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by McKinsey & Company | September 15, 2020


We sat down with Brian Rolfes, the partner in charge of global recruiting for McKinsey, to discuss the firm’s strategy to recruiting during COVID-19 and capture his tips for virtual or remote interviewing. Brian started his journey at McKinsey as a consultant more than 25 years ago and has held several people-focused leadership roles. He is also one of the firm’s inclusion and diversity leaders and a co-founder of GLAM, McKinsey’s LGBTQ+ network.

Vault: Is McKinsey hiring right now? If so, which roles are open?

Brian: Absolutely! From the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve taken a through cycle approach to recruiting, meaning we continue to hire and have a long term view for our firm, our client service, and our ever-growing need for top talent.

Our clients need us more than ever right now, so it is important we continue to attract, develop, and retain exceptional people. In terms of roles, we are hiring across the board - from consultant roles for people coming out of school or industry to tech consulting, IT, and graphic design.

Vault: How is McKinsey’s interview process changing this year? 

Brian: While many things look different today than they did at this time last year, McKinsey's recruiting process remains generally the same. Our top priority is to ensure candidates have a positive experience as they get to know McKinsey, whether that is in-person or via Zoom.

Long before the pandemic, we conducted some virtual interviewing and events. Starting in March, we had to quickly move all recruiting and our summer intern programs to virtual. We continued interviewing, hired new people, and welcomed incredible groups of interns around the world. My newest proud McKinsey moment is that we honored all offers, including all summer internships and we are now hiring large numbers of new colleagues around the globe.

This summer, we worked closely with career service leads at many universities to make sure campus recruiting could continue, even in places where we could not physically be on campus.

When faced with the challenge of COVID-19, we decided to innovate and lean in 100 percent. Instead of looking at this as an unfortunate year with less than ideal circumstances, we are aiming to make this recruiting year better than any other, to look at how we meet new candidates, go to campus, host events, and find our new colleagues in totally new ways. We have been calling our efforts Reimagining Recruiting and we’re excited to show candidates how we’re going from best in class in-person events to world-class virtual events and interviews. Our experiences this Spring gave us insights and confidence so we invite you to check out our many events and learn more about working at McKinsey.

Vault: I am ready for the next step in my professional career and wonder if McKinsey may be for me. What do I do?

Brian: To apply for a position, visit our Careers site. We will be hiring thousands of people this year, from data engineers to consultants to executive assistants. You may know the kind of role you’re looking for, so go ahead and search based on locations, interests, industries, or functions.

If you’re not sure what kind of roles we have or which you might be the best fit for, take our quick Find Your Fit quiz. 

Once you apply, your CV will be reviewed by a recruiter and you may be invited to play the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. This cutting edge game has been quite popular – hear from a couple of recent hires who took it and learn what they liked about it.

Vault: How do I best prepare for an interview?

Brian: In our interviews, we look for inclusive leadership, personal impact, entrepreneurial drive, and problem-solving skills. To learn about how we think of these qualities and how to showcase yours, check out our interview tips and videos.

I recommend thinking about your experiences related to leadership, impact, and being entrepreneurial – really bring yourself back to the specific example, and recall details about the challenges, goals, and the actions you took. Practice telling your story out loud or with a friend. For interview tips from our colleagues, visit our Careers Blog

Vault: Any tips on recruiting and interviewing virtually?

Brian: I have hosted many virtual events and done a lot of remote interviews. Here are my top tips for the best experience:

  • Eliminate distractions - To ensure you can concentrate, find a quiet room with some privacy. Some people find it helpful to wear headphones to tune out noise. 
  • Gather the necessities and remove the rest - Make sure you have a notepad, pen, and water nearby. Remove resources like a calculator or prepared notes that you would not have if the interview were in person.
  • Speak up - If you feel stuck, confused, or need clarification of what is being asked of you, ask your interviewer to repeat themselves. This is your interview and we want you to be comfortable so you can perform at your best. Though the virtual format has many positive aspects, we can't always read body language or facial expressions well, so we encourage you to speak up, clarify, and ask your questions.

Vault: Will I still meet someone in person?

Brian: The health and safety of our candidates, colleagues, and communities is our top concern. Depending on the timeframe and the location, there is a chance we will not meet you in person during your recruiting process. We are, however, monitoring what’s safe and possible in different locations with regard to office openings and safe social connections.

Vault: What technology do I need to join virtual events and interviews? 

Brian: We use Zoom for our virtual interviews and most of our events. This platform is stable and user friendly and is used extensively with many clients and internally with our colleagues.  

With the click of a link, you will be connected to us. Your interviewer will guide you on any Zoom features you need and will be there to help in case anything goes wrong. 

If you have a disability or require special accommodations, please let us know so we can work together to accommodate your needs.

Vault: What if I run into connection issues during my interview?

Brian: We know technology can be unpredictable and issues can arise. You will in no way be penalized if something happens during a virtual interview. Our McKinsey colleagues are skilled in using technology and have contingency plans in place. Should you run into issues on Zoom, you can:

  • Turn off your video and participate with audio only
  • Change the Zoom window to Gallery View, as Active Speaker view uses more bandwidth
  • Switch to phone audio instead of computer audio

Vault: What should I wear? Should my video be turned on?

Brian: We do not expect you to wear a suit or dress formally. We are all in the same situation, and most of us have switched to business casual. 

We also understand you may have roommates, pets, or family around – so do we – therefore don’t stress about these matters.

You should have your video on the entire time during interviews. This will help us connect with you, and you with us. Don't worry about your background or setting.

Vault: Any final tips?

Brian: Be yourself! Interviewing helps us learn about you as a person and a potential colleague, and it helps you learn more about McKinsey, our people, and what you could do here. We look forward to getting to know you!

Start your search and application today.

McKinsey & Company is the No.1 consultancy in the 2020 Vault Consulting 50, our annual ranking of the best consulting firms to work for.