How could you prepare so much "tell me a time" that kind of question?

New answer on Aug 31, 2020
3 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Aug 27, 2020

I was amazed by some people who are able to literally come up with response to these kind of questions in a few sec. Yes, I should have prepared well for it but there could be hundreds of tell me a time kind of questions, which I might not be able to fully prepared. I just couldn't think of examples to some questions because I didn't have that experience myself. How did you prepared for your behavior interview to be honest?

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 27, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Great question. There are 3 key steps.

Step 1 - Categorize the main stories

There are 5-10 "themes" you need to prepare for. i.e. Leadership, teamwork, challenge, etc. Figure out this list and make sure your stories cover this range (PM me and I can provide you with a template for this list)

Step 2 - Create FLEXIBLE stories that cover a range of categories

You need to create 4-6 stories that each cover a range of topics. They need to be powerful stories that can be adjusted and adapted based on the question asked.

One of my "core" or "killer" stories was usable for Initiative, Achievement, Leadership, Challenge, Change of direction, AND Persuasion.

Write down these stories along STAR or similar format...use bullet points

Interview questions notes

Step 3 - Organize these stories so you know which ones can be used for what and PRACTICE

Make sure you cover the whole gambit. Then, practice getting asked a question and thinking of which stories apply. I can assure you, no-one is coming up with full stories in a few seconds. Rather, they have practiced how to adapt an existing story to the question asked.

Interview stories notes

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 31, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

I have a specific framework about it that my candidates love. Feel free to text me for a quick chat about it


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 28, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Preparing upfront specifically for any kind of question is impossible and boiling the ocean, so also not an efficient method of preparation.

At the same time, reacting spontenously to questions in a structured and meaningful way is also a skill relevant for consultants when interacting with clients - so maybe also not a bad time to get used to that during your interview prep.

Now getting to the core of your question. Obviously interviewer creativity in terms of questions asked is more or less unlimited. However, there is a set of core skills relevant to consultants which are nicely summarized in the McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview). It's a format specific to McKinsey, but the McKinsey did not come up with the 3 core dimensions by chance but because those are universally required consultant skills, in short:

  • Leadership - how to successfully work in teams and guide them to achieve outstanding results, focusing on difficult leadership challenges
  • Personal Impact - how to convince somebody about your opinion
  • Entepreneurial Drive - how to systematically overcome difficult challenges

If you prepare "tell me a time" question around those 3 core topics, you should be doing fine relating to the 80/20 rule. For other questions you need to brush up your skills to answer spontaneously though.

Bonus idea: Also think about all topics mentioned in your CV and be prepared to discuss them in more detail and how they relate to consulting skills, since oftenly the topics from your CV are 'triggers' for fit questions asked.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote below!


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