Why is the McKinsey PEI so important for the overall evaluation of a candidate?

Alongside doing a lot of data analytics especially in the more junior ranks of the consulting firms, there is still a high level of intense relations with the client organization starting with day one as a consultant. After all, consulting is a people business, thus McKinsey is putting a lot of weight on recruiting the “right” candidates with appropriate soft skills as well during the McKinsey PEI.

Due to the importance and impact of McKinsey projects, there is an inherently high potential for conflicts within client organizations. More often than not, the context for working below the C-level execs hierarchy is not that desirable and less than ideal – and as a future McKinsey consultant you are mainly left alone with all this as part of your everyday job:

  • Personal interests, hidden agendas and office politics of various people in the organization
  • Crisis situation with a need of immediate high-impact action
  • General reluctance of client employees sharing information with the consultant
  • Client employees‘ fear about your power in the organization and potential secret project goals
  • High uncertainty of client employees about potentially negative changes for them personally – usually McKinsey is not hired and paid millions to leave everything as it is within the client organization
  • Time pressure to achieve tangible results to move forward in the project

While “hard”, analytical problem-solving skills (which are mainly tested in the case study interview part) are still a crucial evaluation criterion in the McKinsey recruiting process, those skills can be trained and acquired comparatively easy.

On the contrary, “soft” interpersonal skills cannot be that easily trained and acquired from one day to the next, but require practical experience in addition to the conceptual/theoretical basis – therefore McKinsey is looking even more closely for those soft skills than for hard analytical skills in the interview process.

For the PEI it is clearly not enough to having some experience in those “soft” interpersonal skills under your belt. For a successful PEI and consequently getting your desired McKinsey offer, you also need to communicate your skills in a very structured and precise way to get your points across within the very limited time for the PEI.

Due to massive challenges faced by interacting with the client organization, a lot of weight is put on the “soft“ skills side in the recruiting process. Getting your McKinsey offer is impossible with a low score on the PEI since having those “soft” skills is crucial to McKinsey.


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