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Dealing with ambiguous type of cases

Candidate-led interviews Interviewer-led
New answer on Apr 21, 2020
5 Answers
1.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Feb 17, 2020

It seems that MBB firms could give both type of cases - candidate led and interviewer led. I usually structure the question by a candidate led style. But among the cases I've practised with people on prep lounge, I find that sometimes it is hard to define which kind of case type is it. In some interviewer led cases, the interviewer does not ask me questions directly like interviewer led style cases. I rather feel that it is a candidate led case. So when the interviewer starts to ask me questions after I have completed some part of my analysis, I start to panic since I feel that I must have missed some important parts so the interviewer is asking questions to give me "hints" to proceed the case.

My question is:

1. In real interview scenario, is it easy to spot whether the case is candidate led or interviewer led (several seperate and individual questions) style? In interviewer led case, will they directly state the questions one by one, instead of randomly throwing out some questions in the middle of the case?

2. Any advice on improving my struggling situation mentioned above? How to have a steady performance and natural flow when the interviewer starts to ask you questions that is not covered in the initial structure? Should I ask for some time to "update" my structure?

Appreciate the advice!

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replied on Feb 17, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers


Please understand: there is no such thing as a "candidate-led structure" or "interviewer-led structure". It simply does not exist!

  • Structure is completely independent on whether the interviewer is leading throughout the case or not! For some reason, people always obsess about candidate-led vs. interviewer-led. Firstly, firms will conduct cases on a spectrum between both extremes, and there will almost never be a "pure style".
  • Moreover, learning how to address and navigate cases MUST be done in a candidate-led way. there is no way you can learn how to properly deal with cases in a purely interviewer-led style! Once you master this, then interviewer.led cases are actually easier, since a majore element (i.e., prioritisation of scrutinized analyses) is mostly taken over by the interviewer

So on your questions:

  1. You will realize this in the course of the case, when the interviewer guides you with regard to which areas of the analysis he wants you to explore. But as indicated above, this is fine since it is irrelevant for your initial ystructure!
  2. If it happens frequently that the interviewer asks questions that can not be mapped anywhere in your structure, then this is a clear sign that you are still very weak in structuring. Most probably your structure lacks an inherent top-down logic, especially when you fall victim to the misunderstanding that structuring just means to tell the interviewer what areas you want to look into (this is not a structure!)

Cheers, Sidi

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Content Creator
replied on Feb 28, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached


You have to see the structure as a tool that is there to help you during the resolution. That means that you can and you have to modify the structure if this can add value to your resolution.
Whenever you think that you have to add something, you can just ask for 30 seconds and to complete your structure. SOmetimes findings during the case force you to modify your approach, it's completely fine.

Regarding the interviewe-led case it's not something important: you have to write your structure as in a candidate led case.


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replied on Feb 17, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


I think you misunderstand the whole process of solving the case. Your structure is not limited to the initial structure. No matter who leads the interview (Candidate, interviewer or a mix of both), you should:

  1. Build the initial structure of the case
  2. Drill deeper by structuring the process further
  3. Answer any question on creativity (related or not related to the original problem of the case) with a structure.

Thus you should be constantly structuring through the case.


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Anonymous replied on Apr 21, 2020

Hi there,

Agree with others that there is no fundamental difference in candidate led and interviewer led cases. How you solve a problem remains the same. If you can crack a candidate led case, you should be able to handle interviewer led cases.

The only thing I would mention is for interviewer led cases, just be prepared that sometimes you would get cut off in the middle of a branch you are exploring and be re-directed to another branch of the issue tree. Just know that this doens't necessarily mean you've done anything wrong. It is just a different format of the interview. Nothing personal.



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Content Creator
replied on Apr 18, 2020
150+ interviews | 6+ years experience | Bain, Kearney & Accenture | Exited startup| London Business School

Your structure is not dependent on the type of interview style. You will quickly find out what your interviewer prefers and my advice is to not get distracted much by thinking about the style of interview. That is a waste of breath. As indicated your structure should be fluid and the point is that you test your hypothesis and adjust as you go.

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