PhD to MBB

BCG McKinsey and Bain
New answer on Jun 24, 2022
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 22, 2022

I am a PhD candidate at an Ivy League university and I have recently submitted my applications to MBB. What fraction of the total hires at MBB are PhDs - do they have a certain number of slots in mind during the application process? 

Do PhDs even have a chance to compete against MBAs if they are in the same application pool? My personal observation is that even with a lot of preparation, doing cases with MBAs, I find that diligent preparation for a few months cannot match the expertise a rigorous MBA program gives?

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (3.900+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) What fraction of the total hires at MBB are PhDs - do they have a certain number of slots in mind during the application process? 

Not sure about the percentage, but they have programs specifically for Advanced Degree candidates

2) Do PhDs even have a chance to compete against MBAs if they are in the same application pool? 

Sure, I helped many PhDs to get into MBB. You just have to learn the right way to approach the case interview.

The main issue I see with PhDs is that they tend to be “perfectionists”, which could lead to focus on the parts that are not that important to land offers instead of being 80-20. But most PhDs have great work ethic and can do very well when directed towards the right approach to solve cases.

If you have additional questions please feel free to PM me.

Best,

Francesco

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Ian
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updated an answer on Jun 23, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I don't have hard numbers on the fractions, but this is kind of the wrong way to think about it! Not many PhD candidates want to go to MBB…so if you look at it as “only 2% of hires are PhD candidates" you might ignore the fact that only 2% of all applicants are PhD candidates.

Does that make sense?

More importantly your question should be: can I get in as a PhD candidate? 

The answer is a resounding yes!

The #1 issue my PhD candidates almost universally face is their desire to analyze every little detail, and difficultly in being structured/objective-driven in solving a case quickly.

This can be trained. You can learn how to do it.

Also, news flash: MBA programs do not prepare students for casing. Trust me. MBA candidates I coach are no better/more prepared than non-MBA candidates…in fact sometimes they're worse!

Just as a reference, a candidate of mine just messaged me 2 days ago and said, verbatim “Just the 45 minutes of your World of Framework video taught me more than my entire 1 year MBA” - no joke!

(edited)

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Florian
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
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Hey there,

This depends a bit on the region and office you are applying to and how common it is for people do go through a PhD.

For instance, in Germany, it is more common than let's say the US. That being said, I don't think you are at a disadvantage since many of the skills that are taught in a PhD curriculum are very relevant for case solving as well:

  • Analytics
  • Communication
  • The general approach to problem-solving
  • Quantitative reasoning (if you have worked on some quant papers)
  • etc

I hold a PhD myself (conducted during my consulting journey with McKinsey) and can definitely see how I learned a couple of valuable skills for the consulting job, mostly related to approaching problems and communicating insights.

Generally, there is no benefit in thinking about any disadvantages you might have. On top, effective preparation can overcome any potential disadvantages 10-fold.

Reach out if you want to know more.

All the best!

Cheers,

Florian

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Clara
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replied on Jun 24, 2022
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Hello!

Recently one of my coachees, PhD candidate in Ivy League Uni, sciences, made it to BCG. They were incredibly eager for profiles like hers (and she was excellent in case solving, tbh), for their Pharma and Live sciences practice. 

Hence yes, PhD profiles are super attractive for MBBs, and you are perfectly competitive vs. MBA people, if you prep enough. 

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Cristian
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
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Hi there, 

There are no quotas for PhDs if this is what you have in mind. Whether you have a PhD or an MBA is more a signalling mechanism to tell the recruiter that you're within the target population and worth considering for the actual interview. 

I have to disagree with your comment about competing with MBA. While those who do MBA get to practice cases during the program as well and they might have a better understanding of business than the average person, that's something that anybody can catch up on. I've had candidates who were significantly better applying straight after their Bachelor than people with MBA and work experience. So don't let yourself be discouraged by this. With work and focus, you can overcome this. 

Best,

Cristian

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Ken
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replied on Jun 22, 2022
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

I can only speak for McKinsey where most large offices (e.g., US) won't have a quota for PhD hires.  Quite the contrary where they are often proactively looking for great Advanced Professional Degree programme.  This is separate to MBA hiring and so I wouldn't worry about having to compete with them.  Good luck!

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Moritz
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replied on Jun 23, 2022
McKinsey | 100+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Top rated for experienced hires & career transitioners

Hi there,

Importantly, MBB are looking for PhD profiles. However, they would typically be looking at different positions compared to MBAs (generally speaking - this is not a firm rule):

  • MBAs: Usually following the generalist track and working in CST's with minor specialization e.g. certain practice or industry domain
  • PhD: Usually building on deep expertise and placed accordingly in organization to develop and provide knowledge to CSTs

McKinsey for instance is known for having very deep technical knowledge in many areas, which is spread across the organization. Depending on whether you're an expert in maths, digital, chemistry, medicine, etc., you will find your ideal fit in different parts of the organization.

That being said, if you intend to pursue the generalist/MBA consulting path - more power to you! It's absolutely possible and just requires a bit more work on the application side of things to tell your story and frame your background.

Very happy to help with any specifics if needed! Best of luck!

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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