What are the differences between first round and final round at McKinsey?

Anonymous B asked on Sep 13, 2017 - 9 answers

Does anyone know how to prepare for final round? It is much different than the first round preparation? The FIT portion is more important at this round?


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Anonymous replied on Sep 14, 2017

Hi mate,

I've recently accepted an offer for McKinsey Sydney so I can give you a more recent assessment of the differences.

I'll breakdown my assessment into the Case interview and the PEI section.

The case interview differred in pace and content. Pace wise they moved quicker, didn't waste time on you rambling and will interrupt you more often. Be prepared of this, the key quote was "if it felt like I was moving quickly, it's because I felt you were doing well, so don't feel flustered as I interrupt and keep moving through the questions." The conversations are fast paced and you should feel ready to quickly outline your hypothesis and start spitballing with your Partner.

Content wise as you would know there is a large packet of case information available to the interviewers. My two Partner interviews barely touched the case information, in fact the Senior Partner just started talking in a very conversational manner, his exact words to begin the case. "Oh that's interesting, hey since you're interested in the services sector I've got this interesting problem that I hope you can help me with..." It was very fluid, the whole case lasted 15 minutes because it wasn't a structured Q1 Q2 structure.

I think the 2 key take aways from my interview experiences are that while real case practices are the gold standard, having the mental ‘muscle memory’ from talking out loud and being able to critically assess problems was also critical in my success. Furthermore being able to treat the interview as a friendly conversation helps in being more comfortable with the pacing.

Finally, the Personal Experience Interview were different in two ways, weighting and content. Firstly the PEI had more weighting than I expected during my interview rounds, especially the partner interviews. My preparation during first round for PEI was fairly light, writing down a few ‘head line stories’ on a notebook and hoping to be able to discuss the details as the interviewer asked. In reality the PEI section was literally 50% of your 60 minutes, going up to 60-70% in your partner interviews.

The feedback from my round 1 interviewers was that I should brush up on my stories to be more structured and detailed.

Secondly in the partner interviews they structured the questions differently, my final Senior Partner interview went like this:

"Talk about your leadership capabilities, but I want you to imagine you are on the front page of the newspaper, I want to see your 5 word Headline, and three dot points that are 10 words or less that described what you did."

They would ask questions such as “why did you choose to talk to X in this location?”, “what reactions were you looking for when you said that?” Unless you had really thought about your stories, these details would be hard to remember on the spot.

The key take away for the PEI section is that it is definitely a 1:1+ ratio for Case interviews to PEI, and your preparation should reflect this.

Good luck with your prep.



replied on Nov 06, 2017
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Fit interview questions are the same at McKinsey interviews on both rounds (Why mck, why consulting, a story about you, 3 stories on competencies, your questions to the interviewer).

The main difference is that you'll have interviews with partners and directors who are more experienced interviewers. Your interviewer will check how real your story is and having lots of experience it will be relatively easy for him to challenge any of your actions. You should be ready to provide even more granular actions, key milestones and a breakdown of potential effects.

Here are some potential implications:

  • Interviewer may be even more interested in details about the context, especially if he knows the company you are talking about.
  • He may want to check whether this was your effort or more sort of a team effort. He would like to know what was your role in particular.
  • “Have you faced any difficulties while doing this?”- Typical question
  • "This story does not fit. Do you have another story?" - more common during an interview with partners. Have a backup story

Good luck!

updated his answer on Sep 13, 2017
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Dear future consultant,

Congratulations and all the best luck for the final round. In my experience, a firm like Mckinsey does not forgive mistakes to any applicant, so you did a good job during the first round.

- For the fit part: interviewers will go deep in other examples for leadership, analytics, conflict, teamwork, etc. So have at least three (3) different answers for each potential fit question. Do not use the same examples that you provided during the first round

- For the case part: expect the same drill

WHAT IS IMPORTANT is that the structure and dynamics of the interview might change. So, I would recommend you to read the "Consulting Q&A" the questions "First round interview with a senior director" which will give you an idea what would you expect in the final round (have in mind that senior consultants hold the final interviews (e.g., Partners) in most cases.

In case you don't find it, I have copied my answer below:

""""""""""""""""""I hope this short message finds you well and helps you in your preparation. The more senior level the interviewers are, the more creative they become during the interviews. What does it mean? That they can take the conversation wherever they want and with no specific order (they can jump from a fit question to a numerical question, then return to the fit part and finish with a small case)

However, the mechanics and gist of the interview won't change. They have to answer the following critical questions:

1) Are you a good fit for the company? This is basically the fit part of the interview in which you probably can expect a) stress interview b) going very deep into specific examples c) multiple skills assessment from previous experience

2) Do you have the skills set to become a good consultant? This is basically the case part in which the interviewer can ask you a) out of the hood numerical questions b) short interview cases c) real cases that the interviewer is currently working d) cases that the interviewer is inventing while he is speaking to you.

One final recommendation is not to feel nervous if you feel that the interview is not "structured", this is how senior level professional approach their interviews.""""""""""""""""""




Originally answered:

Final Round at McK and BCG

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replied on Aug 31, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

there are a couple of differences between the two rounds. The first difference is that the McK final round is normally interviewer-led, while BCG uses an interviewee-led style. A second difference is that McKinsey pays more attention to the fit part, with a more structured PEI interview part.

Obviously you will also need specific reasons why you want to join McK/BCG which are unique for each company (that is, not using cliché like people, sectors or learning opportunities without details).



Originally answered:

McKinsey Second Round

Astrid replied on Jan 31, 2017
PrepLounge Community & Marketing Manager

Hi Alice,

First of all, congrats on getting into the second round with McKinsey! That's amazing :)

Secondly, thanks for asking your question in our Consulting Q&A. I found some old threads that might include useful information for you.

The first one is about Bain, but experts explain the differences between first and second rounds in general. Let me quickly give you excerpts of the answers provided by our experts:

Chern (passed both interviews with McK and BCG):

The key differences between the 1st and 2nd interview rounds, besides the interviewers being principals or partners as you mentioned, are in structure, focus and selectivity. The structure in the 2nd round will most likely not follow the standard fit + case interview format. Partners may prefer to launch into a conversation about the latest developments in a particular business, industry or geography and talk about your motivations and life experiences later [...]. The focus in the 2nd round will likely be influenced by your performance in the previous round. The 2nd round interviewers will test on any areas where they perceived you needed to work on [...]. The selectivity in the 2nd round is much lower, as this is the round where hiring decisions are made [...].

Hemant (Ex McKinsey):

There is practically no difference between 1st and 2nd rounds. [...] Some R2 cases have more ambiguity but that's only because a partner/principal may not have time/patience/interest to give a typical case so they make it up as they go. It also makes the interview more fun for them, not having to type out notes and check for your answers vs the one provided by the HR.

You can find the original Q&A here: Bain&Company second round interviews

Another Q&A particularly addresses the difference between first and second rounds in general.

Matteo (referring to McK, Bain and BCG) mentions 2 points:

1) during the first round the interviewers will be senior managers and/or junior partners, wheather in the second round you will generally meet senior partners or directors

2) Therefore since the two profiles mentioned above have a different seniority during the first round it is more likely that you will be asked more analytical questions and the business cases will be more detaild (e.g. estimate the market share at the endo of the third year knowing that.. ecc.), on the other side in the second round the you might have to tackle more broad and strategical questions (e.g. what would you outsource in a marketing department)

You can find the original Q&A here: Difference between first round and second round interviews?

I hope this helps!

Best of luck for the rest of your prep and of course, the second round!


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Thanks a lot Astrid!! — Alice on Feb 01, 2017

Originally answered:

McKinsey Second Round

replied on Jan 30, 2017
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Basically second rund interviews are very similar to those in the first round. However, partners sometimes focus more on the personal fit so better to prepare more stories just in case.

Stories will be asked the same way, but be prepared to talk longer about them.

Thank you Xabi! Are the second round McKinsey still classified as "interviewer-led" though? Its not clear from peoples' answers, but maybe it just depends on the interviewer — Alice on Feb 01, 2017

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