Last week I had a McKinsey interview and didn’t pass. I know that it was my fault because I didn’t practice much.

Anyway, I received feedback from my interviewer. He said that they liked me, especially my communication, leadership skills and my ideas about cases, but the answers were not structured enough.

When I asked about reapplying, he said that it’s possible but I have to show significant growth.

Could you please tell from your experience, is it possible to reapply successfully (I mean to get a job offer) and what growth do they usually mean?


My Reply:

The short answer is yes, it is possible to re-apply and successfully get an offer. One of my interviewers in my final round at McKinsey was a re-applicant. She applied for a Business Analyst position coming out of undergrad and did not get an offer.

She went to work for two years at a boutique, then went to Harvard Business School and graduated as a Baker Scholar (top 10% of the class) and ended up getting an offer from McKinsey.

So is it possible? Yes.

Is it fast, not always… in this case, it was a three to four year process.

The stated reapplication policy (not sure if it is a formal rule or just a cultural one), is you can reapply in two years.

I have heard of exceptions to this, but they typically involve working extremely hard to get another interview often through networking, applying to McKinsey in another country, or recontacting a previous interviewer and asking for another interview in say six months’ time.

Now if you are able to do the latter — convince someone that you have gotten a lot better at cases — and then you do poorly, then you’re pretty much out of luck for two years.

In terms of what “growth” means, that is McKinsey jargon for “get better at cases” – so that’s all the standard stuff in my Case Interview Secrets videos, framework handouts, and the Look Over My Shoulder® program.

On the positive side, your interviewer’s comments about your communication, leadership skills and intuitive thoughts about the case make you excellent future partner material.

Unfortunately, to make it to partner you have to become an Associate first — and problem structuring is an extremely important skill needed to be an Associate.

So a few key things. It can often be a lot of work to get another interview before two years has passed since your last interview.

If you are fortunate or persistent enough to get a second chance, you will definitely want to be extremely prepared, as it is very hard to get a second chance in a short period of time, and impossible to get a third chance.

Also keep in mind, when you take the networking route to find someone who will vouch for you, stake their reputation inside the firm to get you an interview, sometimes they will give you a case on the spot!

So maybe you meet for lunch with someone. They like your enthusiasm. They are debating whether or not they want to put their clout on the line to get you an interview.

Before they do that, and potentially risk damaging their reputation (the only real asset you have within a consulting firm), they will often give you a case interview in the middle of lunch — even though that was not the purpose of the lunch.

So sometimes your “second chance” will happen when you are least expecting it — and if/when that happens, you must also be prepared as well.

So long story short, the process is now much less predictable, which puts a greater burden on you to always be prepared.