The McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI) is an important component of McKinsey’s recruitment process. The PEI is designed to assess a candidate’s fit with the firm’s values and purpose, as well as their ability to navigate complex situations and make an impact.
Until recently, the PEI covered three dimensions that are evaluated. However, McKinsey has recently introduced a new dimension to the PEI, called “Courageous Change”, which evaluates a candidate’s ability to adapt to significant change and navigate ambiguous situations.
In this article, I want to shed some light on this dimension and provide you with potential sample stories that you could use as the foundation for your own stories.
Overview of the PEI dimensions
The PEI evaluates candidates on several dimensions, including “Personal Impact,” “Inclusive Leadership,” and “Entrepreneurial Drive.” Each dimension assesses specific skills and behaviors that are critical for success at McKinsey.
Inclusive Leadership. Show that you can handle a diverse group that accepts you as their leader, with each member looking up to you. Tailor your leadership style for different groups and different members of the group. Demonstrate that you can structure, divide, and delegate tasks. Motivate your team, and improve the team spirit and the working environment. Coach team members in their areas of weakness. Mediate conflicts between teammates and goals; meet goals. Be a trustworthy authority that people can learn from. Provide space for individual team members to perform at their best, give them room to voice their opinions, and champion their contributions. Summing up, let your presence have a positive impact on the team and lead to a strong outcome of a particular project or task.
Entrepreneurial Drive. Show ambition and dedication by pursuing several goals at the same time. Ideally, you are intrinsically motivated and not pushed by external factors. To achieve your desired outcome you overcome some obstacles or face headwinds. Follow the goals with energy and passion under time pressure, surpassing even your own expectations in the end.
Personal impact. Persuade a group or individual to adopt a certain idea or plan of yours (this does not imply that they necessarily have to like you). The idea can be unpopular but lead to a necessary decision or recommendation. Get people on your side or on the same page to enable a constructive working environment. By getting everyone on board, you create a sustainable way of working or even a solution to a difficult problem.
Introducing Courageous Change
We are now seeing that across most offices Entrepreneurial Drive is removed from the interviewers’ curriculum and replaced by Courageous Change.
The “Courageous Change” dimension is designed to evaluate a candidate’s ability to embrace change with courage and positivity and to be adaptable in unexpected situations. This dimension is particularly important in today’s rapidly changing business environment that consultants face daily, where the ability to adapt to new circumstances is critical for success. Being adaptable to change was always part of the corporate agenda, but over the last years, it seems that the pace of change has only become faster and its magnitude more severe.
By revisiting a time when they experienced a significant change or encountered an ambiguous situation, candidates should showcase their ability to learn, grow, and make an impact in new and challenging situations.
It is important to note that McKinsey did not come up with a completely new dimension here as a lot of the elements that were relevant for Entrepreuenrial Drive are still relevant here. However, to score at the maximum and impress your interviewers it is important to also consider the differences between the two.
Content elements for Courageous Change
Consider the following content elements when drafting your story:
- Quickly adjust to new situations and change your course of action if needed
- Focus on areas that move the needle the most/where you have the biggest impact (80/20 and prioritization of tasks)
- Show initiative to tackle the issue (you should be a self-starter and not driven by someone else)
- Have the resilience and energy to deal with setbacks and stressful environments
- Use challenging situations as a learning and step-up opportunity and to help others to navigate challenging times
- Act based on limited or ambiguous information that is available to you
- Overcome obstacles or face headwinds along the way by coming up with creative and new ideas or approaches (focus on impact and sustainable solutions)
- Remain positive throughout the whole experience and see challenges and crises as opportunities
In sum, demonstrating your ability to adapt to change, see opportunities, create lasting impact, and bring others along for the change is crucial for success in the Courageous Change interview.
Sample answers for Courageous Change
Below are two sample answers for the new dimension that could provide you with the foundation of what content should be included for this dimension. Use it as an inspiration and create your own stories.
Similar to the other PEI dimensions, I would recommend that you create two stories for this dimension as well for two reasons. First, interviewers might want to hear a different story or second, you might have to talk about the same dimension twice with different interviewers.
When creating the story, use my battle-tested SCORE framework for maximum impact and clarity. Also, remember that a typical Personal Experience Interview can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and contains a lot of questions by the interviewers such as “How did you feel at that moment?”, “Why did you react in such a way?”, etc.
Remember all the details of the story and be prepared for potential challenges and deep dives.
Now, let’s look at the two examples for different applicants:
“As I was leading a project team, I encountered a significant change when our approach was challenged by a key stakeholder. Rather than getting defensive, I took a step back to understand the stakeholder’s perspective. I worked with my team to develop a new approach that addressed the stakeholder’s concerns, showing my ability to adapt to new circumstances, embrace change with courage and positivity, and collaborate to find a solution. This experience showcased my versatility and adaptability in unexpected situations and my commitment to finding the best solution for all parties involved.”Project manager faced with a challenge
Working in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment in my last internship, I was faced with an ambiguous situation when my team’s project was put on hold due to a sudden change in priorities. Instead of getting discouraged, I saw this as an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. I worked closely with my team to identify alternative projects that aligned with the firm’s priorities, showing my adaptability in unexpected situations and my willingness to learn and grow in the face of change. This experience highlights my ability to embrace challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth, both professionally and personally.Intern faced with an ambigious situation
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