Candidate-Led turning Interviewee-led: when to ask for minutes to gather thoughts?

BCG brainstorming questions Structure
Recent activity on Feb 07, 2019
3 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Feb 06, 2019

Dear all,

What would you recommend a candidate to do in a partner case interview when the partner starts asking one question after another even though it is an interviewee-led case type (and it starts like that): should you always ask for a moment to gather thoughts or just answer questions straight up? The problem with the first approach is that you run out of time to ultimately solve the case, the second one saves time but seems unstructured.

This happened to me at Oliver Wyman where I had to calculate the profits of an airline flying from Frankfurt to Bejing. In the end I did not finish the case and was very surprised by all these detailed question. He told me that the goal of the case was not to solve the case, but to test my logic/ math skills - I hope he was sincere about it and I just not completely fucked it up and he wanted to be nice^^.

Anyway, I struggle with such of nowhere questions when I'm solving the case and these questions have nothing to do with the part of the case I'm solving.

Thanks a lot in advance!!!

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replied on Feb 06, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

I would always recommend to take an instant to identify all the possible elements of an answer to a specific question. Coming up with immature thinking is far worse than being a bit slow! Speed is usually NOT a very important metric on which candidates are evaluated. However, rigor and in thinking and clearness in articulation DEFINITELY are! So the tradeoff is very clear from my perspective.

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on Feb 07, 2019
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I second Sidi's comment: while ideally you won't need time to gsther your thoughts in the middle of a case, it is always better to do so than to think on the fly and crash.

Tl;dr: ask for time when you need it

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replied on Feb 07, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Here are some guidelines on taking the time:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go"

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.



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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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