#1 McKinsey – an overview of the top four consulting firms 2008

APPLYING for a job as a consultant can be a difficult and daunting task. Consulting jobs are highly sought after and the competition is intense. The process of polishing your resume, writing applications and preparing for case interviews can be exhausting and time consuming. Over and above the time actually spent in interviews, each consulting firm you apply for will require hours of research and preparation. Before you set out along that long are arduous path, it is probably a good idea to know who the top consulting firms are and understand a little bit about them. This will help you to focus your effort.

In 2008, the Vault Guide ranked the top 50 most prestigious consulting firms in the world. I have provided an overview of the top four firms, ranked as follows

  1. McKinsey & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Booz Allen Hamilton

All of these firms have significant global operations and have a strong presence in Sydney. All the information here was obtained from the Vault Guide to the Top 50 Management and Strategy Consulting Firms, 2009 Edition (Vault Career Library), Wikipedia and the respective firm websites.

1. McKinsey & Company

Organisation type

Private company


New York, New York, USA

Key people

Ian Davis, Managing Director


7,500 consultants (13,000 employees) in 90 offices across 51 countries


$4.37 billion (2007, Forbes estimate).


To help clients make distinctive, lasting, and substantial improvements in their performance and to build a great firm that is able to attract, develop, excite, and retain exceptional people.

Operational structure

Although being a private company, McKinsey operates under a decentralised partnership structure.

McKinsey organises its business into six functional practices and 18 industry practices. Functional practices include business technology office, corporate finance, marketing and sales, operations, organisation and strategy.


McKinsey works internationally in a broad range of industries with large private sector institutions, governments and other non-profit institutions.


The core guiding principle at McKinsey & Company is professionalism.

Maintaining client confidence is very important. McKinsey does not trumpet the names of its clients or highlight its major engagements.

Career development is intensely feedback oriented.

McKinsey operates under a practice of “up or out,” in which consultants must advance in their consulting careers within a time frame, or else leave the company.

The firm has an endemic ‘long hours’ culture.

Consultants are often required to travel to work with a client in another city.


Periodicals: McKinsey Quarterly (published six times a year); McKinsey on IT; and McKinsey on Finance.

– The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise
– Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market–And How to Successfully Transform Them
– The War for Talent
– In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (Collins Business Essentials)

Brief history

1926 Firm founded in Chicago by Prof. James McKinsey

1933 Marvin Bower joined the firm in 1933 and served as managing director from 1950 to 1967. He is widely credited with being the founder of professional management consulting. Bower established many of McKinsey’s guiding principles.

1959 London office opens

1990 McKinsey Global Institute established

2001 The McKinsey Institute on the Non-profit Sector launched

2003 Shanghai office opens

Nota bene

Vault consulting firm rankings:

· Ranked most prestigious consulting firm in the world in 2008 for the last five years running; and

· Ranked best energy consulting and financial consulting firm in 2007.

The firm serves three of the world’s five largest companies and two-thirds of the Fortune 1000.

Jeff Skilling, the now disgraced ex-CEO of Enron, was a former McKinsey consultant. Enron received strategy advice from McKinsey.

Careers information

Associates and analysts with at least one year of McKinsey experience can apply to the firm’s Community Fellows program, working exclusively on non-profit projects for 6 to 9 months.

McKinsey places heavy emphasis on the use of the case interview in order to assess your capabilities and potential in four main areas.

1. Problem solving,

2. Achievement,

3. personal impact, and

4. leadership.