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5

Dear experts: What are the expectations when the case has a twist or turn?

Dear community,

most "real" interviews have their fair share of twists and turns ("The CEO walks into the room and has exciting new information..."), more so than the cases often seen in case books. This always has the potential to throw the candidate off and often touches on subjects not included in the original structure, especially when dealing with a very broad problem. While I understand that this is partly the goal, I'm still wondering how best to handle the situation and think that understanding the interviewer's thought process and expectations would help a lot. As such, I would really appreciate it if former interviewer's could weigh in on these situations in general, their expectations in particular, and maybe give hints for how best to handle them.

Thank you,
Alex

Dear community,

most "real" interviews have their fair share of twists and turns ("The CEO walks into the room and has exciting new information..."), more so than the cases often seen in case books. This always has the potential to throw the candidate off and often touches on subjects not included in the original structure, especially when dealing with a very broad problem. While I understand that this is partly the goal, I'm still wondering how best to handle the situation and think that understanding the interviewer's thought process and expectations would help a lot. As such, I would really appreciate it if former interviewer's could weigh in on these situations in general, their expectations in particular, and maybe give hints for how best to handle them.

Thank you,
Alex

5 answers

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Best Answer
Book a coaching with Khaled

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Hi Alexander,

That is one of my favorite questions :)

1) Time to answer - I want to see the quality of the answer when the applicants "don't take a few moments to jot down his/her ideas" - can the applicant come up with a structured answer and mention the most relevant points under 1 minute?

2) Composure - I want to see the composure of the applicant when "thrown off guard" - Can I see this applicant working on my team and being able to answer the client when asked a question in the absence of the project manager?

3) Intelligence in framing recommendation and creative next steps for a CEO's focused attention span - I want to see if the applicant can speak "CEO language" - CEOs have clear objectives based on the case (either topline growth, or bottom line, or time, etc.) ....can the applicant frame his/her recommendation in CEO language and provide interesting and creative next steps

The typical structure is as follows:

  • We recommend X because of the following reasons
    • Reason 1, 2, 3 - make sure they are linked to the case core objectives
  • We realize that the recommendation has some risks
    • Mention 1/2 risks
  • As next steps we recommend
    • Risk mitigation measures
    • Creative ideas to take the project to the next phase

I hope this helps

Khaled

Most questions require the applicants to take time to structure their thoughts and we give them that time so we see what is their thought process under "calm" situations - however, we also

Hi Alexander,

That is one of my favorite questions :)

1) Time to answer - I want to see the quality of the answer when the applicants "don't take a few moments to jot down his/her ideas" - can the applicant come up with a structured answer and mention the most relevant points under 1 minute?

2) Composure - I want to see the composure of the applicant when "thrown off guard" - Can I see this applicant working on my team and being able to answer the client when asked a question in the absence of the project manager?

3) Intelligence in framing recommendation and creative next steps for a CEO's focused attention span - I want to see if the applicant can speak "CEO language" - CEOs have clear objectives based on the case (either topline growth, or bottom line, or time, etc.) ....can the applicant frame his/her recommendation in CEO language and provide interesting and creative next steps

The typical structure is as follows:

  • We recommend X because of the following reasons
    • Reason 1, 2, 3 - make sure they are linked to the case core objectives
  • We realize that the recommendation has some risks
    • Mention 1/2 risks
  • As next steps we recommend
    • Risk mitigation measures
    • Creative ideas to take the project to the next phase

I hope this helps

Khaled

Most questions require the applicants to take time to structure their thoughts and we give them that time so we see what is their thought process under "calm" situations - however, we also

Thank you for the comprehensive response! It most certainly helps. — Alexander on Jun 27, 2020

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Hi Alexander,

there are multiple reasons for an interviewer to provide new information. For example:

  1. The interview is interviewer-led and the interviewer simply wants to move to the next step of the analysis
  2. Your previous structure did not include a key area the interviewer wants to focus on
  3. The interviewer wants to challenge you with some additional questions unrelated to your analysis so far

If that happens, you can act in the traditional way when you have to structure a new area in the case:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure, made by MECE buckets. This is something you can do even if you have never seen that question before. If you go blank, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X. Potential divisions include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE areas fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each of the areas. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Hi Alexander,

there are multiple reasons for an interviewer to provide new information. For example:

  1. The interview is interviewer-led and the interviewer simply wants to move to the next step of the analysis
  2. Your previous structure did not include a key area the interviewer wants to focus on
  3. The interviewer wants to challenge you with some additional questions unrelated to your analysis so far

If that happens, you can act in the traditional way when you have to structure a new area in the case:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure, made by MECE buckets. This is something you can do even if you have never seen that question before. If you go blank, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X. Potential divisions include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE areas fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each of the areas. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Hi Anonymous,

Absolutely agree - real interviews have usually more layers of complexity than many "practice" cases I saw around (which is misleading many candidates in terms of their readiness for real interviews, as I can see from my coaching experience).

Key points in short for those situations:

  • Absorbing the new information and building it into the overall big picture (vs. continuing as if you would not have received this new information - it's obvious, but seen to often in my coachings to not mention this point)
  • Remaining self-confident and structured despite unexpected changes - it's part of 'daily' life in consulting that you learn new pieces of information, need to absorb them quickly and make sense of that in the overall big picture. If you need to deviate from your prepared plan I still want to see you self-confident in the further proceedings of the case, and staying structured 'on-the-fly' despite that (vs. starting to become insecure due to the abrupt changes and throwing in some unstructured ideas).
  • Be explicit about those changes. It's great to have a solid plan from the outset - and no problem if it changes along the way. The important point to consider here is to communicate it correctly and make that deviation from the original plan explicit, so that everyone knows how that changes the game plan.

Hope this helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

Hi Anonymous,

Absolutely agree - real interviews have usually more layers of complexity than many "practice" cases I saw around (which is misleading many candidates in terms of their readiness for real interviews, as I can see from my coaching experience).

Key points in short for those situations:

  • Absorbing the new information and building it into the overall big picture (vs. continuing as if you would not have received this new information - it's obvious, but seen to often in my coachings to not mention this point)
  • Remaining self-confident and structured despite unexpected changes - it's part of 'daily' life in consulting that you learn new pieces of information, need to absorb them quickly and make sense of that in the overall big picture. If you need to deviate from your prepared plan I still want to see you self-confident in the further proceedings of the case, and staying structured 'on-the-fly' despite that (vs. starting to become insecure due to the abrupt changes and throwing in some unstructured ideas).
  • Be explicit about those changes. It's great to have a solid plan from the outset - and no problem if it changes along the way. The important point to consider here is to communicate it correctly and make that deviation from the original plan explicit, so that everyone knows how that changes the game plan.

Hope this helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

Book a coaching with Ian

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Hi Alexander,

Yes! And I highly recommend PrepLoungers to try this on each other when giving each other cases!

One of my favorites to throw out is, at the end of the case, say "The CEO is actually calling us right now, and we need an answer". If the candidate says "Can I have a minute to gather my thoughts", I respond "We're on the third ring....your call" :P

What do I want to see?

Very simply, preparedness and adaptability.

Has the candidate kept the objective, hypothesis, and key information either in their mind or in logical locations in their notes? Are they always prepared with an updated view of the world?

When new information comes in, do they quickly update their view of the world, slot this new information in, and go with the flow? Can they still clearly articulate/communicate their thoughts in a structured way and continue to drive the case/answer?

Great question!

Hi Alexander,

Yes! And I highly recommend PrepLoungers to try this on each other when giving each other cases!

One of my favorites to throw out is, at the end of the case, say "The CEO is actually calling us right now, and we need an answer". If the candidate says "Can I have a minute to gather my thoughts", I respond "We're on the third ring....your call" :P

What do I want to see?

Very simply, preparedness and adaptability.

Has the candidate kept the objective, hypothesis, and key information either in their mind or in logical locations in their notes? Are they always prepared with an updated view of the world?

When new information comes in, do they quickly update their view of the world, slot this new information in, and go with the flow? Can they still clearly articulate/communicate their thoughts in a structured way and continue to drive the case/answer?

Great question!

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Hello!

Indeed, as you very well say, this is done on purpose to see your reaction.

To add on top what has been already commented, best is to ask to take a minute to incorate the new inputs into your mental model. Perhaps they tell you that you can´t and you need to think on your feet, but worth asking.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Hello!

Indeed, as you very well say, this is done on purpose to see your reaction.

To add on top what has been already commented, best is to ask to take a minute to incorate the new inputs into your mental model. Perhaps they tell you that you can´t and you need to think on your feet, but worth asking.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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