What to do after a failed McKinsey interview or application

the image is the cover of an article on how to get a 2nd chance with McKinsey

Have you applied with McKinsey, BCG, or Bain and failed either at the screening stage or the interview stage?

Worry not if you are still committed to landing the consulting gig of your dreams – more often than not you will be given a second chance after a while. In fact, you will find that quite a few people in the top-tier consultancies made it only on their second attempt. For this, it is important to stay on the firm’s radar.

At most firms, once you have failed an application, you will be blocked from re-apply for 18 to 24 months, however, there are ways to shorten this waiting period as well as to increase your chances of getting a second shot in the future.

Below we discuss how you can get a second shot at getting into McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.

How can you get another chance at McKinsey, BCG, or Bain?

  1. Show dedication towards the firm of your choice
  2. Demonstrate progress and sharpen your profile
  3. Help out if the opportunity arises

1. Show dedication towards the firm of your choice

Do not cut ties with the firm out of frustration or anger; rather stay close and show particular interest in its future development. As a first step, try to get honest and actionable feedback from your interviewers or HR on your mistakes and/or sticking points in the application process or the case interviews.

As discussed in another blog entry (click here), in consulting applications it’s all about the leads. In this case, it’s no different. The more people you know and more importantly the more people know you in the company for all the right reasons, the better your chances will be to get a second shot at the application or interviews. Try to stay in touch with HR, keeping them up-to-date about your latest developments and asking for tips regarding re-application chances and timelines. Consulting recruiters are usually very upfront and helpful in guiding your efforts. If they see potential they will go a long way to help applicants succeed! Additionally, connect with consultants to ask for advice.

Be creative and opportunistic when expanding your network! Should you move town or country, identify local consultants of your target firm and get in touch with them as well. Additionally, contact alumni from your university working for your target firm. Having a common background with the consultant improves your chances to receive support and guidance.

2. Demonstrate progress and sharpen your profile

Firms will want to invite you again once you show that you have progressed significantly both professionally and personally from your last application or interview. Your development should be focused in such areas as university, work experience, or extra-curricular activities; at best it is a combination of all (e.g., you improved your grades, while taking on a leadership role in some extracurricular activity, in addition to you having interned with a reputable company or even competitor – all this while living abroad). Working on your development comes with two benefits: First, you demonstrate tangible professional progress as an applicant compared to your initial application, increasing your chances to pass the screening stage, and second, these experiences will help you gain more exposure and skills needed to pass the interviews and tests thrown at you.

Your chances of getting a second shot are significantly improved if you have interned or worked full-time with another well-respected consulting firm in the meantime.

When you apply again, subtly point out in your application how your additional experience has helped you work on some of the weaknesses identified in the first round and improved the skills necessary for the job. You might want to join consulting clubs and student consulting organizations to strengthen your skills and sharpen your profile even further.

3. Help out when you can

Sometimes it is possible to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with a company, even though you have failed at your first application. This is something that you cannot force but should leverage once the opportunity arises.

Do something for the firm when they ask you for a favor. I had a friend at McKinsey who got contacted during his university term abroad in Asia by a project manager of the firm for which he was eager to work (but failed during his first interview).

The ten minutes invested by my colleague to aid a local recruiting matter helped to establish a good connection with the firm. Additionally, the local recruiting manager took note. As a result, my friend was able to re-apply after just 14 months and his application was fast-tracked, by-passing the official online application channels. He received his interview invitation just one day after sending the application (and later got an offer from the firm).

Of course, he also showed significant professional development in all dimensions described above during the 14-month period. Still, helping out facilitated the application and screening stage significantly for him.

Get a second chance at McKinsey, BCG, or Bain

By applying the three strategies outlined above you will significantly improve your chances to get a second shot at an application, no matter if you are a student, graduate, or senior hire. The strategies are especially feasible for candidates who failed a screening or an interview for an internship position during the course of their studies but are still committed to starting with a full-time role after graduation. Those candidates have greater flexibility to influence the important variables, namely education, new job experience, extracurricular activities, and professional experience abroad.

Lastly, don’t make a big deal out of the fact that you failed once. All recruiters and interviewers know your story because it is well documented in the firms’ archives and usually shared globally (for top firms). Selling it the right way, you can use this as a demonstration of your dedication and ultimate will to land a job offer with that company.


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