McKinsey interviews (2023): the comprehensive insider guide

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The McKinsey interviews are one of the most challenging job interviews out there. According to Forbes, the top-tier consulting firm is the hardest company to get in to. Roughly 1% of consulting applicants get their desired offer. What makes McKinsey interviews different is their very specific use of case as well as personal fit interviews.

Together we have spent 9 years at McKinsey and now use our expertise to help 1000s of candidates to break into the top-tier consulting firms. Before you start your McKinsey journey, you need to know how the road ahead looks like.

Below we will tell you how McKinsey interviews are structured and what you can expect. Treat them like a university exam! Put in the work and prepare properly and you CAN succeed to kickstart your McKinsey careers.

The McKinsey application funnel

We have discussed in greater detail how to increase your chances to pass the resume and cover letter screening stage at McKinsey. You can read more about it in this article or see our application document prep packages or resume and cover letter screenings here.

The McKinsey evaluation and interview process

Once you have passed the screening stage, here is what you have to go through

Solve, McKinsey’s assessment game (Imbellus or Problem Solving Game)

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game (aka McKinsey Digital Assessment or McKinsey Imbellus Test) is a 60 to 81-minute computer game, consisting of several scenarios that assess the applicants’ ability to solve complex problems:

  • In the first half of the test, you would need to build a sustainable ecosystem (e.g. coral reef or a mountain ecosystem) based on a large variety of data given (data about different types of habitats, different animals, weather conditions, etc.). While you move through the game, you are evaluated based on cognitive processes by capturing telemetry data.
  • In the second part of the test, you would need to play a tower-defense-like game that assesses your ability to sift through large amounts of information and think systematically.
  • McKinsey is constantly adjusting the games. Some candidates we coached recently reported that instead of the tower defense game, they had to identify a disease that is haunting an animal population based on a large date set. In that regard, the game was similar to the ecosystem creation.

Depending on the office, candidates can do it from home or from the office. Check out our McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game Guide for more details, the best preparation approach as well as the most effective test-taking strategies (including 4 videos and Excel templates). We have compiled this document by talking to more than 280 test-takers as well as game design experts. By January 2022, the guide has sold to more than 4000 customers from 60+ countries.

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is currently being rolled out globally and has not yet been introduced in all the countries.

The McKinsey phone case interview

Due to COVID, in some offices, McKinsey has introduced a phone pre-screening interview conducted by HR. The results of the phone case interview are presented to a consulting interviewer, who makes the decision whether or not to progress you to the next round. For a detailed article on this type of screening, see our McKinsey Phone Case Interview preparation guide.

The McKinsey First Round Interviews

(after you have passed the McKinsey Problem Solving Game)

In the first round, you can expect 2 or 3 interviews (dependent on the region). These interviews are usually conducted by non-partner level consultants (senior associates to associate principles), however, they are no less challenging than second-round interviews, which are conducted by partners.

Each first-round interview consists of two parts:

  • The Experience/ Personal Fit Interview (25-30 min of a total interview duration)
  • The Problem Solving/ Business Case interview (also around 25-30 min)

Both personal fit and business case are weighted equally by McKinsey when deciding about your offer and that is why it is extremely important to prepare properly for both parts of the interview.

Nota Bene: The first interview usually takes a little longer than the rest (1 h 15 min vs 1 h) – usually the first 15 minutes are used for small talk and getting to know you (e.g. questions like “why consulting?” or “why McKinsey” are being asked). Even though this part of the interview is not being evaluated it’s important to use this opportunity to make a good impression on an interviewer. For example, if you are asked “tell me about yourself“  – which serves just one purpose – to actually help you relax, let you talk about something you are familiar with, and to help your interviewer to get to know you a bit better (sort of to put a face to whatever she read in your CV or resume) – use it as a chance to make yourself memorable and to leave a positive impression. Of course, say a few words about your studies and work experience, but also say what you are passionate about and what you want to achieve in life. Are you passionate about swimming? Say it! Are you passionate about singing? Say it! Do you want to eventually build your own business? Say it! It’s important for an interviewer to understand what kind of person you are and for you to leave a memorable mark, so make sure you highlight those things which throw a bit of light on your personality.

McKinsey Personal Experience Interview

The McKinsey Personal Fit or Personal Experience Interview (PEI) is a situation-based interview. You will need to talk about some situations you experienced in your life (private or professional), which correspond to McKinsey’s personal fit dimensions (one dimension per interview). Those dimensions are:

  • Entrepreneurial Drive – here you will need to demonstrate that you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Think about the times when you started or created something
  • Personal Impact – in this dimension you will need to demonstrate that you can have impact on people around you. Think about the times when you could persuade somebody of your idea or course of action
  • Inclusive Leadership / Teamwork – here you will need to demonstrate your leadership skills. Think about times you worked in a team and had to achieve something challenging together with your teammates
  • Courageous Change – here you have to demonstrated how you reacted to a change in circumstances or an unexpected setback

McKinsey Interview Video Academy

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Look behind the curtains and understand how to ace McKinsey Case and Personal Experience Interviews with our 40-part video academy. Curated by former McKinsey consultants and interviewers with the best track record in the industry.

Again, even though 90% of candidates devote most of their preparation time to prepare for the Business Case interview, Personal Fit is as important! As former McKinsey interviewers, we’ve seen it too many times that the candidate rocked the Problem Solving interviews, yet didn’t score high enough on Experience interviews and was not extended an offer. So, do prepare your stories in advance and spend time thinking about them!

If you need help on this, check out our Ready-for-McKinsey video academy, where we give examples of bad and excellent Personal Fit stories and explain how to build your stories to make sure you succeed in this part of the interview. We are also offering a tailored coaching program where we help you to craft your Personal Fit stories to make sure nothing can go wrong in your interview.

McKinsey Case Interview / McKinsey Problem Solving Interview

The McKinsey Business Case is the most feared part of the McKinsey interview and the one which requires the most preparation. A typical McKinsey Business Case is a bit different than the classic case study interview and consists of 3 types of questions:

  1. Structuring – a candidate is expected to put together an issue tree/hypothesis tree
  2. Exhibit – a candidate is expected to look at the exhibit and to draw some insights from it / formulate hypotheses
  3. Math – a candidate is expected to set up a calculation approach to answer a mathematical case question, perform the calculation accurately

What candidates often do not realize is that McKinsey interviews are hypotheses-driven. So, at all points of the case, you need to formulate your hypotheses. If you want to get familiar with the best approach on how to solve McKinsey cases, check out our Ready-for-McKinsey video academy, where we give examples of how bad, good and excellent candidates go through the case and what does it take to get maximum points in McKinsey business case interview.

If you want to go deeper to brush up on your math skills, we have created a program with detailed insider learning materials, 25 videos and a guidebook as well as 2,000 practice drills that mimick the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain case interview math as well as the aptitude and analytics test math for you here: the Case Interview Math Mastery.

We have compiled a list of relevant case interview examples here. Also, if you want to get to know typical McKinsey business cases on top of what is available on the McKinsey website, check out our McKinsey-style Case Book – there we put together 3 very different McKinsey-style business cases for you to practice.

Further reading:

Please find the McKinsey interview timeline below:

the chart shows the mckinsey interview process and different rounds including the personal experience interview, the problem solving interview and the mckinsey problem solving game
The McKinsey interview process in a nutshell

The McKinsey Technical Expertise Interview

The McKinsey Technical Expertise Interview, in short TEI, is an interview format used for recruiting technical experts It focuses on specific areas of technical or domain expertise and evaluates a candidate’s expertise in a given field. It is used in the recruiting of analytics staff, designers, product engineers, agile coaches, programmers, etc.

Since McKinsey has significantly increased the variety and diversity of roles over the last couple of years, the TEI can be very different for different roles. It spans a wide range of potential evaluations such as coding tests and project discussions with product engineers, portfolio reviews with other designers, or discussions about coaching and agile methodologies with agile coaches.

In this article, we discuss:

  • What to expect for the McKinsey Technical Expertise Interview
  • How to prepare for the McKinsey TEI

McKinsey internship

If you are applying for a McKinsey internship, your interview and application journey will end at this stage (hopefully with an offer). Only full-time candidates will have to go through second-round interviews.

The McKinsey Second Round Interviews

In the second round, you will have 2 or 3 additional interviews dependent on the region. The format is a bit freer than in the first. These interviews are usually conducted by senior-level consultants (partners and senior partners) and focus on the weaknesses identified in the first round. For instance, if you rock the Business Cases in the first round, most of the focus will be on the Personal Fit. If you rock Personal Fit, most of the focus will be on the Business Case. That is why you should ask for feedback after Round 1 and prepare accordingly.

Personal Fit Interview: Round 2

Personal Fit in the second round is similar to round one – you will need to tell your stories according to the relevant McKinsey dimensions. Please note that in some offices it is allowed to tell the same stories again (e.g. Canada) while in some it is frowned upon (e.g. Germany). Do clarify with your local HR whether or not you can tell the same stories in the second round!

A new Personal Fit interview element is currently being rolled out globally for the second round – the Personal Fit simulation. Usually, it is just one simulation and the dimension is chosen based on what was your weakest Personal Fit performance in the previous round.

What happens is that a McKinsey partner plays a client, and you need to play a McKinsey consultant. For example, in the Personal Impact dimension simulation, you would need to persuade a client to conduct a reorganization of their department: you would need to demonstrate strong interpersonal skills to succeed. However, if you understand how you need to build your Personal Fit stories, you will also understand how to act in the simulation.

Business Case Interview: Round 2

The business cases in the second round are similar to the ones in the first round. One important difference is that very often instead of the exhibit exercise and question, candidates are asked to conduct some sort of estimation in the case context (e.g. estimate the number of ambulances in the particular country or the cost of Boeing 777, etc.). So, practice estimations before walking into the second round.

Non-generalist McKinsey Consulting Roles

McKinsey Digital Consulting Roles

The interview for consulting roles with McKinsey Digital is structurally exactly the same as for generalist positions. The only difference is that you might get cases with “digital” or a high-tech content or context (for example, see the NetForm case in our McKinsey-style Case Book). However, do not spend too much time on trying to find cases with “the right content”. Instead focus on practicing the types of questions we discussed above (structuring, exhibit analysis, math) – only after you have mastered those, you can focus on specific industries or functions in your preparation.

McKinsey Digital Data Scientists – QuantHub Assessment

If you are applying to McKinsey as a Data Scientist, you will receive an invitation for the QuantHub assessment before your interview. Essentially, it’s a multiple-choice test which has 3 sections (stats, R, Python) with 12 questions each:

  • Stats: mostly consist of chi-square, t-tests, ANOVA, etc. along with some basic calculations
  • R: you need to be proficient in R to perform well. Example of a question: you get a dataset in R, do some manipulations and choose the correct output in the Mcq – keep RStudio open and maybe also a Jupyter notebook or any of your preferred python ide;
  • Python: You need to be proficient in Python to perform well

If you succeed in the QuantHub assessment, you will then proceed to an interview, which will be structurally similar to the normal interview – with the only difference that one business case will be in the context of data science

McKinsey Operations, McKinsey Implementation, Orphoz

For consulting roles there is no difference to a normal interview process, except business cases can be operations / implementation / public sector related (e.g. supply chain, product development, service operations). However, do not spend time on focusing on content or industry of business cases, but rather focus on practicing the types of questions we discussed above (structuring, exhibit analysis, math).

Experienced Hires

Experienced hires receive an “initial assessment call” before the first round. It lasts approximately 20 minutes, is conducted by phone, and consists just of one simplified business case (no exhibit, just structuring and math – sometimes only structuring). Based on the performance of the initial assessment call experienced hires are either invited to the first round or not.

What is different at BCG or Bain?

The process for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) or Bain is similar. The skills that are assessed are the same, yet the evaluation differs slightly. You will go through

  1. Screening of application documents
  2. Aptitude Tests (Boston Consulting Group, Bain)
  3. Case and personal fit interviews, which are candidate-led

How we can help you further

We have specialized in placing people from all walks of life with different backgrounds into top consulting firms both as generalist hires as well as specialized hires and experts. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we help you by

Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into consulting.

2 Responses

  1. Tina says:

    Dear Florian,
    Thank you so much for providing the insightful blog! I have a question about the application timeline, however. I completed the problem-solving game over 2 weeks ago, and think I did pretty well (all animal survive and the plant survived longer than 15 moves). However, I haven’t heard from McKinsey since. I wonder usually how long does it take to hear from the recruiters after the game? At this point, in your experience, should I move on and assume I wasn’t selected for the interview? I’d really appreciate any insight!


    • Florian says:

      Dear Tina,
      It depends on the office. Most candidates hear back within 2 weeks, however, sometimes it can take up to one month. I would not worry too much at this stage and focus on the case interview and PEI preparation. Fingers crossed! Cheers, Florian

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