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Differences in Associate and Analyst positions at McKinsey?

Anonymous A asked on Sep 16, 2017 - 3 answers

I was rejected by McKinsey with a feedback that my problem solving skills are insufficient for an Associate level position. They mentioned that if I were applying for an Analyst role, they would gladly accept me.

The question is: what are the differences between those roles? What exactly McKinsey expects from Associates in terms of problem solving that isn't required for Analysts?

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replied on Sep 16, 2017
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Hi there, business analyst and associate is largely a similar role. In general, you are the content leader, ie nobody knows the specific client situation and topic better than you, not you manager, not your partner. However, there is different level of quality and robustness required when comparing BAs and Associates.

I will take a shot at 3 key differences of expectations at problem solving:

1) independence - as BA you could be guided, as an Associate you develop ideas and solutions indendependently and contribute from Minute 1 (you can do that as BA as well, but as an Associate thats a must)

2) ability to make sound decisions - you are navigating ambiguity constantly, you need to be comfortable making backed up decisions and fast as an Associate, you can get away with little bit of hesitation and insecurity as a BA

3) robustness of your ideas - as an Associate you have either been at the Firm for 2-3 years or came from intereting industry/vertical hence you come up with out-of-the-box solutions, whereas as a BA you are likely coming out of school and again, you can get away with less depth, given your professional experience beforehand

I am sure there is a tonne of other differences and best BAs can outshine poor performing Associates, but these 3 areas are in my view key differentiating factor, given similarity of the roles.


replied on Sep 17, 2017
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Completely agree with Jacub. I would add several points:

  • An associate is a very short-term role. In a year you'll start leading a project as an Associate and after the first successful project, you'll become a JEM - junior Engagement Manager. After leading several successful projects as a JEM you'll get promoted to an Engagement Manager. There is also some flexibility in timing for these 3 roles
  • The analyst is an entry role, well-defined and with a strict time frame

Answering your question - if you were invited for an interview as an Associate, it probably means that you are an experienced hire. I don't think it is possible for you to get an analyst position with that experience. Moreover, the interview guidelines are not that different for these roles. If you had problems with problem-solving - you'd better reapply for the similar role in a year, being more prepared.

Anonymous B replied on Oct 02, 2019


Completly agree with the previous answers.

However, they only focus on the capabilities of a BA/associate. Something also worth mentioning is the background they have (which is the key thing when hiring someone as one or the other):

- A Business Analyst (BA from now on) is someone who just finished education (degree or Masters) or someone who has less than 2 years working experience

- An Associate, however:

- Is someone who just finished his/her MBA in a top business school

- Is someone without MBA, but with relevant industry experience.

*In some McKinsey offices, a PhD are starting to be considered as MBAs too in the last years.

Hope it helps!

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