How to get a job at McKinsey, BCG & Bain

How to get a job at McKinsey, BCG & Bain

A guide to kickstarting your consulting career at top companies like McKinsey, BCG & Bain


Do you want to start a consulting career at top companies like McKinsey, BCG & Bain? Cracking these companies is not just possible but easy – if you have the right resources to prepare.

Here’s a simple 3-part guide to get you started. Through my own experiences (Ex-McKinsey Consultant, IIMA) and my extensive expertise in career mentorship (1000+ mentees placed across top companies like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Kearney), I have laid out this simple plan for you that captures the path from the very start to getting recruited at MBB!

Part 1: Understanding recruitment @ MBB

Recruitment at MBB happens in several discrete paths. You don’t necessarily need to be a ‘typical’ candidate to get in! Understanding all the paths for you is critical to help you select the right starting point for yourself:

hiring, recruitment, job interview-3531130.jpg
  1. Campus recruitment: Consulting companies hire candidates each year from their educational programs. There are two primary types of candidates selected in this method.
    1. Pre-MBA: Undergraduate courses across various fields have potential consulting exits. Engineering, Commerce, Economics, Chartered Accountancy, Business Management, and Finance are some popular fields where consulting recruits, typically in top universities & colleges. For other colleges & fields, recruitment typically works through off-campus recruitment (explained below)
    2. Post-MBA: Top MBA schools also invite consulting companies for their recruitment process, and consulting is a popular recruiter at these schools.
  2. Off-campus recruitment: While campus recruitment is more well-known, it’s important to realize that off-campus recruitment is also a huge source of incoming consultants! The off-campus process works in the following way:
    1. Straight from campus: If a consulting company doesn’t visit a particular campus, then students can apply to the company for the same position through an off-campus application. This is typically completed through the company portal or any other job listing.
    2. Experienced candidates: For folks with a few years of experience in consulting or in other fields, off-campus hiring is a great option, and they can directly apply to the company. This is also useful for candidates re-applying to a company they were previously rejected from – a new experience on their profile can help them get through!
  3. Lateral recruitment for senior positions: Consulting companies also hire candidates for senior positions (like a manager, expert, associate partner, even partner!). These candidates are typically shortlisted by headhunters through direct reach-outs, referrals or direct applications.
  4. Other methods: MBB also have several programs which help them identify promising candidates across fields. Some examples of these programs include McKinsey’s NGWL program, the Bain fellowship, BCG Diversity MBA Fellowship and the McKinsey Emerging Scholar program. By enrolling in these programs, you can improve your chances of being shortlisted and hired, as they often come with mentorship, guaranteed interviews and network-building opportunities.

Part 2: Building a resume

Once you apply (through campus, off-campus or lateral hiring), your profile is scrutinized based on your resume. Consulting has a very high bar on profile building & resume structuring, so be sure to focus on this step!

career, resume, hiring-3449422.jpg
  1. Excellence in any pursuit: Consulting is not focused on a specific type of experience and instead values excellence in any field. Hence, you may come from any academic background (engineering, finance, law, business, medicine, literature, economics, physics – could be anything!), but you will still be evaluated on your excellence. While coming from a prestigious university might help you, excelling in your field will ultimately be the biggest factor in selection. Similarly, being a high performer at your job would be a great profile boost, regardless of the sector.
  2. Balanced profile: While academic or professional success can be a great profile boost, consulting requires a balanced resume. Holding leadership positions (head of a club or society, elected positions at institutes, organizer for large events) is highly valued in consulting CVs. Your extracurricular activities, volunteering projects, certifications, and internships are also of great value, so include these points!
  3. Structure & language: Consulting resumes are typically very dense, with a lot of information on a single page. Thus, to ensure readability, you must create the right buckets and sections and structure the CV well. Apart from this, the language of the CV has to be carefully curated to create maximum impact. Be sure to use impactful words and quantify success (e.g., Writing ‘Led team of 10+ to create 20% improvement in financial process’ sounds impactful, while writing ‘Responsible for financial process’ sounds bland)

Ensure that you iterate your resume through a few versions at least – You can use resume reviews and mentorship to take your resume to the next level!

Once you are satisfied, you can use this resume to apply for your dream company. Depending on the type of recruitment process, you would have to share your CV with a recruiter, on an online portal, on the company website or to your placement cell. Some applications also require cover letters – Be sure to include one if asked, even if it’s not compulsory.

Part 3: Preparing for interviews

Once your application goes through, you would typically hear back from the company within a week. It’s important to prepare well for consulting interviews! Here are the two types of interviews to expect:

  1. Personal/Fit/Behavioural interviews: Your overall fit for the company and for consulting, in general, is tested through personal interviews. In this interview, you will be tested for your overall personality, your ability to work in a team, your past experiences and your communication ability. Basically, the interviewer will deep dive into your profile and try to understand if you’re a good fit for the role.
  2. Case Interviews: Case interviews are THE most critical part of your hiring. In a case interview, you are given a hypothetical problem – one that is very similar to a real consulting problem. You have to understand the business well, apply your knowledge in a structured way and recommend a solution. Case interviews require some structured prep. You will need to understand the approach, basic case interview frameworks and business fundamentals to crack cases. It’s also important to get in some real practice with a case coach to be prepared for a real interview!

Top companies will have anywhere between 2-5 rounds of interviews. The final interviews rounds are conducted by partners or senior partners. Each interview can last anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes.

Ace your case with our exclusive Case Interview Course (start with 5 FREE lessons)

Once you have cleared the interview barrier, you’re all set! Consulting companies don’t have very complicated negotiation or contract hurdles, with very clear hierarchies, so once you’ve cleared the interview, you will have a very clear path to success.

Last thoughts: Remember, consulting might seem like a daunting career path because of the competitive job market – But if tackled step-by-step, your success rate can be quite positive. In my own experience, I realized that while having a great profile and high IQ can be a good starting point, they are neither necessary nor sufficient. What’s needed is a smart approach to recruitment, a strong preparatory plan and a lot of perseverance.

For all the people advising you that only ‘stellar’ profiles make it to MBB, I can show you 100s of people who made it with unconventional profiles and imperfect backgrounds. I have helped so many of my mentees crack top consulting companies through my consulting course and 1-on-1 sessions, and in each of them, I have seen a variety of different and seemingly imperfect profiles. But once we put in the effort towards sharpening the resume and preparing for interviews, the results are certain.

Believe in yourself, and focus on the process – The results are sure to come!

Share a comment below with your thoughts, questions and doubts; I’m happy to help you find your success 🙂

Share this post


About the Author

Ruchi Aggarwal

Ruchi is the founder of Mentoresult. She was a management consultant at McKinsey & Co, has an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and has scored a 99.99%ile in CAT and a 770 in GMAT.

Through Mentoresult, she mentored over 2000 candidates in reaching their career goals. Her success stories can be found across top jobs (McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Google, Amazon), top global MBA admissions (Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Columbia, Yale) and top Indian MBA (IIM A, IIM B, IIM C, ISB).  

She’s a prolific writer, with over 10 million views and 50,000+ followers on LinkedIn. You can find her on a 1:1 session here.

Read it first.
Never miss an update.

Subscribe to the Mentoresult blog for exclusive career-boosting content directly in your inbox.

Grab your FREE Consulting Guide!

Kickstart your new career by our
FREE Consulting Guide 2022