PhD + Exec MBA - What are My Chances?

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Question:

I just finished an executive MBA at XXXXXXX (An Ivey League business school). I have a PhD from XXXXX XXXXXX of XXXXXX (a university in India), which is a premier research institute.

I am not sure which route I must follow for McKinsey application: APD or MBA?

Also my GMAT and GPA are not stellar: GMAT: 670, (Quant 92%) GPA-B+ in MBA. I have 12 years experience in Biotechnology field (pure research and industry)

Finally, what are my chances?

I appreciate your help albeit your busy consulting schedule.

My Response:

This may have changed, but when I was at McKinsey, we did not actively recruit directly from executive MBA programs. To check, see if your schools placement office has McKinsey on the recruiting schedule - I doubt it will. If you got your PhD a while ago, and it looks like you did, then APD may not be right either (though is a better shot than the MBA hiring which is very seasonal and tied to specific schools for the most part).

My best guess is you would be an industry hire.

In terms of your chances, from an American office stand point, I would say your chances are slim. The last person I interview with a remotely similar background got his PhD in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology which as I understand is like the #1 technical university in India (this MIT but more competitive).

He was #1 in his entire PhD program in Physics.

That was good enough to get an interview (though I actually rejected him in Round #1 for being academically brilliant but completely lacking common sense).

The reason I say your chances are low by US standards is I met a whole bunch of APD new hires from Germany and a number of them had their PhD's from German univesities that I had never heard of. They were hired by the German offices who presumably knew the reputation of those Universities. So its possibilities your Indian education is very strong, but I'm not sure an American resume screener would know that.

The other problem with your background is that test scores and GPA. While that's not the most critical factor it does help a recruiter compare across candidates especially when that particular recruiter may not be familiar with certain names on the resume.

For example, if I were screening your CV (and in general I would not since I don't have the background to assess your type of background) I would say to myself the following (and I hope you don't take any offense, just trying to expose the thought process).

Okay, the Exec MBA isn't from a top 5 school... and it's an exec mba, so it "doesn't count". And the GPA was only a B+ from a non-top 5 school... that's a negative.

Okay, PhD... that's good. Hmmm.. never heard of that university. Lets look at the test scores.... hmm not stellar, so the university might not be good but not top, top notch.

Let see if there's anything else interesting with respect to certain employers. If yes, maybe I'll check with some colleagues from India who might tell me the competitiveness of that University. If there's nothing exceptional on the resume in terms of employers, I'll just pass on the resume.

But wait, he does have a lot of experience in bio tech. Maybe on an off, off chance, I'll check with the bio tech practice, if we even have one, to see if they need someone with a really deep industry / science background. (Most likely I wouldn't even bother to do the latter).

Most likely I wouldn't select you for a 1st round especially if other resumes / CV's are stronger.

So that's my 2 cents and sorry its not better news. And also keep in mind, my perspective is 1) just my own, and 2) reflects some experience at only one firm - McKinsey. Other firms will vary a lot. Some of the so called 2nd tier firms or speciality firms that say specializes in bio tech might see the same background and say we gotta have this go - he knows the science and knows enough of the business side to be practical.

But McKinsey tends to be very, very selective about recuriting people with name brand credentials on their consulting resume. Part of it is because of supply / demand, it get so many applicants it can be picky. The other reason is to some extent a marketing one. McKinsey fees are usually 20% - 40% higher than BCG or Bain fees...

Clients naturally want to know what they get for the extra money. With the firm maintaining this mystique and reputation as "the firm" and its super high standards, it helps a bit in justifying the fees and supports the brand.

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