Interview: Saralin Davis about her experiences at McKinsey Insight
Q) Can you introduce yourself for the readers please?
I did my undergrad at Colby College in Waterville, ME where I majored in Biology and Mathematics and I am currently a sixth year finishing up my PhD in Biomedical Sciences. About half way through my graduate program I began exploring career options outside of academia and discovered management consulting, which seemed like an exciting opportunity to gain industry exposure and tackle high impact problems. I then became involved with the APD Consulting Club where I participated in and eventually led consulting projects with start-ups in the San Diego area. In the spring of my fifth year I participated in the McKinsey Insight Healthcare program. I then applied for full time positions and interviewed with McKinsey, Bain and BCG. I was given an offer with McKinsey, which I’ve accepted.
Q) What was the interview process like for the McKinsey Insight program?
For the Insight Healthcare program there was one ~30min phone interview, which was split up into a fit interview and a mini case interview. During the fit portion the interviewer asked about my background, why I was interested in consulting and what I hoped to get out of the Insight program. The case portion was a shorter version of a full McKinsey style case. After I was given the case prompt I had to talk the interviewer through how I would structure solving the case, answer a quantitative question and give a brief recommendation. There were 5 minutes at the end for me to ask questions. The interview was actually more casual than I anticipated, so I’d recommend anyone interviewing for the Insight program to definitely prepare, but to also relax and be yourself as much as you can.
Q) How was the professional experience at McKinsey Insight?
We were split up into small teams and given a healthcare related business case to solve over the course of three days. Although each team had an assigned McKinsey consultant to help, we were largely in charge of deciding how to organize our team and structure the case. There were short talks given by consultants to help cover some consulting fundamentals. At the end of the weekend each team presented their recommendations to our mock clients and our assigned McKinsey consultant gave us individual feedback. Through the mock case I felt I got a better sense of the skills I’d develop at McKinsey and the overall firm culture. Additionally, the case was really enjoyable; you get to work on an interesting problem with a group of interesting and intelligent team members.
In addition to the mock case there was a substantial amount of time dedicated to the participants asking current consultants and alumni about McKinsey, consulting in general and the interview process. This was done both in formal presentations and breakout sessions as well as informally during dinners and social events. I felt very encouraged to ask tough questions to get a better understanding of the work and lifestyle at McKinsey. All the consultants at Insight had a life science PhD or MD, so they were very helpful in talking through the pros and cons of transitioning from these backgrounds to consulting. Additionally, the weekend was non-evaluative, which I felt made it easier for me to focus on getting the information I needed to decide whether to make this career transition.
Q) How was the office culture at McKinsey?
From my experiences so far the culture at McKinsey seems challenging yet supportive of personal growth. For instance, although the interview process was definitely intense, I felt my interviewers wanted to see me at my best. There were opportunities to practice cases with current consultants and the feedback I received going into my final round interview really helped me improve. Upon receiving the offer I was overwhelmed with how supportive the staff and consultants were with putting me in touch with people to help me think through my decision. The consultants were honest about their experiences and genuine about wanting to help me figure out if it was the right choice for me. Additionally as a large firm it seems there are multiple paths I can take to make McKinsey fit my interests and needs, both in terms of the variety of work as well as newer “flex-time” options McKinsey has begun offering to help make the often poor work-life balance more feasible.
Q) What was your recruitment process like for the full-time role?
The McKinsey recruitment for the full-time position starts with a Problem Solving Test (PST), an hour long multiple choice exam. There isn’t too much preparation you can do other than take the practice exams on McKinsey’s website, which I would highly recommend taking a few times to get a feel for the test. After the PST there are two rounds of case and fit interviews. The first round has two interviews made up of both case and fit with consultants at the associate or manager level. The final round has 3-4 interviews with more senior consultants or partners and takes place at the office you would join. Although nerve wracking at times I overall really enjoyed my interviews.
Q) What would you recommend people to focus on if they want to get into Insight Healthcare and/or the full time role? How much should the focus be on life-sciences, if any, and how should people prepare for that?
For both the Insight and full time role I would recommend spending a fair amount of time getting your resume into the best possible form to highlight your transferrable skills and leadership and teamwork experience. At least for me this was new and took some work, as I had never written a resume to highlight aspects other than my previous research experience. I wouldn’t focus too much on anything life science specific. Even if you have a life science background and attend Insight Healthcare, you would be hired into a generalist role. McKinsey is flexible for you to move into new areas if your interests change.
For the full time role preparing for both the case and fit interviews is essential. The cases are definitely challenging and really pushed me in terms of my creativity as well as basic math skills! I found breaking up the cases into different skills (structure, math and brainstorming) helped make them less overwhelming when I was first starting. After getting a feel for the different parts of the cases I started practicing full cases with other members of the consulting club as well as with people I met at Insight. I would recommend practicing as much as you need for you to feel confident going in to your interviews. This will vary by person and more practice isn’t always better! Although the cases are challenging the fit interview can be equally tough. You really need to think about what your impact was in detail in the situation you are discussing. A lot of my feedback from my first round interviews focused on the fit questions and I definitely felt I should have started preparing for the fit interview earlier.
Thanks a lot Saralin for doing this interview. APDCC hopes that the readers can know more about McKinsey Insight, their recruiting and McKinsey in general with this post.