McKinsey First Round Interview: Step-By-Step Guide (2024)

McKinsey first round interview

McKinsey first round interviews consist of two 60-minute interviews with McKinsey Associates, Engagement Managers, or Associate Partners. There are four types of questions asked: case interview, Personal Experience Interview, “why McKinsey,” and “why consulting?


In order to move onto McKinsey final round interviews, you’ll need to nail each of your McKinsey first round interviews. Only about 20-40% of candidates are expected to pass McKinsey first round interviews.


If you have an upcoming McKinsey first round interview, we have you covered. We’ll walk you through step-by-step exactly how you can nail your interview.


In this article, we’ll cover:


  • What questions are asked in a McKinsey first round interview?


  • What does a McKinsey first round interview assess?


  • McKinsey first round interview tips


  • McKinsey first round interview examples


  • What happens after the McKinsey first round interview?


  • Recommended McKinsey case interview resources


If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn McKinsey case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course. These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.


What Questions are Asked in a McKinsey First Round Interview?


McKinsey first round interviews consist of four types of questions: case interview, Personal Experience Interview (PEI), “why McKinsey,” and “why consulting?” Candidates must answer all of these types of questions well to move onto the next interview round.


McKinsey case interview


A McKinsey case interview is a simulation exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes, where the candidate and the interviewer collaborate to devise a recommendation for a business problem. It mirrors the challenges faced in actual consulting projects, condensing the problem-solving process into a shorter timeframe. Case interviews span various industries and scenarios without necessitating specialized knowledge.


McKinsey case interviews typically follow these stages:


1. Introduction: The interviewer outlines the case, providing context about the client, industry, and specific issue at hand.


2. Candidate Questions: The candidate has an opportunity to seek clarifications, which is crucial for understanding the problem and gathering necessary information.


3. Structuring: The candidate establishes a structured approach to solving the case, involving dissecting the problem, setting the analysis framework, and identifying key issues.


4. Data Gathering: Additional information or exhibits related to the case may be provided. The candidate uses this to further analyze the problem.


5. Quantitative Analysis: Depending on the case's nature, the candidate may perform calculations, data analysis, or financial modeling to support recommendations.


6. Qualitative Discussion: The candidate may brainstorm ideas or provide their business opinion on specific issues.


7. Recommendation: The candidate summarizes key points and offers a brief recommendation on how the client should address the problem, supported by the analysis conducted.


McKinsey's approach to case interviews is distinctive from other consulting firms.


Unlike most consulting firms that follow a candidate-led format, where the interviewee takes charge of the case, McKinsey employs an interviewer-led approach. In this format, the McKinsey interviewer actively guides the conversation and presents the business problem to steer the discussion.


McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI)


The McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI) assesses a candidate's fit with the firm's values and culture. It focuses on understanding a candidate's past experiences, behaviors, and personal attributes that align with McKinsey's consulting mindset.


The PEI is designed to evaluate how well candidates demonstrate McKinsey's leadership and teamwork principles in real-world scenarios.


During the PEI, candidates are presented with behavioral questions that prompt them to draw on past experiences from their McKinsey resume or life experiences. These questions often revolve around scenarios where the candidate demonstrated leadership, effectively worked in a team, overcame challenges, influenced others, interacted with clients, or had a notable impact on a project or situation.


The emphasis is on specificity and candidates are expected to provide concrete examples, using a structured approach like the Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) method. This not only ensures clarity in communication but also demonstrates the candidate's ability to thoughtfully analyze their experiences.


One of the key aspects of the PEI is aligning the candidate's experiences with McKinsey's values. This includes being client-centered, showing a commitment to excellence, displaying entrepreneurial spirit, and employing a rigorous analytical approach.


Candidates should carefully select and articulate examples that showcase these qualities, ensuring they resonate with McKinsey's consulting culture.


It's not about fabricating experiences, but rather about recognizing and highlighting genuine instances from one's professional or academic background that exemplify these desired attributes.


Preparation is paramount for success in the PEI. Candidates should invest time in reflecting on their experiences and identifying those that best exemplify the qualities McKinsey values.


Practice sessions, perhaps with a mentor or peer, can help refine responses and ensure they are both concise and impactful. By approaching the PEI with authenticity, thoughtful reflection, and a clear understanding of McKinsey's values, candidates can effectively showcase their fit with the firm's consulting mindset.


Why McKinsey?


The "Why McKinsey" interview question is aimed at understanding a candidate's specific motivations and alignment with McKinsey's culture, values, and consulting approach.


It's a crucial element of the interview process, as it helps assess whether a candidate genuinely appreciates what McKinsey stands for and if they can articulate how their own aspirations resonate with the firm's mission.


When addressing the "Why McKinsey" question, candidates should avoid generic or rehearsed responses.


Instead, they should delve into their personal and professional goals and demonstrate how McKinsey uniquely aligns with these aspirations.


This could involve discussing McKinsey's reputation for cutting-edge problem-solving, its client-centered approach, or its commitment to driving meaningful impact in a variety of industries and sectors.


Moreover, candidates should emphasize how they see themselves contributing to McKinsey's community.


Whether it's their passion for collaborative problem-solving, their drive for excellence, or their desire to work at the forefront of business challenges, candidates should articulate why they believe they are a natural fit for McKinsey's consulting environment.


Additionally, it's essential to showcase an understanding of McKinsey's values and culture. Candidates who demonstrate a genuine appreciation for McKinsey's principles, such as client focus, integrity, and a global perspective, are more likely to resonate with interviewers.


By showing a deep comprehension of what sets McKinsey apart in the consulting landscape, candidates can authentically express why they are drawn to the firm.


Why Consulting?


The "why consulting?" interview question seeks to understand a candidate's genuine interest and motivation for pursuing a career in management consulting. This question evaluates whether candidates have a clear understanding of the consulting profession and can articulate how it aligns with their career aspirations.


When addressing this question, candidates should convey their passion for problem-solving, analytical thinking, and the desire to work on diverse and challenging projects across various industries.


Consulting offers a unique opportunity to engage with complex business problems, develop innovative solutions, and drive positive change for clients. It allows individuals to continuously learn and adapt to new industries and challenges, making it an ideal career path for those who thrive in dynamic and intellectually stimulating environments.


Furthermore, candidates should highlight their interest in client interaction and the opportunity to work closely with diverse teams.


Consulting provides a platform to engage directly with clients, understand their specific challenges, and collaborate on impactful solutions. It also fosters a collaborative work environment, allowing consultants to learn from their peers and contribute their unique perspectives to deliver exceptional results.


Additionally, candidates should emphasize their long-term career goals and how consulting serves as a valuable foundation.


Many individuals are drawn to consulting because of the opportunities it provides for skill development, networking, and exposure to a wide range of industries and business functions.


These experiences can be instrumental in shaping a successful and impactful career trajectory.


What Does a McKinsey First Round Interview Assess?


A McKinsey first-round interview is designed to assess several key aspects of a candidate's suitability for a consulting role at the firm. Here are the main elements that a McKinsey first-round interview aims to evaluate:


  • Problem-Solving Skills: The ability to approach complex business problems in a structured and logical manner is crucial for a consultant. The first-round interview assesses if candidates can break down a problem, analyze relevant data, and provide a well-reasoned solution.


  • Analytical Thinking: McKinsey consultants are expected to have strong analytical skills. The interview looks for evidence of a candidate's ability to analyze information, draw meaningful insights, and make data-driven recommendations.


  • Communication Skills: Effective communication is vital in consulting, as consultants need to convey their ideas clearly to clients and team members. The interview assesses how well candidates articulate their thoughts and ideas.


  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Consultants often work in teams, so the interview may include questions about a candidate's ability to work effectively with others. This could involve discussing past experiences in team settings.


  • Leadership Potential: McKinsey places a strong emphasis on leadership, even in entry-level roles. The interview may explore a candidate's leadership experiences and potential to take on leadership responsibilities.


  • Cultural Fit: McKinsey has a distinct corporate culture and values certain traits in its consultants, such as a passion for problem-solving, a drive for excellence, and a client-focused mindset. The interview aims to assess if candidates align with these cultural values.


  • Client-Centric Approach: McKinsey consultants are client-focused and work to deliver value to clients. The interview may assess a candidate's understanding of client needs and their ability to address them effectively.


  • Motivation and Commitment: The interview aims to gauge a candidate's genuine interest in a consulting career with McKinsey and their commitment to the demands of the role.


It's important for candidates to be well-prepared for the first-round interview by practicing case interviews, reviewing their resume for potential behavioral questions, understanding McKinsey's approach to consulting, and aligning their experiences with the qualities McKinsey values in its consultants.


McKinsey First Round Case Interview Examples


Examples of McKinsey first round case interviews can be found on their official website. There, they have provided eight case interview examples that you can practice along with:


  • Diconsa: Non-profit case focused on deciding whether to leverage a chain of convenience stores to deliver basic financial services to inhabitants of rural Mexico. Great practice case for the non-profit sector.


  • GlobaPharm: Acquisition case focused on deciding whether a large pharmaceutical company should acquire a smaller startup. This case has very difficult math calculations that you can practice.


  • Electro-light: New product launch case focused on deciding whether a beverage company should launch a new sports drink. Outstanding case to practice interpreting various charts and graphs.


  • National Education: Non-profit case focused on helping an Eastern European country’s Department of Education improve their school system. Another great practice case for the non-profit sector.


  • Beautify: Profitability case focused on evaluating if training a cosmetic company’s beauty consultants to use virtual channels to connect with customers could be profitable


  • Shops Corporation: Human resources case focused on helping Shops Corporation improve diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their organization


  • Talbot Trucks: Investment case focused on helping a truck manufacturer determine the attractiveness of an investment in eTruck manufacturing for the European market


  • Conservation Forever: Market entry case focused on helping a pro bono client prioritize geographies for large conservation projects


We have videos that walk through the first two McKinsey case examples.


For more practice, check out our article on 23 MBA consulting casebooks with 700+ free practice cases.


McKinsey First Round Interview Tips


Follow these McKinsey first round interview tips to give yourself the best chance of nailing your interviews and moving onto the final round of interviews.


McKinsey First Round Case Interview Tips


1. Practice case interviews extensively: Focus on problem-solving, structured thinking, and effective communication of your solutions.


2. Be structured and logical: In case interviews, ensure that you break down problems methodically, consider all relevant factors, and provide a clear and well-reasoned solution.


3. Practice mental math and data interpretation: Quick and accurate math skills are essential. Practice mental math to improve your speed and accuracy in calculations.


4. Listen actively and ask clarifying questions: Pay close attention to the case prompt and ask clarifying questions if anything is unclear. This demonstrates your analytical thinking.


5. Engage with the interviewer: Treat the interview as a collaborative discussion. Engage with the interviewer, ask for their input, and be receptive to their feedback.


6. Stay Calm Under Pressure: McKinsey case interviews can be intense, so practice maintaining composure and clear thinking, even when faced with challenging scenarios.


7. Demonstrate client-centered thinking: Show that you can put yourself in the client's shoes, understanding their needs and proposing solutions that prioritize their interests.


8. Practice time management: Cases have limited time. So, practice managing your time effectively to ensure you cover all necessary aspects.


McKinsey First Round Behavioral Interview Tips


1. Understand McKinsey's culture and values: Familiarize yourself with McKinsey's core values and consulting approach. Show how your own values align with the firm's.


2. Practice behavioral interviews: Be ready to discuss your past experiences and demonstrate key skills like leadership, teamwork, and client focus.


3. Use the STAR Method: When discussing experiences, use the Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) method for structured and detailed responses.


4. Be authentic and genuine: McKinsey values authenticity. Be yourself and let your passion for consulting and problem-solving shine through.


5. Tailor Your Response to McKinsey: Highlight aspects of your experiences that specifically align with McKinsey's consulting mindset and values.


What Happens After McKinsey First Round Interviews


After your McKinsey first round interview, you should hear back within a few days.


If you passed the first round of interviews, one of your interviewers will likely be giving you a call and then following up with an email. If you did not pass the first round of interviews, a recruiter will call and give you the bad news.


If you have passed the McKinsey first round interview, you should expect the final round of interviews to happen fairly quickly, usually within one to a few weeks.


McKinsey final round interviews consist of two to four separate 40- to 60-minute interviews. You’ll see the same four types of McKinsey interview questions that you saw in your first round interviews:


  • Case interview


  • Personal Experience Interview (PEI)


  • “Why McKinsey?” question


  • “Why Consulting?” question


However, there are three major differences for McKinsey final round interviews:


1. More senior interviewers: Final round interviews are typically conducted by more senior partners at McKinsey. This can lead to less structured and more qualitative case interviews, resembling a discussion of opinions and ideas on a business problem.


2. Greater emphasis on fit: While the first round mainly evaluates case-solving abilities and consulting potential, final round interviews place a greater emphasis on assessing your fit with the firm and the specific office. Interviewers will consider qualities like coachability, collaboration, and compatibility with the team.


3. Emphasis on testing weaknesses from first round interviews: Final round interviewers may review the notes taken about your performance during first round interviews. If you struggled in a particular area, your final round interviewers may further test these skills to ensure it's not a significant weakness. Therefore, it’s important that you address any identified areas for improvement.


Recommended McKinsey Case Interview Resources


Here are the resources we recommend to learn the most robust, effective McKinsey case interview strategies in the least time-consuming way:


  • Comprehensive Case Interview Course (our #1 recommendation): The only resource you need. Whether you have no business background, rusty math skills, or are short on time, this step-by-step course will transform you into a top 1% caser that lands multiple consulting offers.


  • Hacking the Case Interview Book (available on Amazon): Perfect for beginners that are short on time. Transform yourself from a stressed-out case interview newbie to a confident intermediate in under a week. Some readers finish this book in a day and can already tackle tough cases.


  • The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook (available on Amazon): Perfect for intermediates struggling with frameworks, case math, or generating business insights. No need to find a case partner – these drills, practice problems, and full-length cases can all be done by yourself.

  • Behavioral & Fit Interview Course: Be prepared for 98% of behavioral and fit questions in just a few hours. We'll teach you exactly how to draft answers that will impress your interviewer