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Changing the structure in the middle of a case?

Case Interview MBB mistakes Structure
New answer on Aug 30, 2022
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Dec 26, 2018

Hi! I wonder if it is okay to change my initial structure in the middle of the case when I discover that I have overlooked and important aspect. Will the interviewer hold this against me? And what is the best way to actually do the required change without looking indecisive and insecure?

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Sidi
Expert
replied on Dec 26, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

This is a point that I frequently emphasize when coaching candidates: if you find out that your structure from the beginning has been missing an important element, it is not only ok, but ESSENTIAL to refer back to your structure and integrate the newly discovered aspect into it! Here it is best practice to actively moderate the process, i.e.,

"This is a very interesting finding, and I believe it critically impacts my basic structure. So if you allow me, I will take a moment to refine my approach and then walk you through how the new element relates to the rest of the structure.".

Because guess what - this is what happens basically every week during real consulting work! You constantly iterate and refine, so doing this in a clear and logical way during the case interview shows a very important skill.

Regarding the recommendation phase, I would not ask the questions on time at this stage. I would rather frame my recommendation as contingent on the time horizon. E.g.,

"If you are looking at a short to mid-term time frame (<18 months), the recommendation is [abc]. For a longer time horizon though, I would rather recommend [xyz]."

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Guennael
Expert
replied on Dec 26, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

No matter what you do, always communicate your thought process: we are not in your head, and cannot credit for something you think but dont say. We can and will however dock you points if you surprise / confuse us by going a new direction without warning.

It is ok to think of a new approach or angle in the middle of the case - make sure to explain why that is relevant (hypothesis), how you expect to tackle it and what you expect to get out of this. If you can do this on the fly, great - but you will likely want to take a minute to gather your thoughts and come back with a fleshed out new structure

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Simon
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Aug 30, 2022
50+ successful coachings / Ex-Mckinsey JEM & Interviewer / Industry + Engineering background

Dear A,

in general a good structure can be evaluated by a certain depth and breadth. The “depth” should be at least 3-4 levels while the “breadth” should cover the entire solution space. You can cross-check this with the MECE principles (For details see respective article on Preplounge), but the CE (collectively exhaustive) part is basically defining your breadth.

Finally, make sure to check for inter-linkages in your structure and point them out.

Simon

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Anonymous replied on Sep 14, 2020

I'd say it's not only OK, but earns you extra points. If you have the guts to say: "You know what - I realize this new insight moves the case outside of my initial framework. Here's how I intend to adjust it...." you've demonstrated that you're in full control of where the case is going. Nothing can shake your composure and you know exactly the capabilities and limitations of the tool you've built to crack the case.

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Anonymous replied on Sep 13, 2020

Hi A,

It's quite fine to change the structure of your answer if you find out you missed some important details. What is not OK is that you do without warning the interviewer.

The main objective is not only to give a full structured answer but also to be able to make a transition to a new structure by logically filling it with missing elements. The interviewer might not be aware of what's in your head, thus it's very important to be clear and consistent about your answer.

Being able to adjust your answer on the spot is just a matter of practice, so make sure you provide all the information in a proper way.

Best,
André

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

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