Fatal mistake #1 – The 3 most common fatal mistakes at the McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview) nearly every candidate makes

Amazingly, most candidates are very well-prepared for the McKinsey case interview itself, but have a severe lack of understanding about the McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (or short McKinsey PEI). Unfortunately, most of them don’t even get the basics right. They fail miserably in their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get one of the rare job offers from McKinsey, just because of underestimating the importance and difficulty of the PEI and lack of preparation.

So what are the three most common fatal mistakes candidates are making in their McKinsey PEI?

Even if they seem easy to understand on a cognitive level, think through them thoroughly and be very critical if you are doing this right in your own PEI examples! It is very tempting to go over those issues too quickly…

In this blog post, let’s look at fatal mistake #1:

Not differentiating correctly between different McKinsey PEI dimensions, especially between “Leadership” and “Personal Impact” dimension.

At least, candidates can usually differentiate the Entrepreneurial Drive dimension from the other two dimensions in their McKinsey Personal Experience Interview. But for Leadership and Personal Impact, the differentiation is not so easy any more.

I often listen to examples in which candidates think that they are either suited for Leadership or Personal Impact. But more often than not, the examples are somewhere stuck in the middle between Leadership and Personal Impact. Thus they make a bad compromised example for both PEI dimensions.

Whereas Leadership examples often contain elements from the Personal Impact dimension, it is usually not true the other way round. In Leadership situations, you will often need to have a personal impact on specific people involved in the situation too (i.e. convincing someone).

In a Personal Impact situation, you will also have this – but here your whole example focuses just on convincing one specific person, as opposed to the Leadership dimension. In Leadersip convincing someone (i.e. an interpersonally challenging situation) is just one of several difficult situations you want to cover in your example!

Now we are already getting closer to differentiate those two McKinsey PEI dimensions.

Leadership dimension

In the Leadership dimension, you need to show your leadership skills in influencing a team (therefore having sort of personal impact), thus leading a group of people which might also involve bilateral conflicts/challenging situations in which you need to convince someone from the team about something (by the way: tt does not matter at all if you were the official leader or not – your example will be even stronger if not!). What finally matters is how you overcome a major setback or a difficult situation together with a team as a whole.

Personal Impact dimension

In the Personal Impact dimension, it is best to focus on a situation in which you needed to influence one other person about a specific issue. However, there is no team involved, thus differentiating the Personal Impact dimension from Leadership examples, even though you are influencing people in both Personal Experience Interview dimensions!

In short

  • Leadership = leading a team through a difficult situation, focusing on interpersonal conflicts within the team
  • Personal Impact = convincing one specific person about something, focusing on the strategic process of convincing this personIn order to get more inside knowledge on how to avoid other common fatal mistakes in your own McKinsey Personal Experience Interview, have a look at The Ulimate McKinsey PEI Prep eBook right now!

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