Preparing for the IEP: fit made in McKinsey

McKinsey is very demanding throughout its recruitment process, and places great emphasis on fit. The firm has created the Personal Experience Interview (PEI) to assess candidates' personal and professional skills.

April 8, 2024 Préparation

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Préparer le PEI de McKinsey - Couverture

McKinsey is very demanding throughout its recruitment process, and places great emphasis on fit. With this in mind, the firm has created the Personal Experience Interview (PEI ) to assess candidates' personal and professional skills. This is the fit part of the interview and is unique to McKinsey. Without a good PEI, you won't be able to move on to the next round or get an offer. Mastering and passing all the dimensions of the McKinsey PEI requires special preparation. The advantage is that preparing for the McKinsey PEI will help you for all your strategy consulting interviews.

Discover below the secrets of the McKinsey IEP and our tips for preparing and passing it, so you can shine during your interviews.

What is the IAP?

IAP structure

The Personal Experience Interview (PEI ) is a standardized form of the fit part of McKinsey interviews. You can be tested on the first 4 dimensions at each interview, and the last dimension is reserved for the final interview. You must therefore prepare and master the following 5 dimensions:

Préparer le PEI de McKinsey - Dimensions

In concrete terms, on the day of the interview, your interviewer will start by introducing himself and letting you briefly introduce yourself. After that, he'll ask you a very broad question that corresponds to one of the dimensions. He won't necessarily specify the dimension. To answer this question, you'll have to relate an experience. Once you've recounted your experience, the interviewer will ask you some questions.

What's special about the McKinsey IEP test is that you're unlikely to find the traditional interview fit questions like :

  • Why our firm?
  • Why strategy consulting?
  • Why you?

But certainly, through your experience, you should share some of the answers to these three questions. The ultimate goal is for the interviewer to understand what you do here, why you applied to McKinsey and to be convinced that you are aligned with the firm's values. And to do that, you need to master the five dimensions at your fingertips.

The five dimensions of the IEP

The origins of the IAP were three dimensions: Personal Impact, Entrepreneurial Drive, Inclusive Leadership. For some time now, two dimensions have been added: Courageous Change and Purpose & Values: Courageous Change and Purpose & Values.

Personal Impact

In this first dimension, the objective will be to demonstrate how you, as an individual on a project or within a group, had an impact on a project. The elements to highlight for this dimension are :

  • Positive impact on an event, project, group or individual
  • Ability to listen and convince
  • Ability to influence decisions in a positive sense

You absolutely must show your personal impact and the results you've achieved through the actions you've taken. You mustn't fall into the trap of speaking on behalf of the group; you must banish the "we" and use only the "I".

The interviewer will be sensitive to an experience where you had to step back and show maturity to overcome obstacles. The important thing is to be able to point out the blocking points, the actions you took to overcome them, and the impact and results you achieved.

Préparer le PEI de McKinsey - Personal impact

Entrepreneurial Drive

In this second dimension, the aim is to demonstrate that you have succeeded in setting and achieving your objectives. The important thing is to show the different steps and actions you took to reach your goals, how you overcame difficulties and, of course, what results you achieved. The elements to highlight are as follows:

  • Ability to set ambitious goals
  • Ability to undertake an action plan to achieve these objectives
  • Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking

You must have a track record of setting ambitious goals in a challenging environment. Demonstrate that you are organized, able to prioritize your tasks and think efficiently.

The interviewer will be particularly sensitive to experiences that demonstrate a strong entrepreneurial dimension in difficult environments. You can also highlight your creativity, which will be particularly valued.

Préparer le PEI de McKinsey - Entrepreneurial drive

Inclusive Leadership

This third dimension is different from the first two in that it actually involves two dimensions in one, with the leadership aspect on the one hand and the inclusive aspect on the other. The objective will therefore be to highlight elements that cover these two dimensions:

  • Ability to work with different people in a difficult working environment
  • Ability to work in a team and promote team spirit
  • Ability to take the lead and empathize with other group members

You need to relate an experience that demonstrates your ability to take the lead on some subjects, not necessarily all, in an inclusive environment. Inclusiveness is very important at McKinsey, as our consultants work in a highly diverse environment.

The interviewer will be very sensitive to both aspects of this dimension:

  • Inclusive: your ability to overcome differences within the team and include people in your project
  • Leadership: your ability to achieve superior performance by aligning individual and group interests
Préparer le PEI de McKinsey - Inclusive leadership

Courageous Change

This fourth dimension is very recent in the McKinsey IEP test, having been introduced from 2021. The aim is to demonstrate a strong ability to manage conflict with empathy and to lead change in difficult situations. The objective will therefore be to highlight the following elements:

  • Ability to manage crisis situations as an individual or as part of a group
  • Ability to make difficult decisions to improve a situation in a challenging environment
  • Ability to achieve results and a positive impact despite difficult starting conditions

You need to tell a story about your ability to make tough decisions in a high-stakes situation. The courageous and ambitious aspects of this dimension are very important.

The interviewer will be sensitive to an experience that truly demonstrates a difficult context in which making decisions and taking action can be complicated. You'll need to highlight the potential consequences of each of your opportunities, even those you've ruled out.

Purpose & Values

This fifth and final dimension is the most recent in the McKinsey IAP, having been introduced in 2023. It is requested at interviews with the firm's Senior Partners. The Purpose & Values dimension tests your direct alignment with one of the firm's values.

The interviewer will ask you to relate an experience that illustrates one of the firm's values. You may be free to choose a value, or you may be asked to choose one. The firm's values are as follows:

Adhere to the highest professional standards

Put customers' interests ahead of those of the firm, maintain high standards and conditions for customer service, observe high ethical standards, preserve customer confidentiality, maintain an independent perspective, manage customer and firm resources profitably.

You need to highlight experiences where you have been able to prioritize your interests, while maintaining a clear, ethical framework for your actions.

Improve our client's performance significantly

Follow a high-level management approach, seek holistic impact, use our global network to offer the best of the firm to all customers, bring innovations in management practices to customers, build customer capacity to sustain improvements, build lasting relationships based on trust.

You need to highlight an experience where you've made a significant impact by working with a group and succeeding in creating lasting relationships.

Create an unrivaled environment for exceptional people

Be non-hierarchical and inclusive, maintain a caring meritocracy, develop each other through learning and mentoring, respect obligations to engage and dissent, embrace diverse perspectives with curiosity and respect, govern ourselves as a "One Firm" partnership.

Finally, you should highlight an experience in which you succeeded in creating a stimulating working environment with other people to achieve ambitious goals.

See also: The salary of a strategy consultant: package, reasons and grid by firm

Our tips for preparing for the McKinsey IEP

Theoretical preparation

The McKinsey PEI is a test in its own right, and requires thorough theoretical preparation to give you the best chance of success. Here are the 3 steps you need to follow to prepare successfully:

  1. Select 6 to 8 professional, academic, associative and personal experiences that you will use for the IEP.
  2. Classify your experiences in the different dimensions, so that you have at least 2 per dimension. Another important point is to have at least one work experience per dimension, as your interviewer may ask you specifically for work experience. In any case, if you're hesitating between two experiences, we recommend that you choose the professional experience.
  3. Prepare your experiments using the STAR method (Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results) or the 4C method (Context, Conflict, Choice, Change).

Once you've prepared all your experiments and listed them by dimension, you can move on to practical preparation and start practicing.

Practical preparation

Practical preparation - in other words, practice for the IEP - is always as important, if not more so, than theoretical preparation. As with preparation for case studies and the fit parts of traditional interviews, we recommend that you take part in dedicated IAP preparation sessions.

The IAP takes place in different stages, from the interviewer's question to the end:

  • When the interviewer has asked you about the IEP, take a moment to think about an experience. Then suggest an experience to the interviewer and ask if it's suitable. He or she may refuse, or ask you for more details.
  • If the experience is validated, take two minutes to present it, no more. Any longer and you risk losing your interviewer.
  • After this two-minute presentation, the interviewer will ask you questions about several elements of your experience. You need to be comfortable with everything you say to be able to discuss each element in depth.

To give yourself the best chance of success, we recommend that you :

  • Answer the IAP question directly, and the fundamental questions indirectly : why McKinsey, why Strategy Consulting, why you.
  • Use top-down communication, i.e. answer the question posed by the IAP and then detail your story. This way, you adopt a consultant's posture and your story will have impact.
  • Always use "I", or at least as much of it as possible. You need to tell the story of your experience, your actions and your impact.
  • Use numbers to quantify your results and impact, and anecdotes to make the story interesting.

All these preparation elements and tips should enable you to succeed in the PEI tests. Sometimes, you may also have more conventional fit questions before or after the PEI question, so prepare for them anyway.

See also: Preparing for strategy consulting interviews

From now on, the IAP will hold no secrets for you...

That's it, you know all the secrets of the McKinsey PEI test, and you're now ready to succeed in your fit interviews. Once again, practice hard, as the PEI test is so important in the final decision to move you on to the next round or to make you an offer. What's more, preparing for the IAP will be invaluable for your other fit interviews with strategy consultancies.

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