The aim of personal experience questions is to get to know the candidate on a more personal level. This is a crucial part of the interviews! Apart from your problem solving, analytical and communication skills, consulting firms want to make sure you as a candidate fit into the company’s culture and are able to handle client communication well. We recommend that you invest significant time into this! 

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McKinsey and BCG differ slightly in the way the approach the personal experience part, yet the content is pretty much identical. Therefore, we recommend using the preparation material of BOTH firms below even if you’re only applying to one of the two companies. It will help you to have an answer available to tricky questions, which may be out of context or unexpected, and it will also help you to think deeper about certain questions.

Take this part serious and go deep into the questions. Don’t be superficial by just scratching the surface of a question – always go one level deeper for example by continuously asking yourself the question “why?”.

McKinsey

At McKinsey, the personal experience questions are very structured. They look for certain traits in a candidate and expect you to tell them a story which shows that you have that specific quality. 

There are three categories which are looked at during the personal experiences questions:

  • Drive: Overcome challenge + perseverance 
    • Think of one or two stories where you set yourself a tough goal or had to overcome a big challenge. What was the challenge? What was your motivation to overcome that challenge? What did you do? Did you succeed? Why? How? What was the result? What did you do well? What could you have done better?
  • Leadership: Influence team/one person + conflict management
    • Think of one or two stories where you worked in a team and had an influence on the team or an individual. Was there a conflict? What was the conflict? How did it develop? Why? What was your role? What was the role of the other people? What did you do? How? Why? What was the result? What did you do well? What could you have done better?
  • Impact: Convincing someone + show initiative
    • Think of one or two stories where you were able to convince someone. What was the situation? What was the goal? Who did you convince? Why? How? What was the result? What did you do well? What could you have done better?

Use this Template by Consulting Challenge to structure your thoughts. Don’t use it whilst telling someone your story as practice – it will come across as unnatural. This is an example of how an interview may go.
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  1. Each interviewer usually ask you one single question (e.g. Tell me about a time when had a challenge, which refers to Drive). The conversation can last up to 30 min. and this includes time where s/he will stop you to clarify or ask follow up questions. 
  2. Be self-critical and honest! Show that you have invested time in this and go deep into the question/situation. It will allow you to have a good conversation and answer the follow-up questions in a detailed manner.
  3. Always think about the WHY and the HOW. Don’t only refer to the situation but also to the people (e.g. why did you communicate in that specific way with the person?).
  4. Personal experience questions aim to get to know YOU as a person. The outcome of the situation is less important than what you did and why and how.
  5. The stories you tell one interviewer cannot be used to respond the questions of another interviewer (regardless of whether is another round). Therefore, make sure you have at least 1 story for each trait (ideally 2 per trait in case you forget one during the interview).
  6. Prepare a mix of professional and personal experiences. If unsure, choose the one you’re more comfortable with.
  7. Your answer cannot be a monologue. It should be a conversation between the interviewer and you. Make sure you answer the questions and engage as much as possible. Practise these stories by telling them to someone or recording yourself and ask for feedback. Ideally find someone you trust who can really grill you on certain situations for practice.

BCG

At BCG, the personal experience questions serve the same purpose as at McKinsey – to get to know you on a more personal level. Just like McKinsey, they want to know how you act in a team, how you communicate, how you manage conflict, if you have overcome challenges, if you can be a leader, if you can convince people, if you can show initiative, etc.

The difference to McKinsey is that BCG wants to find that out about you in a more flexible way. The interviewer does not have a specific structure s/he needs to follow. Nonetheless, just like at McKinsey, the interviewer wants to dig deep into certain questions/situations, so be prepared!

We have collected a wide variety of Personal Questions you may receive during an interview with BCG for you to prepare. This is to give you an idea of what you can come across and can help you think about certain situations/skills you may not have thought about before. We recommend using these questions in combination with the preparation for McKinsey – trust us, it can only help!

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 18.54.041. The conversation can last up to 30 min. and this includes time where s/he will stop you to clarify or ask follow up questions. 

2. Be self-critical and honest! Show that you have invested time in this and go deep into the question/situation. It will allow you to have a good conversation and answer the follow-up questions in a detailed manner.

3. Always think about the WHY and the HOW. Don’t only refer to the situation but also to the people (e.g. why did you communicate in that specific way with the person?).

4. Your answer cannot be a monologue. It should be a conversation between the interviewer and you. Make sure you answer the questions and engage as much as possible. Practise these stories by telling them to someone or recording yourself and ask for feedback. Ideally find someone you trust who can really grill you on certain situations for practice.

In addition to the personal experience questions, BCG also has something called “BCG Real Life” in certain countries. This is a situational exercise where they want to see how you behave in certain situations. It’s around 15 min. long and does NOT require any preparation from your side – actually preparation would be counter-productive because your reaction would not be natural anymore, which they will notice immediately. A couple of example questions are:

  • You have received a file from the client and another employee of the client informs you that you have received wrong data. What do you do? Formulate an email to the client to resolve the situation.
  • Tell me about your passion for 15 min.
  • You’re sitting in the car with your BCG colleague on the way to the airport. Find out something unique about him/her.

Other Resources

Here are some more resources in case you need more. In our experience, the content mentioned above is sufficient.