Underperforming MBB intern - how to still get return offer?

internship MBB Return Offer
New answer on Sep 18, 2022
7 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Sep 15, 2022


i am currently interning at an MBB firm for eight weeks. I was staffed on one case for the first four weeks and it went well (maybe not excellent but good enough that I was 99% sure I would get a return offer after my internship). 

Two weeks ago, I got staffed on another case and it hasn‘t been going as well - I got feedback from my PL this week and he said I was slightly underperforming (compared to other interns he has worked with). He told me about my strengths and improvement points and I agree on them, but I am now scared that I will not be able to turn the situation around within my last two weeks… I really want and need a return offer because I generally enjoy working at the firm and also financially depend on an offer since I moved to a new country for the internship and will be graduating (and therefore needing a job there) soon.

My PL is very busy with meeting so me and my team don’t get the chance to talk to him that much, and he is very direct and cold, which makes me intimated by him. This means that I am sometimes scared to speak up in front of him or ask him questions (I do ask the rest of the team questions and try to get help from them though). 

He also wants our team to be very self-organized and everyone to drive their parts of the project, but since I have never done this before I needed more help doing that than I should have. 


If one of my PLs votes in favor of me and one against me, I suppose that I woule usually not receive a full-time offer, correct? (I am not sure who else gets to weigh in on the position but know that I have everyone else (including HR) on my side besides my current PL in case I cannot turn the situation around.)

Also, do you have any tips on how to improve the situation? Should I try to switch cases for the last two weeks and just give up on my current case? Should I try to extend my internship to get more time to convince my current PL? Should I try to talk to my PL and tell him my standpoint to figure out how exactly I can turn the situation around?

Any suggestions are appreciated!

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Content Creator
replied on Sep 16, 2022
#1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate (tracked) | Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

First of all, sorry to hear about your situation, but congrats on plucking up the courage to ask for help. 

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Don't be concerned about being extended an offer. Generally, unless you perform really badly, they give offers to almost everyone. You are not expected to perform at a distinctive level to receive a return offer, so most likely there is nothing to worry about. 
  2. The situation with the PL sounds very familiar. It also sounds like is struggling himself and is thus putting pressure further down on all of you. However, he should also not be expecting that level of independence from you considering that you're an intern. 
  3. My suggestion here would be the following - approach him directly: 
    • Tell him that you're concerned that based on his feedback he will not support you getting a return offer. 
    • Tell him that you want to turn that around and you need his support, that you are very committed and that you will make it happen, and that you would be willing to ask for an extension of the internship to help support the team. 
    • Based on the development areas he highlights, ask him to suggest somebody in the team you could ask for advice so you don't always go to him (this will help him feel relieved and it will also give you the chance to get closer coaching)
  4. Don't hesitate to reach out here again. We are happy to help and provide a perspective. That's exactly how I felt on my first two projects and was close to Issues. Good advice at that time helped me too!



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replied on Sep 16, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

I can imagine that this must be a very stressful situation. Two weeks are not a whole lot of time left either. Given the limited context available of what you and your PL discussed, here are a few things I think you can try:

  • Definitely focus on the things he told you to work on so that you can show him “improvement” - you don't have to master any of those skills/behaviors just yet, a general upward trend already goes a long way
  • Be as proactive as you can be - you want to signal to the PL that you are goal-oriented (especially if he expects the team to work independently) - always bring a draft work product to the discussion so he has content to base his feedback on
  • Leverage your other team members to “pressure test” any draft work product before you go and discuss it with your PL - also get their input on how to best approach him
  • Talk to the PL (and team members) from your first assignment who already know you and gave you a good rating. Ask her/him for advice on how to “shine” in the current context - especially since they will also give their recommendation when it comes to full time offers
  • Talk to your mentor (assuming you were assigned one at the start of your internship) to discuss the situation and get guidance

In a nutshell, try to engage with everyone who is supportive of you and knows the company stakeholders/culture, get them to coach you through the last weeks and cement their support while demonstrating to your “critics” that you are actively working on their feedback (so they won't give you a hard No when it comes to return offers).

I wish you all the best and hope you get the offer!

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Content Creator
updated an answer on Sep 17, 2022
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

Sorry to hear where it's clearly a less than ideal set up for you and these situations easily become a vicious cycle.  From my experience at McKinsey both as as well as having interns on my team, the bar is very low (i.e., you need to be someone that is able to listen and work on feedback).  A few thoughts based on the different set of stakeholders in this situations:

1. Evaluator/professional development manager/partners on the project:  I would flag the situation to them as early as possible so they are aware.  The fact that your first project went well should give you enough confidence to approach them in an open manner.  Specifically, I would flag to them that your PL has very limited capacity to coach the team, including you, where no one is set up for success.  

2. PL:  Although the set up is challenging, proactivity is key where I would ensure you are still getting regular feedback from them.  I would push them to give tangible examples of HOW (not just what) you can improve and ensure that the PL (and your team) are able to best support you.  

3. Rest of your team:  It's great that you have a supportive and open dialogue with them.  Also seek their advice on the situation.  I would not be surprised if they also are finding the set up challenging.  The people in bucket 1 may even reach out to members of your team to better understand the team situation and so it's important to ensure they are also aligned.

4. For yourself:  I appreciate it is super difficult but don't put too much pressure on yourself about just getting the offer.  It's important that you are also evaluating the firm in making sure it's the right place for you, where you are also set up for success.  I would also reach out to the partner/PLs from your previous team so that they are aware and can give you relevant advice.  If your first project went well, I am sure they would be very upset to see you not get an offer at the end.


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replied on Sep 18, 2022
McKinsey San Francisco | Harvard graduate | 5+ years of coaching| Free 15 min intro call | Personalized approach


I'm sorry to hear about your concerns! I definitely echo Cristian's message here that “a little underperforming” is generally not sufficient grounds to not extend a full-time offer, you usually have to do something very wrong to not be invited back, so you should generally be ok.

That being said, I definitely advise taking your PL's feedback to heart and working to improve on it. The advice you've gotten here about this so far has been great, and here are my additional two cents - I would advise you to be proactive: seek out further conversations with your PL or more senior team members if you need to better understand what to do to improve, actively ask for help and guidance if you need it. Talk to your team. I would recommend staying on your current project and demonstrating that you are working on improving. Best of luck!

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Content Creator
replied on Sep 16, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

First, I honestly think you should hire a coach. They can help you navigate this situation and provide must better advise than a Q&A (there are a lot of questions + context here that needs to be answered to provide proper advice). Think about the risk of no offer in terms of lost income versus the investment of having a professional advisor. It's a very clear ROI.

One thing I know for sure is you need to tackle his feedback headon! Whatever his complaints are, you need to address them.

You also need to lean on your fellow consultants (the other analysts and consultants…i.e. people in the trenches with you). Figure out from them how to manage up with the PL. Figure out from them how to address the feedback.

Good luck to you!

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replied on Sep 16, 2022
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

Here's the trick. The real decision maker are the partners. That means that when your project partners (and other partners) are around you should do your best to connect with them (and to impress them). 

Regarding your current team, it seems that you have limited daily contact with your PM. That means that the assessment is actually done through the opinions of the people who are working with you on a day to day basis with you, unless you're being directly managed by the PM. Either case you need to get help / support from the senior consultants in your team. They are the ones who can teach you how to do things and who can advocate for you when discussing your case with the manager.

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Anonymous B on Sep 16, 2022

Awfully wrong. I feel like most "coaches" that put some big consulting firms in their vita here never been at one of them. The feedback of the team on the ground (typically EM, PL etc.) is the most important. If you're really working at a MBB/T2 the partner will most likely not even know your name (if the project is not a real specific situation where partners are also caught up in operative work). You are seriously advising an intern who has 2 weeks left on his internship to "impress the partner" - lmao, never heard such nonsense

Anonymous on Sep 16, 2022

+ EY-Parthenon is not a T2 firm

Pedro on Sep 16, 2022

Anonymous B: My profile is public. You can check it on LinkedIn if you have any doubts. No need to be making unbased insinuations. I am fine if some people know things better than me. We all have different experiences in different companies and offices, and some people have more experience than other. Now, I put my name on what I say. If you claim to know much better, it's a good rule not to do so under the blanket of anonymity, so that other readers can judge whether you know your stuff. Given how strongly you disagree, I suspect you don't have been for a long time in consulting, and don't have much direct visibility on internal decisions. By the way, you need to understand context. The advice is not for everyone who wants an internship to go and impress the partners. The advice is for someone who has a PM who is a promoter and another PM who is a detractor. In this situation, there are three options: 1) Convince the detractor PM that you are great. This is ideal, but the intern above failed at this. Of course should keep trying to turnaround. 2) Convince your team that you are great so that they can change the detractor PM's mind (advice given) 3) Create a good impression on the partners so that they overrule / underweight whatever the detractor PM suggests. And yes, sometimes this happens. Particularly when there is a stalemate.


Content Creator
replied on Sep 16, 2022
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hi there,

Fully agree with Ian. 

The situation is delicate and an experienced consultant (who mentored and managed younger colleagues) can definitely help you get out of it (high ROI since you are very close to the offer already). You need to get very specific feedback on the situation based on your detailed input and description of the situation (which you cannot share in a public forum).

One additional thing to consider is that the return offer decision is mainly driven by the partners on the project (not the project manager), who rely 

  • on the feedback from the project manager
  • their own perception based on the interactions they had with you and the work they saw you produce. Maybe more or less depending on how hands-on they were managing the project

Hence, establish a great relationship with the leadership team as well and get on their radar.

All the best to you!


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