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McKinsey PEI answers : how long should I speak ?

Anonymous A asked on Oct 26, 2017 - 9 answers

Hey there,

I was wondering how long I should spend speaking on my answers for the Personnal Experience Interview questions at McKinsey ?

I heard I should expect very specific questions based on one of their three core values, but I am wondering if I should briefly use the PARADE structure of Victor Cheng to explain what I did briefly and then let the interviewer dive into specific parts, or instead if I should try to speak longer and be very exhaustive in my answer.
Many thanks for your help,


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replied on Feb 18, 2018
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The length is related to your story and additional questions your interviewer may ask.

The story about yourself should be 13-15 sentences.

For the PEI story I recommend the following:

  • In Situation, you should briefly provide the context, usually in 1 or 2 sentences
  • Task usually includes 2 or 3 sentences describing the problem and your objective.
  • Then you provide a list of specific actions you took to achieve the goal. It should take 1 or 2 sentences per action (Usually 3-4 actions). Note that the interviewer can stop you any minute and ask for more details.
  • The results part should have 1 or 2 sentences describing the outcomes. This part is finalizing your story - make sure it can impress the interviewer and stay in the memory.

It is important that the Interviewers will drill down into your story to understand the dynamics, your reactions and decisions and most of all the rationale behind them. They will follow up with other questions as you tell your story to make sure they understand it in enough detail. I recommend preparing for these additional questions in advance.

At the end of the interview, you will also have an opportunity to ask your questions to the interviewer. This should include 3-4 questions. Most of the candidates disregard this part in preparation, while it is a great chance to demonstrate the intellectual capacity and build some relationship with the interviewer.

The main objective is to have a good conversation and highlight your intellectual capacity and curiosity. Thus:

It is ok to ask:

  • Questions that cause positive emotions and highlight consulting pros (e.g. Mck people)
  • Questions on the topics you are excited about (e.g. data science)
  • Non-business questions (e.g. team retreats)

It's not ok to ask:

  • Questions that can cause negative emotions (e.g. work hours)
  • Information you should learn before the interview (e.g. typical career path)
  • Questions that may show that you are unfamiliar with consulting work (Like are you specialized in strategy or operations?)

Be prepared and good luck!



replied on Feb 19, 2018
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Dear Bryan,

For most candidates, the McKinsey PEI lasts in total around 12-15 minutes.

(Hint: Since the PEI takes place before your case interviews, you want to make double sure to perform well on this part of your interviews – as it might already frame your interviewer’s mindset in terms of your interview performance and spill over to your case interview)

For structuring your 12-15 minutes PEI, I always recommend the PARADE framework. As a rule of thumb, the total PEI time is split up as follows:

  • Headline (~15-30 seconds)
  • Bucket 1 (~1-2 minutes):
    • “Problem”
    • “Anticipated consequence”
    • “Role”
  • Intermediate structure (~30 seconds)
  • Bucket 2 (~8-10 minutes)
    • “Action”
    • “Decision-making rationale”
  • Closing (~30 seconds): “End-result”

While talking about one specific example for 10+ minutes might seem long at the outset, you will be surprised how quickly this amount of time will pass – and finally how much work you need to put into your PEI examples to deliver all the relevant information in the necessary details as required into this few minutes of PEI time.

Addtional notes:

  • In rare cases the PEI lasts up to roughly 20 minutes – mainly driven by your McKinsey interviewers interests in your PEI example or your (maybe not-so-good) PEI performance which makes it very hard for the interviewer to discover the relevant aspects of your PEI.
  • Since your final-round interviews focus stronlgy on those areas in which you could not fully convince all your McKinsey interviewers in the previous rounds, you might not have any PEI in your final interview rounds at all, or you might even have a very intense foucs on the PEI.
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replied on Oct 31, 2017
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Vlad; in general 1.5-2.5 minutes per answer should be ok (with the longer extreme related to several points required per answer, such as “Which are your three top weaknesses”); normally this should be a sufficient time per question for a good application of the STAR method.

If you feel you could add value with additional details, I would recommend offering the interviewer the opportunity to dig deeper, rather than continue with a longer monologue (eg. “I would also be happy to detail how I applied this skill in my next project if interesting for you”).



Nuttachai replied on Oct 26, 2017

You should talk for about 5-10 minutes, depends on years of experience. Then allow the interviewer to ask some follow up questions. Also it should be done in very structual way.

Good luck!

Talk for 10 minutes? You understand how long that is? — kim on Oct 26, 2017

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