Practice for interviews, but don’t become scripted

Jenny is an incoming associate in our Vietnam office. She graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of British Columbia and started her career as an analyst in a French boutique investment bank, focusing on raising funds in newly emerging markets such as Mongolia and Tanzania. Her desire to further her knowledge beyond finance inspired her to pursue an MBA at INSEAD. Afterward, Jenny spent two years at a South-East Asian e-commerce platform based in Vietnam as the Project Management Office lead. Jenny brings six years of work experience to McKinsey and hopes to further develop her problem-solving skills here. We asked her what it was like to interview with McKinsey as an experienced hire.

Jenny Phung
Jenny Phung

How did you prepare your personal experience examples?

First, I made sure to understand the four dimensions of the assessment – personal impact, entrepreneurial drive, problem-solving, and inclusive leadership – by researching McKinsey interviews and talking with friends who worked at the firm. Second, I thought of situations in which I displayed these skills and identified those of which I felt most proud. Last, I practiced orally, alone and with friends, incorporating feedback from previous practice sessions.

A framework is not required, but using Situation, Task, Action, Result (or STAR) helped me organize my thoughts. I started each story with a one-sentence summary and followed it with more details along each dimension.

My general tip is to I avoid memorizing and repeating a script as it will not feel as natural and genuine. I suggest focusing on making sure you’re engaging your interviewer in an easy-to-follow narrative.

How did you feel prior to your interviews?

I felt quite nervous in the beginning but quickly relaxed once the case started. I found it useful to shift my focus to learning rather than getting the right answer (of which there really isn’t one – there are many). This shift enabled me to be bolder and more direct in my questions and hypotheses.

What surprised you most about McKinsey’s interviews?

I was surprised by how the interviews felt more like an intellectual discussion rather than a traditional, formal interview. My interviewers were friendly and down-to-earth, which allowed me to relax and focus on being myself.

Aside from case coaching, how did McKinsey best help you prepare?

In addition to practice materials on McKinsey’s website, I had one-on-one calls with the interviewers and recruiters to discuss ways to improve. These calls guided me on the skills I needed to demonstrate.

Jenny Phung
Jenny Phung

Looking back, how did you feel about the overall experience?

The overall experience was very pleasant and is, perhaps, the best I’ve had. The interview process was clear and everyone I interacted with was encouraging and willing to assist. McKinsey quickly adapted to virtual interviews amidst COVID-19, which I greatly appreciated.

Why are you excited to join McKinsey?

The people I’ve met emphasize how their critical thinking abilities have become sharper, more efficient, and more insightful due to McKinsey’s growth mindset and high-caliber people. I am elated to join McKinsey and be challenged by some of the top-thinkers in their respective industries, learn from them, and further develop my own problem-solving skills.

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