The McKinsey phone interview

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The McKinsey phone interview is a recruiting device that is employed in various offices across the globe or used for very specific roles. It is a crucial step for many candidates eager to kick-off their McKinsey careers.

Currently, there are two types of phone interviews McKinsey is conducting,

  • the phone case interview
  • the phone personal fit interview

In this article, I want to shed some light on both and tell you

  • what to expect
  • how to prepare

The McKinsey phone case interview

The first type is a phone case interview, which is either conducted by HR or an alumnus of the firm. This is basically a short McKinsey case, covering the typical question types and lasts around 30 minutes.

In this McKinsey interview you will have to answer three different questions types – broadly speaking:

  • Structuring
  • Exhibit Interpretation (less likely to appear)
  • Math

Now for Structure and Exhibit Interpretation, there is no right or wrong answer. Some answers are better than others because they are

  • deep
  • broad
  • insightful
  • hypothesis-driven
  • follow a strong communication (MECE, top-down, signposted)

That being said, there is no 100% that you can reach or the one-and-only solution/ answer. It is important that your answers display the characteristics specified above and are supported well with arguments.

As for Math questions, usually, there are answers which are correct (not always 100% the same since some candidates simplify or round differently – which is ok), and others that are wrong, either due to the

  • calculation approach
  • calculation itself

Now, for the interviewer, the overall picture counts. Mistakes in one area need to be balanced by a strong performance in other areas. McKinsey wants to see spikes in performance in certain areas and a good enough performance in other areas.

The most common example I see almost every day: You can be strong in structure and exhibit, yet make a small mistake in the math section – overall as you might consider 80% – and still pass on to the next round.

Your phone case:

These short screening phone interviews are usually conducted by an HR person or alumni of the firm (compared to consultants, which usually do the in-person cases). The types of questions, evaluation, etc. will all be the same. Yet the interviewer will likely record your answers (in written form) and forward them to a consultant together with their observation points. The consultant would then make the decision to move you forward or not.

Hence, your preparation does not differ from the ‘real-deal’ case interview. In order to prepare for this type of interview, check out our in-depth article on the McKinsey case interview.

The McKinsey personal fit phone interview

The second type of phone interview is a personal fit screening. This is usually NOT a Personal Experience Interview. If you want to know about that, check out our in-depth article on the McKinsey PEI interview. It lasts around 30 minutes as well.

For that matter, it is a very simple screening, more of a formality than an actual evaluation. The questions are much more rapid-fire and higher level than the PEI. Usually, candidates get the following questions:

  • Guide me through your resume
  • Why consulting?
  • Why McKinsey?
  • Are you aware of the work we are doing in <practice> and how could you contribute with your experience here (for experienced hires)?

Prepare a top-down answer for each of those highlighting 3-5 points for each. Link your experience and your successes with the skills needed in consulting and the tasks conducted on the job daily.

How to prepare for the McKinsey phone interview

In order to prepare for the phone interview, follow this 4-step process:

First, ask HR what type of interview to expect.

Second, prepare your case interview skills by joining our McKinsey Interview Academy or through coaching sessions with us via PrepLounge (Florian’s profile, Daniel’s profile).

Third, prepare your personal fit interview questions by going through our article on consulting personal fit interviews.

Lastly, the final minutes of the phone interview are usually spent on your questions, so think about 3-5 questions that you are actually interested in and that could give you some new insights about the Firm.

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