What is the McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview)?
Overview of the McKinsey PEI
In this article, we are covering McKinsey PEI (personal experience interview, also called FIT). McKinsey PEI is not very different from FIT (PEI) portions of the interview in other consulting firms like BCG and Bain. However, there are some unique aspects to keep in mind.
We will be covering:
- Sample PEI questions
- How is the McKinsey PEI different from other consulting firms
- Qualities McKinsey is looking for
- Insights from former McKinsey worldwide strategy practice co-leader and senior partner, Kevin P. Coyne
- Insights from Ritika Mohan on joining McKinsey Chicago after going through The Consulting Offer V
Common McKinsey PEI questions
One of the most common mistakes candidates make is not giving enough attention and not investing enough time and effort to prepare for the FIT portion of consulting case interviews.
Common McKinsey FIT questions include (and same for other top firms like Boston Consulting Group/BCG, Bain, Deloitte, etc.):
- “Tell me about the thing you are proud of on your resume” (a question Ritika attempts to answer in this episode). Ritika was our The Consulting Offer V participant. After going through TCO she received an offer from McKinsey Chicago. Variations of this question include “What are you most proud of?”, “What is your greatest accomplishment?”, Tell me about an accomplishment that you’re most proud of”, etc.
- Another common question is “Have you had a situation where you had to convince a colleague or a client to adopt a different point of view?” Variations of this question include “Tell me about when you convinced a colleague or a client to adopt a different viewpoint from one they initially held.” Also, “Tell me about a time you had to convince someone to change their mind on something important to them” and “Tell me about a difficult situation where you had to rely on your communication skills.”
- “Tell me about a time you overcame a significant challenge at work.”
- “What is your biggest career achievement so far?” Alternatively, “Tell me about your biggest career achievement you had so far.”
- “Tell me about a time where you resolved an important disagreement with a colleague”
- “Could you speak about a time you led others?” Alternatively, “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.”
- “Tell me about a time when you were on a team and there was a conflict that kept the team from achieving its objective.”
How Is the McKinsey PEI different from Behavioral Interview Questions of other firms like BCG, Bain, Deloitte, etc.?
Every consulting firm is looking for slightly different qualities in candidates and approaches the PEI portion of interviews slightly differently. The McKinsey PEI is different from other consulting firms’ FIT portion of the interview primarily in two ways:
- Traits they are looking for, which are listed below and include Personal Impact, Leadership Abilities, Entrepreneurial Drive, and Problem Solving Skills.
- McKinsey interviewers like to go deep on one PEI question. They will take a specific example you are sharing and ask you a lot of probing questions. Other consulting firms are likely to ask higher-level questions and cover more examples instead. For example, if you are interviewing for a job at Deloitte the interviewer may ask you about a specific bullet point on your resume, hear your answer, and then move on to the next bullet point. On the other hand, a McKinsey interviewer will be probing deeper and deeper.
Qualities McKinsey is looking for
McKinsey posted on their careers page what they are testing during the PEI portion of their interviews.
1st quality McKinsey PEI tests for is Personal Impact
“Developing and implementing sound recommendations requires the involvement and support of many individuals. Skills interacting with people, sometimes in tough situations, are critical to driving distinctive client impact.”
Why McKinsey PEI tests for Personal Impact?
Personal Impact is not a completely separate quality from the other 3 qualities McKinsey tests for leadership abilities, entrepreneurial drive, and problem-solving skills. So you can argue it is not MECE (mutually exclusive collectively exhaustive).
Based on McKinsey’s description of this quality they are referring here to your ability to influence others, which is a crucial quality they are testing for. As management consultants client employees usually do not want us there. They are afraid of how consultants’ involvement will impact their jobs and their reputations. For example, will consultants recommend downsizing? Or maybe consultants will uncover some sloppy work particular employees were doing and those employees could get fired?
Kevin shared a great example of why clients don’t like consultants. He was serving a franchising company and the McKinsey team uncovered that the person who was approving new franchisees was approving basically everyone, even people who were not eligible to be approved based on internal requirements company had for new franchisees. Why did he do it? Because he got compensated for each new franchisee.
We spend a lot of time in The Consulting Offer to teach you how to showcase this quality.
Sample McKinsey PEI Questions:
- Tell me about the most significant accomplishment of your career.
- Have you had a situation where you had to convince a colleague or a client to adopt a different point of view?
- Tell me about a challenging situation where strong communication skills were required.
- What do you want to be remembered for and what are you doing to achieve it?
2nd quality McKinsey PEI tests for is Entrepreneurial Drive
“We look for people with an entrepreneurial spirit: innovative by nature, always creating new approaches, products, services, and technologies.”
Why McKinsey PEI tests if you have Entrepreneurial Drive?
Clients don’t hire consultants to solve simple problems. They hire consultants when they face very challenging problems that they can’t solve internally, which necessitates them a million dollars or more in consulting fees. Consequently, McKinsey needs people who are go-getters, who will figure out how to get things done while maintaining the highest levels of professionalism.
So McKinsey looks for evidence of entrepreneurial drive in your past professional experience, academic life, and/or extracurricular activities. For example, Alice from The Consulting Offer Season 2 was an effective leader of a Yale Consulting Club. Here is how we showcased Alice’s leadership abilities as it relates to her leadership positions while at Yale. You can also view Alice’s full resume.
- 2009-2013 YALE LEADERSHIP POSITIONS New Haven, USA
Chair of Yale Graduate Student Consulting Club
- 7x increase in offers extended to club members at top 3 consulting firms by launching 2 annual club case competitions, inaugural club casebook, workshops, and one-on-one interview coaching
- Led 4-member executive board in structuring the club into as a non-profit legal entity with positive free cash flow, >$2,000 net asset, >500 members, and established relationships with major firms and clubs
Finance Co-Chair of 2012 Yale Healthcare Conference
- Raised ~$50,000 funding for the conference by contacting Yale Alumni and healthcare related companies, of which 90% converted to long term sponsors supporting 2013 conference
Editor-in-Chief of Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine
- Shortened review time by 50% while increasing the number of first-year-citations by 60% via implementing pre-review protocol with 10-member editorial board and facilitating reviewers-authors communication
Publicity & Promotion Officer of Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine
- Tripled submissions via personalized direct marketing to 100+ research institutes by writing a script to automate a mailing system to create a mass marketing email campaign
As you are trying to figure out which achievements you can showcase on your resume to highlight your leadership abilities think about situations where your absence would have meant a much worse outcome. In other words, where your involvement resulted in significantly better results than would have been achieved if you were not involved in a particular initiative. Once you figure out 1-3 examples, think about which significant challenges you had to overcome to achieve the results you were able to achieve.
Sample McKinsey PEI Questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a very difficult problem.
- Did you ever have a situation where you were not able to achieve a desired outcome? What did you do?
3rd quality McKinsey PEI tests for is Problem Solving Skills
“Helping clients solve tough problems and implement solutions requires strong intellectual abilities and rigor as well as a practical sense of what works and what does not.”
Why McKinsey PEI tests for Problem Solving Skills?
As a management consultant clients will come to you to solve their most challenging problems. They will not pay very high McKinsey fees if it was an easy problem they could solve internally. Therefore, problem solving skills are crucial to be an effective McKinsey consultant.
This skill, of course, is tested during the case portion of McKinsey interviews. However, it is also tested during PEI. When you are demonstrating your ability to solve problems during PEI portion of your case interviews, ensure you also showcase your ability to influence others (see personal impact section above).
4th quality McKinsey PEI tests for is Leadership Abilities
“We seek people who strive to lead themselves, their teams, and their communities, and who can foster effective teamwork to drive results.”
Why McKinsey PEI tests Leadership Abilities?
McKinsey wants to see a track record that shows that you are capable of leading teams and important initiatives. As a McKinsey consultant, you will be leading work streams, client meetings, important analysis, teams and subteams, and so on. McKinsey wants to see how you performed in high-pressure environments. Were you able to get results and influence others?
Here you need to focus on quality examples. Instead of providing many examples of where you had a leadership role, such as being VP of multiple clubs, select, structure and practice a specific best example that showcases that you can lead under pressure and get people to accomplish more than what would have been accomplished if you were not their leader.
As you go through your example make sure you clearly explain key challenges you faced, whom you had to convince, how you were able to change their mind, how you approached solving the problem/getting results, and what is the overall result you were able to achieve.
Sample McKinsey PEI Questions:
- Could you tell me about a time you were leading others.
- How do you motivate your team?
- Tell me about a situation where there was a conflict which you had to resolve.
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated exceptional leadership.
Insights from former McKinsey worldwide strategy practice co-leader and senior partner, Kevin P. Coyne
Kevin P. Coyne (former McKinsey worldwide strategy practice co-leader) is the host of The Consulting Offer II (our in depth consulting case interview preparation program). If you would like to see Kevin Coyne teaching students to apply this strong values-based model of thinking to obtain offers at BCG and McKinsey, you can do so today by becoming a Premium member.
As we constantly teach all our clients, having strong values can create a significant career competitive advantage. Kevin Coyne is a co-founder of the Coyne Partnership, and a former director and co-leader of both McKinsey’s worldwide strategy practice and CEO transitions practice.
Insights from Ritika Mohan on joining McKinsey Chicago after going through The Consulting Offer V
It is always very helpful to get a chance to listen to someone who successfully went through McKinsey PEI and case portion rounds of interviews and obtained an offer. Here we shared with the broader FC community the last episode from TCO V with Ritika, where Ritika speaks about going through the process, lessons learned, and receiving McKinsey offer.
If you want to see samples of our advanced training materials go to FIRMSconsulting.com/promo and sign up for free to receive sample materials.
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