Top 50 Consulting Firms To Work For In 2023

McKinsey Black Network celebration


The oldest, the biggest, the most prestigious.

Think of a $13 billion dollar operation with 30,000 employees and 130 offices. Think of alumni like Jane Fraser, Pete Buttigieg, and James Collins. With McKinsey & Company, you picture traveling the globe: working on large-scale global projects with top companies in every industries – sitting alongside top executives, anonymously running high-profile efforts that make the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, “the firm” has grown legendary – carrying a mystique of influence and impact, hidden hands that have quietly molded history. In reality, McKinsey teams applied frameworks like the Pyramid and MECE principles to help their clients capitalize on trends and grow their organizations. These consultants endured steep learning curves at the start. They understood that they were never the smartest person in the room. Instead, they turned to their McKinsey peers, which boasted experts in every industry, function, and region. When their teammates would drift from their mission or started force-feeding solutions, they were unafraid to dissent too. In the process, McKinseyites didn’t just learn to parse and analyze data. They used it to tell stories, constantly communicating to ensure there were no surprises before methodically rolling out solutions.

“Independence, ruthless focus on impact, training and development at all levels, client relationships, privileged opportunity to work with clients on thorniest challenges” – that’s how one McKinsey consultant surveyed by Vault describes the firm culture.


McKinsey has been known as a feedback culture, constantly seeking improvement in pursuit of excellence. Question is, do they remain the world’s top consulting firm. Based on the Vault Consulting 50 data, the answer may be no – at least that’s what their consultants are saying.

This year, McKinsey slipped a spot to 3rd in the Vault ranking. Even more, the firm posted lower scores in every Quality of Work and Life dimension. The stat that really sticks out: McKinsey didn’t even rank among the Top 25 in Work-Life Balance, which carries a 10% weight in the Vault Consulting 50. While McKinsey is known for heavy workloads and intensive travel, one consultant surveyed noted that the firm is working to be more flexible.

“As I spent more time at the firm, I gained a lot of flexibility in terms of managing my quality of life. My teams practice smart and mindful travel cadence (mostly 3 days a week of traveling either to client or to co-locating at a McKinsey office) which also allows me to work from home ~2 days per week. Family comes first for me and so I am still able to give time to my children (be home for their school activities or just spend time with them during weekday evenings).”


Firm culture – 15% of the Vault ranking – is another area where McKinsey lagged behind its peers. Here, the firm finished 14th with a 9.256 average – nearly .60 of a point behind Bain & Company. At the same time, McKinsey finished 5th in Compensation – a full .50 of a point behind both Bain and BCG on a dimension worth a 10% weight. Historically, the firm has positioned itself as a meritocracy – a place in the words of one consultant where “I never feel nervous talking to senior leaders [and] everyone jumps in to help.” That meritocratic philosophy tends to filter into other areas such as compensation.

“Unlike competitor firms, performance and compensation is not based on financial metrics and targets. It is a holistic review that factors in how you build lasting client relationships, how you develop and inspire your teams and colleagues, how you are as an entrepreneur, and how you develop and become known for your expertise while living positive values.”

Another red flag: McKinsey ranked 8th in employee satisfaction, .45 of a point behind Bain. Despite the number, one consultant noted that McKinsey’s fundamentals have positioned it for long-term success. “As a private company with a very strong balance sheet, McKinsey is extremely well positioned in good economic cycles and in bad. It is also highly diversified across geographies and sectors with a strong longstanding client base. McKinsey approaches downturns with a through cycle mentality. McKinsey does not do staff layoffs, instead they go out and try to find the best talent available and make the best acquisitions.”


This same consultant adds that the firm isn’t afraid to put its principles ahead of its finances too.  “You can really see the difference in McKinsey’s culture by how they treat their people in challenging times. For example, McKinsey was the first firm to close their Russia office after the Ukraine invasion. They guaranteed employment and relocation for anyone who wanted to stay with McKinsey – even secretaries who had only been with the firm for a very short time. Consultants volunteered to help provide fun services for colleagues’ kids, help with housing, and more.”

Overall, McKinsey produced its highest scores in Benefits (9.708) and Selectivity (9.667). In both cases, it trailed behind both Bain and BCG. The same is true of Business Outlook, though one consultant surveyed by Vault pointed out that McKinsey is still working through a transition. Considering the firm’s track record, these results may just be a low point before prospects turn around

“The firm is doing a great job of constantly reinventing itself and innovating in areas of growth (for example digital and sustainability). It can be sometimes slower than first movers but tends to innovate in a thoughtful manner and has a strong track record of success with innovations (transformation, operations, design, sustainability).”

Even more, as another survey respondent explains, McKinsey offers so many avenues that every experience within the firm will ultimately be much different. “Make your own McKinsey allows you to follow your passions and define your journey in a way that is meaningful to you, which is both fantastic in terms of career development opportunities that align with your interests but also requires you to take great ownership of your trajectory and ensure you are driving towards the next professional milestone.”

Next Page: Vault Consulting 50 Ranking

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