Have you ever wondered how to prepare for the PEI portion of your interview?
A significant aspect of consulting is interacting and engaging with clients. To do so, you must have well-developed interpersonal skills. You must be able to communicate effectively, listen to and understand your client's needs, and make recommendations that exceed their expectations.
The Personal Impact Interview (PEI) allows your interviewer to measure these fundamental traits and ultimately assess your fitness for their firm
WHY IS THE PEI IMPORTANT?
The PEI counts for 50% of your total interview score. Ask anybody who has navigated the consulting interview and they will tell you that the PEI is an absolutely vital part of the process.
The PEI becomes more important as you progress through interview rounds. As your interviewer becomes more comfortable with your case performance, they will start to look for the soft skills that every consultant should have.
Because it makes up such a major portion of the interview, you should dedicate sufficient time to preparing and practicing for your PEI.
HOW DO I SUCCEED?
To do well on the PEI, you must first present yourself well. That means to communicate effectively and professionally. Prove that you can hold a conversation and be present with your interviewer.
Be structured in your approach. When the interviewer asks a question, discern what they are looking for and answer the question accordingly. Use a framework such as the SCR framework to give structure to your answer, and use ordinal numbers where possible.
Don't forget to prepare for follow up questions! Your interviewer will notice and appreciate your readiness.
HOW DO I PREPARE?
Prepare around six stories based on professional work experiences such as internships and extra-curricular activities that demonstrate the following characteristics:
Have at least two stories prepared per trait, and look for example questions that highlight each.
Make sure your stories answer the question at hand. Candidates make mistakes when trying to force-fit a story to a question. Don't make that mistake.
Always use a framework when answering the question. I prefer the Situation Complication Resolution (SCR) framework because it most resembles a story with a beginning, middle, and end. There are other effective frameworks as well. Use the one that helps you to be clear in your communication.
Time your answers. Aim for five to seven total minutes per answer. Often, candidates veer off track. Keeping time will help you avoid that mistake.
Make your answer easy on the listener. Use ordinal numbers where you can (e.g., first, second, third). Take a pause to indicate a break and create a flow that your interviewer can follow. Remember, this exercise is about communicating your thoughts with concision.
Be interested in your story! The more interested and engaged you are, the more interested and engaged your listener is. Having a passion for the work is stand-out. If you feel it, let it show.
Get feedback from others. Reach out to your peers or find a good coach to work through your answers. Anybody with experience in the field can help you craft the most effective stories.
Some firms like Bain have situational PEI questions (e.g., "what would you do if your client disagrees with you?"). For questions like this, take a moment to understand what is being asked and gather your thoughts. As always, there is no right or wrong answer—the focus is on the thinking process and your structure.
If you'd like more information, I offer a comprehensive guide to the PEI interview. I go in-depth about what to expect, how to prepare appropriately, which experiences to select, frameworks to utilize for structuring your stories, and practice questions for the interview.
click here to access the PEI guide.
I can also personally guide you through the PEI process if you book a session with me. I have plenty of experience helping candidates ace the Personal Experience Interview and land their dream consulting job.