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What are the weaknesses of a candidate with a PhD instead of an MBA?

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New answer on Nov 20, 2020
7 Answers
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Paul asked on Oct 08, 2018

What are the specific weaknesses that you would expect in a candidate with a science PhD when compared to a candidate with an MBA? In other words, what are the skills that I should make sure to emphasise on my resumé in order to stand out as a well rounded candidate if I come into consultancy from a PhD?

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Anonymous replied on Oct 09, 2018

I think Guennael covered everything well, so won't repeat the various differences in expectation.

However, as an important side note: generally PhDs Don't enter at the same level as MBAs - PhDs will usually join as a "Junior Associate" (Mck) / "Junior Consultant" (BCG), and at Bain may even enter as a normal Associate Consultant but with opportunity for fast track promotion.

I just say this to stress the fact that expectations are invariably different, as you will be entering at a different level in the firm.

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Anonymous replied on May 26, 2020

Dear Paul,

It all depends on the market. For instance, PHD candidate are higher valued in Germany and Central Europe than the MBA candidates, therefore it depends a lot on location and particular office policy. In general, I would say that MBA have a way more practical business experience than PHD and therefore it is easier for them, coming from business school environment to land an offer in top firm.

Nevertheless, you can also train skills either on your own, with peers or with coach.

If you need any help, reach out.
Good luck,

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replied on Oct 08, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I actually view PhD/JD/MD candidates as the perfect applicants: You are smart, driven, typically highly quantitative, yet do not take the case for granted and are ready to learn.

I have both a Masters in Management and an MBA but wasn't better prepared to MBB than any one of you. Yes I thought I could prepare alone, and crashed on 3 separate occasions before finally hiring help my last (and ultimately successful) application.

To answer your question more specifically, I expect you to:

1. perhaps suffer a little more through some of the business concepts. You can get around this easily by reading the economist or WSJ for a few weeks and looking up foreign concepts

2. be better in math / statistics

3. above all, know how to develop a hypothesis and actually know how to prove/disprove it.

4. related to (3), know the difference between a hypothesis and its proof.

(3) and (4) should put you in the top quartile of the interviewees, right off the bat. You got this! good luck...

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replied on Oct 08, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


There are certain things you can emphasize:

  • The relevance of your PHD topic to consulting
  • Your work with some real companies to verify your research
  • Awards, publications, etc
  • Startups / any commercialization of your research


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Anonymous updated the answer on Oct 08, 2018

Hi Paul,

I would obviously expect less "business school mumbo-jumbo" from a science PhD. Whether that is a weakness, I leave for you to judge ;-)

So if you want to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate you probably want to emphasize that you didn't spend the last years completely locked away in an Ivory Tower but have a solid grasp of reality and maybe can connect the scientific world with the business world (may be hard to do if your PhD is in particle physics...). And then you just need to show that your analytics chops beat any business school graduate out of the water ;-)

Hope this helps



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Content Creator
replied on Nov 20, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Weaknesses is no the right word here. Both are indeed valued, but MBAs have been traditionally a great FIT in MBBs due to their backgrounds, but it does not mean PhDs could not be an equally good pitch.



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Anonymous updated the answer on Oct 09, 2018

Oh, and it's always cool if you can say (as one of my ex-colleagues liked to do): "So, I'm a rocket scientist. Like... literally."


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