As an ex-McKinsey Partner, I’ll try to shed some light on the process for you. There are a lot of variables at play here though (e.g., office, practice, role, etc..).
The experienced hire process takes on typically two different paths and has been constantly evolving as McKinsey has continued to specialize more and developed more specialized practices.
Typical experienced hires going into a generalist pool go through roughly the same interview process as a school (undergrad / grad / MBA) hire. However, there will be a higher likelihood that you will be interviewed by senior people that have similar backgrounds in the final round, but is not a high likelihood.
For “expert” experienced hires, the process is all over the map. True experts are usually only interviewed by practice firm members. Although, there may be some loosely affiliated senior associates / managers that do the first round (sometimes there’s not even a first round).
For practice, there are the lots of readily available materials:
- Books: Cheng’s “Case Interview Secrets, Cosention’s “Case in Point”, etc..
- Sites: www.mconsultingprep.com, www.caseinterview.com, etc...
- Case books: All of the major business schools produce these and you can download many from www.scribd.com
You should definitely do lots of live practice with other candidates (for cost effectiveness reasons) and experts on PrepLounge.
As for the practice length of time, you should think about your practice time as an investment in the next stage of your career and practice as much as possible. But, you are right that the interview turnaround is likely going to be quick.
Finally, the lifestyle / compensation / benefits / career path question has an answer again of “it depends”.
- Lifestyle: Most experts don’t travel as much (4 days a week) as they plug in on multiple projects. However, you may be staffed on dedicated engagements where you do travel the same as typical consultants, unless it is a local client.
- Compensation / Career path: These two are linked. If you are on a partner path (and there is an expert partner path), you compensation will be no different than a typical consultant. If not, your compensation will be less as you will not share in the Associate Partner and Partner bonus pool.
- Benefits: They will be the same (excellent, btw). However, if you were to become an Expert Partner, they would be enhanced.
Hope that helps!