McKinsey PEI - Professional vs. personal stories and time relevance

McKinsey PEI
New answer on Jun 25, 2021
6 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Sep 17, 2018

Hi everyone, I have two questions regarding McK PEI.

1) I wonder how appropriate or inappropriate it is to tell a personal story to demonstrate leadership. For instance, I organized a 10-day trip for a group of friends in Asia and I took care of basically everything for the entire trip. During the trip, there were even some major challenges that I had to step over and solve by myself. Would that be an appropriate story to tell in a McK interview?

2) I have been working for a while now, however, there are something from study times that I am still extremely proud of. Can I tell a story from study time even though I have been working for 2-3 years?

Thank you very much.

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Anonymous replied on Sep 17, 2018

1) I have done 1000+ interviews and I can remember probably 50 or so PEI stories. Every single one that I remember are personal stories. I can't remember a single one about a work situation. So, absolutely feel free to tell personal stories. In final round decision meetings (not usually in first round decision meetings, which is what most, if not everyone on PrepLounge have been exposed to) Partners love to recount the personal stories. However, your going to work in a business environment helping business clients. So, a majority of your stories should be business based. Sprinkle in 1 or 2 personal stories if the opportunity arises.

2) The short answer is YES, as long as it is a great one.

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Anonymous replied on Sep 13, 2020

Dear A,

For every PEI story, I would recommend you to use a specific structure, which consists of 5 components:

1. Situation (background)

2. Problem (Complication)

3. Your approach (how did you manage this problem)

4. Results (Outcomes of your approach)

5. Your learnings (what you take from this situation)

If you can apply this framework to every of your PEI stories and communicate in a top-down way, you would definitely leave a great impression. For more details, feel free to approach me.

Below you can also find some examples of the questions that would help you to differ the dimensions of PEI: Leadership

  • Tell me about a time you led others.

  • Tell me about a time when you were on a team that had a conflict that was keeping it from achieving its objective.

  • How do you motivate people?

Personal Impact

  • Tell me about a time you had to convince someone to change their mind on something important to them.

  • Tell me about a difficult situation where you had to rely on your communication skills.

  • What do you want to be remembered for and how are you achieving it?

Entrepreneurial Drive

  • Did you ever have a goal that you weren’t able to achieve? What did you do?

  • Tell me about a time that you dealt with a tough problem.

  • Tell me about a failure.



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Content Creator
replied on Jun 25, 2021
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience


My answer to your questions is as follows :

  • Unlike other coaches here, I do not recommend personal stories. They are very tricky to assess and honestly they are often tangential to what is being asked. For example, if you were talking about persuading someone to change their mind, convincing your friend is absolutely nothing like convincing a senior client. The skills and negotiation involved are miles apart. My advice is avoid personal stories unless they genuinely answer the question asked. Your story here does not fit the bill
  • Yes you can do so - up to 2 years is fine



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Anonymous B updated the answer on Nov 27, 2020

You can tell whatever story you want as long as it fits the prompt.

However, the more interesting and challenging the stories are, the better they are. Remember, the interviewers sit in a room and listen to 6-8 of these a day. Make sure your stories are interesting and unique.

Also, I would recommend at least one story in a professional setting. End of the day, you are completely free to do what you want. I would just look at it from the lens of the interviewer and try to understand what will be most convincing for them.


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Content Creator
replied on Nov 27, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Let me share my thoughts of what inerviewer is trying to assess in you:

  • Personal FIT - would the interviewer like to work with you as a colleague

  • Are you reliable/ independent/ confident person

  • Can you be sent along to the client

  • Would you fit to the corporate culture

So, if your personal stories show your qualities, skills, then why not?



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Content Creator
replied on May 03, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


On top of the insights already shared in the post, next week will be pusblished in PrepLounge´s Shop material related.

In concrete, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB". It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Hope you find it useful!

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