Only 33% of candidates pass the McKinsey PST June 27 2014

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It’s no big secret that getting into McKinsey is difficult. But what is less commonly known is the exact percentage of applicants who get into the firm. In a recent interview, Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s Global Managing Director, revealed some information on the firms’ recruitment: 201,000 candidates applied for the firm in 2012 and only 2,200 of them received an offer: a 1.1% success rate. In other words, the selection process at the firm is harder than for Harvard or Stanford’s MBA programmes. 

McKinsey uses a succession of filters to identify its new recruits. While the number and type of filters vary slightly from office to office, a candidate would typically have to go through four filters of recruitment:

  • Filter 1: CV and cover letter selection
  • Filter 2: McKinsey Problem Solving Test
  • Filter 3: First round of interviews
  • Filter 4: Second round of interviews
  • Job offer at McKinsey

If you have been invited to take the McKinsey PST, congratulations! Your CV and cover letter have been selected and you survived the first filter of the recruiting process.

As you look ahead, you might now be wondering what your chances of being selected for the first round of interviews really are. Although McKinsey does not provide detailed information on its success rates for each interview stage according to our information, it is possible to estimate these success rates.

Below are the results of a simple model calculating the number of candidates reaching the beginning of each recruitment step:

  • Filter 1 / CV and cover letter: 201,000 candidates
  • Filter 2 / McKinsey PST: ~65,000 candidates
  • Filter 3 / First round of interviews: ~21,000 candidates
  • Filter 4 / Second round of interviews: ~6,800 candidates
  • Job offer: 2,200 candidates

These estimates have been calibrated to reflect the number of applicants (201,000), the number of job offers (2,200) and the 1.1% success rate reported in Barton’s interview. Our model shows that to narrow down the number of candidates to 2,200 in 4 recruiting steps, McKinsey needs to select 33% of candidates at each step of its recruiting process.

We estimate that 33% of candidates succeed at the PST.

This calculation assumes that the same percentage of candidates is selected at each step of the recruitment. In other words, 33% of applicants who sent their CV and cover letter are invited to take the McKinsey PST. Out of this group, 33% manage to pass the test and are invited to the first round of interviews where again only 33% are successful. Finally, 33% of candidates in the second round of interviews are made a job offer.

In reality, these percentages are likely to vary from step to step. For instance, McKinsey might only invite 25% of candidates who sent their CV and cover letter to take the PST but make an offer to 40% of candidates who were invited to the second round of interviews. While imperfect, this simple model provides a good assessment of the AVERAGE success rate across recruiting steps.

Therefore, our best guess is that about 65,000 candidates will take the McKinsey PST this year and that about 21,000 of them will be successful. As previously mentioned, McKinsey uses a cut-off score to select candidates. Whether you pass the test or not therefore only depends on YOUR score and not on the scores of other candidates.

When preparing for the McKinsey PST, two simple facts seem important to keep in mind:

  1. Passing the test is a requirement to be invited to the first round interviews
  2. The success rate for passing the test is similar than for other stages of the recruitment process

The PST also tests candidates' motivation to prepare.

The primary purpose of the McKinsey PST is to test candidates’ math and logic ability in a business context. A second and less often discussed purpose is to test applicants’ ability to invest time and effort to develop a certain set of skills in a very limited period of time which is something consultants are constantly required to do. In our experience, most successful candidates start preparing for the PST in advance and some of them spend more than 30 hours training and taking multiple tests.

Additional resources

Candidates from the best universities around the world use our McKinsey Case Interview Training ProgrammeFree McKinsey Case Interview PrepMcKinsey PST Training ProgrammeFree McKinsey PSTBCG Potential Test Training Programme and Free BCG Potential Test. Some races are worth the extra effort - let's get started!

The IGotAnOffer team

Photo: Jake Hills / Unsplash