Generalist Versus Expert Track

Experienced Hire expert generalist
New answer on Jun 14, 2022
11 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 13, 2022

Hi,

Do MBB firms prefer experienced hires to go down expert or specialized tracks like Operations, Implementation, Digital, etc. versus Generalist track?

Is there a belief that experienced hire candidates are less malleable and hence unsuitable for the generalist track as they may inherit preconceived bias from prior work experience?

Thanks in advance.

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Kurt
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replied on Jun 14, 2022
Conducted over 100 interviews for grads, interns & experienced hires

Hi - great question and good to think actively about this.

The answer is… it depends!

Ultimately, MBB will hire an individual where they can justify the business case for doing so. That could take the form of a specialist in a high area of technical demand (digital specialists to complement the digital offering, technical engineers to complement the aviation practice etc.), industry experts in one industry to help grow that practice and open new doors, or a strong generalist to add resources to a growing firm.

It can help to research a bit / learn through networking around where different firms are trying to grow. However, if you just want the path that will give you the highest likelihood of getting into MBB later I would say it is to do something general where you can make a big tangible impact.

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Florian
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replied on Jun 14, 2022
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

Over the last years, consulting firms have become much more specialized due to changing demands from their client base. As a result, the role descriptions have become more specialized as well.

They are trying to fill a specific demand with people that have some experience in certain areas rather than sending generalist consultants everywhere, supported by an expert network in the background.

Cheers,

Florian

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Eishan
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
Helping consulting aspirants crack the case interview and achieve thier dream job. Bain I LBS MBA I Uber I Bloomberg

I have not noticed as much specialisation for experienced hires. It is generally you carving your path + the demand of cases coming through. 

However, this changes depending on the level a bit. If you come in at the PL/ SM/ EM level and above, you will probably come with some level of specialisation and be hired for that. 

At the consultant level, it does not usually matter. All MBB firms also do not have specialised verticals like digital and ops. Like Mck and BCG hire for digital, Mck hires for Ops. Bain specifically does not. 

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Cristian
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
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Hi there,

No. 

There is no bias in terms of experienced hires being less malleable. Consultants are generally aware that experienced hires struggle a bit in the beginning to adjust to the new work culture and expectations, so if anything, they tend to be more accommodating with them. 

There is also no expectation that you go on an expert track before you have previous work experience. However, if you do happen to be staffed on an engagement that is within the same industry as the one you worked in previously, there might be an expectation that you actually know what you are talking about :)

Best,
Cristian

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Ian
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replied on Jun 14, 2022
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Hi there,

It has nothing to do with preference of malleability.

Rather, it's that if you have past experience you can become an expert/specialist. It's that having this experience is a pre-requisite to be a specialized hire.

Having that experience, however, doesn't prevent you from going generalist.

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Moritz
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
Unearth your spike & get the offer |ex-McKinsey | 120+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Transition Expert

Hi there,

Great question and not easy to answer because people have “experience" in many different areas. For example, you could be a very seasoned generalist since not every experienced hire is specialized.

What is true though is that OPS/Implementation are generally looking for more experienced hires. That's because you will deal with a larger number of people, from CEO down to the shop floor and that requires exceptional people skills that are more often found in more senior people.

Hope this helps a bit. Best of luck!

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Allen
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
Ex-McK Experienced Hire and EM - I show you how to perform at your best

Interesting question, without a real clear answer, since it likely depends on  the individual.

I don't think there's a belief that EH candidates are less malleable, especially if they have consulting background.  Bias is bad, but different perspective and greater experience are good.

Go down the path that you want to go down based on your qualifications and what you want to do.  I wouldn't worry too much about what they might prefer.  

Hope that helps.

Allen

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Adi
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Nope. Not at all.

You can dictate which path you want to go down towards.

1. If you are very early in your career and unsure, then generalist makes sense to start with. With time and experience you can move towards a specialist career

2. If you are an experienced hire and have 3+ years of experience and are broadly happy with your functional area (e.g supply chain) then stick to this and become an expert over time. You can also become an industry expert and cover many functional areas in an industry

For my personal case, I chose to specialise in supply chain & operations across industries. 

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Lucie
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
10+yrs recruiting & top BCG trainer and coach & BCG Project leader & experienced hire & ICF coach
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Clara
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Very interesting question!

There may be truth in the statement about experienced hires being more difficult to shape into the consulting life - they are more difficult to trick compared to us poor unexperienced alysists!

However, it totally depends on your previous career and where you could be a better fit, totally case by case. 

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Ken
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replied on Jun 13, 2022
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

Not at all!  It comes down to what you want to focus on and where your strengths are.

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Kurt gave the best answer

Kurt

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