Cracking the Interview: Questions at McKinsey

Decoding McKinsey: Unveiling the Powerhouse's Enigmatic Interview Questions that Separate the Best from the Rest.

Interviewing with one of the oldest yet largest of the “Big Three” management consultancies in the world is exciting and intimidating at the same time. 

To make your preparation for a successful interview seamless, this article will provide sample questions, advice on how to answer them correctly, and common mistakes to avoid.

Candidates, especially those in management consulting, are often apprehensive about the McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI). A McKinsey PEI is a behavioral interview designed to evaluate a candidate’s values, skills, and experience. However, these questions differ from traditional behavioral interview questions, which primarily examine past work experiences and achievements. 

The McKinsey PEI: Importance

A McKinsey PEI is valuable to the company because it aids the firm in finding candidates who share its values and are equipped with the necessary skills and experience. A unique “mindset” at McKinsey emphasizes problem-solving, teamwork, and client impact

The firm’s values include:

  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Collaboration
  • Stewardship 

For instance, one McKinsey PEI interview question may focus on how you demonstrated integrity in a difficult situation. Another may ask how you collaborated with others to achieve a goal. These questions assess your skills, experience, and alignment with McKinsey’s mindset and values. Some examples of how to handle these questions will be presented later.

Let me provide a bit more detail about what McKinsey PEI interviewers look for in contrast to traditional behavioral interviews.

What Interviewers Search for in the McKinsey PEI

  • Do you possess the McKinsey mindset?

A good candidate must possess analytical skills, be able to solve problems and be comfortable with ambiguity. Candidates must also be aligned with McKinsey’s core values of integrity, respect, and meritocracy. This is what I mean by the McKinsey mindset.

Allow me to take this one step further through an example.

As part of McKinsey’s core values, the company values innovative people who can think creatively.

When interviewing you, they might ask how you solved a complex problem. It interests them to hear your actions and thought process to reach a solution. A good answer will demonstrate a McKinsey mindset and prove that you can solve complex issues.

  • Do you have applicable skills and experience that correspond with the open position?

If the interviewer seeks leadership experience, they will ask for examples. Likewise, if the position involves working with data, they will assess your data analysis abilities.


Interviewers look for McKinsey-minded candidates aligned with McKinsey’s core values and who have relevant skills for the position in which they are interviewing. Consider these aspects when answering McKinsey PEI questions to make a positive impression on the interviewer.

STAR Method for Answering McKinsey PEI Questions

The STAR method is one of the best ways to answer the McKinsey PEI questions.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Results; it was designed by experts in HR and recruitment to help you present a concise and convincing answer to behavioral-based interview questions.

For a more in-depth look at the STAR method, read my article “ Applying the STAR Method for Five-Star Interview Answers.”

It is important to develop a story bank of relevant experiences in addition to using the STAR method. In this way, you will be more likely to demonstrate your skills and experience in ways that align with McKinsey’s values and mindset.

Here Are Some Sample McKinsey PEI Questions

Now that you are familiar with what McKinsey interviewers are looking for let’s examine some sample questions to gain a better understanding.

What did you do when you had to work with someone difficult?

Choose an example of how you successfully resolved a conflict with a coworker or team member. Emphasize the problem-solving skills you showed and how you communicated effectively.

Could you tell us about a time when you took a risk and how it turned out?

Choose a situation demonstrating your willingness to take on challenges and leave your comfort zone to demonstrate your decision-making ability and propensity for taking calculated risks. Describe your risk assessment, how you mitigated potential negative outcomes, and what you learned from it.

Can you tell me about when you had to lead a team to achieve a difficult objective?

You will be assessed on your leadership skills and ability to motivate your team. Choose a scenario when you had to meet urgent deadlines, limited resources, or uncertain circumstances. Explain your actions to achieve the goal, your result, and your role in leading the team through those challenging circumstances.

When working under pressure, how did you handle it?

This question aims to determine how well you handle stressful and high-pressure situations. Include an example of how you successfully handled the pressure and delivered good results when you faced tight deadlines, high stakes, or difficult situations.

Candidate Mistakes on the McKinsey PEI

It is imperative to warn you of some things that can go wrong during the interview.


It is the interviewee’s biggest mistake to come to the interview unprepared. To excel in McKinsey PEI, you must clearly articulate your past experiences. A lack of preparation can lead to rambling, forgetting important details, and not following through with your answers.

Experiences Are Not Articulated

A strong communication skill is essential when answering McKinsey PEI questions. A lack of practice, nervousness, or poor storytelling techniques may make it difficult to articulate your experiences and ideas coherently. Without effective communication, your interview will not effectively demonstrate your skills and capabilities.

Deficiencies in the Mindset and Values of McKinsey

A prospective employee’s alignment with McKinsey’s core values and mindset is essential for their hiring decisions; the inability to articulate this alignment could result in losing your job opportunity. McKinsey’s values must be understood and internalized, and your experiences, stories, and examples should be aligned accordingly.

In the absence of clear and concise explanations of your experiences, you may leave your interviewer wondering about the quality of those experiences, or you may overshare irrelevant information. If you fail to align your response with McKinsey’s values, you could inadvertently emphasize actions that do not meet their expectations. 

A Few Final Thoughts

A McKinsey PEI interview is a crucial component of McKinsey’s hiring process.

Using the STAR method to practice your answers will allow you to impress your interviewer and demonstrate your potential as a McKinsey member. 

The goal is to succinctly and clearly articulate your answers to sample McKinsey PEI questions based on your story bank of relevant experiences.

When preparing for an interview, it’s best to do research, practice answers, and align one’s values with McKinsey’s. (I bet you now see why this has been stated relentlessly in this article!)  Stay calm, think critically, and show why you would be an asset to the company. 

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