Erika Love is a Lead Recruiter at McKinsey & Company where she leads undergraduate recruiting for the McKinsey Black Network and the Hispanic & Latino Network. In her role, she focuses on creating high-impact programs to educate, support and prepare students for roles in consulting. She has led a significant effort in doubling Black hires at McKinsey, growing relationships with HBCUs, and expanding opportunities for first-year and second-year undergraduates through internships and programs.
Here are some questions we will be answering:
– What is one thing that makes a candidate stand out in the Performance Experience Interview (PEI)?
– How can our listeners prepare for the PEI?
– What exactly is Diversity Recruiting?
– What do you look for in young students like Freshman?
– Are certain office locations tougher to get offers in than others?
– When you are between a few final candidates, how do you decide who receives the offer?
Connect with Erika: www.linkedin.com/in/erikaklove/
Follow our Host on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/aaron-aj-eckstein/
Get 1-on-1 Career Coaching: www.careercoachingcompany.com/
*Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this podcast are of the host and guest and not of their employers.
“Know that you absolutely are capable. Be confident through each experience, through each interaction. Be intentional, be thoughtful. And I think those things will help set you apart to get you an offer.” – Erika Love
Welcome to the Final Round podcast, where our mission is to help you knock out the competition and land your dream job. My name is A.J. Eckstein, and I’m a recent college graduate, a strategy consultant, a five-time intern and the founder of the Career Coaching Company.
Have you ever wondered why only a few people get past the final round interview and land the job offer? Join me in the ring as I speak with recruiters at top companies to learn the secrets why certain applicants get “knocked-out” and others are still standing after the final round.
The Final Round podcast is brought to you by Career Coaching Company. They offer one-on-one, live, tailored coaching from recent grads who work at leading companies across multiple industries like consulting, investment banking and much more. Now, let’s jump into the ring and get you past the final round.
We are switching things up today on the Final Round and will be joined by a special co-host, Devon Triplett was an avid listener of the podcast, reached out to me on LinkedIn as I tell all of our audience members to do, applied to one of our internship positions and was able to take the advice from past episodes to advance past the final round. He was also selected for the McKinsey & Company achievement award and will be interning at McKinsey next summer.
Devon and I will be interviewing Erika Love, the North American Affinity Recruiter at McKinsey & Company. She has also been leading undergraduate recruiting for McKinsey’s Black, Hispanic and Latino Networks for over three years now. We guarantee that you will LOVE this episode. So, let’s welcome Erika Love. What is going on everybody? We had such an exciting conversation today. We have Mr. Devon Triplett who will be our special co-host for the episode today as well as our wonderful guest, Erika Love. Erika, how are you doing today on the Final Round?
Erika: AJ and Devon, I’m great. I’m really excited to be here and happy to connect with the listeners today.
Well, I think we’re more excited than you to be honest with you and this has been an episode that has been really desired by a ton of our audience members. Obviously, McKinsey being such a premier consulting firm and our interview questions for today are not only selected from Devon and myself making these questions, but also, we actually surveyed our audience members and they came up with some questions of their own.
So, the questions will be coming from Marcus Walker, Eugenia Truckle, Matthew Ryan, Ari Levine and Jonathan Rivers. So, the first question we want to start with, Erika is actually a quote from your LinkedIn. The quote is, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” So, I’m curious to know what does this quote mean to you and how does this come into kind of your career and talent acquisition especially recruiting for three leading organizations like McKinsey?
Erika: Yeah. Thanks for taking a look there and pulling that quote. It’s by James Baldwin, who I am very fond of. For me, the quote stands for being bold. We’re faced with challenges every single day. In recruiting, some of those challenges are mountains and they take seasons to change especially in diversity recruiting where it’s become such a popular topic now or popular role, even the diversity recruiting role. When you get a person or look inside two large organizations like McKinsey, there are many things that as a diversity recruiter, you would hope to change. Even as a consultant coming in, you would hope to change or aspire to change and not everything can be changed immediately. But just having the audacity to share your opinion, to be bold in making a decision I think has really gotten me through my career.
And if I can place it back in time, I started as an accounting major and moving to talent acquisition or diversity recruiting was considered a bold move for me. But in order to change the trajectory of my career where my passion was, it was important for me to be bold and really face my personal mountain. In my role now in diversity recruiting, I face mountains all the time. When I joined McKinsey, it was a mountain to really learn the organization, learn the right people in order to help us make the best decisions for identifying a diverse talent and just being bold is kind of my theme when it comes to making career moves, building connections. The worst answer that you can receive is a no. And then you just go back to the drawing board to create an even bolder idea.
To follow up with what you were saying about the theme of being bold, do you recommend that candidates should be bold and be proud of their stories, not just in the application process but also in the interview process?
Erika: Absolutely! There is no room to play it safe when it comes to interviews and putting your best foot forward. If you think about the way we apply to roles now, you’re mostly submitting a resume and application and if you have not met someone from that company, no one knows you, right? You have maybe about 30 seconds for the recruiter on the other side of that resume to really identify who you are and if you are a great fit for that role. So, when candidates are building out their resume, applying to a role such as business analyst at McKinsey, think about what truly stands out about your personal experience?
What are those bold opportunities that you’ve had, whether it be in academia or leadership or in your campus involvement? What truly stands out for you? Definitely being bold as a candidate and then in the interview process, you want to think about what makes you shine and you want to bring your resume to life. So, I am an advocate for being bold, being daring, taking risks and just making sure that the people that connect with you virtually in person, you leave a drawing and passion on them through your bold actions.
Pursuing Your Passion
Devon: That is such a powerful quote, Erika and I love that you feature it boldly on your LinkedIn. One of the many things that resonates with me about you is how passionate you are about the work that you do. Your passion is clearly translated into your success as a recruiter and that manifests often to students from all across the country and my organization rave about you. So, I’m wondering how important it is to do something that you are so passionate about in terms of a career choice?
Erika: So, if you step back from the day-to-day of being a college student with someone looking for a job or role, what’s the long-term goal? You want to find happiness, you want to be able to build wealth, you want to be doing something that is meaningful and creating impact. So, it’s very important to be doing something that you’re passionate about. When you think about applying your skills, your education, which is an investment especially if you’re in higher ed, you’re investing in yourself. So, what you say, this is how I’m choosing to spend my time, this is how I’m choosing to share my values. So, if you’re doing something that you’re not particularly passionate about, I would think that you’d be wasting your value, you’re wasting the investment that you put in yourself to do something that is not necessarily high return for you.
So, I encourage candidates, students, everyone to really find what gets you excited every day. What is going to be exciting long-term, not just the here and now, not just the internship, but what’s going to be the building step or that building block to get you to that area where you just wake up Monday morning and you’re excited to take on a new project, you’re excited to go do your client work or you’re excited to build that connection with someone new. It’s important to identify that early on. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you go through so many experiences or I hope that you would go through so many experiences that you start to understand what you like, what you don’t like. Whatever you don’t like, take it off the table immediately and really start to build your portfolio of what drives your passion or drives you towards your passion.
I think that one common interest that Devon and I definitely have appreciated thus far and are working towards it is really helping advance people’s career. So, I think that it’s so important, like you said, especially if you can do it early to find out what you don’t like so that you can get closer to what you do like and that is for the Final Round helping people with their careers. On the topic of diversity recruiting, can you share with our audience what really is diversity recruiting and why are all these companies talking about it? And how does it really help them and the clients that they work with?
Erika: This is a really good question. So, diversity recruiting, let’s just take the topic of recruiting, identifying talent, right? Who’s the best fit for the role? Who’s the best fit for the job? Diversity recruiting takes that a step further to make sure that underrepresented groups in broader talent pools still have access to opportunities. I think we tend to think about recruiting being a very equal space, but diversity recruiting creates equity. So, everyone has an opportunity to apply to McKinsey, right? But when we put in the equity piece, we are able to identify students who are in those underrepresented groups.
For McKinsey, it’s Black, African-American, Latin X and then indigenous to North America, Canada and the US and creating opportunities for those underrepresented groups to truly find consulting to decide if it’s a place for them, especially because organizations like McKinsey, Bain, BCG maybe have historically overlooked underrepresented groups in their pipeline. So, now, it’s doing the work especially in diversity recruiting to create those opportunities so that we’re at a level playing field for all talent. That’s kind of what diversity recruiting is. It can take a few different forms from direct sourcing meaning a recruiter can utilize LinkedIn or other sourcing tools to find underrepresented talent.
It can be a campus recruiter that is aligned to schools like HBCUs, Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HSIs, Hispanic Serving Institutions. It can also be an external partnership lead. Someone who works with organizations like Management Leadership for Tomorrow or Jump Start or NSBE, National Society for Black Engineers to identify and bring in talent through those channels. I do a little bit of all that in my role at McKinsey. It is becoming a more popular role, a popular space for recruiters, in general. And it’s particularly important because when we think about the US, in the evolving population of the US, right now, I think the population is roughly around 20% Hispanic Latin X. So, those are entrepreneurs, those are business leaders, those are government leaders. Right? So, in turn, they’re going to become a client of McKinsey.
It’s important that our workforce reflects the individual of that client, and especially when you think about building trust, building relationships and that’s where business happens. So that’s why affinity or diversity recruiting is important and not just from the client side but from the whole population demographic. I think it’s a little late. Unfortunately, it took someone’s depth for companies to really zero in on affinity recruiting in some aspect, but I’m glad that it’s happening, it’s important. And from the candidate’s side, it signals that you are important, you matter and we want you here. So, that’s my view of the diversity recruiter role.
Candidate’s LinkedIn Profiles
Devon: And you mentioned LinkedIn as a sourcing tool that recruiters use to source talent. I’m wondering when you go on to a candidate or a student’s LinkedIn profile. What are the types of things that you’re looking for or what exactly do you want to see on a candidate’s profile and how can they cater that profile to the role that they’re applying for?
Erika: Yeah. So, speaking for McKinsey, we actually don’t utilize LinkedIn to determine if the candidate is qualified. We use it mainly for networking opportunities. For example, I love connecting with students on LinkedIn. It tells me a little bit more about their personality. If they have questions, it’s just another space for them to be able to access me. I’m a pretty accessible recruiter and hopefully you all were able to see that from my interactions. But things that I really enjoy or things that students can add on to their profiles to really get people excited, definitely the background photos help because it differentiates you from other interests and other people’s interest, definitely having a photo helps just to make that personal connection.
I love being able to match a face to an email, accolades, things that you’ve achieved. Your thought pieces also help as well, because for me personally, it’s more of who are you, who is the person that is emailing me about an interview or for the person that is scheduled to interview, what do they or how do they present themselves to the world? So, I’ll summarize this by saying three things that really excite me from the LinkedIn perspective when I’m connecting with candidates versus assessing them for talent, the background photo telling us a little bit more about your personality, creativity, what’s really exciting you at the moment? Thought pieces or comments on your peers’ opportunities that show me that you’re helping other people building a network for yourself and then highlighting those unique opportunities that you’ve had or whether they be academic accomplishments or scholarships, internships that you’ve held and the overall impact that you had in those spaces.
I’m so happy to hear that those LinkedIn tips also resonate with recruiters because Devon and I recently just posted a LinkedIn 101 and how to network workshop just a few weeks ago. One of the things that we had a slide on were the things that people don’t do. Some of those things are things like having a background photo. So, not just the head shot but a background photo, because it’s like that banner on your specific personal landing page. And if Erika goes onto your profile, give her something a little bit more about your personality, your background, your unique story. So, like you said, put a face in a personal brand to that email.
Another thing is instead of just posting about your own accolades, commenting on other success, commenting to help other people, being an active community member versus just talking about your success. So, I agree that depending on the company, Google for instance, they’re probably going to care more about LinkedIn. But a consulting company, LinkedIn is still super important, but more on the networking side, building relationships. And once you apply then it’s how well can you interview, how well can you case and how well can you just fit into that personality test? So, I think it’s so important, like you said to have that robust LinkedIn to network. And I’m curious about the application process, I feel like it has gotten pushed up almost every year. I feel like a few years ago it was just for seniors full-time, then it was junior summer internships now, sophomores. And then I see freshmen are getting opportunities now.
So, I know McKinsey specifically has an opportunity for freshmen called FYLA or First Year Leadership Program. And curious from a recruiting standpoint, what could a freshman possibly have if it’s their first year in college, how can they shine above their other freshmen peers if they’re so early in their college career?
Erika: Yeah! So, I am so excited about what we call the Early Identification Program. So, our first year in sophomore internships and the academy. For first years, I think coming in with the mindset of, ‘I am interested in this space versus I need an internship or full-time job.’ You want to make sure that the firm that you are applying to is the right fit for you.
We’re not just interviewing you; you should be interviewing us too. Right? So, for first years you don’t need to have consulting experience. You don’t need to have a private internship. What you do need is strong academics. It can be from your first semester in college or it can be from high school. I think we want to take a holistic view when it comes to first years because we recognize that you’re making the transition from high school to college. So, we definitely look for academics as a quality point. The second piece is, how active have you been on campus? We don’t expect you to be on the e-board or executive board of the consulting club at your school. We do expect you to express some interest in organizations that are aligned to your overall career interest.
So, if you happen to be a member of NSBE, if you’re an engineer or STEM or if you are part of your campus consulting club or any other opportunities like that, we expect to see you for first years. We do look at high school. So, we expect to see you’ve had some leadership role, whether you’ve been a student athlete or you’ve been working your way through high school, I think is a telling point. And to summarize here, it’s just more so for first years we want to see that you’re doing well in school, right? Education is an investment. So, you’re making sure you’re spending your time in the best way possible academically. But then what’s your grit? How are you persevering through the challenges? Making the jump from high school to college is not an easy one, although many people do it, but it’s challenging. What are some of the things that you’re doing to express interest or define your passion, your path, right?
And applying to one of the programs, like the First Year Leadership Academy is impressive and definitely something that I encourage first years to do. So, that’s kind of how we look at the first-year programs and first year talent overall. But we just want to see that you’re excited about something, that you are doing well academically and you’re open to opportunities and learning
So, many of our audience knows McKinsey is a very prestigious firm. What do you have to say to candidates who are applying to McKinsey or other respective firms specifically for the prestige or for the strong starting salaries?
Erika: You have to look outside of the givens of a role, right? You’re going to get paid well, you’re going to have access to the amazing networks that exist at these firms, you’re going to have amazing exit opportunities, you can get that anywhere. You want to look for the differences between the firms. You want to do some internal digging as to why those things are important to you aside from basic needs, right? But coming out of college, you’re going to get a job or something that you can pay your bills hopefully. Right?
So, I would expect out of the equation, especially if you are looking at MBB, you’re going to be paid competitively well. So, what you want to align on is the type of people that you want to work with, the networks of the firm. McKinsey has, I like to say, hands everywhere, right? You’re going to have the support no matter what your exit strategy is. Encouraging candidates to focus on now is that long term view. What does it look like to make a partner? What does it look like to be an EM? What are those unique opportunities at each firm that allow you to explore as much as possible? So, for people who are just looking to get their name on the resume, use it as a launching pad, that’s fine and dandy. But consulting is not an easy job, it is very rigorous, you’re going to be spending hours on clients, we’re traveling.
So, you want to make sure that yeah, the prestige comes with it, but you’re actually doing the things that you’re passionate about and with the people that you want to do it with. So, for candidates that are riding the prestige wave, totally fine but do some internal digging to really figure out where your passions are. If you know just having the McKinsey, Bain, BCG name on your resume is going to satisfy you in the long term or is it going to be the relationships, the connectivity that you have with a new term, the experiences that you’ve had with the new term. All the other stuff will come. You just really need to do the internal digging.
From afar, I feel like whether it’s McKinsey, Bain, BCG or the big four or the boutique strategy firms, I mean, there’s a ton of consulting firms and from afar they all look for the most part pretty similar. They pay well, you get the opportunity to travel, maybe post covid you get to travel, you get to work on cool client work. So, I guess in your own words, what do you want to hear for the McKinsey question or maybe what do you think really differentiates McKinsey from the other companies?
Erika: Yeah. You know, I have not worked for the other firms. I did internships in big four with Deloitte and Ernst and Young so I can speak to some differences there but I’ll focus on McKinsey and I’ll kind of tailor this to diversity as well. So, I identify as a black woman, I’m a millennial, I went to an HBC. I went to Delaware State University, an HBCU and coming to McKinsey was scary, right? I heard all the myths. I heard they only hire people from Ivy Leagues. They don’t hire from HBCUs. It’s a cutthroat environment, but they are experts in what they do and they are prestigious and I wanted to do diversity recruiting for a firm that I felt comfortable doing it with, that I felt could really benefit from my expertise and my knowledge in diversity recruiting.
And as I met people from McKinsey, all those myths started to fall away. I was like, ‘These are some of the smartest, most humble people I’ve ever met.’ I call the consultants unicorns because no two people are alike at the firm. They are very different and they are humble. There are some things that I don’t learn about in my consultant colleagues until I’ve sat down and had an hour of coffee chat with them. they used to be an Olympian or they did research in food science or some other interesting things, but they are human. And that’s kind of what struck me with McKinsey, that so many people say things about the firm and have these ideas about who we are as a professional organization, but you really have to spend the time to get to know McKinsey individually.
When I joined the firm, in my first week or so, I was in a decision meeting for interviews with partners and senior partners and these are folks who have 10 plus, 20 plus years’ experience at the firm and they asked me my opinion. I only had like a week’s experience at the firm, they asked me my opinion on the subject and they just stared at me and it was welcoming like, ‘Yes, we want to hear from you because you’re here in this room for a reason.’ That was the first time in my career and all of the roles that I’ve had, where I felt like I was truly valued and it didn’t matter the color of my skin, how I identified, or where I went to school. It was hard enough to get to McKinsey that everyone trusted, ‘Okay. You’re here for a reason.
You have expertise, you have knowledge, you have capability to do what needs to be done and we want to hear from you.’ And that just wiped away everything for me. And that’s why I’ve been here for so long doing this type of work. Like I said earlier, diversity recruiting is a very popular role. I could be doing this for any firm, right? But McKinsey, what the firm has shown me in terms of commitment to diversity, commitment to equity has been far above my personal dreams for what a firm should be doing in the space.
Such a good answer for kind of why McKinsey. I agree that I think from afar a lot of companies get branded, right? They get these stereotypes of the culture, the people, the work, the work-life balance, but you really won’t know until you either work there or you speak to people, right? And if I were to have an idea of what McKinsey is versus speaking to you, I think now it’s a totally different thing than what I thought of. So, I think that just shows the importance of networking, talking to people, right? It’s a two-way street. It’s not just you interviewing us, but we’re interviewing you and seeing the 5, 10 people you speak to at the company who you really vibe with the most, who you would want to work with, things like that. So, I agree the importance of networking, of getting a better idea of the culture is so important.
Let’s step out of the ring and talk about Career Coaching Companies. With all the valuable advice that you just heard from our wonderful guest, let’s take action on that advice with one-on-one live tailored coaching from recent grads who now work at the same companies that you’re applying to. Schedule your free strategy call today by going to careercoachingcompany.com. Now, back to the ring.
And you said something in your answer that you, almost from day one, were put into those rooms with the decision makers, with the partners, talking about interviews. One of the main things we try to do in the show is pull back the curtain of recruiting and allow the candidate to almost enter that room like a fly on the wall and understand what really goes on behind the scenes. So, can you maybe put us in your shoes in that room and what really happens behind the scenes with those partners in the interview process? Is it a PowerPoint slide deck presentation of someone’s picture on the wall with their resume or is it a verbal conversation? What happens behind the scenes?
Erika: Yes! This is a great question and I’ll share what I am able to. Just for our listeners, you’re not being compared to anyone else that you interview with that day. No one else. You are being compared to your best self. What you present forward. If you interview with McKinsey, we want to give you an offer from the moment that we send you the email that, “Hey, you’re invited to interview,” that signals to us, ‘Hey, we have an offer waiting for you.’ You just have to put in the work to be your best self. So, in that interview, in that decision meeting, it is going to be the people that you had a conversation with.
So, your assessors and inclusion advisor because that’s important to us from a diversity stand point in this person, make sure that we are removing any bias and we’re talking about the right things that we’re assessing for and then the actual office recruiter or whoever that recruiter is for the day. We’re just making a decision on whether you present your best self? Where was your performance on both the personal experience interview and the problem-solving aspect of the interview? Where was your performance ranked to the bar, the McKinsey bar? And everyone is evaluated based on the McKinsey bar in their performance. So, from a candidate’s perspective, you’re never compared to anyone else in that room. It is solely based on you. So, it’s your opportunity to shine in your interviews, to do your best to connect with the assessor. It really showed that this offer is yours because it’s just waiting for you on the other side, you just have to prove it.
Devon: So, you mentioned this McKinsey bar and that is something that a lot of my peers talk about often and I’m wondering does this bar change for the firm or does this bar change for the office that you are applying to? For instance, if you’re applying to the New York office, is the bar slightly higher as opposed to applying to the McKinsey Colorado office?
Erika: Good question. And I get this all the time in my office, our chats, is it harder to get into New York that it is to get into Charlotte? No, there is one McKinsey and there is one bar and you’ll see this across our roles as well, especially on the consultant side. I’ll just the office locations and I’ll give you all a bonus on the roles. So, it’s the same bar to get into a US based office, a Canadian based office, any of our global offices. The bar is the same at McKinsey. The bar is the same across roles as well. I know I talked about our first-year programs. First years go through this interview or assessment process as an MBA, as an advanced degree, as a professional candidate as an experienced hire.
So, someone with at least five years’ work experience and a two-year MBA from say HBS is going through the same process as a first year who just graduated from high school, maybe has one semester of college under their belt or two. So, the bar is the same across the general consulting roles as well as the offices and I’m really proud to say that for McKinsey because it helps to remove so much space for bias. There’s a lot of space for bias when you have the bar shifting because then you don’t have a defined goal for what success looks like. McKinsey would want to make that very clear for candidates that success looks the same to get into McKinsey at office level, at role level, on the generalist consulting side. So, hopefully that is good news for too many of our listeners today.
So, to put this maybe misconception to bed, if I’m a candidate and I’m applying for McKinsey and I have that option where I think you list your top three location preferences and I think everyone says maybe my dream is to work in New York, but I know it’s competitive versus I’ll apply to a location that fewer people live in, there’s fewer people looking at, can we agree on the fact that every location is essentially the same amount of competition and do what kind of client work you want to be around?
Erika: Yes. I would say so for the client work where you want to call home on the weekends, on your Friday evenings, think about office culture and that’s where the networking piece comes into play, getting to know the team at McKinsey. But the bar is the same across every office, those three office preferences that you list on your application are what you are personally solving for. I get so many questions from candidates on, ‘Which office should I apply for? I’ll go wherever McKinsey takes me,’ and I always push it back to say, “Where are you interested? This is your experience. This is where you’ll land.’ So, make sure you’re number one is your number one, you’re number two is your number two and you’re number three is your number three and go in with good intentions and that you’re going to get your first office preference.
Personal Experience Interview
Devon: As many students know, McKinsey has a difficult behavioral interview component called the PEI or the Personal Experience Interview. In my experiences, some of my peers tend to overemphasize preparation for the case interview and fail to adequately prepare for the PEI. What is one thing that makes a candidate stand out in this PEI and how can our listeners adequately prepare?
Erika: Yeah. So, Devon, I love this question because so many candidates think that you have to over index on the problem solving the case. That’s all we talk about mainly on the recruiting side, because we don’t give advice or guidance on the PEI because that’s where you get to shine as an individual and there’s not one consultant mold for doing that. I will share that both the PEI and the case interview weigh the same. So, if you only prepare for a case and you don’t give that time and dedication to the personal experience interview, it’s going to be a challenge to get an offer, vice versa.
So, I will state that, you know, PEI and case are equally important in the process of getting to offer. When it comes to PEI and how you can really stand out or really leave a great impression, I think oftentimes when we talk about ourselves, especially in group settings, we say we, right? This is what we did. This was the final result of our group project. You want to talk about I. You want to talk about yourself in the personal experience. You want to talk about your personal impact, your entrepreneurial drive, your influencing skills. McKinsey does a great job on our website of explaining what we’re looking for in that PEI. I mean, recently revamped it so there is a lot more transparency around the questions that we ask.
Those are actually the questions that we ask in the interview. So, we want you to be as prepared as possible but you want to think about the skills and experiences that you’ve had that relate to those three buckets: entrepreneurial drive, influencing and leadership. And talk about yourself, this is your time to shine. Anybody can case and casing can become robotic if you do many of them in your personal experience interview.
And I think that’s such great advice obviously because everyone talks about the case, the case, the case, market sizing, mental math and very few people talk about the behavioral side, right? The fit part, Why McKinsey? Erika, why your story? Why do you fit into the firm? So, I think that’s so crucial that it’s not 80/20 in terms of the importance of the case versus behavior but it’s 50/50 and both play a huge part because you can be the best caesar in the world but if you walk in, you aced the case but you can’t talk about yourself, that’s a big red flag, right?
So, I’m glad that we were able to talk about how it’s equal and not that there’s one big importance over the other. We’ve been talking a lot about advice, about insight. You’ve been sharing with our audience the knowledge that you’ve had over your recruiting time. But how about some of the biggest mistakes? Obviously, you received hundreds of thousands of applications for opportunities at McKinsey, you work with candidate’s day-to-day, what are some of the biggest mistakes that our listeners can make sure that they don’t fall into?
Erika: I’ll kind of walk you all through the candidate journey on what we see on the recruiting side. So, quite often it’s the cold email or LinkedIn outreach without the personal touch. Right? That says to me that if you reached out just because you found me under the McKinsey recruiter tag, but didn’t take the time to look at my LinkedIn or really find where we have a chance to connect, maybe you went to an HBCU or maybe you’re interested in diversity recruiting. If I just get the cold, “Hey, I’m interested in roles at McKinsey.” Okay. There are over 500.
So, that’s mistake number one: reaching out and not doing your research. And I think I heard this on one of the previous episodes, just being intentional and thoughtful in your outreach. I think when candidates reach out and have a clear ask, whether that be a question or, “Hey, I applied to this role. I just wanted to let you know,” that’s really helpful and that signals to the recruiter that you’re thoughtful, you’re intentional. The second piece is prep. So, when you’re invited to an interview, don’t wait until you’re notified of your interview to actually practice or to ask for help or to ask for a connection to a consultant.
You should be doing that well in advance of McKinsey interview deadlines, well in advance of your notification to interview and you want to build your network early and you want to make sure that it’s strong so that doesn’t mean building relationships with 10 plus consultants all spread over the US. That means identifying two consultants and your top two office preferences and building those relationships with them and then also your campus recruiter if you have one. And then the third thing when you get an offer, I think one of the mishaps that people make is not truly assessing the long-term benefits of taking an internship offer or taking a full-time role with McKinsey.
So, if you do get an offer for an internship, know that the offer is going to be offered to or convert it to a full time offer. So, you want to think, ‘If I accept this internship, where will I land full time? What do I want to do full time? Is this where I want to be full time? Do I have all of my questions asked because at the end of this internship, I know McKinsey is going to want me to be here.’ So, I want to make sure I get all of my questions answered as early as possible. I don’t think too many people do that and either make a decision not to join McKinsey and then we end up seeing them a year or two later and they’re having to go through the interview process again, which is brutal. So, it’s just like if you have it, do your due diligence and make the best decision for you. Don’t make it on the prestige of the firm, make it on the connections, the experiences that you’ve had in interviewing and think about your career long term not just one stop shop. So, I hope that’s helpful advice.
Devon: Erika, when you’re in between a few final candidates after you have reviewed their application and the interviews have concluded, how do you decide who will actually receive the offer specifically when you get down to two candidates and there’s only one offer?
Erika: Yeah. So, I can’t really talk about this in my previous roles because with McKinsey, if you are interviewing, the offer is waiting for you. So, again, you’re not compared to the other candidate. Again, if we interview you, the offer is just waiting. So, there’s never an instance where we are limited in that aspect. Where I was previously, how I made decisions in the past would often be the relationship aspect. How well will this person thrive in the organization? Was it easy to connect with them through the interview experience? Aside from the technicality of the interview, what were they like as a person? What were they like as an individual? Did I like them?
Could I see myself working with them? Could I see them being successful here and having the grit to get through the challenges especially early on? I worked for a nonprofit and working in nonprofit versus corporate is very, very different. So, I thought about unique personality challenges and things that made them stand out, experiences where there wasn’t a win in their situation but they learned from it and how did they communicate that through their interview? So, it goes back to the relationship because if you make it to the final round, it’s quite clear that you have the capability to do the job but where I was previously, it came down to are you able to do the job and then are you a personality fit here? And how did you show that through the interview? How did you truly stand out and make the connections through the interview process?
So, would you say the earlier rounds are based on competency for the job and the final round or the final interview is more so, ‘Do you fit into the firm, to the culture? Do people want to work with you?
Erika: Yes. And just to be clear, that’s not for McKinsey but for other firms that I’ve worked with, yes.
The Final Question
Awesome. Well, it’s been such an amazing time having you on the show, Erika. You’re such a wonderful guest with so much knowledge and I feel like Devon and I could spend the entire day going back and forth, asking you questions and picking your brain of such amazing recruitment and talent acquisition experience, but we want to be mindful of your time and we have one final question, I know you know this question because you said you listen to the show and the question is what is the best piece of advice that you can give to our audience to help them get past the final round interview and ultimately land the dream job?
Erika: I love this question and I loved all the previous responses that I’ve heard in earlier episodes because it’ll be similar but be your best, know that you are your best going through the process. I know impostor syndrome is a real thing, but if you are interviewing, the company wants you. If recruiters are interacting with you, they want you there, they want you to be a part of the community. At McKinsey, put your best foot forward and go through each experience knowing that you have what it takes. You are absolutely capable, strip away the, “I don’t have consulting experience. Will I be a good fit?” Think about what you do have, what you do bring to the table and leverage those skills to put yourself in a better light. So, that’s the advice that I have. Know that you absolutely are capable. Be confident through each experience, through each interaction. Be intentional, be thoughtful. And I think those things will help set you apart to get you to offer.
Such amazing words of advice. Thank you so much for being on the show, Erika. And Devon, any final last words?
Devon: Erika, you’re such an inspiration to me and the hundreds of other students from all across the country. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. And AJ, thank you so much for having me.
Erika: Recruiting is so brutal, especially now when it’s so competitive. So, I love that you are doing this and showing the light. This is great. I love what you all are doing and it’s the highlight of my Saturday. And I really enjoyed listening to the earlier podcast. They were a lot of fun.
Deron: It’s been such a pleasure.
My pleasure to both of you. Thank you so much.
Wow! Did you not love that episode? Who knew that if you are interviewing for a position at McKinsey & Company, there is an offer waiting for you and you’re competing with yourself, not others? If you didn’t get a chance to submit an interview question for today’s episode, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and message us your questions for the next episode. Thank you so much for your support. And be sure to hit that subscribe button and leave a review on Apple podcast. Until the next episode of the final round, keep fighting and I will see you in the ring.