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How long will it be TOO long to layout a structure in case interview?

Case Interview McKinsey
Recent activity on Nov 11, 2018
3 Answers
5.2 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Nov 08, 2018

When I'm doing practise, I used a timer to track how long it took me to layout a structure at the very begining of a case (esp. in a candidate-led format, I try to come up with a lot 2nd layer factors).

I found it at least cost me ~2 min to make everything down, probably 2.5 min ...

So I would like to ask, will this be too-long a silence to the intervierer?

Besides, I find it, as well, will cost me at least 1-2 min to structure my thoughts before answering a quant question or a creativity question, will this be also considered as "slow in response" during a case interivew?

If so, is there any suggestion to improve...?

Thanks a lot:)

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replied on Nov 08, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I generally agree with Vlad; in general terms

  • To write down the initials structure: I would keep 1 min as benchmark
  • To present the initial structure: I would keep 1.5 mins as benchmark
  • To structure creativity questions: I would keep 1 min as benchmark

In order to improve you have to understand the reason why you are taking more time than expected. Possible reasons include:

  • You are not familiar with the way to structure cases in general
  • You are not familiar with creativity questions for specific industries
  • You find challenging to identify a MECE first level
  • You find challenging to brainstorm for the second level
  • It takes long to write down the actual structure

According to the problem, you can then develop an appropriate solution.

For example, if your problem is related to creativity for a specific sector (eg healthcare or PE), you could consider reading 1 case per day from a good consulting MBA handbook (eg Insead) on that industry, until you are familiar with that. While if your problem is on the actual writing of the structure, you may want to dedicate some time each day to write down structures and/or better organize your initial notes, to increase the speed of that part.

Hope this helps,

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replied on Nov 08, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Here are some guidelines:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better
  • 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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replied on Nov 11, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

2 or 2.5 minutes to prepare the initial framework is definitely too much. While I am more lenient than most on this topic, I don't believe that anything over 1.5 minutes (90 seconds) is good practice. You should absolutely come back with a 2nd or even 3rd layer however.

So, how to get better? Practice will help obviously, timed preferably. Something else I use is to come armed with a few very simple and portable structures. My preferred go-to are the business and the profitability framework, as tauch by Victor Cheng in particular. Will they always be relevant? No, but 90% of the time they will. Will you need to modify them? Yes, you will. Still, having a solid framework to start with will save you some time and anguish, which you can then invest in detailing the 2nd and 3rd layers.

PS: If you find some other, extremely creative and relevant framework and still fit within the 60 to 90 seconds guideline, great - but in case you don't, having the frameworks mentioned above in your backpocket will prove useful.

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Francesco gave the best answer


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