The top-tier consulting application process

the image is the cover for our article on the top tier consulting application process

Do you want to apply for your dream job in consulting and work for McKinsey, BCG, or Bain? Do you pursue either an internship or a full-time position? You come straight from university or you want to switch professions?

Congrats! You have chosen to work in a very demanding yet rewarding profession. I am sure that you have it in you to land an offer with the firm of your choice.

The typical consulting application funnel

However, in order to make the cut, there are several hurdles you need to jump over in the typical recruiting process employed by top tier strategy consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.

Most commonly, you will find three to four obstacles you have to overcome, first, the application and associated screening process, which often includes online math/problem-solving test or screening calls.

Once passed this stage, you will encounter the first round and second round consulting interviews, which usually consist of a case interview and a personal fit interview. If you manage to pass all rounds you will be extended an offer at the end of this tedious process.

Here is a rough breakdown of how many candidates are rejected within this process.

Breakdown of the McKinsey application funnel from screening to first round and second round interviews
Breakdown of the typical McKinsey application funnel

For elite firms such as McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, this table represents a good estimate of the brutal decimation of candidates throughout the process.

Generally, most people don’t even manage to get past the first hurdle, but the odds don’t get any better after that when we look at the table in relative terms.

The typical setup

While there might be some minor variations in the process depending on the size of the company, it is fairly standardized among management consulting firms. There are some elements that are employed only by a few firms, usually smaller in nature, such as pre-screening via telephone or online math tests.

Larger firms such as McKinsey & Company, BCG or Bain in some geographies offer both a one-hour coaching call and a one-hour online session to help with interview preparation. Some firms even consolidate the first and second round to one super-day of case interviews.

First-round interviews are usually done by my more junior consultants to project manager level, having been with the firm between two and five years. Second round interviews are usually done by principals/ junior partners and partners, with the offer being extended by a senior partner, sometimes even the managing partner of a particular office. For smaller firms, depending on the availability, even first-round interviews are sometimes held by very senior people.

Next steps

Go check out how the office of the firm you are applying to is conducting the process and find out about peculiarities via their website, HR staff (which are always eager to help), current employees you can contact via Linkedin (remember to be polite and ask specific questions), as well as friends and colleagues who might have gone through the process already.

Having a clear map of the process ahead, let’s start turning the odds in your favor! Once you know you have your map you can start engaging with the industry and the firms of your choice. In this post, we detail how to best perform a due diligence on potential consulting firms and start networking with the right people.

How we can help you score a job in top-tier consulting

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.

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