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Getting unstuck during cases

Case Interview preparation
Recent activity on Jan 12, 2017
2 Answers
3.8 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jan 11, 2017

Hi there - what's the best advice for candidates when they encounter something during the case interview and getting 'stuck'. For example, you've gone down a certain path in the case but then get stuck at a roadblock - your questions for information aren't relevant and you've felt like you've exhausted the options you initially brainstormed in the framework/structure. Also, more importantly for me, how do you still keep your composure during the case (both verbal and non-verbal cues)?


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replied on Jan 11, 2017
MBA | Head of Product for a Tech company | Former Strategy& and KPMG Advisory

First of all, I'd say it is very rare to have someone getting stuck in a case and running completely out of options; the main cause for this kind of situation is probably a flawed / incomplete design of the framework.

To avoid this problem I think it's better to take enough time in the beginning of the interview to list all of the elements to be considered in the solution of the case, if you have practiced enough cases it is unlikely you are going to miss major points. In case that still happens most likely the interviewer will make you think about more elements to be added to the framework instead of working with you on a potential solution he already knows won't work. The importance of the framewrok is given by the fact that the most logical and effective solution whenever you get stuck, or more simply when you have to move to the next step in the case, is looking back at the initial structure and checking what's still missing.

Keeping composure is very important because the interviewer will want to test your ability to perform under pressure in front of a client so try to always show that you are proceding following logical steps and that the situation is under control (it's difficult, off course, but panicking won't help you at all), for that to happen don't be afraid to ask for some time to think about what you are gonna do next: the most common mistake you can make in those situations is trying to get unstuck by telling something you haven't really reflected on.



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replied on Jan 12, 2017
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Agreed w/ Marco. Tactically, there are a couple of things you can do when (if) you do get stuck:

1. Do an interim conclusion, where you explain what you've found so far (probably based on the initial framework unless you've already had to modify it / pivot around it)

2. Restate the latest (current) hypothesis, and explain what you need to do in order to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

3. If you are still stuck, ask for sometime to think - better to do this than try to come up with a next step on the fly and look like you are going at random

Hope this helps?



ex-BCG Dallas

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Eve on Jan 20, 2017

Thank you both! I hope though that asking for more time to think is a knock against the candidate! Also, when it comes to things like asking for more time, I dread the silence which adds to the pressure to me when sitting across the interviewer. Any help on this as well?

Marco gave the best answer


MBA | Head of Product for a Tech company | Former Strategy& and KPMG Advisory
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