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

Anonymous A

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...

(edited)

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Anonymous B replied on 11/09/2017

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.

Cheers.

Vlad replied on 11/11/2017
McKinsey / Accenture / More than 300 real MBB cases / Collected all Big 3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

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.

Best,

(edited)

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