• Role: Business Analyst
  • Location: London
  • University: Bristol
  • Degree: MEng Aeronautical Engineering
  • Organisation: McKinsey & Company

Tom Putnam

What does McKinsey do?

As a management consultancy McKinsey acts as advisers to some of the largest companies in the world. We help them solve their toughest business problems e.g. whether to enter new markets, how to implement change and redefine strategies are a few examples.

How did you get your job at McKinsey?

As I neared the end of my final year at university I was still unsure what I wanted to do afterwards. I knew I didn’t want to stay in engineering, I was not excited by banking but I did think consulting looked interesting. McKinsey looks for strong leadership potential in its consultants and I think my time spent with the OTC (Army Officers’ Training Corps) at university equipped me with this and therefore helped me through the interview process.

How do you find the interview process?

The process has three stages after the initial CV screen. Initially there is an one hour problem solving test which is then followed by two interview rounds. The interviewers were always helpful and friendly and I never felt as if they were trying to catch me out, they were constantly helping me do the best I could in the interview.

The interviews involve a mix of competency based questions and a short case to work through. Coaching and training is made readily available beforehand which I found really useful preparation.

What would you say a typical day might include?

Rarely are any two days the same but a ‘typical’ day would probably involve a plane or train to the nearest McKinsey office or to the client you are serving, conducting several interviews or meetings with the client, a couple of hours of data analysis followed by a problem solving session with your team. As a result of this meeting there might be a presentation to prepare for a very tight deadline and then the day will typically either end with a team social or the chance to get some much needed sleep.

What do you enjoy and find stressful about your job?

Above all it has to be the people. There are some incredibly interesting, smart and fun people at McKinsey. I also enjoy the opportunity to change teams every couple of months or so which means you are always meeting and working with new colleagues.

In addition, often the clients you are working with are senior in their company so from very early on you have increased responsibility and full exposure to all levels of management within an organisation.

McKinsey only tends to be brought in when there is a complex problem to solve and often on a tight timescale so there is always pressure to deliver to a high standard in a short space of time.

I am constantly facing challenges and I haven’t stopped learning since my first day. However, there is lots of support on offer at McKinsey and a great culture of coaching so help is always at hand.

How do you see your role changing in the future?

At some point I’d love to start my own business, I think it would be hugely rewarding and I love the idea of being in charge of myself. I couldn’t think of a better place than McKinsey to equip me with all the tools and business expertise I would need. Now all I need is a bright idea!

What advice do you have for any recent graduates?

Firstly I would find out as much as you can about the industry to be sure it is something you want to enter and to give yourself the best chance at succeeding. Consulting is undeniably a competitive field and they are looking for people with outstanding characteristics such as leadership, drive, entrepreneurship, as well as having strong academics. Interpersonal skills are also vital in this profession as is showing ambition and the determination to succeed.

Practice consulting case studies, brush up on mental arithmetic and know your CV well to be able to answer competently. Also don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from your interviewer if you get stuck – they really are there to help you through it.

Soft skills are equally essential to have as analytical ones in consulting. We work so closely alongside the client it is important to be able to build relationships quickly and work compatibly with others. Teamwork is also essential as we work together on small teams so it is essential to ‘be a team player’ in all respects.

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