I wanted to get your opinion on something.  Firstly, I want to thank you for the materials you put on your website.  Thanks to them, I got job offers from McKinsey and BCG in (Middle East Country) to start as a business analyst.

However, I am having hard to time to decide which one I should choose. I will be starting as business analyst straight from college, and would really appreciate if you can give me some guidance on which one is better.

I know both of them are sponsoring for MBA which I consider doing in the USA, but heard that McKinsey uses frameworks for the clients, whereas BCG treats every client as a different situation, making you more innovative so it seems like BCG is better for me but in (Middle East Country), Mckinsey is really popular among students in college in (Middle East Country) and BCG is not well known.

Thus, I was wondering if you can compare Mckinsey and BCG in terms of:

  • Sponsoring more percentage of analysts for MBA?
  • Chance to interact with clients, be more creative and to have international experience?
  • Mobility options in different offices such as transferring to other offices or doing projects in another countries?
  • More prestigious or better in consulting in the U.S.A.?
  • Any other important things you think as important

My Reply:

First off, congratulations. I am glad that my resources were helpful to you in getting your offers.

Now, onto your questions.

I’m not sure that the comparison of “McKinsey uses only frameworks” and “BCG does custom work” is necessarily true.  I can’t think of a single project I did at McKinsey that was off a framework. It was all custom issue trees.

The teams I was on weren’t opposed to using frameworks, it’s just that client problems are often complicated and unusual – so standard frameworks don’t often apply (thus the importance of learning how to do custom issue trees).

So, on that point, I would suggest doing a fact check to see if that is true.

Personally, I use a framework whenever it fits, and a custom issue tree when it does not.

In regard to your question on business school tuition reimbursements, last time I checked, which was awhile ago, BCG, Bain & McKinsey were all very comparable. I doubt any other firm would be more generous.

The general compensation philosophy across the MBB is to be equal in compensation and benefits and to win candidates over based on culture, personality, and fit — as opposed to more money.

If you want to make more money, go work in investment banking.

In the U.S., BCG and McKinsey are equally respected — really, you can’t go wrong with either.  I do not know of BCG’s international transfer policy, but basically, the McKinsey approach when I was there is: you do two years in your home office, and if you are in the upper 20% or so, and you want to go abroad, you go.

This was not a formal policy, just an observation of common practice.

This is true whether you are a BA or an Associate… it is always two years and then go somewhere else.  At McKinsey it is very common to do this – but only happens if you are good. You may want to inquire with others to see if this is the current practice.

The idea is that each office only wants to send its best to other offices. You also have to make this happen; it does not happen by itself.

Also, McKinsey is a very international firm. All training is done cross-border. My analyst training was in Amsterdam with other analysts from Tokyo, Europe, etc… My Associate training was in Switzerland, with many Germans, and French.

When someone in the Seoul office calls to ask about some work you’ve done, it is understood you call them back to help. It is very much in the firm’s culture to do this.

From a U.S. perspective, you got offers from the two best firms in the consulting industry.  There is no mistake in choosing either of them.

There is very little to differentiate at the firm level at least by U.S. standards.  The deciding factors I think should be the differences between the firms in your country — to the extent that it might be important to you. And after you meet people in both offices, which you very much should do, see which group of people you would prefer to work with.

The more you are comfortable with the specific people in each office, the more likely you will be to do better. So, the people factor cannot be under-estimated and will have a bigger impact on your future career than the employer name — at least in the U.S.

Also, I would definitely recommend taking the list of questions you asked me and ask multiple people at each firm for their perspective. Do not ask people in recruiting, ask the consultants — ask enough people, you will get the most realistic answer.