Case Interview - structured and unstructured

Case Interview case interview preparation
New answer on Dec 30, 2022
4 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Dec 29, 2022

I have an interview coming up and it consists of a structured case interview, an unstructured case interview and a behavioural interview. 

What is the difference between a structured and unstructured case interview? Is this simply interviewer vs interviewee led or is this something different?

Thank you.

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Content Creator
replied on Dec 29, 2022
Ex-Bain and interviewer for 7+ years | >95% success rate | mentor and coach for 6+ years

Hi there,

First of all, congratulations on the invitation!

This is indeed an interesting question which is probably relevant for a lot of users, thus I am happy to provide my perspective on it:

  • In a structured case interview, the interviewer will provide you with a specific business problem or scenario and ask you to solve it. The problem is usually based on a real business challenge that the company has faced or is currently facing. The interviewer will typically give you a limited amount of time to analyze the problem and come up with a solution.
  • Structured case interviews are typically more predictable and follow a specific format. They are designed to test your analytical skills and ability to solve business problems under time pressure.
  • In an unstructured case interview, the interviewer may not provide you with a specific problem or scenario. Instead, they may ask more open-ended questions and expect you to come up with your own business problem to solve. This type of interview is designed to test your ability to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions to business challenges.
  • In both types of case interviews, the interviewer may ask follow-up questions to probe deeper into your thought process and understanding of the business problem. They may also ask for additional information or data to help you better understand the problem.
  • Overall, the main difference between a structured and unstructured case interview is the level of structure and direction provided by the interviewer. In a structured case interview, the interviewer provides a specific problem and guides you through the process of solving it. In an unstructured case interview, the interviewer may provide less direction and expect you to come up with your own problem to solve.
  • Lastly, it's always a good idea to clarify with the company to make sure you have a shared understanding of what to expect in those interviews. You can ask about the specific format and structure of the case interviews, as well as what types of business problems or scenarios you can expect to encounter. This will help you to be better prepared and feel more confident going into the interview.

In case you want a more detailed discussion on what to do in your specific situation, please feel free to contact me directly.



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CoachingPlus Expert
Content Creator
replied on Dec 30, 2022
BCG Expert | #1 in Middle East | 100+ Mocks Delivered | IESE & NYU MBA | Ex-KPMG Dxb Consultant


Here are my thoughts:

1) A structured interview is a typical interview that you must have ideally prepared for: a detailed prompt, exhibits with charts and graphs, very clear and detailed information available throughout the case

2) A structured interview thus tests among other things a) data interpretation skills b) analytical skills 

3) An unstructured interview is one where the prompt is vague and open ended. It requires the candidate to thing big picture and requires a lot of creativity and brainstorming in addition to other skills. There are rarely any exhibits, and the interview heavily relies on the candidates to drive the case forward.

4) An unstructured interview is very popular in the middle east to simulate real life cases that are also very big picture and greenfield.

I specialize in giving mocks for unstructured cases based on the real interviews I have received from interviews. Happy to give you mocks if you're interested.

Feel free to reach out to me via chat!

All the best!


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Content Creator
replied on Dec 29, 2022
ex-McKinsey | Senior Interviewer & MBA Coach @ McKinsey | Personalized key-skill coaching |Blue-chip Strategy Lead

Hi there,

What firm is this with and did they tell you anything else?

I never heard either term and it doesn't make much sense to me, either. After all, all cases are somewhat unstructured from the outset and you're the one expected to bring structure to the table.

I also don't think it refers to interviewee-led or interviewer-led because companies don't typically mix these approaches. There's McKinsey (interviewer-led) and the rest of the consulting world (interviewee-led) and they generally stick to this.

My advice is to directly ask them what this refers to. It's a fair question and they will appreciate your diligence and wanting to prepare well for the occasion.

Hope this helps a bit. Best of luck!


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Anonymous replied on Dec 29, 2022

Worth checking exactly what they mean by unstructured, and whether it varies from interviewee led.

They may mean an interview where (usually someone senior) asks you a series of questions, where the conversation is case-like. For example, a partner could ask “what do you think of my business landline?” and run a whole case on the business of leased lines for corporate clients.

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Hagen gave the best answer


Content Creator
Ex-Bain and interviewer for 7+ years | >95% success rate | mentor and coach for 6+ years
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