If you interview for McKinsey, you may come across the McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI). The McKinsey PEI is a separate behavioral portion of the interview process on top of standard behavioral questions you can expect to see. Years ago, the firm realized that its best case interview performers ended up being its worst consultants. Shocking, right?
So, the firm instituted the McKinsey PEI (based on legal interrogation methods) to better screen candidates and hire those with strong soft skills who would also be cultural fits. You’ll be asked one question about a particular professional experience, and will receive 10-15 follow-up questions all related to that one experience. Sound nerve wracking? It doesn’t have to be.
What is the McKinsey PEI?
During every interview with a McKinsey consultant, you will be asked behavioral questions about your experiences for about 10 minutes before your case. That’s normal for a lot of firms. What’s unique about the McKinsey PEI is that it focuses on just one particular experience for the entire interview. As a result, the McKinsey PEI is testing for depth, not breadth.
Here’s how it works. Your interviewer will ask you an initial question about leadership or one of the important experiences on your resume. We give McKinsey PEI question examples later in the post- don’t worry! After your initial answer, your interviewer will ask follow up questions that dig deeper into why you made certain decisions and if given the choice to go back, what you would do anything differently. Consequently, it’s important to be truthful and selective in the experiences you choose to talk about because the interviewer will ask for a lot of details.
McKinsey PEI Topics
McKinsey is very upfront about the qualities it tests for in the McKinsey PEI. According to the McKinsey Career page, the firm will ask candidates about the following qualities:
- Entrepreneurial Drive
- You’ll face many unpredictable twists and turns as a consultant. There will be times when there will be no clear solutions and a lot of uncertainty. As a result, McKinsey values candidates who can show they have the ability to take initiative and navigate through murky times, all the while knowing how to prioritize their work to drive to a solution.
- You must be self-sufficient and able to take charge, regardless of level or title. Even if you have just joined McKinsey, you will be expected to quickly lead important workstreams, communicate with clients, and more. McKinsey views every candidate through the lens of being a potential future leader at the firm, or a leader in industry who will be a future potential client.
- Personal Impact
- McKinsey looks for candidates who have proven they can drive change within a challenging environment. McKinsey clients are the top companies in their respective industries, and high expectations and client management are par for the course. As a McKinsey consultant, you will be expected to produce results effectively and demonstrate a track record of handling high expectations.
- Problem Solving
- More than anything else, a consultant’s job is to solve problems. Notably, the PEI tests for how you are able to solve problems in a team environment. McKinsey consultants are constantly working in small but effective teams, and your ability to collaborate with others to achieve goals is an important quality the firm looks for. The case interview is a great way for you to show how you can analyze and solve problems individually, while the McKinsey PEI helps you demonstrate how you can solve problems collaboratively.
McKinsey PEI Example Questions
Below are some McKinsey PEI example questions that you can use to prepare for your interview. Of course, there are any number of questions your interviewer can ask, so be prepared to answer a question you may have never heard before.
PEI Example Questions:
- Tell me about the most significant accomplishment of your career.
- Tell me about a time you convinced a colleague to consider and agree to an alternative approach.
- Tell me about a time you overcame a significant challenge at work.
- Tell me about a time where you resolved an important disagreement with a colleague.
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated exceptional leadership.
McKinsey PEI Stories
To perform well in the McKinsey PEI, you will need to answer every query with a story. Instead of coming off as calculative and robotic, you must have 15-20 stories prepared to successfully navigate the McKinsey PEI.
When preparing for your McKinsey PEI, brainstorm your most impressive accomplishments and interesting stories for the aforementioned McKinsey PEI topics. We suggest the following 3-step process:
- Situation and Context – Provide some background about the experience.
- Think about the following questions:
- Where were you and how old were you?
- Were you working with anyone else?
- Was this a professional experience or a personal one?
- Think about the following questions:
- Tackling the Problem – Provide information on the challenge you faced and overcame. What’s important here is to really build up the drama just like any good book or movie. Don’t be shy about the lengths you went to in order to solve a problem or how hard you had to work.
- The Impact – Speak upon the impact your actions made both externally and internally. If possible, provide any quantitative details on what you were able to accomplish. Lastly, conclude with any important thoughtful lessons you’ve learned from the experience.
We hope you found this article helpful in learning more about the McKinsey PEI. The Personal Experience Interview has multiple dimensions and can present a large challenge for candidates. However, like the rest of the recruiting process, with some insight, structure, and preparation, it can be handily overcome. For more information about the McKinsey PEI, see what McKinsey has to say about the interview.