Reasons for failing probationary period

Bain & Company BCG Deadlines Feedback Kearney McKinsey & Company Oliver Wyman Probation tier2 tier3
New answer on Jan 13, 2022
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 06, 2022

It has been said many times that working in consulting is always being on probation due to the nature of the profession and the up or out policy.

But during the on-paper trial/probationary period itself, what makes people get so screwed that they got kicked out (or counselled to leave) after 2-8 months?

Some of the reasons I gathered:

1. Missed a deadline

2. Didn't take feedback

3. Too slow in learning

Now for point 1, it's understandable. But for points 2 and 3, to what extent these are “graded”? How to “take feedback” well and how fast is fast? Any other obvious reasons?

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Adi
CoachingPlus Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 06, 2022
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Probation evaluation is really varied by company, country & office location. Generally speaking, most Consulting companies have a robust process either as probationary period or on-going performance evaluation. 

Some of the top reasons for failing probation are:

  1. Failing key new joiner attributes- e.g. flexibility, quick learner, responding to feedback, behavior/conduct, communication skills and team player
  2. Performance- client feedback, team management (if applicable for level), chargeability/billability, quality of work etc
  3. Skills- technical skills, business acumen, complex problem solving, communication skills etc

Check out these other helpful Q&As:

  • preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/are-there-probation-period-in-mbb-and-do-they-treat-it-seriously-10405
  • preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-long-is-the-probation-period-in-consulting-9989
  • https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-learn-fast-and-efficiently-and-survive-in-the-first-3-months-of-probation-7014
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Moritz
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replied on Jan 07, 2022
McKinsey | 100+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Top rated for experienced hires & career transitioners

You will never be let go for just one thing, unless it´s gross misconduct, breach of contract, etc.

Once you´re in MBB, they will do whatever they can to help you develop and become successful. The points you mentioned are surely things to get right but bear in mind that every successful partner, at some point in their career, missed a deadline, didn´t take feedback, or was to slow to learn... This is not uncommon at all since nobody is perfect.

The most important thing is for you to continuously get better and your trajectory is everything. And even if it´s pointing downwards, you will get support to get it up again.

MBB, or at least McKinsey, work on strength based development. If you´re truly bad at x but amazing at y, you might be able to shift your focus to y, so that x is taken out of the equation. This could mean a shift from generalist to specialist, from very client facing roles to more analytical support roles, etc.

All that being said, it´s generally a high performance environment and if you underperform from day 1 throughout your first year, it´s probably not for you and you´re simply not in the right career. Nothing wrong with that

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Hagen
Expert
replied on Jan 07, 2022
Bain & Company Project Leader | 250+ interviews conducted | 5+ years of coaching and mentoring

Hi there,

This is indeed an interesting question which is probably relevant for quite a lot of users, so I am happy to provide my perspective on it:

  • Generally speaking, I would advise you to always take information like this with a pinch of salt. At least to me, it seems like “missing a deadline” is a pretextual reason to cover something more serious. I would advise you to remember how costly recruiting and onboarding a new colleague is - as such, consulting companies do not just randomly terminate/ ask to leave employees.
  • Still, and just like in any other industry, consulting companies need to make sure that their workforces are working efficiently. As such, one needs to distinguish the perspective on someone in probation period and on someone who is longer with the respective consulting company:
    • Someone in probation period: Consulting companies mainly focus on whether you have the basis that will equip you for future development. It is absolutely normal that newjoiners are heavily overwhelmed with the ways of working, tools, processes aso. Solely if at the end of probation period, there seems to be no solid basis for future development, one might be asked to leave/ terminated.
    • Someone long with the respective consulting company: Just like with most other industries, consulting companies have clearly defined the requirements to be met on a (semi-)annual basis. Normally though, if you constantly try to get better, there is not much discussion about your performance.
  • Lastly, regarding your question on how to take on feedback, I would advise you to - already in the conversation where you have been given this feedback - ask for some examples and guidelines in case you are not provided with them. Normally though, the one providing feedback should always provide it as precise and action-oriented as possible so that you actually know what to do differently and how.

In case you want a more detailed discussion on how to best prepare your upcoming career entry for swift progression, please feel free to contact me directly.

I hope this helps,

Hagen

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Stephan
Expert
replied on Jan 13, 2022
Former BCG CON and political advisor here to help you crack the case (MBB, Europe & MidEast, non-business backgrounds)

Hi Anon,

Thank you for this question. 

However, I think it is based on wrong assumptions and perceptions around the “up or out” system and culture

This is even more true in the current situation, where MBB is hiring like crazy due to strong growth offset by relatively high churn, so these days, you are even less likely to be let go than in “normal” times. I have seen this first-hand with colleagues who initially were on the “watchlist”, and now are being promoted without any issues. 

As pointed out by others, no one single issue or incident will cause you to be let go or not be promoted

You will have good transparency into the whole evaluation process, and get a heads up well in advance. 

Even if the firm decides to part ways with you, you will generally have another 3-6 months to support you in your job search etc (as the firm also benefits from you taking on a decent corporate job later).

Let me know if you have any further questions!

Best

Stephan

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Adi gave the best answer

Adi

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