McK first round interview

Anonymous A asked on Dec 06, 2016 - 4 answers

Hi everybody!

Can you please share your experience or knowledge about first round interview at McK? I am applying for fast track internship. What should I pay additional attention to on case interview part and PEI part?


4 answers

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Raj replied on Dec 12, 2016
Preparing for McKinsey - Looking for Practice Partners irrespective of case experience :)

Hi there!

I have done couple of interviews with McKinsey and happy to share my experiences with you. It’s typically an hour long interview divided into three sections:

  1. Personal Experience Interview (PEI); 5-20 minutes
  2. Interviewer-led Case Study; 25-30 minutes
  3. Questions for the Interviewer; 5-10 minutes

Below are my experiences and suggestions for the three sections:

1. PEI: In all my interviews with McKinsey, the PEI section took on average 20 minutes. That said the length of this section can vary depending how interesting, engaging and structured your answers are. More often than not you’ll be asked the following three questions: (i) Tell me about yourself (ii) Why Consulting & McKinsey (iii) Wild-card questions such ‘Define Leadership?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’, ‘Have you ever failed at anything?’ and etc. The first two questions are quite straight forward but, keep in mind they need to be punchy, structured (e.g. three reasons why I want to be a consultant at McKinsey are…) and concise (not more than 2 minutes each). Regarding the wild-card questions, you should ask your interviewer for a moment to structure your thoughts. A good way to structure your thoughts and answer the question is to use the S.T.A.R. method i.e. clearly state the Situation, describe the Task(s), elaborate on the Action(s) you took and finally list the Result(s).

2. Interviewer-led Case Study: This section usually takes 25-30 minutes. The interviewer will walk you through a business situation and will give you some information and facts about the situation and the company. You’ll then be asked 3-4 follow-up questions. That said, view the case in the following manner:

  • Opening: Once the interviewer has walked you through the case, take a moment to gather your thoughts and briefly summarize the case for and verify the objective of the firm with your interviewer. Furthermore, you should ask clarifying questions on terminology, units of measurements, other facts and etc. If there is any doubt or confusion with the case, now is the time to bring it up. Once the interviewer is satisfied by the summary and has answered your clarifying questions, you should identify the problem type (profitability, new product, growth strategy and etc.), match it to an appropriate framework, describe the key components of the framework and finally draw the framework. It is best not to explicitly match the problem to known frameworks such as BCG matrix, Porter’s five forces, McKinsey’s 7-S Framework and etc. Nevertheless, you should bring out the most relevant aspects of the known frameworks and tailor it to the problem.
  • Analyzing: After establishing a framework to solve the case, you’ll be asked follow-up questions. Before every follow-up question you should always take a minute or two to gather and structure your thoughts. In these questions it’s very important to engage your interviewer as much as possible thereby, before tackling the question you should walk the interviewer through your hypothesis (educated guess) and approach i.e. picking a branch within your framework and explaining its components. Through this process, you’ll realize you don’t have all the information and facts to answer the question, which in turn will help you ask relevant data gathering questions. There are two standard questions you can ask while collecting data: (i) Critical comparison of numbers (e.g. how is the company performing vs. competitors?; company’s current year performance vs. previous year?) (ii) Segment your numbers (e.g. what are the company’s sales figure per product line or geographical region). As you get more data and information, you’ll be able to gauge whether to go deeper down a branch or go up a level and explore another branch in the framework. In short, you should refine your hypothesis as and when you discover new insights. Same steps will also work for solving numerical questions. Before and while doing your calculations engage your interviewer and walk her through each and every step. Finally, bear in mind that your answers should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE) and you should be able to imply what it means for the company.
  • Closing: It’s always a good habit to jot down the conclusion or key insights after every follow-up question. This process will help in answering the final question where the interviewer asks you to wrap-up and offer recommendations. You should offer your point view or conclusion backed by relevant data points, which should then feed into a few actionable recommendations. This should not take more than a minute.

3. Questions for the Interviewer: Here you can ask standard question to the interviewer such as ‘Why did you choose consulting?’, ‘What is your typical day at work?’ and etc. These are all good questions but, you should go an extra mile and research McKinsey’s though pieces (sign up to McKinsey Insights newsletter), look up your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and google her recent work, and read up on global and regional economic trends.

Final thoughts, always take a moment to gather and structure your thoughts no matter how easy the case may seem. And, while solving your case think out loud and engage your interviewer. Lastly, smile often and don't be shy to admit your mistake or ask for help (limit it to once or twice!).

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Hi Anonymous,

the first round at McKinsey in my experience is pretty standardized. You will normally always cover the following:

  1. 5 minutes of fit questions
  2. 35 minutes of case
  3. 5 minutes for your own questions to the interviewer

The case is interviewer led, which means the interviewer will have to cover certain areas, whether you manage to find an answer or not. If you are unable to find an answer, they will move to the next question anyway.

The areas usually covered are:

  • Introduction: are you able to summarize the information and clarify the goal?
  • Structure: can you present an appropriate structure for the case?
  • Graph analysis: can you interpret tables/graphs and provide insides on them?
  • Math: are you able to go through a math exercise under pressure, structuring it?
  • Sum up: are you able to provide a concise recommendation for the CEO/client?

They would also consider how you would present yourself and soft skills: your body language, your communication and your reaction when put under pressure.

As for the areas to pay attention to, you may want to focus on the following:

  • Prepare an answer in bullets for all the main fit questions, and repeat them loud before the interview
  • Practice on clarifying the objective at the beginning of the case
  • Learn how to present an appropriate structure fitting the case
  • Understand how to properly read, analyse and summarize a table
  • Learn how to do math under pressure
  • Provide an appropriate sum up at the end
  • Get confortable under pressure and keep the right attitude/body language during the case even when uncomfortable

Finally, some areas usually underestimated by candidates are

  1. the questions at the end for the interviewer. They may actually be an important point to help the interviewer to decided in your favour, in case he/she is uncertain. You may find a structure for how to prepare for them at the following link:
  2. how to take notes: at McKinsey, they normally always collect your notes at the end, to evaluate if you are structured when you absorb information

Each of the previous sections has of course its own elements and way to be presented in an optimal way. Please let me know if you would need more details on one of them.



Ben replied on Dec 17, 2016

McKinsey Interview Experience

I interviewed for McKinsey’s first round at their San Francisco office, for an Automotive and Aerospace Implementation position.

The position is part of a relatively new but growing (fastest growing group within McKinsey) Implementation group which focuses on actually implementing the solutions that the strategy team develops. They are typically looking for people with experience managing others and implementing change in industrial, engineering, manufacturing and other similar environments… they tendto have a little more experience, and that experience tends to be more hands-on, than the typical MBB consultant.

That said, the interview process is effectively the same. As others have posted, after the 30 minute phone interview (which no one on this site should tress about), I was invited to a first-round interview with the Implementation practice. My interview consisted of 2 hour long interviews, the first of which was with an Engagement Manager and the second of which was with a Principal who had about a year on the team. The principal had a similar background to me (aerospace, big defense contractor); while the manager’s background was different (forget what it was). Both happened to be on-site, and both were in the Implementation practice, though you shouldn’t assume this will be the case.

In both cases there was a short discussion followed by 25 minutes of fit and 25 minutes of case. The cases were relatively straightforward, and the fit questions were straight out of the well-known McKinsey playbook (impact; difficult situation, leadership, etc).

Case-wise: One was about the economics of a newly developed product for a truck, which reduced air resistance and thus improved gas mileage, such as how much value it created and how to price it. Questions included the typical “how would you go about the problem” starter, to determine how much value it might create, what kind of issues the producer of the product might face when selling it, and ultimately how to price it and justify it. The second was about a company with 3 food production facilities, two in Turkey and one in SE Asia, which had different processes. There was some sort of global feed shortage, which impacted one site and not the others, so you had to figure out the impact and several solutions.

I wasn’t given a ton of detailed feedback, though I was told that my synthesis wasn’t good enough. I’d also advise that while you make sure you occasionally smile, ensure that you keep your demeanor very professional and serious throughout. I have a tendency to try to connect with interviewers with humor and while in some firms it is acceptable (/probably a good idea), I don’t think it helped me at McKinsey. Specifically, coming out of the interview I felt I connected very well with the Principle (based on background, and he was closer to my age and he seemed more easy going and my style during), but my feedback was that the Engagement Manager (who I felt I didn’t connect with at all) was higher on me than the principle was. But part of that can probably be chalked up to simple interview-to-interview variability.

The implementation practice had appealed to me because I have a lot of hands-on experience, a technical/engineering background, and have implemented change at big organizations. That said, in retrospect, I might recommend that you pursue the more standard generalist positions at McKinsey if you don’t have experience managing production lines, being responsible for a major supply chain, managed an engineering/product team or something along those lines. Having management experience isn’t a must for implementation, but its close.

If you have any other qeustions about the implementation practice, feel free to reach out


Hi Ben. May I know why one should not stress about the phone case interview? Is it any different to the 1st round interview? — Neil on Feb 09, 2017 (edited)

Anonymous B replied on Mar 21, 2019

Hello, would you mind to give a update about the phone interview?


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