Brian Rolfes is McKinsey’s partner in charge of Global Recruiting. He’s been at the firm for 25+ years and started as a consultant before taking leadership roles focused on McKinsey’s people and candidates as well as being one of the firm’s inclusion and diversity leaders.
We caught up with Brian as he and his husband, Brad, shelter-in-place outside Toronto (picture is a throwback to a pre-COVID vacation).
First of all, tell us about your role at McKinsey and your favorite thing about it.
I lead recruiting globally, which means I work with other leaders in the firm and recruiting teams to ensure McKinsey continually gets the best talent in the world. My favorite thing is the same as I hear from lots of my colleagues – the people. In my role, however, I not only get the benefit of working with the people we have at the firm but I get a front row seat to meet the next generation of McKinsey people. That’s a special vantage point I don’t take for granted.
Tell us how McKinsey is handling its summer intern program and people with fulltime offers.
Overall, McKinsey is taking a through cycle approach, meaning we continue our recruiting and do so with a long term view. We continue to hire, don’t foresee any significant changes to our hiring goals, are honoring all the extended offers we’ve made across the globe, including for our full-time hires and our summer interns. I’m pleased with how we’re able to handle this unprecedented time – you really see our values in action when it’s time to make decisions like these.
A huge shout-out goes to our Recruiters all over the world as they have been talking with each person who has accepted an offer to join McKinsey. Our recruiters have made hundreds of individual calls in the last few weeks and continue those calls to work with each person to understand where they are, special needs and to determine the best timing, what questions they have and what support they need.
The health and safety of our people is obviously our top concern. Some internships and onboarding will be virtual, so we have been working that out in each location and with each person. We are fortunate to have the technology and flexibility to move recruiting events and other aspects such as training to a virtual format as needed.
What will onboarding look like now?
During your first week, you’ll go through orientation and participate in the Onboarding Learning Program, a 1-2 week virtual experience with about 30 other new colleagues. This program is led by firm leaders, engagement managers, and senior associates.
During this immersive learning experience, consultants who were recently in our new joiners’ shoes help their new colleagues build a core McKinsey toolkit and foundational skills so they’re ready to create the best possible experience for clients, join teams and be at your best. They’ll learn about McKinsey’s mission, values, history and culture; how teams collaborate; how to give and receive feedback; and how McKinsey applies core business concepts in client work. So far, the training has received rave reviews.
Additional plans are being shaped at a regional and country level. For instance, in North America our summer interns participate in additional training about digital and analytics solutions. That part is especially exciting since tech touches every part of client service.
While some plans are still in development, people who start virtually will get an experience equivalent to our in-person program. We know some of the most memorable parts of trainings and onboarding are the social aspects so we’ll include office happy hours and team and firm events even if we do them over Zoom for a while.
What advice do you have for someone joining McKinsey during this time?
Some of my advice is the same this year as it would be other years: I encourage all summer interns to use this time to explore consulting generally and McKinsey specifically. We strive to give our interns a real experience, meaning we want you to experience our firm, our values, our people and our consulting model the way it will be when you join fulltime. I also want every intern to feel free to reach out to others in the firm, to get to know colleagues, to learn about their roles, their expertise and their lives. This is true for anyone joining the firm, for the summer or fulltime. As mentioned earlier, to me, the most special thing about the firm is our people. And mentorship, coaching and apprenticeship are truly part of the McKinsey DNA, so please jump in and take advantage of that.
During this time when we are not in offices as usual and when video conferences, Zoom, and phone calls are so common, it may feel different in how we participate and network. But please know we welcome our new joiners as enthusiastically as ever.
Also, I want to make sure everyone joining knows there is real support in this time of stress and uncertainty in the world. All colleagues have access to a free, confidential 24/7 Colleague Support Center, to CoachNow for coaching sessions by phone or VC, and our Mind Matters intranet site to help colleagues and their families with mental health questions and support.
What do you see ahead for McKinsey coming out of this COVID-era?
Our firm is strong and I’m convinced we’re prepared to navigate this challenging time. In situations of crisis, all kinds of organizations – corporations, governments, nonprofits – must pull together the right resources very quickly and gain knowledge across industries and functions to answer tough questions. We are helping clients manage the immediate crisis caused by the pandemic and we are working closely with them to help figure out what the next normal will look like and what it takes to be safe and successful in it.
The entire world is seeing unprecedented change and firms like McKinsey can make a positive difference helping institutions manage those changes. While I see a lot of value in what McKinsey is offering our clients at this time, I am also confident we can provide our people with the same incredible career and networking opportunities we’re known for and that has kept me here for more than 25 years.
Is there anything you are especially looking forward to in the second half of the year?
Like so many of us, I’m looking forward to good news and being able to safely move more freely and see colleagues, friends and family in-person. Outside of what’s happening with stay-at-home guidelines and COVID, I’m really looking forward to the 25th anniversary of Equal at McKinsey, McKinsey’s LGBTQ+ network. I am one of the 13 co-founders so this milestone is especially meaningful to me this year. In many ways, Equal at McKinsey encapsulates the aspects I most appreciate about McKinsey, so celebrating 25 years makes me incredibly happy and proud.
Learn more about Careers at McKinsey