Marvin Bower

McKinsey's 'oops moment'

October 4, 2013: 5:00 AM ET

Some elite MBAs who expressed an interest in working for the consulting firm are steaming over a stock rejection letter they recently received via email.

By John A. Byrne

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(Poets&Quants) -- Marvin Bower would be turning over in his grave.

Some MBA students from the world's elite business schools who expressed an interest in working for McKinsey & Co. are steaming over a stock rejection letter they recently received via email from the prestigious global consulting firm.

The rejections began with the rather dismissive salutation: "Dear %PREFERRED."

MBAs on the receiving end of the emails say they are startled that a firm as widely admired as McKinsey, the largest single recruiter of elite MBAs in the world, would fail to send out personalized letters to candidates when they are rejected.

"I am so shocked that recruiters can come to campus and get away with stuff like this," complains one second-year student at a top two business school. "I didn't expect that out of McKinsey, given the history they have with the school and their reputation. It's surprising. It feels like the HR people are being lazy. If they do this here, just imagine what it would be like at other schools."

Bower, the visionary who made McKinsey & Co. a powerhouse in the post war period, would probably be just as appalled. He was known as a stickler for professionalism and proper etiquette. Bower once insisted that his consultants wear long socks because, he said, "raw flesh in business meetings was simply not appropriate."

The stock emails from McKinsey's Eileen Coleman, the firm's manager of MBA recruiting operations, went out on Sept. 27. Less than 24 hours later, on a Saturday afternoon, Coleman dispatched an apology to the MBA students who were rejected.

"I wanted to follow up on the recent email you received from me with our application decision and apologize for the impersonal salutation which was ultimately sent from our system incorrectly," she wrote. "As you can imagine, I am embarrassed this happened. I fully appreciate it was already a difficult message to receive and that getting a very impersonal greeting likely did not make it any better."

Oops.

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