McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, collectively referred to as MBB, are widely recognized as the top management consultancy firms in the world. Each has well-established operations in Canada.
In this article, we answer some of the top-of-mind questions for potential candidates. Questions like:
- What kind of candidates are recruited by McKinsey, BCG, or Bain in Canada?
- Which undergrad schools give you the highest chances of getting into McKinsey, BCG, or Bain in Canada?
- Is an MBA a good route to management consulting in Canada?
- Is there an entry path to McKinsey, BCG, or Bain in Canada from other industries?
The insights in this article come from a detailed analysis of over 300 individuals hired by McKinsey, BCG, and Bain for their client-facing consulting roles in Canada from 2020 to mid-2022.
- Hiring by McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada comprises 43% pre-experience students, 33% experienced professionals, 21% MBAs, and 3% advanced degree hires.
- McKinsey in Canada achieved hiring gender parity, hiring more women (51% of total hires) than BCG (45%) and Bain (37%).
- Majority of Bain’s hires were pre-experience students (63% of the total compared with 47% for BCG and 34% for McKinsey).
- Close to 70% of pre-experience student hires come from four schools: Western University (25%), Queen’s University (18%), McGill University (15%), and the University of Toronto (11%).
- Canadian MBA programs provide the majority of MBB’s MBA hiring in Canada.
- Four business schools contributed over 60% of MBA hires: Rotman School of Management (30%), Ivey Business School (14%), INSEAD (9%), and London Business School (8%).
- If you did not study at a target Canadian undergrad or masters program, and you would like to break into a MBB in Canada, an MBA is your best route.
The main sources of candidates for top consulting firms in Canada
MBBs hiring in Canada mirrors the UK and the US
MBBs offices in Canada overall have similar recruitment channel outcomes as the UK and the US. The only real point of differentiation is that MBBs in the US hire more MBAs. In Canada, 43% of hires are pre-experience students, experienced professionals make up 33% of hires, MBA hires constitute 21% of the total, and advanced degree candidates only make up 3% of hires.
To understand these categories better, here are quick definitions:
- Pre-experience students (bachelor’s degree or a non-MBA master’s degree) are hired out of school or shortly after. They typically have no more than two years of experience and are hired into entry-level roles, i.e., Business Analysts at McKinsey, Associates at BCG, and Associate Consultants at Bain.
- MBA hires are graduates of a one- or two-year MBA program. They typically have work experience before their MBAs and are hired into post-MBA roles, i.e., Associates at McKinsey, or Consultants at BCG and Bain.
- Experienced hires are from other employers and typically have two to eight years of experience. Those with less are hired at pre-MBA roles, i.e., Senior Business Analysts at McKinsey, 2nd year Associate Consultants at Bain, and Senior Associates at BCG. Those with significant experience are hired into post-MBA roles, i.e., Associates at McKinsey, or Consultants at BCG and Bain.
- Advanced degree hires are hired during or soon (not more than two years) after their Ph.D. or medical school programs. In Canada, they’re typically hired into post-MBA roles, i.e., Associates at McKinsey, or Consultants at BCG and Bain.
McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada each have a different mix of hiring channels
While the overall hiring stats for Canada mirrors the UK and US closely, within Canada, each of the three firms has different hiring proportions by channel. We will provide further detail on each of these channels in the following subheadings.
McKinsey and BCG hire significantly more than Bain
McKinsey hired the most consultants between Q1 2020 and Q2 2022, close to 30% more than BCG. The hiring of both firms, however, far outstrips that of Bain. McKinsey hired close to three times as many consultants as Bain, and BCG hired more than twice as many consultants as Bain.
McKinsey in Canada hired more women than men
Overall recruitment patterns indicate relative gender parity, though they slightly favor male hiring, with women accounting for 47% of all hires by the three firms. The gender parity observed, however, is not evenly distributed across channels and firms.
51% of McKinsey’s hires were women, indicating clear gender parity in hiring. Only 37% of Bain’s hires were women, however, and BCG is right down in the middle, with 45% female hires. MBA hires are predominantly male (61% of MBA hires), compared with 52% male hires or less for other channels.
McKinsey, BCG, and Bain’s pre-experience students hiring in Canada
Pre-experience students made up 43% of total hires by McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada from Q1 2020 to Q2 2022. This means that hires from a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree program (excluding MBAs) made up the largest recruitment channel into entry-level roles at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada.
This proportion is not evenly split across the firms. 63% of Bain’s hires are pre-experience students, compared with 47% for BCG, and 34% for McKinsey. Because McKinsey and BCG hire about three times and two times as many consultants as Bain respectively, however, this nominally still translates to McKinsey and BCG having more pre-experience student hires.
Very few students schooled outside of Canada made it to Canadian MBB offices. Only 7% of pre-experience hires came from schools outside of Canada, and those who did primarily graduated from well-known institutions, such as Harvard, Columbia, and Duke in the US as we will see in the next subheading.
Where did Canada MBBs pre-experience students go to school?
More than 90% of pre-experience student hires into McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada come from only eleven schools! Of these, four produced close to 70% of hires:
- Western University (25%)
- Queen’s University (18%)
- McGill University (15%)
- The University of Toronto (11%)
The next 25% of hires came from ten schools. The top 7 are the University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Calgary, HEC Montreal, University of Ottawa, and York University, each contributing between 2 – 5% of pre-experience students. The other three contribute <1% each. The final 9% of pre-experience students are a mix of students from 3 Canadian universities and 7 international universities, primarily based in the US.
Out of the top-3 firms, McKinsey appears to be the most open to a variety of schools. 14% of their pre-experience student hires originated from the long tail of school (vs 7% for BCG and 3% for Bain).
What did they study?
Of the pre-experience students hired into McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada, 51% studied either commerce, business administration, economics, or accounting. 18% studied engineering. The 31% remaining studied a variety of disciplines.
Unlike in European offices, e.g., France, a master’s degree doesn’t seem to give a distinct edge. Pre-experience students with a master’s degree made up only 12% of pre-experience students, compared with 88% without.
McKinsey, BCG, and Bain’s Experienced Professionals Hiring in Canada
Experienced hires, those who typically have two to eight years of professional experience, were the second largest recruitment channel for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada from Q1 2020 to Q2 2022, making up ~34% of all hires by these three firms.
At Mckinsey and BCG, experienced hires made up around ~37% of their total hires. However, this number was significantly lower at Bain, only 13% of all hires were experienced professionals.
Experienced hires joined top firms at different levels:
- 40% of experienced hires were recruited into pre-MBA roles (i.e., Business Analysts at McKinsey, Associate, and Senior Associate Consultants at Bain, and Senior Associates at BCG.
- 60% of experienced hires were recruited into post-MBA roles. These are primarily Associates at McKinsey, Consultants at BCG and Bain. Candidates with team leadership experience at other consulting firms sometimes join at a more senior level, but will typically experience a small step back compared to their seniority at their initial firm.
Which industries did Canada MBB’s experienced hires come from?
Two industries stood out as feeders into MBB in Canada: consulting and finance.
Almost 40% of experienced hires came from other consulting firms. These include other strategy consulting firms (e.g., Roland Berger, L.E.K, Oliver Wyman), Big-4’s strategy teams (e.g., Strategy& at PwC, Monitor Deloitte, EY-Parthenon), and Accenture.
The finance industry contributed about 12% of experienced hires, and the remaining ~49% came from a wide range of unrelated industries, ranging from Tech, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, and Public Sector (e.g., education, armed forces).
As mentioned, Mckinsey & BCG recruited the most experienced hires. This may be a decision based on the need for candidates ready to be operational from day one — something best suited for experienced hires with a consulting background.
Where did MBB’s experienced hires go to school?
MBB’s experienced hires went to a more diverse set of undergrad and non-MBA master’s programs than pre-experience student hires. The 11 schools that produced more than 90% of pre-experience student hires contribute just over 60% of experienced professionals’ undergrad and non-MBA master’s schooling. The remaining 30% of hires went to over 30 schools.
This channel is also more open to those with international undergrad degrees as they made up 17% of the total compared with only 7% for pre-experience students. International undergrads from a wide variety of countries are represented, including the US, UK, Singapore, South Africa, etc.
McKinsey, BCG, and Bain’s MBA hiring in Canada
As with McKinsey, BCG, and, Bain in the UK, 1 in 5 MBB hires in Canada came from an MBA program. By firm, this stat breaks down differently – 1 in 4 hires into McKinsey and Bain were MBA grads and 1 in 8 hires for BCG in Canada were MBA grads. The quickest conclusion to gather from this is that Mckinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada do not require MBA degrees from their potential hires.
As a reminder, MBA hires are graduates of a one- or two-year MBA program. They typically have had some work experience before their MBAs and are hired into post-MBA roles, i.e., Associates at McKinsey or Consultants at BCG and Bain.
For MBA hires, we will explore two questions in the following subheadings:
- Which business schools did they attend?
- Which undergrad schools did they attend?
Which business schools did Canada MBB MBA hires attend?
Canadian MBA programs contributed about 52% of all MBA hires, a clear show of strength from domestic business schools. American MBA programs made up ~26% of the total, while European MBA programs made up the rest (~23%).
Two Canadian MBA programs stand out – Rotman School of Management produced 30% of all MBA hires, and Ivey produced 14%. The remaining 5 Canadian MBA programs contributed less than 3% each to the total. Among the US MBA programs, MIT, Wharton, and Booth all contributed 5% each to the total. The remaining 6 US MBA programs contributed less than 3% each to the total.
INSEAD and LBS stand out among the European MBA programs, contributing 9% and 8% of the total respectively. The remaining 3 European MBA programs contributed less than 3% each to the total.
Which undergraduate schools did Canada MBB MBA hires attend?
Canadian MBA hiring shows the highest levels of diversity among all channels. Candidates from international undergrad programs made up 35% of all MBA hires by McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada.
Even for those that studied in Canada, the 11 schools that produced more than 90% of pre-experience student hires contribute just around 53% of MBAs’ undergrad and non-MBA master’s schooling. The remaining 12% of hires came from other Canadian schools.
Thus, if you did not study (at Bachelor or Masters level) at a target Canadian undergrad/master’s program, and you would like to break into MBB in Canada, an MBA (ideally at Rotman, Ivey, or a top-ranked European/US MBA program) is your best route.
Advanced Degree hiring in Canada
Advanced degrees were the smallest proportion of hires for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada, making up just 3% of total hiring.
The few advanced degree hires mostly came from Canadian schools, including the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, Western University, and McGill University. Advanced degree hires had degrees in chemistry, astrophysics, psychology, and pharmacology.
What’s next if you’d like to get into McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada
Looking to join McKinsey, BCG, or Bain in Canada? CaseCoach has resources to guide you all the way from your resume crafting stage to your final interviews.
Our Free Resume Course provides resume and cover letter templates and specialized advice for students, MBAs, and experienced professionals.
The Interview Prep Course contains all the material you need to ace your case and fit interview, including interview videos of candidates who joined top consulting firms in Canada.
CaseCoach’s team of coaches includes former consultants and interviewers with McKinsey, BCG, and Bain in Canada. They are available to deliver case and fit interview coaching and mock interviews in a realistic setting to put your preparation to the test, providing the personal feedback and practical advice needed to ace your interviews.