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A new way to find talent

Keith, the head of people analytics, describes innovation in McKinsey’s application process.

Read more about: Community | Innovation | Digital

A few weeks ago, more than 500 candidates who applied to our London office took charge of a natural environment–terrain rich in flora and fauna to explore and discover. This wasn’t a field trip; urgent matters needed their attention. Animals were getting sick, and they had to figure out what was wrong and how to deal with it.

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These candidates were the first to try a new digital assessment we designed to help us understand how candidates process information and create solutions to challenging problems. McKinsey sometimes requires candidates take a standardized problem-solving test. While that test is insightful, the candidate experience isn’t great. We want to replace that exam with something more interesting and engaging.

The London trial was the first time we used this new technology with candidates. More than 90% of those who took the assessment thought it was engaging and several participants described this experience as more positive than standard pencil and paper tests. One candidate told us, “as someone who has dyslexia, I found this a much more engaging and less stressful way to be assessed.” Another said it was an intellectually stimulating experience that allowed her to explore a problem from many angles.

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What’s different about this assessment is that it doesn’t ask questions; it sets tasks. By understanding how people complete these tasks, we can better understand how they think. That’s what we do during case interviews: we focus on understanding candidates’ thought processes, whether or not they come to the right answer. In addition, this new assessment presents these tasks in a completely neutral environment, so we level the playing field when it comes to candidates’ business knowledge.

The team behind this effort is expansive and inspiring. We have colleagues from across McKinsey teaming with members of a US–based startup called Imbellus, which employs engineers, data scientists and psychometricians. We are also working with the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing. It has been fun working with so many smart and experienced people to create something that will add to our candidates’ experience. In fact, this kind of innovation and the culture that encourages me to do my best is why I love working here and why I stay.

More about Keith

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Keith is the head of People Analytics and based in London. He joined McKinsey more than 18 years ago after completing his PhD in mathematics at the Imperial College London. Keith freely admits to being a complete “people geek” and loves nothing better than coding to crack a data problem related to people–unless perhaps it’s playing Japanese computer games with his daughters who he is gradually introducing to the genre.

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