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Asking for time and asking for the OK - unnatural?

communication time
New answer on Jul 12, 2024
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 10, 2024

Hi, 

I have the habit to ask for time for each new task. For example, I explained my structure and then I say I would go into direction X. The interviewer then says, please first come up with some innovative ideas. In such a case I then ask if I can take some time to structure my ideas. And over the case, I typically ask for time, also when doing the math or looking at an exhibit. So everytime I confronted with something new I ask for time. Could real interviewers criticise me for that, as they may perceive it as not natural to ask for more time several times during an interview. What is your experience?

The same goes with getting the OK. I say for example, my next step would be to look at XYZ if this is ok for you. Or is it Ok for you if I do X first, because … Could that also be disturbing or unnatural when asking too many times during the interview “is it ok”?

Thanks for helping.

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Ariadna
Expert
replied on Jul 10, 2024
BCG | Project Leader and Experienced Interviewer | MBA at London Business School

Hi there, 

I totally get where you are coming from - it's very hard to own the discussion during the interview AND appear conversational and natural at the same time! 

Concretely, what I used to do in interviews to appear more conversational was to vary a bit what I was saying/doing to get time to think: 

  • In the beginning, for the structuring question: I asked for time and probably took the longest time to think across questions 
  • After each subsequent question: I would often say something like “I will just take a few seconds to structure my answer”. I personally found annoying always phrasing it as a question (also as an interviewer). And then really try to keep that time brief (e.g., 30 seconds or so)
  • For any follow-up questions to my answers or graph interpretations, I would try to “gain” time if I needed by maybe repeating the question or saying out loud something obvious ("ok, I see we have two main categories over 10 years"). This needs to be done carefully of course. 
  • I think overall the case, keeping up a good pace (not rushing into answers, but also not having long pauses) is the goal. This might not come naturally to most people (it's actually hard to think and present your thinking at the same time!), but it can 100% be trained. 

For the asking “if OK” bit, I would not ask after each answer, or even most answers. If I make an assumption or a proposed way forward, I would say something: “assuming this is ok for you” or “assuming we do not further data, I would next look into …” or simply “I would then move on to look into this”. 

Overall, you need to prove you are driving the solving process, not ask for permission or re-assurance at every step. 

I would recommend for your next case practices to ask your case partner to give you feedback on these specific points and see how your communication style is perceived. 

Hope this helps, 

Ariadna 

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Hagen
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2024
#1 recommended coach | >95% success rate | most experience in consulting, interviewing, and coaching

Hi there,

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your questions:

  • First of all, asking for time is generally accepted as long as you don't overdo it. But, for example, whenever you receive new information or have to generate an approach or ideas, it is absolutely natural to require some time.
  • Moreover, however, I would highly advise you not to ask for permission for the following two reasons: 1) you are supposed to guide through the case study, and 2) a well-trained interviewer will not respond to your questions (with a clear answer).

You can find more on this topic here: How to succeed in the final interview round.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to best prepare for your upcoming interviews, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

For most new parts of the case, you can ask for some time to think, e.g.,

  • Structuring
  • Charts
  • Math
  • Brainstorming

However, you don't need the buy-in from the interviewer. I would actually refrain from asking if your answer is okay or not. 

Why?

A case interview mirrors a client situation. Imagine asking the client all the time if they are okay with your insights and analysis. It is your role to present this confidently and LEAD THEM in this process, not the other way round.

Cheers,

Florian

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Jul 12, 2024
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Private Equity | Market Estimates | Fit Interview

First, you want to do it well

Then you want to do it fast.

Doing it well is always better than mediocre and fast.

If you need the time, ask for it. Once you start becoming proficient, ask for time only on key moments. 

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Ariadna gave the best answer

Ariadna

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BCG | Project Leader and Experienced Interviewer | MBA at London Business School
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