Interviewing for a Associate vs EM role at McK in US

associate engagement manager Final Round McKinsey
New answer on Oct 13, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 13, 2021

About me: I am preparing for final round of interview for a generalist consulting role at a McKinsey office in the US. I have 11 years of progressive experience in F500 CPG companies and hold a PhD and a MBA (both from non-target schools). 

Situation: When the recruiter interviewed me initially, I was told that given my experience, they may consider me for a EM role. Fast forward several weeks, I cleared the round zero telephonic case interview and the Solve assessment, and was invited for the final round. When I asked for what specific role, I was told that interview is for the Associate role but I am also being considered for an EM role.  When I asked would it be a different set of interviews for the EM role, the recruiter said they would get more clarity soon. This was last week and I hope to hear back from them in a week or so. Meanwhile, I am doing my own due diligence.  

Question

(1) Is it a common practice - interviewing a candidate for both roles and making an offer decision and the employment level decision based on the interview performance?

(2) What is the difference in interviews for a EM role vs Associate role? Are the EM cases tougher? or separate PEI expectations? 

(3) Is it even possible to get an offer directly for an EM role coming from a non-consulting background?

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Best answer
Francesco
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replied on Oct 13, 2021
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.600+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi there,

1. Is it a common practice - interviewing a candidate for both roles and making an offer decision and the employment level decision based on the interview performance?

Not common but could happen indeed. I recently helped a candidate who was in a similar situation (was a Principal in a consulting firm, moved to MBB, the position had to be assessed as either Manager or Principal after the interview)

2. What is the difference in interviews for a EM role vs Associate role? Are the EM cases tougher? or separate PEI expectations? 

Case and PEI structures are the same. PEI expectations in terms of the story are based on your longer work experience. What you could also get in interviews for manager positions is the following:

  • The process may involve questions on a specific sector and industry knowledge
  • You may get questions on how to manage real projects and teams, as your responsibilities will involve that (initial data requested, number of people, allocation of people on workstreams, length of the different parts of the project)

3. Is it even possible to get an offer directly for an EM role coming from a non-consulting background?

I guess it may be possible to get a generalist manager position in some firms without a background in consulting, but I don’t have direct experience with that. I helped candidates to get offers from manager positions in MBB but they were working in consulting already. It is usually safer for both you and the firm to have you start as Associate/Consultant, and then progress faster to the following steps (ie. with promotion after 6 to 12 months).

If you need more help please feel free to PM me.

Best,

Francesco

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Cristian
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replied on Oct 13, 2021
McKinsey / Oxford grad / ex Firm mock interviewer & internal training faculty / top 25% best consultants in the Firm

Hi there, 

You seem to be in quite a fortunate situation. Congrats on getting this far in the process. I'll take the questions one by one. 

(1) Is it a common practice - interviewing a candidate for both roles and making an offer decision and the employment level decision based on the interview performance?

It is common practice to start interviewing a candidate without having a very clear role in mind for them. The application / interviewing process is also a discovery process to understand what is a better fit for you. I know people who applied for associate but were eventually given an offer for business analyst (fewer examples the other way around).

(2) What is the difference in interviews for a EM role vs Associate role? Are the EM cases tougher? or separate PEI expectations? 

The differences are not significant and the structure is the same (always best to check though directly with the recruiter). They will have higher expectations though from you in terms of how you solve the case and what sort of PEI stories you can provide. An EM, for instance, is the main client link on a daily basis during the project and they are expected to relate 1-to-1 with senior clients. So you would need to show that for instance in how well you synthesize information or how you dealt with conflicts with senior leaders in the past. 

(3) Is it even possible to get an offer directly for an EM role coming from a non-consulting background?

I would be surprised if that happened to be honest. I know plenty of people with managerial experience who are barely offered an associate role. What rather tends to happen is that they do offer the associate role and then they promise a faster promotion due to your previous experience. Still, it might be different for you if you have a technical background and prove that you are an outstanding candidate.

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Sat replied on Oct 13, 2021

My friend knew someone who was in a similar spot and the decision was made based on interview performance. He didn't have separate interviews for EM vs Associate roles.

PS: on an unrelated note, would you like to do a case? I'm also preparing for final round (McK North America) 

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Tanuj 13 hours ago

I would be happy to - could you please send a message?

Florian
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replied on Oct 13, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | Imbellus Expert

Hey there,

1. Not common but not unheard of. I had such cases a couple of times over the last months.

2. Everything is exactly the same for the case (https://www.preplounge.com/en/mckinsey-interview) and PEI (https://www.preplounge.com/en/mckinsey-pei) in terms of how the interviews are run. 

The main difference will come from the PEI. Since you have 11 years of work experience under your belt, the expectations for your PEI are higher in terms of the context of the story, not so much about the content of your actions and behaviors. To give you a practical example: Instead of leading a smaller team of 2-3 people in an inclusive leadership story, you are expected to have led a larger team.

3. Direct entry EMs have become more common over the last couple of years for the sole reason that McKinsey did not have enough EMs, so there was a push to focus hiring on that level of the pyramid.

Reach out if you have any more specific questions. 

All the best for your applications! :-)

Cheers,

Florian

 

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Pedro
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Oct 13, 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT Interview | Principal Former Head Recruiter | Launched EY-P Lisbon Office

(1) If it is an experienced candidate from a non-consulting background then yes, this is common. And the base scenario is being hired at the lower level. To get at the EM level, you will have to bring to the table a good mix of industry experience, project managent, and following processes / having a mindset that is close to what one expects at strategic consulting. 

(2) No differences in cases, but more maturity is expected in the performance (better industry / business sense and practical sense overall). And definitely higher PEI expectations (more maturity, more managing experience and exposure to C-Level, etc., strong deliverable ownership, strong conflict management and communication skills…)? 

(3) It is possible. It is not easy. And it is not easy to perform well if indeed you are not ready for that role or don't come in with the right mindset.

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Ian
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replied on Oct 13, 2021
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Congrats on getting invited to interview and getting past the screening

(1) Is it a common practice - interviewing a candidate for both roles and making an offer decision and the employment level decision based on the interview performance?

Not common but it happens. It happens when you're essentially “on the line” and they're not quite sure how to place you.

(2) What is the difference in interviews for a EM role vs Associate role? Are the EM cases tougher? or separate PEI expectations? 

The process is the same. The expectations are tougher. You are likely to have to talk more in depth and extensively about your domain expertise, and you will have to demonstrate a higher ability to manage projects, stakeholders, and teams.

(3) Is it even possible to get an offer directly for an EM role coming from a non-consulting background?

Possible, but highly unlikely. If you don't, they're doing it for your own good ("easing" you into the job)

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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