McKinsey’s Personal Experience Interview: How to Prepare for it

The Personal Experience Interview (PEI) element of the recruitment process at McKinsey is a little different than the ‘fit’ interview questions you may come across at BCG or Bain.

Typically, you won’t be asked generic opening questions such as ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘Why do you want to join McKinsey?’. Instead, this part of the interview, which usually takes around 15-20 minutes of the full 45-50 minute interview, will involve you talking about one specific experience in detail.

This makes PEI a very different ‘kettle of fish’ to other typical interviews, so you need to prepare for them a little differently.

Here are our top tips to help you prepare.

Get familiar with the exercise

First, make sure you understand what dimensions McKinsey are testing for in the PEI. These are typically Leadership, Personal Impact and Entrepreneurial Drive.

In other words, you’re being asked to demonstrate your ‘soft skills’ before moving on to the ‘hard’ skills required to solve a case question.

If you want to understand these dimensions in more details and see what a McKinsey PEI looks like in real life, check out our Interview Prep Course. It includes an example of a top mark PEI interview with a candidate who went on to join McKinsey.

Prepare your achievement stories

With the dimensions in mind, identify your top 5-6 achievement stories that you’d like to use in your interviews.

We recommend not repeating the same story within the same interview round because when the interviewers triangulate scores at the end of the day, you want to have shown a variety of achievements, rather than risk looking like a ‘one trick pony’.

The difficulty of the PEI resides in telling these stories concisely while saying enough to impress and to get into the details of your actions. For this, we recommend a simple framework with proven success: share the situation, explain the main challenges, describe your actions, and conclude with the results.

You should be prepared to speak in details about your actions and ensure that they are relevant to the dimension being tested.

Don’t rehearse too much

We recommend you practice telling your stories, in case retelling them prompts any more details you’d like to share, but we do not recommend scripting your stories word-for-word or rehearsing more than a couple of times.

A over-rehearsed achievement story runs the risk of making you come across over-prepared. Instead, you want to make the PEI feel like a conversation between you and your interviewer.

It’s also worth noting that the interviewer may interject at any point to ask a specific question or to encourage you to tell them more about a specific situation. Don’t be put off by this. The interviewer is simply looking for more content to assess you on and is likely trying to find a reason to mark you favourably on the key dimensions being tested—they just need to hear the evidence first!

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