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Mckinsey specialists

#1 Mckinsey specialists
24/01/2012 22:54


Does anyone have any experience of entering mckinsey as a specialist or expert? I understand that specialists are all experienced hires but how senior is an entry level 'specialist' in the oversall food chain at mckinsey? What about an entry level 'expert'. What are the prospects for making partner? Any thoughts would be warmly appreciated.

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#2 RE: Mckinsey specialists
24/01/2012 23:59

larryconsultant to larryconsultant (#1)

Does anyone have any experience of entering mckinsey as a specialist or expert? I understand that specialists are all experienced hires but how senior is an entry level 'specialist' in the oversall food chain at mckinsey? What about an entry level 'expert'. What are the prospects for making partner? Any thoughts would be warmly appreciated.

Further to my question, do specialists typically have opportunities to undertake any work on areas outside their particular expertise if they so wish? Thanks again!

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#3 RE: Mckinsey specialists
25/01/2012 10:48

Tony Restell ( to larryconsultant (#2)

I don't have the insights to comment specifically on McKinsey, but can certainly tackle this one from the perspective of top-tier strategy firms in general. Once you are beyond the senior consultant (ie. several years' experience) grade in any strategy consultancy, it is the norm for you to specialise by sector and / or by function. This applies equally to someone who started out as a generalist from university and worked their way up... and to someone hired in externally as an experienced hire specialist.

This is essentially a function of market demand. Above a certain day rate / seniority level, clients will expect consultants to be experts in a particular area rather than generalists.

Your prospects for making Partner will hinge on the degree to which you can carve yourself out a network and perceived expertise in an area where you are able to generate considerable sales of consulting assignments. Hence being a Partner more or less always goes hand in hand with being an expert in something - and usually being very successful at selling, though I believe McKinsey do have a track for those who aren't strong salespeople.

Last but not least, on your question about whether you'll be able to work outside the specialist area you've been pigeon-holed into, to a degree this will be possible. In any firm it's inevitable that situations will arise where - when you come to the end of a project in your specialist area - there are no projects kicking off in that particular sector. Given that utilisation (remaining on billable projects) is all important to firms' profitability levels, in such situations you'll be able to get yourself staffed on projects outside your usual specialist area and so keep some variety in your work. You're likely to be being hired predominantly to be an expert on a particular area though, so I think it would be wrong to go in with the expectation that you'll be staffed like a fresh university graduate generalist on all sorts of varied industries and project types. Once you're a specialist you're predominantly a specialist.

Hope this helps - and if anyone can specifically comment on McKinsey then please do add your thoughts...

Tony Restell

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#4 RE: Mckinsey specialists
26/01/2012 12:31

larryconsultant to Tony Restell ( (#3)


Many thanks for the detailed and extremely helpful response. Further to your comments about there being a degree of opportunity to work on areas outside my main specialism, presumably if I have secondary area of expertise, albeit less developed than my main one, it is quite likely I would get the occasional project in this area if I express an interest?

Thanks again.

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#5 RE: Mckinsey specialists
26/01/2012 17:24

marsday to larryconsultant (#4)

not sure entirely how accurate this is, but years ago someone told me (in a position to know) that expert track at McKinsey was separate from Partner track i.e. strong consultants were put on expert track if they were not going to reach partner or didnt want to get there.

I stand to be corrected this correct?

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#6 RE: Mckinsey specialists
26/01/2012 18:28

george to marsday (#5)

Hello larryconsultant,

I am a consultant at McKinsey and I have to say that marsaday is right (as usual).

What Tony mentioned might refer to other firms, but in McKinsey “experts” are a function, not a reference to one’s knowledge or skill level.

Expert track at McKinsey is different from Partner track. Experts often come from industry, although, from time to time, they are former consultants who like to specialize in a particular area (and also have a better lifestyle). But as marsaday said, they are guys who could not or did not want to make it to partner.

In general, experts are not part of “consulting teams”. They provide input and assistance to a number of different teams (often remote assistance) and, although not common, they can also help in projects that are too specific or where particular knowledge is required.

I think in McKinsey experts can only be “real experts” in one area (although these are broadly defined, e.g. consumer goods) so I don’t think you will be able to work in other areas.

I cannot comment specifically on exit options. Although I am sure they are very well regarded in the market, experts are not consultants, so do take that into account.

I am sure if you reach someone at recruiting they will be able to assist and give you more information.



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#7 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 08:45

baykus to george (#6)

What george said, except I'd disagree with the undertone about it being for people who couldn't make it.

I guess those people must be a % of the expert group, but all the experts I've worked with so far have been there because they wanted to develop deep knowledge (and have a better lifestyle), not because they couldn't hack it as regular consultants.

My concern if I were going to join would be over whether I'm going to be a second class citizen, and in my experience that's completely untrue - noone cares whether you're a consultant or expert as long as you do your job, and experts are few in numbers but well regarded.

Finally, I'll note that people can switch to the partner track from expert, but it's rare and I wouldn't bank on it if making it to partner is what you really want.

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#8 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 10:01

marsday to baykus (#7)

when we are saying expert track is for those who wouldnt/couldnt make partner I dont think the inference is that expert track is for failed consultants. when i made reference to couldnt make partner I was referring more to not wanting to invest the time/absolute commitment needed to make partner, not willing or being interested in the sales process (skills you would need to start developing by EM level at the lastest), or simply not willing to marry the firm. Partner level at McKinsey (or any MC) calls for an absolute commitment without compromises, and thats what I was referring to - some (the majority actually) simply cannot make that investment.

on exit options - SMEs are valued everywhere. Who says Partner is the be all and end all anyway? and lets me honest - Expert at McKinsey clearly stamps content authority on your CV.

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#9 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 10:22

george to baykus (#7)


I didn't imply that former consultants who become experts do so because they were not good enough to be regular consultants.

I think marsday explain this quite well, so I don't have much to add. But I just wanted to clarify that. I have a lot of respect for experts and in no way I feel they are second class citizens. I only wanted to make the point that they are not regular consultants.


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#10 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 11:51

Tony Restell ( to george (#9)

Appreciate all the input on this subject, I've certainly learnt a few things from those with visibility inside the firm. Thanks!

Tony Restell

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#11 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 16:45

baykus to george (#9)

george, marsaday - thanks for the clarification, I read more into it than there was clearly. your points are bang on.

It's important that the pros/cons of expert track are clear to anyone thinking of joining - although I'd think HR would be quite clear if asked!

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#12 RE: Mckinsey specialists
27/01/2012 23:51

larryconsultant to baykus (#11)

Thanks so much to you all for the really helpful information - much appreciated!

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#13 RE: Mckinsey specialists
06/02/2012 15:34

DR79 to george (#6)

Hi George,

To what general level does the Specialist and Expert roles compare to in terms of salary, benefits and responsibility etc? Associate level or Manager perhaps?

Thanks, DR

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#14 RE: Mckinsey specialists
06/02/2012 18:05

george to DR79 (#13)

Hi DR,

In terms of salary/benefits, my educated guess is that Junior Experts would probably compare to Junior Associates, Experts to Associates/EM and Senior Experts would probably make as much as Associate Principals. However, I don't think that Experts have the same "strict" scale that consultants have.

To be honest, I only know for sure about a handful of cases, so I do not know exactly what the rule is, if there is one.

In terms of responsibility, I guess it depends, but all of them are asked to contribute to teams as well as knowledge creation within the Firm.



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#15 RE: Mckinsey specialists
16/02/2012 17:15

Camster to Tony Restell ( (#3)


I always wondered what it would be like for those who started out in industry? This is what I did. Ten years in TMT (telecom), then moving into consulting. B.Eng and M.Sc. degrees.

I find that the top tier firms reject my applications, but I get interviews and offers from firms "one level down", e.g. Oliver Wyman, PA, etc.

I do wonder if the MBB firms aren't particularly keen on experienced hired.

Any thoughts?

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#16 RE: Mckinsey specialists
19/02/2012 10:21

Anon66 to Camster (#15)

Probably worth noting that Booz also had similar career tracks a few years ago (not sure if this has changed):

Strategy - The "common" up-or out route which is the most common route to partner. Worse work-life balance with an emphasis on picking up managerial skills with some focus on particular industry areas

Expert - High level of functional/industry focus - often to the point of particular sub-topics within a particular industry. Emphasis is more on performance and deepening knowledge than progression to partner (partnership is still possible but will take longer)

Transformation - I know little about this as I knew nobody on this track and don't know if it had been scrapped/even ever existed

Obviously, anyone hoping to make partner should rationally apply to the Strategy track. However, the people applying to each track were very different in background, so applying to both was often not plausible (Strategy mainly MBAs and Undergrads; Expert varied but often highly academic or specialised backgrounds in industry)

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#17 RE: Mckinsey specialists
19/02/2012 23:51

saracen to Anon66 (#16)

Hi there, wondering whether there is a wireless communications specialist/expert stream at Mckinsey's?

Also, if they do, any information on whether it is technical or strategy/policy level work?

thanks in advance.

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#18 RE: Mckinsey specialists
09/03/2012 15:57

Camster to saracen (#17)

I don't know about McKinsey, but most firms will have a TMT or TIME practice, and 'wireless' will come under this.

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#19 RE: Mckinsey specialists
15/03/2012 03:32

Dani to george (#14)

Based on some initial conversations about roles at McKinsey my understanding is that

Specialist = Associate

Expert = EM

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#20 RE: Mckinsey specialists
26/04/2012 17:29

criterion to george (#6)

A few points on the earlier post (possibly 3 points...) Some of these apply to any strategy firm:

1 - There is a route to partner as an expert in McK. However typically this is only possible in some of the larger practices and is a function of the size of a partner group and also the potential of a client base to support an expert partner. For example an expert serving bank clients across multiple Western European offices is likely to have a solid partner case. An expert serving dairies across multiple counties in the South West is likely to struggle and a case less secure.

2 - Expert is not a position for a "failed" partner. There are no career associates at McK, and though many of the larger offices may have people who have very deep networks and client support and may stay for a long time but not as partners this is the exception. Some experts choose to enter the partner track and many are successful. Equally, as one of the posts made clear, an expert position is incredibly helpful in a post McK career. Also - a great strength of McK is to allow people to build their own experience, and not every one will, nor should, be a path to partner. It is for some, but by no means all. The degree of commitment is probably the decider, followed by client service.

3 - Understand there is a difference between what you need to be accepted at McK and what it takes to be successful at McK. Getting in is all about fitting in. Clearly there is an McK type. Fitting it is important. But getting on at McK is all about being distinctive. There is no shortage of very very clever, driven and impressive people at McK. Standing out is important - and being an expert is one way to do this (though not the only way and it will be some time before a managing partner comes up via an expert track)

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