expert
Expert with best answer

Luca

100% Recommendation Rate

22 Meetings

1,955 Q&A Upvotes

USD 179 / Coaching

6

Will my background story be a problem for McKinsey?

So I'm a bit stuck having exhausted my chances at Bain and BCG, and could use some advice about how/ when to break into McKinsey and when to re-apply to BCG where I made it to the final round.

For McKinsey especially, I'm worried that applying for a January start would be a mistake given feedback about my background story.

Background:

I graduated near the top of my MBA class in May (from a target in my country), and was subsequently forced to close down my startup (small fintech that helped large corporates discover, partner with and invest in startups around the globe) due to unexpected circumstances and started the job search off-cycle in June.

In September, I joined the strategy team at a $2B+ growth equity fund manager on a contract basis to develop investment and value creation strategies around select industry verticals due to my previous consulting background in those verticals; it also included deal-level due diligence.

Since then, I've interviewed at Bain, BCG and several internal strategy roles; interviews I had organized via my network at my MBA and developed over time. I was initially struggling with the cases at the internal roles and Bain, but then made it to final rounds at BCG after a step change in my attitude towards casing.

The feedback from BCG's final round interviews was two-fold:

  1. They said my recommendations for the first case could have been more solid and practical (that was fair as I wasn't happy with them in comparison with the first round cases)

  2. They were concerned that joining the growth equity fund was a sign that I didn't want to be a consultant; which was devastating to me as I thought it would only improve my profile

Complication + question:

Given the above advice, I was wondering if applying to McKinsey now would also be a problem from a background story perspective? If so how can I address/ mitigate it?

My honest reason for joining the growth equity firm is that it offered me the same balance of strategy and investments that I loved in my startup in a more mature environment, and would enable me to find which of those verticals I would like going forward. I quickly figured out it's strategy and that's the reason why I carried forward with the other interviews in the first place.

Now I have 3 months left on the contract at the growth equity firm and am wondering whether I should wait a year or so in another role before applying to McKinsey.

So I'm a bit stuck having exhausted my chances at Bain and BCG, and could use some advice about how/ when to break into McKinsey and when to re-apply to BCG where I made it to the final round.

For McKinsey especially, I'm worried that applying for a January start would be a mistake given feedback about my background story.

Background:

I graduated near the top of my MBA class in May (from a target in my country), and was subsequently forced to close down my startup (small fintech that helped large corporates discover, partner with and invest in startups around the globe) due to unexpected circumstances and started the job search off-cycle in June.

In September, I joined the strategy team at a $2B+ growth equity fund manager on a contract basis to develop investment and value creation strategies around select industry verticals due to my previous consulting background in those verticals; it also included deal-level due diligence.

Since then, I've interviewed at Bain, BCG and several internal strategy roles; interviews I had organized via my network at my MBA and developed over time. I was initially struggling with the cases at the internal roles and Bain, but then made it to final rounds at BCG after a step change in my attitude towards casing.

The feedback from BCG's final round interviews was two-fold:

  1. They said my recommendations for the first case could have been more solid and practical (that was fair as I wasn't happy with them in comparison with the first round cases)

  2. They were concerned that joining the growth equity fund was a sign that I didn't want to be a consultant; which was devastating to me as I thought it would only improve my profile

Complication + question:

Given the above advice, I was wondering if applying to McKinsey now would also be a problem from a background story perspective? If so how can I address/ mitigate it?

My honest reason for joining the growth equity firm is that it offered me the same balance of strategy and investments that I loved in my startup in a more mature environment, and would enable me to find which of those verticals I would like going forward. I quickly figured out it's strategy and that's the reason why I carried forward with the other interviews in the first place.

Now I have 3 months left on the contract at the growth equity firm and am wondering whether I should wait a year or so in another role before applying to McKinsey.

(edited)

6 answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best Answer
Book a coaching with Luca

100% Recommendation Rate

22 Meetings

1,955 Q&A Upvotes

USD 179 / Coaching

Hello,

I think that you should just try to better motivate your choice and build a solid story around it.
Think about it: HR staff knew since the beginning your background story, but they invited you to start the process. Why?For sure they didn't do that just to waste their sources' time.
More than likely there was something that didn't convince your interviewer during the fit part of your last round.
I wouldn't stop and I would just try to reinforce your preparation for the fit part of the interview. It's full of people coming from other jobs after short time in consulting.
Regarding re-applying at BCG: usually you have a 1-year ban after failing the interview.

Hope it helps,
Luca

Hello,

I think that you should just try to better motivate your choice and build a solid story around it.
Think about it: HR staff knew since the beginning your background story, but they invited you to start the process. Why?For sure they didn't do that just to waste their sources' time.
More than likely there was something that didn't convince your interviewer during the fit part of your last round.
I wouldn't stop and I would just try to reinforce your preparation for the fit part of the interview. It's full of people coming from other jobs after short time in consulting.
Regarding re-applying at BCG: usually you have a 1-year ban after failing the interview.

Hope it helps,
Luca

Book a coaching with Francesco

100% Recommendation Rate

2,878 Meetings

6,252 Q&A Upvotes

USD 349 / Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

you can apply (and potentially get an offer) from McK at this stage, however you would need a very solid reason on why you want to switch your industry so early (the motivation you wrote in the description is not solid enough). If you can motivate that in an adequate way, I don’t see reasons to postpone the application; if that’s not possible at this stage, it would make more sense to wait at least one year in the industry before applying.

In terms of the ban in MBB, the standard length is 24 months. In some cases, they may offer a lower period – 12 or even 6 months (they normally communicate this in the feedback). In some cases you may also reduce the timeline if you manage to apply again with a strong referral (partner level).

Best,
Francesco

Hi Anonymous,

you can apply (and potentially get an offer) from McK at this stage, however you would need a very solid reason on why you want to switch your industry so early (the motivation you wrote in the description is not solid enough). If you can motivate that in an adequate way, I don’t see reasons to postpone the application; if that’s not possible at this stage, it would make more sense to wait at least one year in the industry before applying.

In terms of the ban in MBB, the standard length is 24 months. In some cases, they may offer a lower period – 12 or even 6 months (they normally communicate this in the feedback). In some cases you may also reduce the timeline if you manage to apply again with a strong referral (partner level).

Best,
Francesco

Book a coaching with Antonello

98% Recommendation Rate

101 Meetings

1,673 Q&A Upvotes

USD 189 / Coaching

Hi,
I think you could apply even now, arriving very well prepared on questions related on your choices. There is nothing bad in doing interviews before the ending of a contract, and working in a fund is not opposite to join a consulting firm, therefore you can build a solid story. Being close to your MBA the sooner you apply the better.

Best,
Antonello

Hi,
I think you could apply even now, arriving very well prepared on questions related on your choices. There is nothing bad in doing interviews before the ending of a contract, and working in a fund is not opposite to join a consulting firm, therefore you can build a solid story. Being close to your MBA the sooner you apply the better.

Best,
Antonello

Book a coaching with Clara

100% Recommendation Rate

40 Meetings

4,969 Q&A Upvotes

USD 219 / Coaching

Hello!

I believe that is a matter of how you build your narrative, i.e, how you tell that story.

You should very much work on (1) the reasons why you want to leave a company before the 1st initial 6 months, (2) how your initial motivation to go there was indeed to enhance your profile and (3) how you are passionate about Consulting -so it´s not your back-up plan-.

Hence, I would apply to McK right away, since it doesn´t seem as an issue with you background but more about how you have talked about that experience/not stressed enaugh your passion for Consulting.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Hello!

I believe that is a matter of how you build your narrative, i.e, how you tell that story.

You should very much work on (1) the reasons why you want to leave a company before the 1st initial 6 months, (2) how your initial motivation to go there was indeed to enhance your profile and (3) how you are passionate about Consulting -so it´s not your back-up plan-.

Hence, I would apply to McK right away, since it doesn´t seem as an issue with you background but more about how you have talked about that experience/not stressed enaugh your passion for Consulting.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Book a coaching with Deniz

100% Recommendation Rate

133 Meetings

575 Q&A Upvotes

USD 169 / Coaching

Hi,

There is a chance that you may have overemphasized/looked quite passionate about your current role, and you may not have expressed your interest in consulting enough.

I personally don't think your background is irrelevant as we have many colleagues at MBB with a similar background as yours.

Best,

Deniz

Hi,

There is a chance that you may have overemphasized/looked quite passionate about your current role, and you may not have expressed your interest in consulting enough.

I personally don't think your background is irrelevant as we have many colleagues at MBB with a similar background as yours.

Best,

Deniz

Book a coaching with Vlad

97% Recommendation Rate

388 Meetings

7,368 Q&A Upvotes

USD 299 / Coaching

Hi,

In general, if you are changing your job in 4 months after joining it's a bad sign and puts you in a weak position. I would wait till the end of the contract (one full year) and apply then

Best

Hi,

In general, if you are changing your job in 4 months after joining it's a bad sign and puts you in a weak position. I would wait till the end of the contract (one full year) and apply then

Best

Thanks for the advice! I may have to rethink a few things based on this. The contract is only for 6 months so I could figure out where to go (investment team at VC or strategy consulting). — Anonymous A on Dec 16, 2019

Related BootCamp article(s)

Interviewer-Led vs Candidate-Led cases

Case Interviews can be led by the candidate or by the interviewer: In Candidate-led cases the main challenge is the structure. In Interviewer-led cases the main challenge is to adapt quickly

Related case(s)

McKinsey Questions

Solved 36.7k times
McKinsey Questions Tell me of a situation where you had an opinion and no one seemed to agree with you. What was your goal when you decided to join university / work / clubs / a sports team? Did you have a goal that you were not able to reach? What did you do? What do you want to be remembered for and how are you achieving it? What is your typical way of dealing with conflict?
4.5 5 850
| Rating: (4.5 / 5.0) |
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Fit interview | Topics: Personal fit

Tell me of a situation where you had an opinion and no one seemed to agree with you. What was your goal when you decided to join university / work / clubs / a sports team? Did you have a goal that you were not able to reach? What did you do? What do you want to be remembered for and how are you ... Open whole case

BCG Questions

Solved 25.2k times
BCG Questions What arouses your interest when you are working / studying / doing another activity (from the CV)? Tell me of a time where you had no idea what you were doing. When did you use an uncommon approach to do something? Have you ever had responsibility for other people? Tell me of a situation where you were not the official leader.
4.5 5 206
| Rating: (4.5 / 5.0) |
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Fit interview | Topics: Personal fit

What arouses your interest when you are working / studying / doing another activity (from the CV)? Tell me of a time where you had no idea what you were doing. When did you use an uncommon approach to do something? Have you ever had responsibility for other people? Tell me of a situation where ... Open whole case

Espresso, Whatelse?

Solved 3.4k times
Espresso, Whatelse? Espresso Whatelse is an Italian company that produces coffee and espresso machines since 1908. It is the Italian market leader and has a strong presence overall in Europe. In 2019, Espresso Whatelse has increased its revenues but it has seen declining profit margin. Your client wants to understand the root causes of this 2019 trend and how to increase its profit margin again.  
4.7 5 175
| Rating: (4.7 / 5.0)

Espresso Whatelse is an Italian company that produces coffee and espresso machines since 1908. It is the Italian market leader and has a strong presence overall in Europe. In 2019, Espresso Whatelse has increased its revenues but it has seen declining profit margin. Your client wants to understand ... Open whole case

MBB Final Round Case - Smart Education

Solved 3.3k times
MBB Final Round Case - Smart Education Our client is SmartBridge, a nonprofit educational institution offering face-to-face tutoring services. The client operates in the US. The mission of SmartBridge is to help as many students as possible to complete studies and prevent that they drop from the school system, in particular in disadvantaged areas. The client is considering starting operations for its services in the Chicago area. They hired us to understand if that makes sense. Due to the nonprofit regulation, SmartBridge should operate on its own in the market, without any partnership. How would you help our client?
4.6 5 125
| Rating: (4.6 / 5.0)

Our client is SmartBridge, a nonprofit educational institution offering face-to-face tutoring services. The client operates in the US. The mission of SmartBridge is to help as many students as possible to complete studies and prevent that they drop from the school system, in particular in disadvant ... Open whole case

Coronavirus Times - COVID-19 Brainteaser

Solved 1.0k times
Coronavirus Times - COVID-19 Brainteaser You and your family are faced with a challenging set of decisions. Due to coronavirus, your partner has taken a 20% paycut and you are worried you may lose your job. In addition, while daycare is still open, you are worried that sending your two children there will increase the risk of them bringing the virus back to your house, where your elderly grandparents are also staying. How would you go about thinking about this problem, and what would you recommend?
4.6 5 26
| Rating: (4.6 / 5.0)
Difficulty: Beginner | Style: Brain Teaser | Topics: Brain teaser

You and your family are faced with a challenging set of decisions. Due to coronavirus, your partner has taken a 20% paycut and you are worried you may lose your job. In addition, while daycare is still open, you are worried that sending your two children there will increase the risk of them bringing ... Open whole case