What is the McKinsey First Round Interview like?
The purpose of the McKinsey first round is pretty simple. All we're trying to do as an interviewer is answer two questions:
1) Do you think like a consultant?
2) Are you client safe?
Let me start with one little pet peeve of mine. Consulting is not the end all and be all of business. I know lots of CEOs and business owners who are wildly successful in their careers, but would be terrible consultants.
So realize even if you don't end up able to work in consulting, it really doesn't mean anything as to your chances of success in your career.
There is a certain style of thinking that is very conducive to being a good consultant. Firms are looking for data-driven, analytical, highly structured, problem solvers.
It does not matter if you use your gut instinct to find the right answer for a client... and it doesn't even matter if your gut instinct is right. You have to prove your ideas as consultant.
Often times clients have all kinds of opinions internally. They're looking for some to substantiate or challenge beliefs they have about their businesses... beliefs that have not been validated by market, company, or industry data. This is where there's a role for consultants.
In addition, many clients (individual executives) have to present their business plans to their bosses. The gal running the $1 billion division of a big company, reports to the person who runs a $15 billion portfolio of the business. If the gal doesn't go in there with a well thought out, researched, factually supported plan, she'll get ripped to shreds in an operating plan review meeting.
Again, this is why there's a need for consultants.
So what makes a good consultant is someone who can take an analytical and highly structured approach to solving a business problem. The primary method in which consulting interviews attempt to measure this skill in candidates is through the case interview (either in a 1:1 format or group format).
This process is remarkably similar to what happens literally every single day on the job. In general, if you do well in case interviews and you enjoyed it... there's a very good chance you will love consulting.
I love the 63 cases that I received as a candidate because the problems were so fascinating and interesting... and I always left an interview having learned something about some industry. It was very intellectually stimulating. And it turns out my on-the-job experience was very similar.
So you gotta do cases to prove you can think in this particular style of thinking... numbers driven... data/facts driven... highly structured.
If you can think in this way, that's a huge plus.
The next question is to figure out if you're an A**hole or not. The interviewer is asking himself or herself, can I put this person in front of a client and not embarass myself. In short, are you arrogant? Are you a jerk? Are you offensive? Are you able to tell a client there totally wrong, in a way that doesn't make the client lose face so they'll still want to work with you? If a client is hostile, do you have the EQ (emotional quotient) skills to win them over?
So the first round McKinsey interview, even for a McKinsey internship, is about determining your consulting IQ and your consulting EQ. Both are very important on the job, and thus both are very important in the interview process.