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Help with time management during case interview

Interviewer-led Time-limit
Recent activity on Apr 04, 2018
1 Answer
3.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Apr 03, 2018

Question 1: I have received conflicting feedback across various cases saying either:

  1. I need to be more thorough in my structure and descriptions, or
  2. I need to be more concise.

What strategies can you recommend to balance thoroughness and concision given time constraints? For example, is it OK to only draw out a portion of your structure, then write more as you walk them through it?

Question 2: I usually take 1-1.5 minutes to set up my initial structure, but for subsequent questions in a McKinsey-style case, I have received conflicting feedback saying:

  1. I should take more time to think/structure before answering, or
  2. I should not ask for time and should brainstorm straight away.

Is is appropriate to ask for some time to structure my thoughts (beyond the initial structuring phase)? If so, when and for how long? How can I determine when it is not appropriate to ask for some time to structure/think?

Another example of this is when the interviewer says, "The CEO just walked in. What are your recommendations?" Am I allowed to compile my recommendation for 10-15 seconds or do I need to answer immediately?

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replied on Apr 04, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Question 1:

For initial structure - draw the full structure:

  • For some cases like profitability, I might have a structure with 3 levels (especially if I have multiple revenue streams) structured as an issue tree
  • For other cases like Market related cases (market entry, new product, PE deal) I will have just 2 levels (buckets + bullet points under the buckets)
  • For some cases like cost cutting or logistics I may have just 1 level (cost cutting framework ( or Value chain)

Same with the number of buckets. If it is an issue tree - you may have 2-4 buckets in the first level, with market-related cases it will be 3-4 buckets, value chain 3-6 buckets, etc

For structuring during the case - depending on how confident you are with your structure either take 30 sec to make a new structure or draw it while presenting it

Question 2:

Always take:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better. 1.5 looks fine
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go"

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.



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