Case Timing

BCG McKinsey and Bain Case Interview
New answer on Jul 01, 2022
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 30, 2022

In a case interview, is it possible to be rejected for taking too much time to think (but you got all the answers right and had good structured thinking)?

For example, I feel that when I try to rush, I make more mistakes. For example, in 1 minute 30 seconds, I produce a weak framework. But in 2 minutes, I produce a strong MECE framework. If I maintain the 2-2:30 minutes time along with my accuracy, would this hurt me?

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Kurt
Expert
replied on Jun 30, 2022
Conducted over 100 interviews for grads, interns & experienced hires

It is always better to take more time and get things right.

One small technique you could use to manage the impression of the interviewer is to provide a small update after 60-90 seconds e.g. “OK great I have detailed out what I think are the key elements, do you mind if I take an additional 60 seconds just to make sure I structure it correctly and have all the key elements there?”

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Moritz
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
Unearth your spike & get the offer |ex-McKinsey | 120+ coachings & interviews @ McKinsey | ESADE MBA | Transition Expert

Hi there,

Generally speaking, you don't get penalized for asking for and taking a reasonable amount of time to understand something - neither in interviewer-led cases (McKinsey) or candidate-led cases (other firms).

The question is just: what's a reasonable amount of time? For frameworks it could be 2 minutes, for a brainstorming questions 30-60 seconds, for graph reading 20 seconds, etc. However, it really depends on the interviewer and their preferences.

My advice is the following if you're struggling (using a the response to a structuring question as an example): 

  • Prioritize producing an 80/20 output in a shorter amount of time that you're happy with and that is good enough to share
  • Offer the interviewer the 80/20 answer and say that you could get more exhaustive and granular if you had 30 seconds more
  • Leave it to the interviewer to steer you i.e. give you more time for the perfect answer or settle for the 80/20 answer, depending on their expectations/time management

By doing the above, you show maturity through prioritization and communication skills and you make the whole interview very conversational, which is a big plus.

Depending on the situation, you'll have to use a different version of this approach but it generally works well for any situation that requires taking time!

Hope this helps! Best of luck!

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) In a case interview, is it possible to be rejected for taking too much time to think (but you got all the answers right and had good structured thinking)?

I can’t see a scenario where the interviewer will reject you because you needed a bit of extra time. 

The issue that you may have if you need a lot of time to structure is different.

If the interviewer thinks you had enough time, he/she may ask if you can present what you have. If your structure is then incomplete (because you didn’t have time to finish it), it may not be appropriate / MECE. And that could be a possible reason for a rejection.

2) If I maintain the 2-2:30 minutes time along with my accuracy, would this hurt me?

In general that's fine. Just be ready for the fact that the interviewer may ask you if you are ready and to present what you have if you take longer than what he/she expects.

In any case, if the alternative you have is a weak structure, you should take the additional time. Better to take a bit longer and have a better structure.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Ian
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

It is better to be slow and right than fast and wrong.

Keep this in mind: You don't have a choice…take the time you need to have a strong answer.

Two quick points:

  1. Incorporate techniques to speed things up (shorthand writing, etc.)
  2. Practice
  3. Recognize that 2 mins is actually a reasonable amount of time!
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Clara
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replied on Jul 01, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

It seems to me that you are already taking the right steps to become a master in tricky math questions, congrats :)

Unfortunately, the only non-original advise that I can give you here is: practice, practice, practice. Only by doing a bunch of those you would realize mistakes like the one you point out, and don´t do them again. 

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Cristian
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
Highest recommendation rate / Top McKinsey coach / 100% success rate at >4 sessions / Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

Not at all. 

What I always tell candidates is that the smallest thing you can do to instantly improve your performance is to take more time. Candidates are almost never rejected for taking too much time, but they are always rejected for being wrong. 

So worry about quality, not speed. 

Best,

Cristian

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Florian
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

Definitely not!

In fact, I noticed that some of my clients who take more time to think, finish the case faster as their answers are more thought out and also communicated in a more succinct manner.

  • For candidate-led cases, they are quicker to identify the issue
  • For McKinsey cases, their answers are more exhaustive and insightful

Stick to what works for you! :-)

Cheers,

Florian

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Ashwin
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replied on Jun 30, 2022
Ex Manager Bain and company | INSEAD

Hey there, 

2 mins should be okay if it helps you formulate a better structure. I would still advise you to improve your timing  through thoughtful practice that involves external feedback through coach or partners.  Time is a constraint that a candidate is expected to work with. Typically the  interviewer might have given an identical or similar case to potentially 50 other candidates and he is assessing your performance against the above average performers and determining how you stack up. 

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Kurt gave the best answer

Kurt

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