How complex should the case structure be, and how much time is suitable to present?

case structure
New answer on Jun 07, 2021
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 05, 2021

Hi, I am puzzled bout this topic as the advice I've found on internet widely differs. Some experts say 3 minutes to present the structure is optimal, while some say 5 minutes is suggested. Also, some experts suggest a relatively light structure. In one of the "strong performance" sample case interview I've seen, there were only 3 buckets, and 2 key questions underlying each bucket. On the other hand, I've seen experts suggesting going 2 or 3 levels deep in the issue tree and having a comprehensive structure with several hypotheses mentioned is crucial, especially in order to stand out from other applicants.

I'm just wondering which advice is more practical? On one hand, having a light structure with strong business rationale and logic might be easy to understand and follow, and the structure could be clean and rigid. On the other hand, having a thorough and detailed case structure might impress the interviewer, but would take longer time and the interviewer might feel such a detailed structure is unecessary and redundant.

Appreciate your thoughts on this.

(edited)

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Florian
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Content Creator
replied on Jun 07, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

I think the misunderstanding might come from the difference between a framework derived for McKinsey vs. a framework created for other consulting interviews. I can answer this question from a McK perspective.

At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better.

Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question. The framework should - broadly speaking - follow these three characteristics:

  • Broad
  • Deep
  • Insightful

In a McKinsey interview, you can take up to 6-8 minutes for the structure/framework question, which includes the time you think about it, the presentation of your answer, your qualification, and your hypotheses. This is due to the interviewer-led format that McK employs. The interviewer will only ask 'what else' if you

  • haven't gone broad or deep enough
  • did not explain your ideas well enough for them to stand out (again, you have time here)

The firm wants to see exhaustive and creative approaches to specific problems, which more often than not do not fit into the classic case interview frameworks that were en vogue 10 years ago...

Again, this only applies if everything you say

  • adds value to the problem analysis
  • is MECE
  • is well qualified
  • includes a detailed discussion of your hypotheses at the end

The interviewer will decide on the direction of the case and you need to answer each question almost like a mini case. Hence, you have more time for it. In a, let's say Bain or BCG interview, you need to quickly figure out what the problem is in order to then figure out a recommendation. You need to drive the case forward and have not enough time to spend 6-8 minutes on the initial structure. That is why the approach and the information about the structuring differ on the internet I guess.

The difference in format and way of answering a question is the reason why I recommend preparing very differently for McK interviews vs. other consultancies.

Cheers,

Florian

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Ian
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updated an answer on Jun 05, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Fundamentally, do you have a structured, MECE approach that is a reasonable/logical plan of a attack to solve the objective/problem?

There's just too much poor advice out there on the "what". Have you ever heard good advice given in the form of a concrete number? "You should spend x years in x job before leaving". "You should try x months with a person before deciding if you marry them"

Ignore this advice! Just know, a range of 2-5 minutes works...however whether you do 2 minutes or 5 depends on:

  1. How complex/large the case prompt/question is
  2. The structure you've chosen to best suit the case
  3. The company you're interviewing with
  4. The body language you're getting from the interviewer

Then, when articulating it, be as precise/concise as possible while also covering all critical bases/points required to solve the problem!

(edited)

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Adi
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 06, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

There isnt a one magic bullet answer to your question and you know this. Just like in real life, you cant approach cases with a set mindset to have only x number of branches/layers in your framework or ask only n number of questions. So get away from this & be ready to tackle every case fresh. Some may have a simple structure and some do need a slightly more complicated structure.

But to keep things nice & tight for yourself and the interviewer, dont ask too many qquestions or make the structure overly complicated otherwise you will end up confusing yourself while working through the branches.

To get a sense of timing, record yourself next time you solve a case. 2-3 minutes is bloody long already when you start talking. So, practice getting to the point and speaking in a concise manner and follow up with detail as required.

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Bob
Proficient
replied on Jun 06, 2021

I think being concise is more important than how long it is.

Presenting for a long time doesn't == complex. You could just be saying unnecessary things.

A concise explanation of a great complex framework that takes 5 minutes is much better than a rambling explanation of a simple framework that takes 3 minutes.

Try to focus on concise communication and building great frameworks. As other experts have noted, 2-5m is fine.

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Florian gave the best answer

Florian

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