Characteristics needed to work at McKinsey & Company

21 August 2014

It's a dream for almost every upcoming high potential with a passion for consultancy – working within the top of the strategy consulting market. However, few students succeed in landing a job at a reputable consulting firm such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group or Bain & Company. The question is: what features should a prospective consultant have to succeed in obtaining such a dream job. Dominic Barton, the Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of McKinsey & Company, explains what type of people McKinsey is looking for.

Strategy consulting organisations enjoy a lot of respect in the market because they deal with the most complex and high impact challenges, and work at the highest level, for example for governments or other large corporates. For upcoming talent landing a job at a strategy firm is often a dream, yet the bar is very high. The image strategy consulting firms portray is that upcoming talent not only has to possess excellent (University) study grades, but also must have booked a near flawless performance during high school. However, it is not al about the grades. Dominique Barton, CEO of the world’s largest strategy consulting firm, lists three characteristics that are important in order to qualify for a job at McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey & Company - Young Professionals

Different backgrounds
In contrast to what many people think, the people hired at McKinsey do not all have an MBA title. In fact, “less than 50% of the new hires at McKinsey are holders of an MBA degree. In addition, McKinsey hires people with diverse backgrounds - ranging from Astrophysicists to journalists,” says the CEO of McKinsey & Company.

Passion and teamwork
According to Barton, the focus is not on the study background – or as he indicates “it is not a question of what people do” – but what character they have. Barton: “Do they want to make a difference in the world? Are they a team player? Is one selfless and has a desire to help others?” These are questions that are more important to McKinsey when it comes to choosing new professionals. "People who just want to earn a lot of money” definitely do not match the profile, says Barton.

The McKinsey CEO adds that new staff will have to deal with complex problems, so grades and qualifications are, of course, important, but as Barton indicates: “Ultimately, demonstrated leadership outranks other aspects. In addition, it’s very important that candidates show perseverance. Especially when they have to deal with setbacks or failures.”


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