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The interview process

For those of you feeling anxious about interviews with McKinsey, relax. Our interviewers aren’t there to grill you, or laser in on your weaknesses, or destabilize you with trick questions. In fact, they’re smart and caring people who are eager to find your strengths, especially in unexpected places.

Preparing for the interview

There are two types of interviews for those who’ve been welcomed to the next stage of the process. We call them the experience interview and the case interview. Some information about each follows below. One word of advice about both: please do not over-prepare. Familiarizing yourself with the content and structure of the interviews–and broadly framing the areas you want to cover based on the attributes we’ve described above–is enough. We are not looking for “the most prepped.”

Personal experience assessment interview

You wouldn’t be invited to interview unless we were impressed by your achievements. But we’re really interested in learning about how you see them–what you view as your strengths, what particularly made you proud, and what you accomplished as an individual and as part of a team.

Our interviewers are naturally curious about your accomplishments, so be prepared to discuss them in some depth.

Case interview

Some of our candidates know exactly what a case interview is; if that’s you, feel free to skip ahead. Others who have never heard of a case interview, fear not–but read on.

Case interviews are two-way conversations that demonstrate an ability to think creatively in unfamiliar businesses. Your interviewer will describe a strategic or operational challenge, and using the available facts, you’ll structure your thinking and reach defensible conclusions in a short period of time. Among others, these skills are common to successful consultants.

We’ve found that the people who succeed here are those who are drawn to problem-solving as a form of intellectual stimulation and challenge. So we’re looking to identify the ability to unpack a problem by analyzing it inside out and upside down. Most of the time, our clients bring us challenges that are three-dimensional. So we need people who think in chess, not checkers. We value non-linear thinking and the ability to fuse discipline and instinct.

You know the phrase “there are no right or wrong answers.” Well, you just heard it again. There are no predetermined answers in case interviews; we’re less interested in the conclusion than how you got there. In other words, we’re looking for your intuitive, natural judgment in a business setting.

Someone whose answer is strategically closer to a “right” answer–but who arrived at it with superficial insight and a flimsy rationale–will not do as well as someone whose answer might be more off the mark because they don’t have the business background, but whose thinking is cogent and well supported. We look for intrinsic mental agility and curiosity in our hires, knowing we will apprentice, train, and coach them with content and knowledge.

Preparing for the interview

Problem-solving test

Just what you’re waiting to hear–one more test. Don’t get stressed. As part of the interview process, we ask most candidates to complete a problem-solving test. We use this multiple choice test to better understand how you approach problem-solving and can size up a situation. McKinsey is more interested in how you think than in how much you’ve memorized.

Some more details:

  • You can’t bring a calculator or anything else, except your natural abilities.
  • No business background is necessary.
  • There are 26 questions to answer in an hour; you are not expected to answer all of them.

If you would like to familiarize yourself with the practice test format, we have provided practice tests for download, along with analyses of the answers. You may also want to take advantage of the coaching guide to work on the practice tests.


External recognition

Vault consulting 50

Vault Consulting 50

McKinsey has completed a unique “Triple Crown” achievement by being ranked first in Vault's Top Consulting Firm and Prestige rankings in all three regions surveyed.

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