My experience with Solve, McKinsey’s assessment game.

Ana, a former architect and current fellow in Rio de Janeiro, and Carl, a former engineer and current digital associate in Brussels, joined McKinsey earlier this year. We sat down with them virtually to learn about their experiences with Solve.

How did you hear about Solve?

Ana - I heard about the game at a recruiting event. The recruiters and the consultants I met explained the game would give us a chance to show our problem-solving skills. I was curious about the experience, so I watched the video and browsed the interviewing page. It was my first time hearing of such a test for recruiting, so I was intrigued and nervous as I don’t play videogames.

Carl - I first heard about it when I received the interview instructions. I was quite surprised and excited about this unusual approach. Like Ana, I had a look at the guide on the McKinsey website which put me at ease.

What was your experience with Solve?

Ana - I was nervous at first. I got so in my head that the instructions didn’t sink in. Then I tried to relax, understand what I had to do, and go with the flow of the game. It was super intuitive, so my anxiety was immediately eased. I really enjoyed learning what I had to do and what strategies to change. As the phases went on, I understood more of what I had to do and found better ways to accomplish my main task.

Carl - After the first five minutes of playing the game, I felt completely drawn into the story and virtual world. In a way, I forgot I was doing an assessment. It was quite fun to play.

Did anything surprise you?

Ana - I was really surprised at how fast I learned how to play the game and evolved my strategy with each new phase. It was easy for me to test out what I thought was the right approach, and shift my strategy when I saw that it was needed.

Carl - By playing the game and trying to find an optimal solution, I realized why McKinsey uses it as part of the assessment process. The game is about understanding a complex situation, determining influencing factors and dynamics, testing a few hypotheses and eventually developing an approach to solve for the game objective. This is precisely what we do every day at McKinsey with our clients.

How did you prepare?

Ana - As there is no preparation required, I made sure I had a good night’s rest prior to playing. During the game I was given guidance for how to manage time and could track my progress.

Carl - I didn’t prepare beforehand as there isn’t a way or need to study or practice. This alleviated some of the normal stress of interviewing for a new role. Once I was in the game, I created some generic steps to structure my approach and set time limits on each step. Of course, these were mainly self-imposed guidelines as I didn’t really know what to expect, but it ended up working well.

What advice would you give someone who is going to play McKinsey’s assessment game?

Ana - You don’t need to prepare or be familiar with video games to do well. When I was told this by a McKinsey recruiter, I didn’t believe them, but now I can reassure people first hand. There is no need to stress – just go into it with an open mind and willingness to try.

Also, take your time. Understand what is in front of you and list what is asked of you – not what you think you should be doing. The format will allow you to showcase how you approach problems, so just try your best.

Carl -Take your time to understand and reflect on the objective. For instance, should you go for quick wins or for long-term solutions and what are the influencing factors. Only then can you prioritize your actions and test the hypotheses to quickly reach a good solution.

Want more interviewing tips and tricks? Read more stories from our colleagues.

Learn more about interviewing at McKinsey

Ana sitting on abandoned railroad tracks
Ana sitting on abandoned railroad tracks

More about Ana

Ana graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and urbanism from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After graduating, she worked at a small architecture firm for a year before joining the City Hall of Niterói, as an architect in the Department of Environment, Water Resources and Sustainability.

As a fellow at McKinsey, Ana has been working with retail banking clients.

Carl taking selfie
Carl taking selfie

More about Carl

Carl earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering (mechanics) from KULeuven. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in Engineering (robotics & mechatronics) from KULeuven and TUMunchen. He started his career as a product engineer at Audi. Prior to joining McKinsey, Carl was a consultant focused on digital operations at PwC.

As a digital associate at McKinsey, Carl works on digital transformations in a variety of industries.

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