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How to best conduct an interviewer-led interview (McK-style)

Interviewer-led McKinsey
Recent activity on Oct 10, 2017
5 Answers
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Rob asked on Oct 08, 2017

Hi everyone,

Since candidate-led cases very much differ from interviewer-led cases, I am wondering on how to best approach the McKinsey style interviewer-led cases.

Case In Point is very much focused on how to conduct candidate-led interviews (i.e. ask claryifying questions, present structure upfront, make hypothesis), which are more BCG and Bain like.

- How should one approach an interviewer-led case?
- How much initiative shall one take in taking the cases to the next step, i.e. shall one try to turn the case into a candidate-led one?

Responses are highly appreciated.


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replied on Oct 08, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


It may seem for you that these 2 types of cases are different, however, the interviewer-led type is just a simplified version of the interviewee-led case. My advice is to always prepare in interviewee-led format so that you could solve both easily.

What to expect:

  • Engagement managers (1st round interviews if you think of phone interview as round 0) generally use Mck casebooks and most commonly make interviewer-led interviews. In this case they ask you a) To make a structure (issue tree) b) to drill down in some branch of your structure and calculate something. Or they may even ask to analyze smth unrelated to the structure c) question on creativity (e,g, list 10 ways to increase revenues). However, you should be ready for both type of interviews at this point
  • Partners and directors have their own favorite cases and mainly want you to lead. The key difference:
  1. You ask clarifying questions in the beginning and make a structure
  2. You lead the case through the structure you've prepared a) asking questions and trying to identify the root cause of the problem in the branch of your structure b) making a transition to the next branch c) proactively calculating the data and making data-driven conclusion from the data they give you d) Making a conclusion when they ask you to finish a case


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Anonymous A replied on Oct 08, 2017

Hi, you are supposed to led each question during a McK interview. You will have about 4 questions:

The first one will always be "what are the factors to approach the problem" , so you must structure in a MECE way. You can choose one branch to start, but it will be defined by the interviewer.

Then you'll be handle an exhibit and you should give hypotheses to answer the mains question of the case, and you can say which one would be best or what you would like to calculate.

The third question will be a math problem and you should structure it first, validate with the interviewer and then calculate.

The last question will be or another math question or a creative one, and you should always structure it. Sometimes the last question will be a recomendation for the client.

Good luck! (I am anonymos, but I can tell you I just past for the final round this season.)

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Anonymous replied on Oct 09, 2017

I agree with Vlad. Preparing for the interviewee-led format essentially prepares you for both. Expanding on Vlad’s point 2, I would add a few points that are essential to an interviewee-led interview:

  • As you lead the case, be sure to be methodical and talk out loud through every step of all sections of the case regardless of whether it is the structuring section or quantitative section.
  • Remember the interviewer is not going to give you all of the data. It is important on the quantitative section to setup the problem in form of equation. That will make it very clear what variables are missing so that you can ask the interviewer. Partners / Directors love to hold back information and see if you ask for it.
  • When finishing any section of the case, don’t just give a one sentence answer like, “The expected value of the investment is $1.45M.” You want to add depth and creativity to any conclusion in a 60-75 second statement.
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updated an answer on Oct 09, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Rob,

as mentioned by Vlad, you won't need a completely different approach for interviewer-led cases compared to interviewee-led cases. The main difference between the two is that in interviewer-led cases, the interviewer will lead you though 4 to 6 different areas in the case. On the other hand, in an interviewee-led case, the interviewer may be silent for the whole case and just provide information when asked. As a consequence, the main distinction is related to the communication you have to keep during the case, and not, say, the structure to present initially, the way to interpret graphs or the way to present your final sum up.

More specifically, in an interviewer-led case I would recommend to pay attention to the following communication elements. These elements are also important in an interviewee-led case, although to a lower degree, since, as mentioned, the kind of communication with the interviewer will be different as he/she may simply provide answers to your question.

  1. Repeat all the questions asked. You will move quickly in different areas, potentially not yet structured in your initial framework. It is thus very important that you clarify well the questions before proceeding and be sure you are answering to the right one. Missed clarification of the question is one of the main sources of mistakes I see in interviewer-led cases.
  2. Communicate clearly your structure, articulating in first and second layers, for each question. Many candidates think they can stop to structure in an interviewer-led case after the initial structure and proceed with pure brainstorming when asked, for example, 5 ways to increase revenues. That’s a mistake, as you should always have a MECE first layer for every question asked, and then a second layer to go deeper.
  3. Follow the interviewer’s suggestions. If you are moving though a tangent, or the interviewer simply wants you to focus on a specific point for the next area, it is very likely he/she will try to move you back to the “right” direction. The usual way to do so is asking if you are not forgetting anything, or what do you think about a particular different path. You should take the hint and try to understand what else you should have considered. Some candidates keep focusing on their structure only, thus showing they are not listening to the interviewer, and lose points due to that.

You should not transform the case in a candidate led one, as the interviewer will not allow for that anyway; however you can definitely be proactive in your approach. For example, when commenting a graph, you could conclude stating which are the next steps and asking a followup question to proceed, eg:

It seems that the problem relays in the cost of labour of blue collar workers in 50-60 year-old range; it would be interesting to understand if there is any way to make the process more efficient and (i) decrease the number of workers, or (ii) try to find a way to decrease the cost of each worker. Do we have any information whether one of these two things was tried in the past and how we perform compared to competitors on them?”.

The interviewer will very likely bring you to another area, potentially different from the ones you mentioned. That doesn’t mean you have structured incorrectly, and you will score points for being proactive; you should then follow the path presented from the interviewer to proceed.

Hope this helps,



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Rob replied on Oct 10, 2017

Great, thank you very much everyone for you answers. Highly appreciated!


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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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