The question, “why this firm?” is guaranteed to come up at least once during your McKinsey consulting interviews. It is one of the most frequently asked fit questions, and also a topic you are expected to tackle in your consulting cover letter.
So it’s imperative that you come to the interviews having thought about why you want to work for McKinsey specifically, rather than its competitors. We’ve put together this guide to help you craft the perfect answer.
Our first tip: Focus on the office you’re applying to over the company as a whole.
- Why McKinsey?
- Sample answer: Why do you want to work at McKinsey?
- How to prepare for your McKinsey interviews
How should you respond to the Why McKinsey interview question? Be specific about the firm and the exact office you want to join: name people who work there, mention the office’s projects and industries, and highlight McKinsey’s reports and intellectual capital that interest you.
To help you get started, we’ll list some unique facts about McKinsey versus other top consulting firms below. You can pick one of these facts to be a data point in your answer, or to simply inform yourself about what makes the company stand out.
As we mentioned before, it is also very important to bring up facts about the specific office you’re applying to join. Mckinsey has offices in more than 100 cities and 65 countries, so we won’t be able to highlight every office here. But we’ll give you some tips on how to do your research and prepare your answer in sections 2 and 3.
Here are some facts that make McKinsey stand out:
- Of course, McKinsey is the oldest and most established agency of the Big 3, having been founded in 1926. This means it has the most size, breadth, and reach and retains a spot as the market leader. It also has a global model, making it more likely that you’ll be added to projects in offices other than your own. If you already have success traveling for work and collaborating with other people and cultures, it would be good to mention.
- Known for solving problems in The McKinsey Way, this firm has the reputation of excellence, with long legacy client relationships and a comparatively structured and formal company culture. If you have experience thriving in this kind of environment, with proof that it works well for you, it could be a good point to mention.
- McKinsey has a strong feedback and training culture, meaning that they invest quite a bit of time and money in the professional development of its consultants. There is also coaching and mentoring on the part of the more seasoned consultants. This is an important aspect for recent graduates or early career consultants.
- McKinsey works across many sectors, but they have particular strengths in strategy, organization, and operation work. If those are sectors that interest you, and especially if you have previous experience in these areas, you should bring it up.
For more resources to study up on McKinsey, be sure to read their purpose, mission, and values.
Now that you’ve seen a few reasons that make McKinsey unique among the Big 3, let’s take a look at a full sample answer that uses some of these facts as well as details about a specific office. After this, we’ll go through a list of tips and tricks that will help you craft your own stellar answer.
Sample answer: Why McKinsey?
“McKinsey appeals to me for three reasons.
To start with, the different people from the company I have met and worked with all told me they had truly enjoyed their time there. For the past two years, I have worked for Michael Smith, a former Engagement Manager from the London office who now works for Big Finance Co.
Additionally, I regularly read McKinsey’s reports on financial services and think the insights delivered by Sarah James and others in the Finance practice are truly superior to that of other consultancies. By joining McKinsey I therefore think I would have an opportunity to work with and learn from the best consultants in the industry.
Finally, the fact that McKinsey was selected by Finance Supercorp to shape its digital strategy also played an important role in my decision to apply. This was a first-of-its-kind contract in finance and it shows that while at McKinsey I could get the opportunity to work on truly unique projects.”
2.1 Tips to prepare your answer for “why McKinsey?”
As you create your own answer to this question, take a moment to consider why McKinsey interviewers ask it in the first place.
Interviewers ask questions like “why consulting?” and “why McKinsey?” to test whether you’ve got the motivation to last in a fast-paced and high-stakes environment. If they sense that a candidate is not motivated enough, or has the wrong motivations (e.g. the high salary), then they’re unlikely to hire them.
Interviewers also want to know whether you’ve done your research. As you’ll be doing quite a bit of research and analysis on the job, showing a nuanced understanding of McKinsey in your answer is a good sign to the interviewer that you possess the right skills for the position.
Below are a few ways that you can show off these qualities in your answer, as well as common pitfalls that you should avoid.
How to answer “Why McKinsey?”
- Network. Mention the people you have met from the office you are applying for. A surprisingly big part of answering the "Why this firm?" question involves networking. Your interviewer wants to know if you have done your homework and have talked to anyone from the office you are applying for, or at least from the firm in general.
- Talk about the projects and industries related to the office you’re joining. Having talked to a few people is not enough. Your interviewer also wants to know if you understand what type of projects the office you are joining works on. If you join the McKinsey New York office, for instance, you will likely work on financial services or media projects because these industries are big in the city. But if you want to work in oil and gas, New York is not the right destination; instead you should probably apply for Houston.
- Mention the reports and other intellectual capital produced by the office you will join. Be aware of the recent reports published by the partners from the office you are trying to join (e.g. New York) and the practice you are interested in (e.g. Financial services). This will demonstrate to your interviewer that you have a genuine interest in a specific area that the office they belong to works on.
- Make it personal: If you have any examples from your personal experience that tie in with this firm, now is a good time to bring them up.
- Make it specific: Of course, your answer for “why this firm?” should be different with every company you’re interviewing with. Test out your answer by swapping another bank’s name with the one you’ve got in mind. If your answer could also apply to this other bank, then you need to fine tune it.
- Rehearse your answer: Before the interview starts, you should already have your answer to this question prepared and ready to go.
Now, take some time to review common mistakes that candidates make when answering this question.
Common pitfalls in answering “Why McKinsey?”
- Answer is too broad: Simple answers such as “it would be a great opportunity to learn more,” “the people here are very smart and work hard,” or “the culture here is awesome,” won’t make the cut on their own (even if it’s true!). Interviewers have heard these responses many times before, so you’ll need to make it more personal and targeted.
- Answer is too long: This question is frequently asked at the beginning of a longer interview round or during the initial screening process. In both cases, it’s important to answer quickly and concisely, so that the interviewer can understand your answer and have time for other questions. Aim for a roughly 1-minute response.
- Answer lacks structure: Think of two or three reasons you’d like to work there, and describe each of them, one at a time. Otherwise, the interviewer will have difficulty following your train of thought, and you are more likely to ramble.
Of course, there are many aspects to prepare for in a McKinsey consulting interview in addition to the “why McKinsey” interview question. To help you get ready for the interview process as a whole, we recommend that you complete the two steps below.
3.1 Practice for every type of McKinsey interview question
McKinsey has many stages to its interview process, including the McKinsey digital assessment, Personal Experience Interview (PEI), and case interviews.
The McKinsey Digital Assessment is an online maths and logic test. Its questions are meant to evaluate candidates on skills that are relevant to the day-to-day work at McKinsey. These questions are somewhat similar to GMAT questions, but they tend to be a bit different and more difficult. Here's a video from McKinsey to help you prepare:
McKinsey’s Personal Experience Interview (PEI) questions tests for 3 specific characteristics, which it calls “personal impact, entrepreneurial drive, and inclusive leadership.” They occur during the first 10-15 minutes of each case interview at McKinsey. For a full guide to this kind of question and how to answer them, consult our guide to McKinsey’s Personal Experience Interview.
Your next step will be to crack McKinsey's case interviews. In a McKinsey case interview, you will be presented with a case study about a company facing an issue, and you'll be expected to analyse the situation and develop a recommendation. For example, you might get a case about a fast food chain with declining profits, and you'll need to take steps to create a recommended solution.
3.2 Practice with mock interviews
Finally, it’s time to try out your answer in an interview setting. A great place to start is to do mock interviews with friends or peers.
This will help you polish your answer, practice answering follow-up questions, and get used to case interviews. However, if your interview partner isn’t familiar with consulting interviews, then practicing with an ex-interviewer will give you an extra edge.
If you know someone who runs interviews at McKinsey and other firms, then that’s amazing! They'll be a great person for you to practice with.If not, we want to help you make these connections. That’s why we’ve created a coaching platform where you can find ex-interviewers from McKinsey to practice with. Learn more and start scheduling McKinsey mock interviews today.