McKinsey beats Google, Facebook for having the toughest interviews

The consulting firm placed number one in a ranking compiled by Glassdoor

Job candidates seeking employment at consulting firm McKinsey & Company better prepare themselves -- it ranked as the toughest company to interview at in a recent report, well ahead of big-name technology players like Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

McKinsey was bestowed the title of distinction for the third time in a row, as part of Glassdoor's third annual ranking of the "top 25 most difficult companies to interview," released Friday. Rounding out the top five, in order, were ThoughtWorks, a software design company; Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm; technology research company Gartner; and Bain & Company, the management consulting firm once led by Mitt Romney.

Google, which has a reputation for leading job candidates through a grueling interview process chock-full of brain-teaser questions with many numbers of managers, placed eighth on the list. Microsoft and Facebook were ranked 16th and 22nd, respectively.

The most represented industries in the ranking were technology, with 11 companies listed, and consulting, with four.

To explain the results, some of the common themes found by Glassdoor included multiple rounds of interviews; multiple levels of testing, from online tests to math tests to case study testing; and tough questions about algorithms, problem solving and data structures, Glassdoor spokeswoman MaryJo Fitzgerald said.

The ranking was culled from 170,000 interview reviews submitted to Glassdoor's site during the past 12 months. Companies needed to have reviews coming from at least 20 people -- rating both their interviews and the company as a whole -- to be considered for the list. Interview difficulty ratings were based on a 5-point scale, with 1 being "very easy" and 5 being "very difficult."

Both McKinsey and ThoughtWorks obtained an average difficulty rating of 3.9.

Job candidates could leave an interview review anonymously even if they were not hired.

McKinsey declined to comment on the results or explain its interviewing process.

The company's website, though, details two different types of interviews -- "experience" interviews and "case" interviews -- and also a problem-solving test that many candidates also complete. The case interviews use case studies of typical McKinsey business problems to assess how well candidates can think about and deal with complex issues.

One practice case study on the company's website, for instance, looks at strategic advice and evaluation of a pharmaceuticals acquisition.

Math tests during McKinsey's interviews, meanwhile, have been compared to the graduate management admission test or the GMAT, Glassdoor's Fitzgerald said.

The multi-layered approach to screening job candidates is not surprising, because common job titles at the consulting companies listed in the ranking can earn handsome base salaries, according to Glassdoor. For McKinsey, Glassdoor cites a starting salary of US$127,000.

Google could not be immediately reached for comment on the rankings. The company recently signaled that it was doing away with its infamous brain teaser questions, such as, "Why is a pothole cover round?" But it is not clear whether those changes were made before or after Glassdoor started compiling its reviews beginning in July 2012.

Google receives roughly 2 million applications a year for jobs and makes only between 5,000-7,000 hires.

Glassdoor's ranking also included the average length of the entire interview process for each of the companies listed. At 39 days, McKinsey's was long, but not nearly as long as some of the other top companies.

Teach for America, which ranked 13th overall, boasts the longest interview process, at 55 days. Also getting high marks here were Procter & Gamble, at 50 days, and aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce, at 46 days.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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