experience. 

Best,
Cristian

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Lucie
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updated an answer on Jun 22, 2022
10+yrs recruiting & top BCG trainer and coach & BCG Project leader & experienced hire & ICF coach

Hi there, 

congrats on both offers! A great achievement! I hope you celebrated in those <2% of getting the offer!

I am still with BCG so maybe I am not the most objective person, but BCG is a really a great company with amazing people, where you can be yourself. This impression i had from day 1 when I got contacted until now, almost 3 years working for the firm. 

On the salary and prestige: I very much disagree that McKinsey is more prestigious than BCG, I actually think BCG is ahead on digital, sustainability and many other things, plus we are NOT prone to scandals as McKinsey eventually (still think is individual failure rather than company). 

I would leverage you offer from McKinsey to negotiate the salary difference with BCG, 10% is not much and you should be able to close it. 

Good luck!

Lucie

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(edited)

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Ian

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