In which PEI category does my story of a social startup fit?

McKinsey PEI startup
New answer on Feb 29, 2024
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 17, 2020

Hi all!

I do struggle how to classify a story, which I am prepraring for an upcoming Mckinsey interview and I hope that someone can help me.

I started a social startup with a fellow student, which is still operating and I am giving the operational responsibility to my successor this year. As this journey was quite tough I thought it might suit the “Entrepreneurial Drive” category of Mckinsey’s PEI. However, I was recently told by a friend that it might sound more like a “Personal Impact” story and I should consider shifting it to this scope.

I am very grateful for any advice you provide!

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Clara
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replied on Apr 17, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Glad you ask this question, since it´s something that many people wonder.

Most good stories don´t only relate to one of the PEI dimensions, but to two (or even 3 different ones)

In this case, you can leverage them for multiple questions, focusing on the aspects related to that precise dimension.

I leave you below a slide that hopefully will help you.

Finally, I also founded an NGO, and this a story that I talk about in every job interview, and that tackles not only personal impact, but entrepreneuship and leadership. PM if you wanna further talk about it.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Overview McKinsey PEI dimensions

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Alberto
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replied on Sep 30, 2023
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

You can touch multiple PEI questions with your startup experience:

  • Entrepreneurship: focusing on how you delivered impact out of your comfort zone
  • Leadership: focusing on leading a team towards a challenging goal
  • Personal impact: focusing on persuading an individual or group with an opposing opinion
  • Courageous change: focusing on dealing with ambiguity

Best,

Alberto

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Cristian
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replied on Feb 29, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

It rather belongs in entrepreneurial drive since it's a story about you taking initiative, overcoming obstacles and having a wider societal impact. 

Personal impact is rather about persuasion, convincing more senior people or groups of people or handling conflicts.

For anybody who is looking into the PEI topic, I recently released this end-to-end course covering PEI. More on it here:

Best,
Cristian

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Sidi
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updated an answer on Apr 17, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

Your friend does not understand what "Personal Impact" means at McKinsey. It essentially means convincing another person of something - and that is clearly not the focus of this experience.

Your story can indeed fit into "Entrepreneurial Drive" if you are able to show how you took initiative at an opportunity to create value, and how you overcame challenges to push it through successfully.

Cheers, Sidi

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Apr 17, 2020

Hi there,

I think it is always good to adjust your personal experience to the acutal definitions that are on McKinsey website.

Definitions

Here is a quick overview of the 3 main PEI question that you can have:

  • Entrepreunerial drive: We look for people with an entrepreneurial spirit: innovative by nature, always creating new approaches, products, services, and technologies.
  • Leadership: We seek people who strive to lead themselves, their teams, and their communities, and who can foster effective teamwork to drive results.
  • Personal impact: Developing and implementing sound recommendations requires the involvement and support of many individuals. Skills interacting with people, sometimes in tough situations, are critical to driving distinctive client impact.

Your experience

Your social startup experience could fit any of the 3 dimension. It all depends on how you actually tell your story.

  • If you want to highlight the fact that you created it => entrepreurial drive
  • If you had to convince people to launch it with you => personal impact
  • If you did a lot of teamwork => leadership

My personal feeling is that your story might be more suitable for entrepreneurial drive. But once again it depens on how you storytell it.

Hope it helps,

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Francesco
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replied on Apr 18, 2020
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Hi there,

the PEI at McKinsey is structured around three key dimensions, leadership, impact and drive, I have provided a description for them below:

1) Leadership is about leading a whole team in a challenging situation and showing team management skills. Questions include:

  1. Give me three examples of a time that you lead a group.
  2. What are some key lessons you have learned about motivating people?

Here you want to emphasize how you overcome a difficult situation leading a team.

2) Personal Impact is mainly based on persuading someone about doing/not doing something. Questions include:

  1. Tell me about a time that you persuaded your boss to go along with an idea you had.
  2. Tell me about a difficult situation where you had to rely on your communication skills.

Here you want to emphasize your influence on someone else, usually in disagreement with you.

3) Entrepreneurial Drive is about starting and implementing something overcoming major difficulties. Examples include:

  1. What was a situation where you set a major goal and been able to achieve it?
  2. What has been your major accomplishment so far?

Here you want to emphasize the achievement you reached and the process that led you there.

So can you classify your story as Personal Impact? Yes, so far that its main focus is on your action on persuading someone who was not agreeing with you. If that’s not the case, you should keep it as an entrepreneurial drive story (or possibly also leadership, if you can and want to underline in your story that dimension). In general, given the background of the story, entrepreneurial drive would be easier to fit in it.

As a side note, I would recommend to have at least two stories for each dimension, to be sure that you have a backup in case the interviewer doesn’t like it and to be able to show different angles of the same dimension, according to the question.

Best,

Francesco

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Robert
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updated an answer on Apr 17, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous!

Based on your short summary, I would definitely go for the "Entrepreneurial Drive" dimension in your McKinsey PEI.

Main components for an Entrepreneurial Drive example (and I believe your example can cover them):

  • Achieving a goal which is clearly outside your regular role and responsibilities
  • You wanted to achieve something by yourself (and no one else imposed this task on you) and can explain a strong motivation behind
  • Several big obstacles which you needed to overcome

From McKinsey's perspective, the following traits should become explicit, and I also believe you will be able to demonstrate this in your example:

  • Good judgement and sound reason: being able to make a decent estimate about the feasibility and practicality of situations.
  • Ability to cope with pressure: being untroubled by stressful situations such as an interview, deadline or presentation.
  • Resourcefulness: being prepared to push aside ready-made solutions; managing to overcome obstacles.
  • Focus on the end product and action: believing in making things work.
  • Energy: having enough perseverance to get things done; preparedness to work hard and invest more than average in your own future

For more in-depth details for the McKinsey PEI I have also written a complete guide since basically all candidates severely underestimate the difficulty - you can find it here: https://pei.consulting-case-interviews.com/

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

Robert

(edited)

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Vlad
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replied on Apr 17, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

It can not be considered as a Personal Impact story. Personal impact is about persuading a person / group of people. You did not mention these elements.

Social startup can be a good story for Entrepreneurial Drive since you can clearly demonstrate the importance of the initiative, your motivation and the element of achievement.

Best

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Antonello
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replied on Apr 30, 2020
McKinsey | NASA | top 10 FT MBA professor for consulting interviews | 6+ years of coaching

Hi, I think with your experience you can cover all the aspects requested in the fi interview: entrepreneurial drive, leadership, and personal impact. You should only craft specific stories for each of them related to the startup experience

Best,

Antonello

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Clara gave the best answer

Clara

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