Communicating your overall structure and providing relevant justification is critical at the start of a case interview for the following three reasons:
- It shows the interviewer that you aware of all the key factors impacting this problem
- It shows you can communicate in a clear and concise way which is a critical skill for consultants
- By providing justification and rationale behind your decision making the interviewer can see you’re thinking logically – again, another key skill
Let’s assume I’ve received the case, played it back to the interviewer and asked some clarifying questions. I’m now ready to structure how I want to solve the case and ask the interviewer ‘is it ok if I take a minute to structure my thoughts?’
I then use the following process to communicate my structure to the interviewer:
- I take 60 – 90 seconds to draw out my structure on a landscape piece of A4 paper.
- Once I’ve finished my structure, I turn my paper towards the interviewer and change my body angle so I'm not directly facing the interviewer (this small change in body language signifies you’re trying to be collaborative).
- I then start be re-stating the original objective (which should be at the head of your structure)
- I then say something along the lines of “In order to understand this problem I believe we should take a look a ‘3/4/etc” key buckets.
- I then briefly communicate each of those key buckets to the interviewer (keeping it very high level), explaining what each bucket is and justify why it’s an important consideration relating back to the original objective.
- Once I’ve cycled through each bucket, I like to suggest a starting point to go through in more detail. For instance, “I would like to prioritise looking at bucket 1 first because of reason X “.
- I then ask the interviewer; “does this seem like a sensible approach?” This question provides an opportunity to get some feedback on two key areas before I start solving the case:
- Structure – am I missing any key factors?
- Starting point – is that a good place to start?
It’s better for interviewer to intervene at the start of the case and point you in the right direction rather than get lost half way through. It’s also worth noting being able to take on feedback quickly demonstrates your ‘coachability', a key skill interviewers look for!
Structuring cases and implementing the process described above can be a challenging. However, with practice it can definitely be mastered – opening the case in a confident and clear way really can set the tone for an interview. If this is something you would like to practice or have any further questions, feel free to send me a message.
Hope that helps.