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Working at McKinsey: What its Really Like

This article is a Q&A with Florian from Florian worked at McKinsey before founding Strategy Case to help applicants optimize their chances at McKinsey, BCG and Bain.

How did you find doing things “The McKinsey Way” and was it difficult?

Doing things the McKinsey way provides a nice framework and point of reference for your work of solving client problem. Once you have learned and internalised it – and that is more implicitly than explicitly – you have a standard way of operating to fall back on.

This relates to both how you do things (solve problems, structure and visualise work, etc.) and how things are communicated. After a few weeks at the firm you will adopt a lot of McKinseyisms in your language. These are certain phrases or abbreviations that no one outside of the firm would understand.

This common frame enables teams which have never met before become operational at a new client site instantly. Everyone knows their role, what to do and how to do it. That’s a very powerful way of collaborating and achieving results quickly in a setting where you are usually expected to provide tangible insights within a few days of being on the ground.

“2 years at McKinsey is equivalent to 5 years at a another consultancy” Do you think that’s true?

100% when compared to an industry role. Compared to other consultancies, I am missing some data points. I did an internship with Kearney before starting at McKinsey and I would say there are quite significant differences across the board. This is also based on feedback I received from friends, peers, and coachees who worked both in tier 1 and tier 2 consultancies at some point.

We also see quite a few coachees who want to transition from tier 2 to tier 1 early. There are no hard rules but take this as an example. An Accenture partner who wanted to switch to McKinsey would have to move two levels back and start as an engagement manager (project manager) at McKinsey, basically moving him or her back 4 years in the consulting career ladder…

The reasons are (on average)

  • Exposure to much more senior clients (c-level)
  • Exposure to more strategic client issues
  • The responsibilities and tasks that go hand in hand with the former two. Sitting in a board
    room with the whole C-level of one of the biggest company in the world, solving their next
    10 years of survival, at 26 definitely comes with a very steep learning curve and insights
  • More exotic projects, experiences, and project locations
  • Much bigger training budget

Which is more useful for exit opportunities, the “McKinsey experience” or simply having McKinsey on your CV?

Both are equally valuable.

  1. Having McKinsey on the resume opens many doors and after some time at the firm you will get a constant stream of head hunter requests for very interesting positions all over
    the world. Also, in interview situations, people just believe in your quality as a candidate because most know how McKinsey interviews and the work experience are a very stringent filter that less than 1% pass in the first place.
  2. The experience itself will help you tremendously to perform well at the next job. You will solve very tricky problems in a very short amount if time. Since you do a new project at McKinsey every 3 months on average, you are used to being thrown into unfamiliar situations and are quick to get up to speed. The mentoring you are able to provide for colleagues on the new job is also highly valuable. Also, you work with very senior people and influence key decision makers, etc. All in all, the skills you learn at McKinsey will benefit you as you move through your career or decide to work on your own start up.

One problem that can arise here is for you to adjust to the way of work of other people who have not gone through the McKinsey experience. Equally, for other people on your team it could be tricky to adjust to your pace of work and learned standards.

Check out if you want to know more about working at McKinsey, how to pass their Problem Solving Game or the feared McKinsey Case Interviews.


  • Will Bennett

    Will Bennett is a Cambridge graduate. He worked as a Consultant and Senior Consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in London. Will is the Founder of The Cambridge Consultant.