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Can somebody tell me about the different selection criteria of MBBs?

According to experiences of people I know, some MBBs seem to be satisfied with the “hard skills” like good grades, internships, experience abroad...others, like McK, want proof of “drive, leadership and impact” qualities…

are there actually big differences among the consultancies (and what are they?) or is it all pretty much the same?

Thanks in advance!


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Francesco replied on Nov 22, 2016
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (2.100+) | Ex BCG | 1.000+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Malte,

in my experience, differences in the selection criteria may depend on the stage of the application process:

Interview invitation: some companies may have stricter requirements than others for academic grades or previous experiences to invite you; in Italy, for example, at the time when I applied you would need to graduate cum laude to be considered for McKinsey in normal recruiting cycles. At BCG and Bain, the requirement was less stringent. For all the three companies, though, you may still receive invitations networking enough, even without excellent grades. Requirements may also be more or less strict according to the actual number of resources needed by the firm in a certain cycle.

First round: in my experience, selection criteria were basically the same for all the three firms.

Final round: this is probably the stage with more differences. Since most of the candidates can crack cases at this stage, partners will put more effort in trying to see if you would fit the culture of the company. The exact company culture may vary according to the country you are applying for – in my experience in Italy, McKinsey was the most formal, Bain the most informal and BCG a bit in between the two of them. For this reason, you may expect more fit questions and "informal" chat at this stage.

In order to better adapt to the differences I would suggest to:

  1. Try to apply to all the firms with a referral;
  2. Try to have a chat with a consultant of the firm your have the interview with before your actual interviews - especially before the final - to better understand the culture of the company.



Francesco replied on Nov 24, 2016
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (2.100+) | Ex BCG | 1.000+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Malte,

as for your question on referrals, there are three steps to follow to receive one:

  1. Identify who are the people who could more easily help you
  2. Write them a customized cold email
  3. Have a call with the consultant, and indirectly ask for a referral

Each step has a defined structure that should be followed to obtain results. This is actually one of the most important things to prepare when applying for consulting and during sessions I usually recommend to always cover it if you still have to apply, and to never just apply through the website. The right referral can make a real difference in your career and in my case I believe is one of the main reasons why I got invited by all the six consulting companies I have applied for.

Also, as mentioned by Guennael and in a previous post, the higher is the consultant in the ranking, the higher are the chances the referral will work; on the other end, the higher is the consultant in the ranking, the lower is the expected response rate from your customized emails. You may want therefore to balance the two effects with middle-upper contacts (Project Leader/Principal at BCG, Engagement Manager/Associate Principal at McK), unless of course you directly know a partner or may have a strong connection with him/her.

You may also find some additional information on networking at the following link:


Hope this is useful.


Guennael replied on Nov 24, 2016
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Have you ever taken a leadership position, in a sporting club, student organization, non-profit... even study group?

Drive is the fire in your belly: what do you do when you want something bad? Are you going to make it happen regardless of time commitment or difficulties?

Impact is the result your actions have had, typically on others. Did you raise money for your organization? Increase membership? Help a couple of poor kids learn how to read? If you hadn't been here, how much worse would things be? That is the impact you've had.

Drive typically comes before impact, but these are two very different concepts

Also, re. your question on how to get a referral. We've discussed this at length in the past. You need go get to know people, they need to get to know you and slowly respect and appreciate you. The strongest referral will come from senior people who have seen your work - but networking is easiest with the junior folks, closer to you in age and experience. Just remember that everyone and their neighbor asks us for referrals, so (1) we typically don't give one unless we really know you, and (2) referral from a junior consultant or former consultant that only had a coffee with you once will be a lot less powerful than one from a Principal or Partner who has known you for years.

Hope this helps.


Guennael -

ex-BCG Dallas

Guennael replied on Nov 22, 2016
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Honestly, it is all pretty much the same - as evidenced by the number of MBB consultants who were accepted to more than one top consultancy. Only difference might be in how they view experienced hires. Just focus on being they best you can be.

Malte replied on Nov 24, 2016

Yes, this helped a lot! Thank you very much, Guennael!

Malte replied on Nov 24, 2016

Thank you very much for your replies, Guennael and Francesco!

Do you have any recommendations on how to get a referral, Francesco?

Still, I'm a bit stuck on this proof of “drive, leadership and impact” qualities that McK apparently specifically asks about... if I'm applying for an internship or am a job beginner, what could I say in that case about my "drive" or "impact"? How do these two even differ?

Thanks again,


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