For most candidates, the McKinsey PEI lasts in total around 12-15 minutes. It follows some social chit-chat in the very beginning of your interview session and some more general CV-related questions your interviewers might have, and will be before your case interview.
(Hint: Since the PEI takes place before your case interviews, you want to make double sure to perform well on this part of your interviews – as it might already frame your interviewer’s mindset in terms of your interview performance and spill over to your case interview)
Each situation you are preparing for the McKinsey PEI needs to be well structured. It is not only about telling an example – you also need to get the main topics across in a short period of time, which is roughly 10-12 minutes out of the total interview time which is allocated to the PEI.
This is one of the most common question from candidates in my PEI coaching sessions. Everyone seems to be curious how a real McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview) is starting, and how difficult it is to find out which of the dimensions the interviewer is referring to (Leadership, Personal Impact or Entrepreneurial Drive).
Before downloading The Ultimate McKinsey PEI Prep eBook, lots of candidates email me and ask how to best prepare for the McKinsey PEI. Whenever receiving such emails, I need to smile. Not because it’s a funny question, but because it shows to me that a candidate is generally on the right track in the McKinsey interview prep.
But why can I say that a candidate is on the right track, just because he is asking me how to prepare for the McKinsey PEI?
Contrary to the case interview, I don’t recommend to pause for 60 seconds at the beginning of your McKinsey PEI to structure your story.
Looking at the overall time frame of roughly 12-15 minutes for the whole Personal Experience Interview, 60 seconds is already quite some time. And during this time, your interview would be probably bored, watching you thinking in silence about your PEI story.
Also, the whole McKinsey interview procedure is clear and transparent, and you also know that you need to prepare PEI stories for the 3 dimensions Leadership, Personal Impact and Entrepreneurial Drive.
In other words: you should prepare your PEI stories upfront. Therefore, as an McKinsey interviewer also I expect a rather quick answer to my starting question.
It’s perfectly fine though to pause for a few seconds before you start off with your Personal Experience Interview example. Especially if the interviewer asks a starting question with a slight spin, so that you need to frame your example accordingly first.
In that situation it’s mostly the case that you don’t need to rethink your whole example, but you will mostly need to tailor only the “P” (Problem) of the “PARADE” framework to the specific question of the interviewer. And this should take siginifcantly less time than 60 seconds. (You can find more information concerning the PARADE framework and structuring your PEI here)
In short: It’s mainly about convincing another person about something.
What makes a strong PEI story for Personal Impact?
The most basic ingredient for a strong “Personal Impact” example is a strong underlying conflicting interest between you and the other person. Both parties need to have a strong interest in the outcome of the situation – without this, it will never become a strong Personal Impact example, since if there is nothing at stake, it’s not difficult to convince someone.
Furthermore, it’s good if your Personal Impact example is going on at least over several days, even better for weeks, since your interviewer is interested in understanding your approach to convince someone from a more strategic, and not only operational/tactical perspective, having candidates clearly laying out a strategic masterplan on how the other person could be convinced. And that’s something which usually doesn’t happen in one meeting or over night, but requires time to “design” and execute this process of convincing someone.
Should I focus my whole McKinsey PEI Personal Impact example on 1 person to convince?
Yes, for sure. And here is why.
As soon as a third party gets involved, it’s immediately immensely more difficult to communicate your example in a structured and clear way in the very limited amount of time within the PEI. As long as only two persons are involved, it’s easy to follow the situation and know who is you and who is the other person you are trying to convince, and it’s also quite easy to follow what are your interests as opposed to the other person’s interests and concerns.
As soon as you involve a third person , it’s already a triangular relationship and it’s much more difficult to follow the situation since now the interviewer needs to clearly understand what are your interests as opposed to the interests of other person A and other person B, how your interests are conflicting with those of other person A, how your interests are conflicting with other person B, how interests of other person A and other person B are going along with each other or how they are conflicting.
Very very difficult to communicate such a situation in a structured way in a short period of time.
Finally it does not matter too much for McKinsey, if you failed because of your case interview performance, or because of your PEI performance. A reasonable time-frame to re-apply is usually 18-24 months.
Many candidates wonder how recent their McKinsey PEI stories should be, and if they need to be related to their work experience (in case of young professionals). So let’s look at those 2 topics one after the other.
This is a very common issue for most candidates at the outset of their McKinsey PEI preparation. According to experience, there are 2 factors why most candidates have difficulties to finding the right examples (hint: it’s mostly not because they lack suitable examples at all – it’s more about how you start thinking about your examples). Continue reading How to find the right McKinsey PEI examples
As an introduction, I recommend in general using the PARADE framework for structuring your McKinsey PEI, and talking about your impact usually goes into the “A” for “Anticipated consequence”.
Since the “PAR” is just to give your interviewer a general understanding of the overall situation within 1-2 minutes (and since the core part of your evaluation is based on your specific “Actions” and “Decision-making rationale”), I am perfectly fine with summarizing your impact on a situation more or less in one sentence as a start.
Looking at this question firstly from slightly broader perspective, your example for the Entrepreneurial Drive dimension should circle around a situation in which you wanted to achieve something by yourself (and no one else imposed this task on you). If you follow a goal which you wanted to achieve yourself, you should be also able to explain a strong motivation behind taking all those efforts and overcoming many obstalces to reach this goal.