MBA Candidate at INSEAD / Ex McKinsey / Here to guide you from your very first steps
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Should I mention this in a PEI?

Anonymous A


I have 2 questions originating from the same basic problem:

1) I sumbled upon the "Tell me about a situation where you took an unusual approach."
kind of question. I thought about my life so far and found that it
is probably quite unusual to finance my studies and a backpacking trip with earnings
from playing online poker.

Generally I think online poker takes a great amount of skill in various areas that are
relevant in consulting. You need to be good with numbers, good with bankrollmanagement
and having a great understanding of the other players. Still the area
seems to have this dodgy image, especially in the older generation.

I read somewhere that in investment banking mentioning this would be a plus,
but what do you think about management consulting?

2) While studying in Asia (normally I live in Europe) I formed a team of 3 to tackle an interesting problem. We worked on evenings and weekends next to research for my master thesis during the day. After being back in Europe I also spend around 3 month full time on this working from home.
I was super motivated, it was my idea, I invested a lot of time and passion and learned at lot.
Normally this would make a good case for some answers to typical PEI questions.
The problem is that it was about sports betting on football and horse racing. Technically this info is not that relevant in the sense that it was mostly data analytics and machine learning and it could have been just as well about business data;
The problem with this one is that not mentioning it would also leave me with a 3 month gap in the CV.

How would you go about those 2 issues in a PEI?

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replied on 07/17/2017
MBA Candidate at INSEAD / Ex McKinsey / Here to guide you from your very first steps

Hi there,

I have to say that I found your experiences very interesting.

In general, any experience can be successfully brought up during an interview as long as it as a learning side.

In both of your examples I see many hints:

  • Team-working
  • Analytical skills
  • Creativity
  • Sense of adventure and curiosity

These are all qualities that make up a good consultant!

Just a couple of suggestions...

- As they are indeed unusual experiences, just mention them with a smile, as if you were telling to your interviewer a funny story. Being spontaneous is always appreciated and in this case it can very well help you.

- Don´t forget to underline your achievements: what have you achieved after working for three full month full time to your project? The best would be if you were able to quantify your achievement (consultants love numbers - even estimated ones!). For example: “through my work, the estimation accuracy of a horse racing bet improved of 10%”. A sentence like this would leave the interviewer quite impressed!

Francesco replied on 07/18/2017
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (900+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous,

I believe the experiences are both interesting; as for the poker story, what I would do is not to concentrate on poker per se, but on the achievements you got with it. If you managed to finance your education and trips with poker, you have probably achieved a semi-professional level, and potentially participated at international competitions. This is the kind of achievement you may want to underline, leaving the money part as an add-on that actually helped you to invest in your personal growth. It would also be useful to add to the story the elements Sara suggested (analytical skills/statistics in particular) and the success rate you got and rational to invest in such activities (eg. “Statistically I found I was able to win 55% of the matches, thus giving me a steady average income of €X per hour, better than the alternatives I could get with other jobs”).

For the betting experience, this can easily presented as a pure data analysis job, therefore I believe there are less risks that it would be perceived as a "vice", rather as a mathematical analysis (moreover, many consulting companies actually have done projects with betting companies, therefore your experience could even become interesting as a potential optimization project they may relate to).

Hope this helps,


replied on 10/18/2017
Only ex-McKinsey Partner on PrepLounge (also Oliver Wyman) and McKinsey MBA, Experienced Hire and Undergraduate Recruiting Leader

I think Sara did a nice job of highlighting how any experience can be turned into a successful story during an interview. I will add that I find that the most interesting PEI stories are actually non-work related and I encourage candidates to use non-work stories (at least once) if the interviewer gives an opening. So, in your example, the interviewer asked you for a “situation”, not a “work situation”, which gave you the perfect opportunity to use a non-work example. By using a non-work situation, you are able to:

  • Stand-out: Remember that there is a decision meeting about whether you pass to the next round (if it’s a first round interview) or get an offer (if it’s a final round interview) and the more you stand out as a candidate, the easier it is to “make the case” for you during that meeting.
  • Add humor: As Sara alluded to, you can tell your story and add a twist of humor to it. Interviewers have long, mundane days of interviewing and like to have the mood lightened.
  • Add personal depth: Show that you have skills and interests outside of work. If you happen to hit upon a story that resonates with the interviewers past experiences or interests, that’s a home run!

Having said that, I don’t know that I would have used both situations that were non-work, especially because they are both so similar (involving gambling) and actually may portray you as a risk-taker, even if you highlight the strategy and analysis points.