Virtually everyone one wants to work for the MBB management consultancies, also known as the “Big Three” in the consultancy industry.
MBB, where “M” stands for McKinsey & Co, “B” for the Boston Consulting Group, and the last “B” for Bain & Co, are consulted by top organisations, governments and large corporations globally.
But getting a chance to be part of any of these three or any other large consultancy firm for that matter, is not easy. These companies look for the best students in class from the most coveted business schools, which means they only work with the best minds.
Since they can only hire a few at a time, and with the promise of bigger pay, extensive experience and lots of exit opportunities, everyone wants to join.
We are going to take you through the selection process in these top firms and try to identify any hurdle you might encounter. Also, we look at how they cut down the number of applicants. Endowed with this information, you might make it to the interview stage. So, read on.
Before we go any further, it is important to note that, well before you start writing your resumes and cover letters, you should have started working on the skills you will need both for the selection process and subsequently the job itself.
You will need to master all the fundamentals, from reasoning skills like the MECE rule, how to draw issue trees and the rapid mental math that consultants are renowned for. There are plenty of free resources online to help. For example, a great free guide to mental math for consulting can be found here: myconsultingcoach.com/case-interview-consulting-math.
Once you join any of the MBB, you have already made it.
If there’s one thing they are good at, it is fostering talent to get the best out of their employees. These firms have produced some of the top CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies, leading politicians, and even business moguls.
Don’t be misled though; it doesn’t come easy. The demanding nature of their work requires a well-rounded skill set within a limited time frame. To meet this condition, they are incredibly demanding; only a few from the massive pool of highly gifted individuals make the cut.
Many talented individuals like to pass through consultancy to get the extensive experience of working in a highly demanding environment and hone their skills. However, to extent, they only join management consulting as a bouncing bag to push them to greater heights at the start of their careers.
While most of the employees go on to become influential people in society, we can’t place all the glory on consultancy. A majority of these people would have made it to the top, whichever route they took.
For this article, though, let’s look at how the selection process works and why preparation is the key to taking that huge step into a successful career!
In 2018, McKinsey received over 200,000 job applications. Out of these, only 2,200 got hired. What does that tell you?
These top three firms receive too many applications. To handle the load, they employ an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). And only resumes and cover letters that meet the prerequisite requirements go past the system for manual screening by the human resource department.
Well over 50% of the candidates have their quest immediately cut short based on their applications. Not making the cut doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t meet the company’s requirements, sometimes it’s bad luck as at this stage, chance also plays a role.
So, if you want this job, start early. Ideally, get someone on the inside to help you push your application. Try to network with senior people at the company as a reference from them boosts your chances of landing the interview.
Other than helping you get invited to the interview, you might learn a few things about the company and enhance your chances of getting hired.
What this means is, for you to make it, you need to prepare ahead. You should submit your application after you’ve already created a network within the MBB firm. That way, you would know how to impress the recruiter and help you bypass the element of chance, which might block your request at the screening phase.
Making it past the manual screening doesn’t mean you have a date with the interview panel. Further, you’ve to face the skill test, which again cuts down the number of applications by close to 60%.
Each MBB has its GMAT-styled business reasoning tests. So, you’ll have the McKinsey PST, which has now been replaced by the new digital solving game, McKinsey Digital Assessment. Likewise, there’s the Bain Online Test or the BCG Potential Test, depending on the company you want to join.
By the end of this stage, at least 80% of the applicants will have already lost their chances. The lucky few are those who treated the two selection stages seriously.
Case Studies (The Scary Bit)
With about 20% of the applicants still around, you enter the most dreaded territory of the selection process – the case interview.
Remember, all these stages target at getting the best candidates out of the initial pool of applicants. These firms rarely take 5% of their applicants. You want to be in the top 1% to be safe.
Well, management consultancy case studies is a reasonably broad subject that we can’t handle here. Nevertheless, a short description will suffice.
In a case interview, you’ll be presented with a hypothetical complex business by your interviewer. Your work would be to provide a solution to the problem in your conversation.
Often, you’ll have a case brief and some exhibits to help you analyse the situation. You need to walk your panel through your thought process.
These companies have different approaches to interviews. While your preparation would be similar, it is worth it to know that unlike McKinsey that prefers an interviewer-led format, where the panel directs you, BCG and Bain go with the “candidate led” approach. In the latter case, you direct your interviewer.
The companies don’t spare anyone. Not even specialists like programmers or chemical engineers—anyone seeking to join, do case interviews. The only difference is specialist case studies centres around the problems from the particular field. Thus, coders get coding challenges.
Your interview isn’t over until the company tells your cultural fit. So, apart from the case interview questions, you’ll encounter simple questions like:
- Tell something about yourself that isn’t in your resume.
- How would your friends describe you?
- If you were to start your own business, what would it be?
- Why choose us?
As simple as such questions seem, they single out candidates whose beliefs, values, and behaviour match the company’s culture.
It is easy to want to ignore or answer them casually, but they are just as essential as the case study questions. Therefore, you need to prepare for them just as you do case studies.
Management consultancy has the highest employee turnover, which increases their overheads. The work faced by the MBBs burn out recruits. So, some of them leave a year into their employment. On average, such professionals take two years, before jumping the boat. So, when hiring, they want people who are committed to consultancy and are choosing out of their love to solve problems rather than the interest in the high salaries or other benefits.
Ready, Set, Go!
There you have it – an outline on how to join an MBB. Don’t forget to use free and paid resources to enhance your knowledge of the same. Now, get down to the business, network, write your resume and cover letter that beats the ATS, prepare for screening tests, and nail the interview!