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Inside View: McKinsey & Company

The top management consultancy firm is tapping business schools for talent as it expands its global reach. Pharmaceuticals, tech and retail are key recruitment areas this year.

Thu May 7 2015

It should come as no surprise that McKinsey & Company values MBAs – nearly half of employees at leading management consultancy firm have the degree.

McKinsey is once again tapping into the business school talent pool as the so-called “big three” consultancy continues to expand its global reach. Nearly 50% of its offices are in emerging market countries.  

McKinsey has been the top recruiter at business schools including MIT Sloan, Kellogg School and LBS. McKinsey values MBAs because of their ability to work in groups and solve problems, among other reasons, says the firm's recruitment department, in this interview with BusinessBecause.

The firm looks for analytical people who have demonstrated leadership experience and who are passionate about making positive social change.

Many MBAs are recruited through McKinsey’s summer associate scheme – a 10-week program in which interns are mentored by peers and partners.

McKinsey is ranked as the second-best company to work for globally by Forbes. Its famous 30,000+ alumni network boasts dozens of current and former Fortune 500 CEOs – among them at Vodafone, BHP Billiton and Boeing.

Its prestige list of clients has included most of the top-100 companies, such as General Motors, Ford and American Express.

There are more than 20 industry practices to enter – including new service areas like McKinsey Digital Labs, which provides digital solutions such as data engineering.

Digital and technology services have surged, accounting for around a quarter UK consultancy firms’ income, according to the Management Consultancies Association.

McKinsey is currently hiring technology associates for its London office. Two other focus areas for McKinsey are the retail and pharmaceuticals sectors.

Pharma has been a winner for UK consulting, with sector spend on consultants rising by 11% last year. The main drivers of growth have been regulation, the need to cut costs and post-merger activity, as global dealmaking gets off to its fastest start this year since 2007.

Why does McKinsey value MBAs?

New hires with MBA degrees tend to have a good base of training and experience needed in consulting, and are accustomed to working in groups to solve problems. They are able to engage with a variety of clients, who work in all industries, functions, and levels.

Nearly half of people at McKinsey have MBAs and whether a person does or not, we see that intrinsic problem-solving abilities, leadership capabilities, and team work skills help our consultants contribute and excel.

Tell us about your associate intern program and why it’s important to recruiting.

The goal of the summer program is to enable interns to experience consulting. We want our summer interns to come out of the experience – which is usually about 10 weeks long – with a good sense of the work they will do and the people with whom they will work, should they return full-time. With only a few exceptions, summer associates almost always join full-time.

Interns are assigned to a client engagement and work alongside full-time consultants, are mentored by their peers and partners, and start to build their network. They are expected to own their work streams and contribute to problem-solving exactly as they would as new full-time associates. We try to create a realistic experience so candidates really know what it’s like to be a consultant at McKinsey.

The summer is also a lot of fun. There are many opportunities to spend time with fellow interns and colleagues across the firm. Offices hold fun outings and events to introduce interns to each other and other consultants across McKinsey. By the end of the summer, everyone should have a good sense whether they enjoy the work and the people.

What key skills are you looking for in new hires?

Two qualities we seek are the abilities to tackle tough problems and work well in teams. These are at the core of how we serve clients, so we hire people who are extraordinary problem-solvers and who enjoy collaborating with colleagues and clients.

We look for analytical people who want to create positive results and have demonstrated leadership experience – [for example], through work or school activities. We hire people [who are] passionate about making positive change in the world and [are] able to do so with their analytical and people skills. 

What level of previous work experience are you looking for in MBA candidates? 

No previous work experience is required to join. Our consultants hail from all backgrounds – including medicine, engineering, civil service, entrepreneurship, science, business, professional athletics, art, and linguistics. They work in nearly every industry and function. Whatever your background, you’ll likely find other people at McKinsey who share your interests and passions.

Which world regions are your current focus? Do you work with any business schools in particular?

In the last decade, our reach as a global firm has expanded – we now have more than 100 offices in more than 60 countries. 30 opened in the last 15 years and about 45% [in] total are in emerging markets.

We work in every sector and have 22 industry practices, eight functional practices, and new client service areas – including McKinsey Solutions, McKinsey Digital Labs and McKinsey Implementation.

We put an increasingly strong emphasis on how we tap into all relevant talent pools to find the best people and encourage diversity in interests, age, gender, sexual orientation, leadership style, education and culture.