How complex does a McKinsey PEI example need to be?

Your examples as such do not need to – and even should not – be complex at all! Actually it makes much more sense using examples with low complexity of the general situation/context. Because in 10-15 minutes Personal Experience Interview time, it would just take an inappropriate huge amount of time just to have the interviewer understand what the example is all about. And you will end up having way too little time for showing your particular skills in your actions, and even more importantly in your decision-making rationale (according to the PARADE framework).

 
Therefore you need to keep the general outline of your examples as simple, clear and short as possible, only as long and complex as necessary (so that your interviewer has enough information to really evaluate later on how well you did, given the context from your outline). What your interviewers really wants to see is a “strategic”, highly reflected decision-making rationale for each action you took in a specific situation. A complex example just distracts from the specifics of your actions and decision-making rationale, on which the McKinsey interviewer can and will evaluate your PEI example.
 
As there is no need to come up with complex examples in respect to the general context/situation, chances are that you will be able to come up with many different examples for the 3 Personal Experience Interview dimensions (as a sidenote, most candidates severely overestimate the importance of the context/general situation of your example anyway – it’s much more about your specific actions and decision-making rationale!). Having several examples to choose from will give you a good variety of examples for your PEI, and in this case you can even ask your interviewer which of your examples he likes you to talk about (and thus implicitly demonstrating that you have a wide array of situations in which you could develop and use your skills).

You can find much more information about choosing and structuring your PEI examples in The Ultimate McKinsey PEI Prep eBook

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