Compensating bad grades (MBB)

grades
New answer on Jan 19, 2021
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 15, 2021

Hello,

How is it possible to compensate for bad grades? Can entrepreneurial experience be enough to compensate? Or will it be a hard sell?

Thanks!

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Ken
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updated an answer on Jan 16, 2021
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

For MBB entry level roles, compensating for bad grades is difficult as it's usually the first hygiene factor (incl. school) for a CV to be considered. It is worth noting that the bar for consideration is not necessarily that high where if you are in the top 15-20% of a target school then your CV will still be considered. MBBs are increasingly looking outside "target schools" but there you will need strong grades to stand out.

Professional experience and achievement is your best way of compensating. You may not be able to join an MBB at entry level but a few years of experience (distinctive performance at a tier 2, IBD, etc.) will definitely help differentiate yourself from the crowd. Another option is a top MBA, which I appreciate may also be a chicken-and-egg problem, but would reset your undergrad academic achievements.

A referral may help but I personally don't think it would compensate unless the person referring you knows you intimately and can make a strong case. Either way, I think it would come down to your professional experience in an established setting not necessarily an entrepreneurial one. MBBs are risk adverse where they would have a bias towards a target school candidate with strong grades and 1-2 internships at well known institutions (i.e., MBB clients) than a successful student entrepreneur with poor grades.

(edited)

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Florian
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replied on Jan 16, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

it might be tricky, especially now, however, you can try. In the end, the overall picture counts, and there are many contextual factors that influence the decision.

To illustrate, if you had bad grades but at the same time started a company, grew it and hired employees, and sold it to an investor, that shows that you had your priorities right. In that case, you could outweigh bad grades with entrepreneurial experience (as you specifically ask for)

In general, I always recommend early stage coachees to optimize the following four points on the resume:

  • academics (university prestige, program prestige, GPA, awards, etc.)
  • career (corporate, lower-tier consulting, working student, student projects, etc.)
  • experience abroad (exchange or internship abroad)
  • extracurriculars (captain of a team, founder of an NGO, etc.)

The more you have from the above list, the better your chances you will be. One word on the contextual factors from above. This can also vary across offices, time of hiring, the personal motivation of HR, etc.

Additionally, in your position, you need to focus on networking across all three MBBs. The more referrals you get, the higher quality and seniority these referrals are, and the more contacts you create, the better your chances will be to pass the HR screening.

All the best!

Cheers,

Florian

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Denis
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replied on Jan 15, 2021
Ex-Bain 5 yrs | Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews

Hi A,

this depends. It can likely be said (let us see what other coaches are saying) that if your grades are too bad (e.g. US < 3.0 out of 4 GPA, or German > 3 out of 6, European C or D in a A-D scale) this would be a reason for them not to let you proceed. It would help if you could provide your grades in question. Important is also the ranking, i.e. some programs (e.g. Electrical Engineering) are obviously tough, however the ranking should still be good.

When it comes to entrepreneurial experience, it again depends what exactly this means. Type, size, industry of venture. Revenue p.a.? Number of Employees? Exit? They would like to see some experience that could be considered objectively "successful".

That said - it is probably important for them to understand as to why your grades are bad. Are they bad because your founded company skyrocketed and you didnt have time to prep? (In that case the entrp. experience should reflect this). If, however, the entrp. exp. is OK and the grades bad, they would be assuming other reasons. Make sure to list other activities too that hindered you from getting better grades, e.g. where you part-time working somewhere? Mentoring?

Best,
Denis

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Clara
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replied on Jan 16, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

As a general rule of thumb, grade do matter, but are not a deal breaker.

What do I mean with this?

  • The higher your grades are, overall, the better. And it does count, particularly when you are joining straigh out of uni, since there are not that many further data points you can share.
  • If you have strong extra-curricular performance on top of uni (e.g., clubs, sports, entrepreneurial activity, etc.), this also compensates for the grades

Overall, recruiters value the application as a whole.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Francesco
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replied on Jan 16, 2021
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Hi there,

The #1 thing that can help you is a referral. I know cases where people with relatively bad GPA were invited to MBB interviews thanks to a partner referral.

A couple of other options:

  1. Top brands in your CV (other top consulting firms, top IB firm, big brands)
  2. Extracurriculars (leadership and volunteer experiences)
  3. Strong GMAT (730+ - however don’t do that just to compensate the grades – it would require too much time)

If not compulsory, I would not recommend to report your grades in your CV if below 3.7 GPA.

Best,

Francesco

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Antonello
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replied on Jan 16, 2021
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi,

This question doesn't have one specific answer.

Grades are only one part of your application and therefore they can be compensated by other factors, e.g. work experience or entrepreneurial experience.

Let's say that high grades are easy to see when you complete an application form, while it might be harder to sell your entrepreneurial experience.

You might want to invest in networking and trying to get a referral so that your grades will matter less at that point.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Antonello

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Ian
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replied on Jan 16, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Honestly, it depends on how bad your grades are.

For example, if you have a 2.7, sorry but not much can be done here. However, if you have an average grade such as a 3.3/3.4, you absolutely can make up for this in other areas.

Branded internships/jobs, career advanced, high levels of responsibility, a strong skillset, etc. are all evaluated together...so, improving these can cover up an average GPA.

What to do if your GPA is truly horrible? 1) Don't show it on the resume and 2) Get another degree and get fantastic grades in the degree

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Gaurav
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updated an answer on Jan 19, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi there,

generally speaking, grades matter - especially when you're a fresh grad, but even there you have an opportunity to compensate for them. That includes: extra achievemens, experiences abroad, internships, big firms in your CV, awards, entrepreneurial experience, creating / leading a club / a team, a great GMAT etc.

Also, networking and securing a referral can help.

At this stage, getting some professional help from a coach can significally improve your chances to get through the CV screening.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

GB

(edited)

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Ken gave the best answer

Ken

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Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer
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