Tuesday, November 10, 2009

McKinsey 2nd Round Rejection Feedback

So I made the phone call to the consultant and I did get some feedback that I can share with you. Firstly, I would say the feedback was a little strange, but perhaps reasonable.

He started out the conversation with some positives. I was very accomplished for someone may age, very dedicated, well spoken, and very likable. That being said, they "had some concerns." Their first concern was with the cases. He said that I did well on them, but that the feedback was unanimous. I seemed like I was "very well practiced," which can be a good thing, but apparently this can also be a bad thing in that I seemed to move through the case very logically and "without creativity with regards to the implications of the case."

Since the interview process is now behind me, I will discuss the cases I was given in detail in a later post and we can discuss the merit of this feedback...in my opinion, there wasn't a lot of room for creativity within the questions I was asked and we didn't ever get to the point where a true summary or implications were discussed directly.

With regards to the personal experience interview...one went very well and left them very satisfied, and one left them with some concerns. The "concerning" interview question was one in which I was asked to describe an experience where a conflict with a team member had an effect on the team dynamic. I talked about a time when I was leading a small team in a volunteer consulting project and a team member did not pull his weight and complete his tasks in a timely manner and how this prevented the rest of the team from moving forward. In the end, I talked to the team member, figured out he had a lot of stress in his life, negotiated a way by which he could contribute and solved the problem...blah blah blah. The consultant told me that he was concerned that it had taken me a while to address the emotional issues behind the team member not getting work done and that it seemed like my first inclination was that he just "wasn't a good worker" and he was concerned with someone that had that outlook towards people.

The reality of the situation was that this particular individual WAS A BAD WORKER in this circumstance! I actually went a great deal out of my way to make the situation amenable to him and make it possible for him to contribute. I realized he had a lot going on and worked through the situation to find a task the he could do well in a short period of time (although he had volunteered himself to do the tasks he didn't follow through on in the first place). That being said, he had made a commitment to our team that he refused to follow through on after several requests and on several occasions and when asked if he needed help, he had refused. It was only after a LOT of pressing and discussion that I was able to find a way for him to contribute at all. During my interview I didn't explicitly state that he was a pain in the ass and lazy because I didn't think it was right to throw one of my team members under the bus so I didn't fully disclose his faults...the funny part about this is that the team member I based my story on is now working for McKinsey in Europe despite being "unimpressive" (for the lack of a better word). I guess it goes to show that nice guys don't always win.

So beyond that, there isn't much to say. I suppose I could have practiced tooo much and that maybe that stifled my "creativity" some, but then again, I thought McKinsey was all about structure, structure, structure and fact based analysis and less about speculation and creativity. I think that creativity helps you develop a hypothesis, but that too much speculation (i.e. being overly creative upfront) also creates a lot of low-probability hypothesis that are unnecessary. Once you have narrowed down a number of broad categories, then hypothesizing about specific circumstances becomes more appropriate and less of a time sink, although I think I have learned that throwing out a few off the wall and unfounded thoughts will score you some creativity points even if it isn't really appropriate for the initial analysis. I also could have been more straightforward about my personal experience, but made a judgment call to be a bit more reserved in my descriptions, which also hurt me in the end.

I hope that some of you had better news than I did...I'd love to hear all of the feedback!


  1. Bummer dude. Here's my story to make you feel better.

    I went to a top-25 school, so I had to fight and scrape for consulting interviews. I got ding's, pre-interview, everywhere, because my resume just didn't look that impressive. I got an interview at McKinsey because someone knew my capabilities and vouched for me.

    I then proceeded to blow away the interviews. Round 1, round 2, and round 3. The call I got was "we think you're great, and we don't see any weaknesses, but we don't think you'll like the types of problems we work on."

    This happened in late November. I had been hanging onto McKinsey as my only real shot, and then it was gone. It was devastating.

    It took me 5 months to get a consulting job - 6 weeks before graduation. Now I've done well in consulting.

    I have 2 points in this: 1) that McKinsey doesn't always pick the right person, and 2) this isn't the end of consulting for you, if you want.

    Best of luck.

  2. Thanks...a little disappointed, but not too concerned. I'm in a great place, doing work that is important, and will keep exploring my options.

    I still have some other firms I'm waiting on and I am pretty sure I could work out BCG next year if I wanted...I really don't think I could do much better with McK than I did to be honest.

    I have a feeling that I just didn't have the "it factor" that they were looking for and that the feedback is something they have to give you...whether its really legit or not is questionable.

    I understand and appreciate their position and am sure they will get great people...I know a lot of really great people that made it through to round 2 and I just hope they move a few of them forward!

  3. I don't think it's fair to judge whether a person is creative or not from just one case. It has a lot to do with the individual consultant. I guess you have to follow his/her thought, and present what he/she considered creative answers. The personal experience may have even more randomness. I think these are good to filter people to a certain level, above that, a lot of luck/bs.

    I still haven't heard back. I guess it will be rejection so no hurry, or with tiny possibility i'm right on the borderline so they will just wait till they are done with today's interview in boston.....

  4. Anonymous 6:39 pm:
    Which day last week did you interview and where?
    I am in the same boat as you - haven't heard yet after my interview last Tue in Boston.

  5. Nice blog.

    What happened to you, while unreasonable, is not uncommon. There are many perfect/near perfect candidates rejected by consulting firms just because you happened to get an interviewer(s) on that particular day who seemed to think you lacked the "X" factor. On another day, with another interviewer, you would have made it to McK, no problems. So do not take this rejection personally and if you've managed to get that far in the recruiting process, you are as good as any of the ones that got in. It was just you bad luck on that particular day. And as Ninja mentioned above, it isn't the end of the world. There is a lot more to life than consulting.

    Wish you all the best, moving forward!

  6. Insightful blog. I hope you are having a wonderful career. Even though it has been few years since you posted, I thought I will still leave some comments here so that it might benefit future readers.

    First I would like to say, for the personal interview question I dont think you said anything wrong, and it seemed like as a member of the team you did what you were supposed to do. Assuming that he did not misheard anything, I think he made a very subjective judgment of you.

    As of the "creativity" I have received similar comments when practicing before so I just might have some insights to what Mck mean by "creativity" (and trust me I was frustrated just like you as well) I think you probably did a well-structured, data-driven analysis, but from I have heard from other candidates who went through Mck interviews the creativity they are referring usually can only be demonstrated at 1) the beginning of the case where they asked you indirectly or directly about all the factors that are needed to be considered to achieve client's objective (and if you had included something that they didnt think of they will give you a plus) 2) the end where you provide "ways to solve the problem", here if you come up with interesting and actionable suggestion that might be a bonus.

  7. Adding to the point above, I interviewed with McK last year for summer internship positions. Round 1 feedback was primarily around my weakesses in casing and my strengths in PEI. Fast-forward one year, and Round 1 feedback is the complete opposite. I've worked on my casing skills quite a bit and there was no negative pointed out in that area. With regards to PEI, they felt that the "richness" of the stories were lacking. These were the same stories I related during my summer internship interviews and which the then-interviewers felt were very impressive. Just goes on to show how ineffective the PEI process is altogether and how much the selection depends on luck. On probing the interviewer further for feedback, she kind of gave up and said well it's just too infuriating to think that someone else said your stories were great whereas I feel differently but we won't be able to pass you to the next round. It may be useful to know that McK put me in the Keep In Touch program specifically over the summer since they felt I had done excellently on the PEI. Anyways, candidates should probably prepare for the fact that performance isn't everything and luck plays a huge role in the interview.

  8. thanks for the insights, although they are making me extremely nervous about the final round. i agree that a large amount of it is luck and randomness. not just McK but alot of other "elite" firms who boast about taking in great candidates in the moral/ nice sense as well and about how good their interview process is. anyway the recent fires for cheating goldman and jpm junior bankers should prove how random/ inefficient a hiring process can be.

  9. Hi Considering Consultant .. cant tell you how I got a similar feedback !! I find this entire selection process bit random

  10. I just heard today that I didn't make it to the second round for McK (via phone call... WHY?). The feedback I got was kind of confusing, so I've been moping for a few hours thinking about how I could possibly improve for next time. Reading this post and the comments made me feel slightly better! Thanks :)