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As an experienced consultant, I got rejected by McKinsey during CV screening. Why is this the case?!

business analyst McKinsey western europe
New answer on Nov 10, 2023
11 Answers
36.2 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Nov 09, 2017

Hi community,

I recently received a reply from a Western Europe McKinsey office saying I was unsuccessful in my application following the CV screening stage. My question is why this is the case? Let me give you a bit of background about myself.

I applied to the BA role. I am 1-year experienced strategy consultant in a tier 2 firm with office in the same city as the McKinsey office I applied to. This means should I get an offer, by the time I enter McKinsey, I would have two years of experience.

I have always passed the McKinsey CV screening stage in the past during my uni years. My CV and cover letters have remained the same in terms of structure, but I have tailored and highlighted the content to suit my current circumstance and ambitions.

I also have an internal referral who flagged my details to the recruitment team this time around. In the past, I had never been internally referred.

Now, here are a number of hypotheses I have.

1. McKinsey hasn't seen my progress throughout the years of applications - I don't believe this is the case as the last time I was unsuccessful, I was still finishing my degree. Now, I have a full-time job with relevant experience. If this is not a definition of 'progress', I would love to be proven otherwise?

2. I am over-qualified - The BA role accepts candidates with 1-3 years of work experience so I don't think I applied to the wrong role. Meanwhile, the associate role requires you to have PhD/MBA/4+ years of experience, which is not applicable to me.

However, I still think hypothesis 2 is correct for the following reasons:

1. I have work experience but in strategy consulting

2. When McKinsey accepts candidates with 1-3 years of work experience, they want to target those from industries so they can offer industry expertise/experience to the general BA pool. Furthermore, these candidates will have no consulting experience and hence will be 'coachable' and there will be a learning curve for them at McKinsey

3. It is unfair for candidates fresh out of university to compete with experienced consultants. But it is fair for them to compete with experienced candidates with no prior consulting experience for the BA role

And for these reasons, I think that is why hypothesis 2 is correct. Let me know what you think because my unsuccessful application comes as shocking news to me. The motivation behind this post is to really understand the root cause of this and for me to learn from it. Thank you, everyone!

Best wishes,

Confused strategist...


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Anonymous B replied on Nov 09, 2017

Hello Anonymous,

Let's clear the fog first: Given your profile, you still remain an inexperienced consultant. By industry standards, an experienced consultant is someone who has at least 3 years of professional experience within the industry.

Secondly, there are many other reasons (aside from those you have mentioned) that could have led to your dismissal from the process:

  • The referrral was not senior/important/influential enough. Usually, fellow consultants and freshly minted associates are not really good targets for referrals since they are still inexperienced and would lack the credibility to make a proper judgement about a new applicant. Furthermore, you should never neglect your HR contact at McKinsey (or elsewhere). Bypassing protocol might be seen as rude and that you place yourself above everybody else (see point #5)
  • You applied at the wrong time/there were way too many qualified candidates with better referrals/references. Timing is key with MBBs so even when they do tell you that they hire all year round, the fact remains that there are specific periods when they are hiring and could spare the manpower to conduct a proper appraisal of your profile. Furthermore, there are no distinctions made between profiles at the time of application. Every applicant will be evaluated on the basis of the case interview and the criteria will largely remain the same (with some slight alterations based on your seniority level, experience and so on). You also need to consider the very real possibility that your profile is not yet good enough for them because they have had better candidates in terms of profile, engagement with the firm, involvement in networking and so on
  • You did not engage with the firm enough. As shocking as it seems, McKinsey looks for truly passionate folks to hire, i.e. people who talked to their consultants, visited their offices, impregnated themselves with its culture, read their published materials, attended their events and so on. Having a referral is fine and all but it's not enough since anyone applying to McKinsey can get a hold of someone on LinkedIn/their alma mater's alumni office and make their case to be referred
  • Your resume and cover letter were not personalized enough. As an addendum to my previous point and based on what you wrote, your application used the same format and highlighted your ambitions and not what you've learned, what you can expect to bring to the firm coming from another consulting firm and who you have interacted with from McKinsey. Recruiters there keep track of your previous applications and try to see whether you've matured enough and improved since the last time you've applied
  • Your approach was unintentionally rude/unprofessional. Very few candidates take time to mull over their words and actions when networking and applying to companies, especially in consulting firms and end up doing/saying things that may seem inoccuous to them but very rude and unprofessional to recruiters and consultants. Remember: While it is understandable that you want to absolutely get into McKinsey for its challenging work environment, brand name, the possibility to work with the best etc... you have to keep in mind that the majority of the folks working there are humble, respectful and professional individuals and they expect the same attitude from prospective applicants

Besides, it's not shocking to be rejected by McKinsey even if we think we have what it takes to get in. To share a bit of my own "misfortune" with the Firm: I applied in 2015 and flunked the interviews because I was unprepared and overly-arrogant. After tailoring my gap year to cover my weakness in the feedback they've given me (interning in a brand name company and in a start-up), majored in the toughest and most quant heavy major that my alma mater (a prime target school for McK) has to offer, having my thesis published on a respectable financial website, discussed with two HR reps and networked considerably, I still got rejected.

Do I feel sad about it? Yes. Have I dwelled on this matter? No. There's always next time and so long as one does his best, they can make progress towards the goal they've set their minds to.


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replied on Aug 14, 2023
Top-rated McKinsey interviewer / Harvard grad and McKinsey consultant with 5+Y live interview experience


Unfortunately there are many internal reasons your CV might get rejected! Freeze in hiring due to market climate, oversupply of qualified university graduates that cycle, mismatch between office needs and your profile, to name a few. Having said that, here are a few concrete things you can do to boost your chances at the screening stage:

1. Double-end your referral: I have submitted many McKinsey referrals for folks who get rejected at the screening / game assessment stage. However, I've noticed that getting an internal referral, coupled with either a Partner referral or a recruiter/HR contact garners much more attention on your application. Many people don't have these contacts, but be proactive on cold calling / emailing consultants and recruiters and asking for their help to get the right contact (I am happy to help any prospective McKinsey applicants).

2. Position your profile: Do a bit of digging and see what your target office is about (What industries do they work in? What office culture do they have? Do they have any local events in my city?) Show up to events, write a personalized cover letter showing you're a fit with their culture, and use your CV to show that you have experience with their industry focus.

3. Go through your institution wherever possible: McKinsey recruits heavily from universities and you have a much better chance if you apply through the school recruiter, even as an alum. Reach out to them as your first contact, and they may even be able to help you connect with other consultant alums from your school (to help with a double-ended referral!)


Best of luck and feel free to reach out with any questions on application support!

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Content Creator
replied on Nov 10, 2023
ex Jr. Partner McKinsey |Senior Interviewer| Real Feedback & Free Homework between sessions|Harvard Coach|10+ Experience

Hi there,

I can understand your confusion and frustration. While it's challenging to pinpoint the exact reason for the unsuccessful outcome, here are a few considerations:

Role Fit: Double-check that the BA role is the best fit for your profile. Sometimes, candidates with consulting experience might be redirected towards more senior roles.

Internal Referral: While having an internal referral is beneficial, it doesn't guarantee success. Continue leveraging your network and seek feedback from your referral on potential areas for improvement.

Application Pool: The competition for consulting roles, even at the BA level, can be intense. Ensure your application stands out by showcasing how your consulting experience adds unique value to McKinsey.

Cover Letter: Reassess your cover letter to emphasize how your strategy consulting background aligns with the specific requirements McKinsey seeks in BA candidates.

Feedback Request: If possible, consider reaching out to McKinsey's HR for feedback on your application. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights for future applications.

Remember, these are hypotheses, and the actual reasons may vary. It's a learning opportunity, and your commitment to understanding and improving will serve you well in your career journey.

Best wishes,



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Content Creator
replied on Sep 30, 2023
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

Another hypothesis here coming from tier 2 firms and McKinsey is that 1 year of experience in a tier 2 is not enough to make the difference. With that limited experience, your grades would probably weight more and you directly compete with fresh graduates.



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Anonymous replied on Dec 24, 2022

I have always passed the McKinsey CV screening stage in the past during my uni years.

It may be that you have waited too little time to re-apply! Also, you are competing with people with more experience than you and with lateral experience which may be synergistic with management consultant.

You may have experience but, to McKinsey, you may not have been trained their way.

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 23, 2020
#1 MBB Coach(Placed 750+ in MBBs & 1250+ in Tier2)| The Only 360 coach(Ex-McKinsey + Certified Coach + Active recruiter)

I'm sorry to hear that.

The reason for your rejection might be:

- High competition among other candidates

- Not enough project from McKinsey side - simply supply demand

What you can do you can try with other companies.



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Content Creator
replied on Dec 31, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I agree with the previous comments. The simplest answer is that you applied at the wrong time when (i) there was not enough supply (not enough projects) and (ii) too much demand (too strong competition). There are several times when with similar applications people get accepted from McK but not from BCG or Bain – and the main answer is related to supply and demand. Although valid, the other potential reasons are unlikely to have seriously penalized if you passed CV screening in the past without referrals.



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updated an answer on Nov 11, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Completely agree with the previous comment. Some other reasons:

  • You applied to the office that was overstaffed and the demand for consultants was low. (E.g. in US San Francisco office would send you a reject while Taxas office would accept). When you have a referral you can point out your office preferences. What was your selection?
  • You said your resume went through before. Have you applied before? Or was it for some university recruiting activities? The selection criteria for full-time recruiting would be different from the selection criteria for University recruiting activities.

Instead of making a hypothesis you should just ask your friend who made you a referral to check it with HR. They usually provide such information.



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Anonymous replied on Oct 30, 2022


There could be many potential reasons:

  • Wrong application timing (recruitment needs vary throughout the year)
  • Poor resume/ cover letter quality (e.g., not personalized enough)
  • Ineffective referral (e.g., too junior)

Keep in mind as well that 1y experience puts you at entry level. 3y experience is typically required to be considered an experienced consultant.

Best regards,


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Anonymous replied on May 31, 2020

Dear A,

Agree with answers. And yes, it depends in supply and depand of applications and positions.


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Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Agree with the other comments. Have you tried re-applying in another time window?



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