From Banking to Consulting

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What follows is a success story I received from a reader who successfully transitioned from banking to consulting as an experienced hire. The tips offered should be useful for those of you in similar situations.

Field Report:

I am writing having just signed to join McKinsey in the Fall. As you can imagine, I am quite happy with how everything turned out, and I wanted to share my experience, hoping to be of help and to infuse positive vibes into someone out there.

My background: 4 years as equity analyst, MBA, 5 years in banking in equity capital markets (IPOs and such).

After getting quite disillusioned with the banking industry over the last few years, I got laid off, and had to reassess what to do next. In the meantime, fortunately I found a job in a small startup financial firm, which allowed me to keep paying the bills.

So as you can see, I had zero experience in consulting.

I started with the usual process: networking, asking around, reading companies’ websites, applying online. It went on for awhile, but, long story short, I got nowhere except at McK, thanks to a friend inside who passed my CV on to the HR team, who were inviting people to an event for people interested to switch into consulting.

After the event, everyone who was there received an invitation to take the PST (the HR team put in the application for us).

Preparation for the PST: 

I took all the example tests I could find (including yours), timing them from the start. Overall, maybe 10 mock tests, plus the maths.

I made sure to spend at least 15 minutes every day on your Math Practice site. (thanks for that- I really think it made a difference for me)

Preparation for the Interviews:   

  • Personal experience questions:  I prepared a couple of stories to draw upon for each typical question. Essential to have them ready and practised out loud. A suggestion: no need to find fancy stories. What matters is that they are real, show the skill they are looking for, and you can bring them to life with a lot of detail (so, for example, don’t use something that sounds great but where you had a small role, or can’t remember the details of).
  • Cases:  I read through LOMS, underlining and then summarising on a “cheat sheet” the recommendations you give every now and then. Read Seven Points and got a few useful things there. Finally I memorised the Business Situation page. I am not a fan of frameworks, but that page was gold for me because it was short enough that I could memorise all the points, but comprehensive so that I could mentally go over the list during any case to make sure I was not leaving anything out in my analysis. Finally, I managed to do only a couple of live practice cases with friends.

Both in cases and in the personal questions, do not hesitate to use anecdotes if appropriate and interesting. Do establish a relationship with the interviewer!

As for the cases, this might sound easy to say now that I have received an offer, but... really, don’t be afraid, they are not that hard for people who have a good deal of experience, in particular in a field not too far from consulting like banking! Use your experience, use common sense, be rational, use all the strategic view you have developed over the years, and you will be fine!

What made the difference for me (I believe) is that the first part of the case is always the structuring and strategic thinking part. Since I was doing very well in that, I think interviewers were happy to cut me some slack and did not mind I took my time to do the maths.

A note for the maths: always do a quick “sanity check” of the answer before blurting out a number. And take your time if you need to. Once, I realised I had made a mistake somewhere, so I told the interviewer I would start over, (“sorry it will take a little bit longer,”) and it was fine.

Anyway, this is my story. I don’t want to make it sound easy, because it isn’t, but want to de-mystify the whole process a little. McK was the first and only consulting interview I ever went through... It can be done!

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