What You Should Know About McKinsey, BCG and Bain Before Applying

If you have ever had your eyes set on the Top 3 consulting firms (MBB), you have probably tried to research the differences between working at McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Bain & Company. It doesn’t matter if you are thinking about working there, or are currently working there – people will ask you why you would choose one over another, and it can be hard to articulate your reasons because these companies are just different flavours of the same taste.

Did you know?

Grammy winner John Legend was Management Consultant at BCG for 3 years before becoming a singer.

So, do you want to impress the next person who asks you about the difference between McKinsey, BCG, and Bain? (Maybe even your interviewer!) You just have to equip yourself with the solid facts, the small little differences between the companies from their recruitment process to your opportunities after exiting these firms.

Important Fact: MBB do share a lot in common: they all have headquarters in the United States, hire talent and find clients from a shared pool. They often compete at the same price point. Furthermore, the general business strategy and overall quality of work across industries and functional areas are similar. What truly differentiates one from the other is the culture at each of the firms – the values that they seek and the mindsets that you will cultivate at the company.


What to know about MBB’s Recruitment and Interview Process


How do I get recruited for MBB?

All three target fresh graduates and Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) holders from top tier universities. Recruitment timeline varies depending on each company, what degree you hold, as well as the region of your university. Refer to the company’s career site. See application deadlines for McKinseyBCG, Bain.

You may start applying for full time opportunities in your final year of undergraduate studies.

Tip: Boost your chances of landing a job interview (e.g. if you do not hold an undergraduate degree) by building a network of consultants who can make referrals for you. This could be something that our mentors can help!

What is the interviewer looking for?

You will need to be prepared for intense interviews including your fit at the company and case interviews. All 3 apply pressure to you to see different things as part of your problem solving ability and thought process:

For McKinsey: Portraying your personality and making a connection with your interviewer. Your performance on their Problem Solving Test (see example)

For BCG: Your intellectual curiousity when asking questions and creative thinking skills.

For Bain: Client-handling skills to understand the clients’ needs and how you respond to the interviewer’s coaching.

All 3 companies want to hear the wealth of experience that you hold, your ability to frame a business challenge, identify important issues during the discussion, drive the discussion, digesting facts and data along the way, making quantitative estimations and coming up with a strong business recommendation. Interviewers also sometimes test your ability to think creatively with brain teasers such as trick questions and riddles.

During an interview, you are typically given cases that the company are working on to experience how it is like to work there, take a look at case studies from McKinseyBCGBain that you can use as preparation materials.


What is it like to work for MBB?


Company culture: Professional, Structured, Formal, Long Client Relationships

Likely personalities you’ll meet at the company: Smart, Intelligent, Logic-orientated people

Career progression: Fresh recruits typically join as Business Analysts, possibly working up towards Junior Associate, Associate, Engagement Manager, Associate Principal and then Partner.

Sayings: “We believe we will successful if our clients are successful.”

(Photo credits: Philippe Ruault)


Company culture: Academic approach, Cooperative, Family Orientated, Intellectual

Likely personalities you’ll meet at the company: Thought Leaders, Creative, Brainy people

Career progression: Fresh recruits typically join as Associates, possibly working up towards Consultant, Project Leader, Principal then Partner.

Sayings: “If you don’t win people’s hearts, as well as minds, you don’t make real change happen.”

(Photo credits: Carr Design Group)


Company culture: Supportive, Camaraderie, Results Oriented, Innovative, Fun and Social (see ExperienceBain)

Likely personalities you’ll meet at the company: Sociable, Casual, Approachable people

Career progression: Fresh recruits typically join as Associate Consultants, possibly working up towards Senior Associate Consultant, Consultant, Case Team Leader, Principal and then Partner.

Sayings: “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.”

(Photo credits: Business Insider)


Famous Alumni


Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook





Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of iflix Malaysia






John Legend, singer and songwriter


Mitt Romney, Politician and former CEO of Bain








 Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard


What happens after you exit the company?

Most MBB alums are recruited into CEO, VP or other leadership positions. The firm’s alumni network is a strong indicator of good exit opportunities based on connections to people at external companies. McKinsey is well-reputable globally and has a wide alum network across industry sectors, while BCG also has a good alum network with various activities to connect with alums. Bain is known to foster strong alumni relationships even though the network is smaller.

All in all, your personality may align with one of the MBB companies better than the others. When it comes to making a choice, you should make an informed decision that fulfil as many of your wants as possible.


Wish to practice case studies alongside a mentor? Connect with our consultants who can prepare you for the interview.


Disclaimer: This article is based on our research using corporate sources as well as information shared by online communities. The accuracy of information is not guaranteed for every region in the world, and some variance may apply between countries and offices of the same company.