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Confusion of Interviewer-led cases

Case Interview McKinsey
New answer on Aug 10, 2020
4 Answers
2.6 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Nov 29, 2018

Dear omnipotent preplounge,

I'm invited to the McKinsey 1st round interview next week, and though I did 20+ mock interviews (mainly from case books), there are still 2 questions confused me a lot for the actual McK 1st round interview:

  1. Will the ture Mckinsey cases intended to hide information, and wait the candidate to ask & clarify, before the 1st question? Or they will provide all information in the introduction? I'm asking this because, a lot cases in the casebook, though marked as "Interviewer-led", have a couple of information hidden (cannot provide by the interviewer volunteered) and only can be provided when the interviewee asked.
  2. For qualitative questions (structure & conceptual), if my answer makes sense, but not exactly the same as the standard answer of the case, will I get passed or will this be risky? If I gave point A, B, C, D but the standard answer covers A, C, D, E, will I loose point? See example below.

For example, if amarket entry case, my 1st layer factor is 1) should they enter it (mkt attractiveness), 2) can they enter it (client capability to enter & acquire customers, covering customer understanding), 3) how they enter it(ways to enter and profitability/roi), 4) will they success in it (specific target, time frame, risks) . If the standard answer is 1)market, 2) customer 3) product 4) client capability (sorry to make up here using Victor Cheng's framework...), what would likely be the points I get? A score 1 or score 2?

Thanks a lot!!

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Anonymous replied on Aug 10, 2020

Dear A,

1. Yes. There some piece of information which can be shared upon request. So don't be shy and ask clarifying questions. For that I would like to share with you some a check-list of a clarifying question which you might ask:

Here are some basic things you need to know before the case:

- about the case objective:

  • What is the measurable metric of success?

  • What is the time frame?

  • What are potential restrictions or limitations?

- about your understanding of the company

•. Business model: How does the company make money? Do they sell directly to customers or do they sell through retailers or partners?

  • Products and services: What products and services does the company sell? What benefits do these products and services provide?

  • Geographic location: Does the company have one location or are they a national chain? Does the company operate in just one country or do they have an international presence?
    - about definition of a term you are unfamiliar with

Most consulting interviews do not require you to have specialized knowledge or expertise in an industry. Therefore, if you come across a term that you are unfamiliar with, it is completely acceptable to ask the interviewer for the definition.

2. AGree with other experts, that there is no one answer to the case and you will be assessed mostly on structureing abitlity.

Thus I would recommend you take take as much as possible interviews. for that you can use case from the case library with different level of difficulty to be prepared as fully as possible. BTW McKinsey has both Interview-led and interviewee-led cases, so try to be prepared for both of them.

If you need further advice on preparation, feel free to reach out.


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replied on Nov 29, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Whether interviewee-led or interviewer-led, you still need to display essentially the same qualities, including how you structure.

Also, remember the main objective is not to crack the case, but to convince your interviewer you can build a structure, follow it, ask the right questions, draw the right insights, and work towards a recommendation. Actually cracking the case is a mere result of the process. If you follow the process, I know you will crack it, given enough time.

Last but not least, and as Mathias suggests, cases may have more than one answer... Life isn't black & white, cases aren't necessarily either.

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replied on Nov 29, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


First of all - McKinsey has both interviewer and candidate led cases. So make sure you can do both. Answering your questions:

  1. It doesn't matter which type of case it is - it mostly depends on the interviewer. Some of them will give you a clear context and unclear objective. Other - objective with no context. So you should always be asking clarifying questions just to be on the safe side if the interviewer did not state a measurable objective / not provided properly the context and business model!
  2. There is no standard answer. As long as your answer makes sense, is well-structured and you are asking the right questions - its good.


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replied on Nov 29, 2018
Ex-McKinsey Engagement Manager / Ex-Diplomat - Perfect choice for non-traditional candidates. Let's get you an offer!

Thank you very much the excellent questions:

1) Even if a case is interviewer-led, you are still required to ask clarifying questions. The difference is merely that the interviewer will guide you in a general direction (e.g. you have come up with the initial structure A/B/C/D - the interviewer might then ask you to start with C and give you some additional information on the topic. Moreover, the interviewer is generally responsible for driving the case to its conclusion and will ensure that you are able to cover the most important points during the 30-minutes.

2) From my experience, cases are generally not graded in a binary way (right/wrong, yes/no) but rather on a range. Moreover, it is often not about getting the exact answer right, but rather about demonstrating your ability to structure and present a logical answer. In fact, I have seen many McKinsey cases that are extremely ambivilent and don't necessarily have an obvious answer.

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