I get a lot of people asking me if they should get in company X and how. One frequent target company is McKinsey. I also get many applicants willing to join EatFirst, which feels great, and I can also feel these questions in candidates minds.
I don't know the answer to any questions. But I can make an educated guess. Barring very technical skills, what companies are looking for is someone who is motivated like they are in the pursuit of a specific opportunity. Luckily, startups and established companies produce clear mission statements, and even write about their values. This is nice place to start!
Let’s take a look at McKinsey's core values.
- Adhere to the highest professional standards
- Improve our clients’ performance significantly
- Create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people
Pretty significant. So first you should question: am I this person? Professional, performance driven and exceptional. It is unworthy to try to game an interview and end up in a place you don't like. You'll be wasting your life. But maybe you think you are, or know you are; and well, trying never killed.
So, to increase the chances of being the one they pick, as you soul-search highlight your past achievements and struggles that reflect these qualities.
1. Adhere to highest professional standards.
Your audience should get the feeling that you are "unambiguously professional". The interviewers have to come out of this topic and say: this gal or guy has her own north and puts it into practice. Eg. Maybe once you went against one of your past boss's decision because that was the right thing to do.
There are a couple of mini-values that you can use to get guidance.
Adhere to the highest professional standards
- Put client interests ahead of the firm’s
- Observe high ethical standards
- Preserve client confidences
- Maintain an independent perspective
- Manage client and firm resources cost-effectively
Any time you feel like you practiced one or several of these, point it out. Sacrificing an immediate gain for yourself or those around you to fulfil the needs of a client is what you need to prove. And the Clients interests should be of its own clients, and so on and so forth until you get to the society, so there's plenty of overlap between Clients interests and Ethics, all the more reason to establish this link while you're being interviewed.
2. Improve your clients performance significantly.
This one is easier. Performance. You have to talk about you adding value through your resources including rationale, discussion, peers, experts and novelties.
Again, they provide ordered reflections of what performance means to them.
Improve our clients’ performance significantly
- Follow the top-management approach
- Use our global network to deliver the best of the firm to all clients
- Bring innovations in management practice to clients
- Build client capabilities to sustain improvement
- Build enduring relationships based on trust
Search your past life for these performance acts - with numbers - and present a couple. Be objective, and be ready to justify. More revenue, cost cutting, a relevant strategic project, all are great examples.
3. Create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people.
This one is not hard, but its hard to explain naturally. Why are you exceptional? When did you show - better yet when did you promote - the development of the best people?
Create an unrivalled environment for exceptional people
- Be nonhierarchical and inclusive
- Sustain a caring meritocracy
- Develop one another through apprenticeship and mentoring
- Uphold the obligation to dissent
- Govern ourselves as a “one firm” partnership
Again, be specific in those times where you put he development of an organization above all.
All in all, if you pass these messages across, you’re done. If you’re writing a cover letter, include at least one clear paragraph (or three short ones) about each of these. Then you can do a two line intro and a two line wrap up. If you’re going to an interview, you should also prepare for the method case. But nonetheless you should try to come across as a person with these values. In your answers, but also in you questions.