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Preparing for McKinsey PEI

McKinsey PEI
New answer on Jul 10, 2024
7 Answers
254 Views
Anonymous A asked on Jun 13, 2024

Hi, 

I am preparing for the Personal Experience Interview (PEI) at McKinsey and have a couple of questions:

  1. I've read that for the PEI, you only need to prepare 1-2 stories regarding the four topics (Entrepreneurial Drive, Leadership, Personal Impact, Inclusive Leadership). This suggests that questions like "Why Consulting," "Tell me about yourself," "Strengths and weaknesses," "Short-term and long-term goals," and other typical fit questions for other firms or industries are not likely to be asked. Is this true? With limited preparation time, should I focus solely on refining my 1-2 stories for the four topics to make them outstanding, or should I also prepare answers for typical fit questions just in case? Preparing for both will obviously reduce the time I can dedicate to the four topics.
     
  2. McKinsey's website advises preparing 1-2 stories for each topic. However, is it more effective to prepare specific stories or to prepare for answering a variety of possible questions? For instance, within Personal Impact, the questions can range from "Tell me about a time you had an opposing opinion with peers" to "Tell me about a time you convinced stakeholders" or "Tell me about a time you sacrificed for a team." How can only 1-2 stories cover all variations of questions within a topic? For example, if I am preparing 2 stories: 1) about having a stubborn teammate, and 2) about compromising something at work for a better team outcome, how can I answer if the interviewer asks about a time when I convinced stakeholders?

Thank you!

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Best answer
Nilay
Expert
replied on Jun 14, 2024
Former McKinsey Sr Engagement Manager | Trained McKinsey interviewer (100+ interviews, 500+ coaching sessions)

Hi there - thanks for the question. I will answer these in the order that you asked them

ANSWER 1) Please do not invest more than 30-45 minutes preparing for questions such as Why consulting? Why McKinsey? Or other typical behavioral questions common with other consulting firms. McKinsey PEI is different and focuses solely on the 4 prompts

ANSWER 2) The key to answering McKinsey PEI is to have a clear understanding of what interviewers look for in each of the four McKinsey prompts. I had shared this in detail as an answer to another question on PEI. You might benefit from reading that entire post. Sharing part of it here again

  1. Personal impact: Focus on interpersonal skills. Discuss scenarios where you managed conflicts or navigated differences in opinion. Key skills valued include ability to read between the lines, motivation understanding, and influence

     

  2. Inclusive leadership: Showcase your leadership style. Share examples where you led diverse teams (diversity is best demonstrated through personality differences or ways of working differences) or worked effectively in them. Look to demonstrate inclusive leadership and the ability to unite teams towards common goals

     

  3. Courageous change: Demonstrate resilience in ambiguous or challenging situations or setbacks. Discuss times when you overcame significant obstacles. Emphasize a positive mindset and emotional intelligence

     

  4. Entrepreneurial drive: Centers on your ambition and tenacity and initiative taking. Talk about setting and achieving lofty goals. Highlight your vision and perseverance

Let’s take Personal Impact as an example - the key qualities you need to demonstrate include discerning underlying meanings, understanding people's motivations, and influencing others. While you may need to adjust your phrasing slightly depending on the specific prompt, the essence of your story remains unchanged regardless of the prompt. If you have a compelling story about convincing someone, it will be applicable across all Personal Impact scenarios. It ultimately doesn't matter how the question is phrased—whether it involves convincing someone, making a compromise, or finding a middle ground.

If you are still struggling with this please reach out and we can discuss in detail.

Few other important things to keep in mind as you prepare for McKinsey PEI 

  • Relevance of stories: Ensure your stories align with what the interviewers are looking for in each thematic area (see details at the end of my response)
  • Variety: Do not repeat the same premise across interviews, especially in the same round. Repeating the same premise across rounds is typically okay since interviews from different rounds do not discuss your candidacy. But to the extent possible try to have at least 4 distinct premises for the 4 McKinsey PEI prompts (always a good idea to have some back-ups ready)
  • Beyond Work Examples: If possible, include an example from outside of work. This helps demonstrate that you exhibit the desired traits in various settings, reinforcing your well-rounded character. This isn't mandatory but can be beneficial and also interesting for the interviewer
  • Recency: Focus on experiences from the last three years, and avoid including stories that are more than 4-5 years 

Hope this helps.

Cheers

Nilay

 

Cheers

Nilay

 

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 13, 2024
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

McKinsey PEI is very important to get right and you need to follow their instructions clearly. Some quick answers to your question.

1. You will need to prep 1-2 stories EACH on the four topics so you will get to 4-8 stories minimum, each of which draws upon different aspects of your work experience or other related experience you have. The interviews will focus on these PEI questions. While they can have other questions like why consulting, those are not the main focus. It is anyway good to have answers to some standard interview questions like Why consulting, why McKinsey, strengths, weaknesses etc as these may come up during the conversational part of the interview especially in later rounds.

2. I always coach people to have a separate story for each of the 4 categories. McKinsey likes to go super in depth and to ensure that you are actually answering the question. While it is good to have some examples that may speak to more than one category it is crucial you have detailed structured responses to each PEI question. Being superficial will not get you anywhere.

All the best with your preparations, happy to answer additional questions on this.

Best,

Udayan

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 14, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

  1. Yes, that is true. McKinsey's fit focuses mainly on the 4 dimensions. 95% of the time the other questions won't show up and if, they are often ice-breakers at the beginning of the (first) interview to make you feel more comfortable. However, that does not mean that you can not invest 1 hour to also draft answers about the 3 whys. :-) It's never a bad idea to be able to articulate why you are a great candidate, why you want to work in consulting, and why specifically for McKinsey. At the same time, your PEI stories need to be outstanding.
  2. There is this myth floating around that there are multiple questions or variations for each PEI dimension, which is even communicated by some coaches here in their profiles. That is wrong. There are only 4 PEI dimensions and they all focus on the same thing. There are no variations. Hence, you don't need to prepare more than 4 main stories and 4 backup stories (for situations where you are asked the same dimension twice). Please prepare individual stories for each dimension to make sure you hit the right talking points. If you create swiss-knife stories that fit every dimension, you are creating a big average that does not hit any spikes.

Please check the article I wrote here for more detailed guidance on how to write and communicate your stories: Personal Experience Interview

Happy to help if you need it!

Cheers,

Florian

 

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 14, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

The PEI is my favourite part of the interview process. Happy to provide a perspective on this:

  1. I've read that for the PEI, you only need to prepare 1-2 stories regarding the four topics (Entrepreneurial Drive, Leadership, Personal Impact, Inclusive Leadership). This suggests that questions like "Why Consulting," "Tell me about yourself," "Strengths and weaknesses," "Short-term and long-term goals," and other typical fit questions for other firms or industries are not likely to be asked. Is this true? With limited preparation time, should I focus solely on refining my 1-2 stories for the four topics to make them outstanding, or should I also prepare answers for typical fit questions just in case? Preparing for both will obviously reduce the time I can dedicate to the four topics.
    1. Yes. That is true. With McKinsey, they don't ask nor do they assess those questions. They only care about the stories. 
       
  2. McKinsey's website advises preparing 1-2 stories for each topic. However, is it more effective to prepare specific stories or to prepare for answering a variety of possible questions? For instance, within Personal Impact, the questions can range from "Tell me about a time you had an opposing opinion with peers" to "Tell me about a time you convinced stakeholders" or "Tell me about a time you sacrificed for a team." How can only 1-2 stories cover all variations of questions within a topic? For example, if I am preparing 2 stories: 1) about having a stubborn teammate, and 2) about compromising something at work for a better team outcome, how can I answer if the interviewer asks about a time when I convinced stakeholders?
    1. That's a great question. The idea is to have around 2 stories per dimension that you could adjust to be relevant for different questions. I call these swiss-knife stories. If you know how to develop them well, then you can deploy them not only across multiple questions within the same dimension, but also across several dimensions.

Specifically in terms of the questions, I've collected the top dozen questions per dimension based on >200 candidates of mine who have gone to McKinsey interviews across the world. You can find these in this guide I've put together with lots of others specific PEI materials here:

Video Course: Master the McKinsey PEI

Best,
Cristian

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Alessa
Expert
replied on Jun 13, 2024
xMcKinsey & Company | xBCG - feel free to schedule a 15 min intro call for free :)

Hey! 

1. I would advise to prepare 2 stories per category (e.g., Personal impact). Also, prepare why McKinsey, why consulting - the main questions! Sometimes interviewers like to start a small conversation at the beginning of the interview to have a smooth start! My interviewer some years ago at McKinsey asked me why I wanted to work for them & why I am here for the interview today! 

2. To answer your question: prepare the specific categories (Personal Impact, Change, Drive, etc.)! If you prepare your stories right, you can answer all questions asked per dimension! There will not be any misunderstandings!

BR, 

Alessa

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Hagen
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 10, 2024
#1 recommended coach | >95% success rate | most experience in consulting, interviewing, and coaching

Hi there,

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your questions:

  • First of all, it is true that McKinsey focuses heavily on these four specific dimensions. However, I would still advise you not to completely ignore other fit questions.
  • Moreover, and contrary to what some other coaches have said here, while it may be true that the way interviewers introduce certain dimensions differs slightly, ultimately they are all just asking about a situation where you have demonstrated the underlying skills. So there is no need to prepare any "variations" of the dimensions.

You can find more on this topic here: How to succeed in the final interview round.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to best prepare for your upcoming McKinsey interviews, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Jun 17, 2024
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Private Equity | Market Estimates | Fit Interview

1. This suggests that questions like "Why Consulting," "Tell me about yourself," "Strengths and weaknesses," "Short-term and long-term goals," and other typical fit questions for other firms or industries are not likely to be asked. Is this true?

Don't even entertain the idea of not being prepared for (some of) these questions. You have to be 100% able to articulate why you want to work in consulting and how your personal profile is a good fit for consulting (all the questions you mention are variants of these 2 questions) and, less relevantly, why consulting is a good fit for you.

A candidate that is not able to provide a decent answer to these questions is an immediate reject.

2. However, is it more effective to prepare specific stories or to prepare for answering a variety of possible questions?

This is why you should have a couple of stories for each dimension, and then consider how you can adapt those stories to different specific questions. But no, you don't have to prepare a different story for each possible different way of asking about a personal dimension.

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Nilay gave the best answer

Nilay

Former McKinsey Sr Engagement Manager | Trained McKinsey interviewer (100+ interviews, 500+ coaching sessions)
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