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Working for the Big Three: Careers in Management Consulting

14th August 2014 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

THE Big Three are the world's most prestigious management consulting firms. In the industry, they are also known as MBB, an acronym of the companies they comprise - McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Company (BCG) and Bain & Company. Originating in the United States, the companies are now major global players who advise many of the world's most influential corporations, governments and organisations. 

The workforces of the Bog Three are tiny compared with those of IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG. But their pre-eminent reputation and influence is generally accepted in management consulting circles. Here is a guide to the differences between them and how you can get a foot in the door.



McKinsey & Company is the oldest of the Big Three. Founded in Chicago in 1926, it has grown into a global partnership that works with 90 per cent of the world's 100 biggest corporations.

Its headquarters are now in New York, giving it a firm hold on the business pulse, and it has more than 100 offices in over 60 countries.

McKinsey looks for entrepreneurial problem-solvers with leadership skills and recruits people from diverse backgrounds. It was the first management consultancy to start hiring fresh graduates instead of experienced professionals and fewer than half its recruits are business majors.
Most consultants start as generalists and may have 
advanced degrees in science, medicine, engineering or law, though the company's recruits also include musicians, athletes and military veterans.

Most McKinsey offices worldwide offer paid internships, usually lasting 8-12 weeks during the summer. The programme is open to MBA students and undergraduates in the penultimate year of their degree and is designed to provide an insight into the day-to-day working life of a McKinsey consultant.

 As an intern, you will get to work as part of a McKinsey team on a client engagement. Upon completion, the individual office will decide whether to extend the internship, or offer a permanent position in the company. You can apply online via their website and some universities also handle applications via their careers offices. As the offices like to hire locally, you are more likely to get an internship in a city in which you have lived or studied. 




Boston Consulting Group has advised more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 list and is ranked third in Fortune's 100 best companies to work for 2014.

The company has fewer offices than McKinsey, (85 offices in 45 countries) but employs almost 7,000 people outside the United States compared with 2,500 inside the US where it is headquartered.

Like McKinsey, BCG is looking for applicants from diverse backgrounds and the potential for leadership. In the USA, undergraduates can apply via their university and post-graduates can apply online throughout the year to work in any office. In the rest of the world, the application process varies so applicants should check with their nearest office, but the primary recruiting season in many countries is from September to February.  Students can find times and dates of recruiting events by typing the name of their university or college into BCD's On Campus Calendar. Summer internships are often available for penultimate year students, and applications for 2015 will open in January. 

Specific interview processes vary. Typically, there are two rounds of case interviews, with three separate interviews in the first round and two additional ones in the second. Usually, interviews are divided into three parts: personal background, consideration of a case study, and an opportunity for the applicant to ask questions.  


Bain & Co's clients have outperformed the stock market four to one. The smallest of the Big Three, it nevertheless has 50 offices in 32 countries and has worked with 4,600 major corporations worldwide. 

Established in 1973 by 10 Boston Consulting Group employees, Bain & Co is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts �??and pitches itself as an energetic, sociable and nurturing company. New employees receive a mentor, a partner and informal coaching, as well as formal training and career goals. The company prides itself on its friendly, informal and supportive office atmosphere. 

Bain is looking for independent-thinking all-rounders with passion, leadership, problem-solving skills and the ability to deliver results.
Undergraduates, master's candidates, and applicants with fewer than three years of work experience typically join Bain as Associate Consultants or Associate Consultant Interns whose backgrounds can be anything from science to economics to literature.

Most of the offices offer internships to undergraduates who are about to start, or are in, their final year. The Johannesburg office currently only accepts students who are studying in a South African university, but other offices accept international students. Graduates, Masters or Advance Degree holders can apply directly for an Associate Consultant position in global offices, so long as they have not been out of education for more than three years. Applications for a 2015 start-date begin in September. Those who have been in work for more than three years should apply for  Experienced Professional (EP) roles, which are available all year round.

All applications should be submitted via JoinBain.com.    

Bain recruitment teams have visited more than 900 universities and colleges around the an doffer online campus-based resources for enrolled students at many institutions.

Students can search for on-campus recruitment events and information at their local university or college here

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