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Cultural fit

New answer on Sep 26, 2020
8 Answers
1.9 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Sep 24, 2020

Hi all,

I’ve heard of consultants moving between MBB firms due to a lack of ‘cultural fit’. My question to you all is: what exactly does a lack of ‘cultural fit’ mean? I would imagine that the culture amongst the MBB firms is quite similar, I.e., long hours, demanding clients, high achieving, ambitious professionals etc so is there really a noticeable and stark contrast between the firms that would encourage someone to shift firms?

Thanks in advance

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Anonymous replied on Sep 24, 2020


For sure, the kind of clients they work with, the kind of work they do, and the salaries and working lives of their employees are all much closer to one another than to other firms.


However, as with any business, they remain the sum of their individual staff. This being the case, different offices will show some variation in terms of culture, focus, etc..


  • McKinsey has historically been very strong in strategy, organization and operation work, and has the larger footprint in the Education, Public Sector and Telco space. That said, by virtue of its larger size, McKinsey usually has the deeper roster of client relationships across most industries.
  • BCG sells itself as focusing on corporate development, innovation and business growth.
  • Bain has the deepest expertise in working with Private Equity funds and other principal investors.


McKinsey leads in terms of overall size and reach, with over 9,000 consultants globally. This is followed by BCG, with7,000 consultants, and then Bain, with 4,000 consultants. By virtue of being considerably bigger than BCG or Bain, McKinsey boasts the most diverse footprint and larger office network. This disparity is most strongly felt in emerging markets, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where McKinsey has built a much stronger local presence than BCG or Bain. Across Europe and North America, the differences are less pronounced, but it's wise to check the office sizes for your desired cities before making decisions (for instance, BCG is particularly strong in some German cities).


The organization in McKinsey is a bit more traditional, formal and hierarchal, while BCG is flatter and more collaborative. Bain, on the other hand, is effectively a mix of both McKinsey and BCG, and the employee culture is a bit more "fratty". Of course, the three firms draw from the top schools worldwide - particularly top 10 business schools for their MBA hires - so there is a substantial overlap in the profiles of their hires.

In terms of travel, McKinsey has the most "global" approach. This means it's more likely for consultants from that firm to be staffed in projects based in offices other than their own. This is good if you enjoy the jet set lifestyle and accumulating airmiles - but sub-optimal if you want the stability of staying close to your home country. Regardless of firm, though, most consultants travel for four days a week, so it is simply a part of the job you will have to get used to.

Salaries, Career, and Opportunities:

In contrast to salaries, there are some meaningful differences in exit opportunities between the MBB firms. As the strength of particular firms’ networks vary across different industries, so your chances of breaking into those industries will vary as a result. Bain has the deepest network with PE and hedge funds, while McKinsey has broader connections with most traditional industries and public sector organizations.

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Content Creator
replied on Sep 24, 2020
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

There definitely is a cultural fit element across the firms

Let me give you one example that comes across in the interview process. For McKinsey interviews for example, there is a strong emphasis in the PEI element to focus on what actions you took as an individual to resolve the challenge. At Bain, there is less focus on just you doing things on your own as there is also an element of how you involved others in the team. This translates into very different types of people that enjoy working in the 2 firms,

Another example - McKinsey consultants are expected to fly to the client site every week for 4 days a week when on a project whereas at Bain it is very common to work from the Bain office and only fly for important meetings or for limited durations vs the entire project.

There are many elements to cultural fit at the end of the day and it does matter when deciding where to work.



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Content Creator
replied on Sep 24, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

You've only listed traits of the job!

That's totally and completely different from cultures of the companies. Disney and Pixar both have to be creative, design content, work internally, etc. But you and I both know they have totally different cultures! FB and Google all have long hours, require technical skills, are filled with geeks, and work on product, but they have totally different cultures!

MBB are very different from each other. That being said, ex-MBBers really get along with each other. However, inside the companies, the cultures are truly very different.

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Anonymous updated the answer on Sep 24, 2020

Long hours, demanding clients, high achieving are all what come naturally with the job. But culture is not defined by these factors. It is about the connection and support among your colleagues and between the firm and the employees.

My personal view is BCG and Bain has similar culture, which is quite different from McK. The best way for you to understand the difference is to talk to the alumni and employees in the firms and see which group of people you connect better with.


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Content Creator
replied on Sep 25, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Overall, let me say that I agree with you. Differences are little.

However, each office it´s a whole world and sometimes people just don´t fit! (e.g., disagreemets with the way of work, with the pace of work, with the work-life balance policies...) or even with the fact that the office does not focus sufficently on the industry/topics that the person wants.

This said, I believe that among MBB the job description and day to day work is indeed very similar

Hope it helps!



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Anonymous replied on Sep 25, 2020

Dear A!

What might stay behind the decision to move to a different company within MBB is two things.

First of all, the upper out culture in all of them. For example, if you're asked to leave Mckinsey, you might be still a good candidate for BCG or Bain and you can motivate it as a lack of cultural fit.

Secondly, if you find yourself really uncomfortable within one firm, then you could easily switch to another one because they are equally good reputable, but all the three firms are a little bit different in terms of culture and people, who work in these companies. So, for instance, already mentioned Mckinsey is more about individualism and individual excellence as their values. So colleagues within the firm are more competitive than collaborative in BCG or Bain. Bain, by contrast, is more a team-work company, so therefore as you see there are some differences in the corporate culture, in the values of the company as well as in the group of people, who are working in all the three firms. And based on it, consultants might switch from one firm to the other.

And last but not least: if you could get a faster promotion within the different firms, for example through changing from BCG to Bain- why not use this option?

Hope it gives you some more clarity and I wish you the best of luck!


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replied on Sep 25, 2020
BCG | Received offers from all MBB & Tier 1Firms | Supporting you secure your top tier consulting offer

Hi there,

From my experience, I feel that there are more differences between two offices of the the same firm than between two different firms on a broad level. Different offices of the same firm handle situations differently, which creates completely different experiences. So one person might not fit in the office A of a firm X but can fit in office B of the same, and this happens frequently.

Culture elements can include some of the following: how taking initiative is recognized, how success is celebrated, how staffing preferences are respected, etc.

I will be happy to tell you more about this and to explain in what ways cultural differences can be manifested.

All the best,


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Content Creator
replied on Sep 26, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

The reality is that the range of perceived culture is much higher between different project managers (this is what you feel most directly in your everyday life) than the average between different firms.

Obviously depending in addition on geography and industry/functional practice.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind to give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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