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How to communicate the structure for the case study

Anonymous A asked on Feb 27, 2018 - 4 answers

Hi all,

After reaching two second and final round interviews in secondary consultancy firms I got rejected because the interviewers were not sure that I had a structure that allowed me to cover all the perspectives of the Case.

How to communicate my structure to make sure that the interviewer validate the fact that I have structured my thoughts? Should I write it on a paper, turn the paper to the interviewer and explain him/her my approach?

This is weeks and next week I have interview in MBB and other top consultancy firm so I would like to make sure to improve this point. I have already practiced more than 40 cases.

Thanks in advance


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replied on Feb 27, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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I suggest the following approach:

1) Ask clarifying questions - they will help you build a better structure:

- Clarify the business model (i.e. how the business works and what are the revenue streams / core products or business lines)

- Clarify the objective both in money terms and timeline (e.g. Our objective is to increase profits by 5M in 5 years). When you have a to select from several options in a case - clarify the selection criteria

- Clarify other possible limitations if you feel that it's necessary

2) Repeat the objective and most important business model factors

3) Now when you've identified the most important factors - take a minute to make a structure on paper

  • In some cases, you'll be able to build a fully MESE structure (e.g. Profitability, Value chain). Usually, you go 2-3 levels deep in your structure in the beginning of the case.
  • In other cases, you should be using a broader structure. For example, in a private equity / due diligence case your structure can be: Market, Company, Competitors, Feasibility of exit. For the 2nd layer, you make subpoints (e.g. in the Market you put: size, growth rate, profitability, segmentation, regulation, etc). I usually use a bullet point list under each bucket.

4) When you are done - rotate the paper with a structure to the interviewer

5) Present your 1st level Hypothesis:

  • - "In order to understand whether we should invest in Company A, I would like to check that the Market is Attractive, the Company is Attractive, the competition is favorable and we have good opportunities for of exit"

6) Present the key 2nd level Hypothesis:

  • "In the market, I would like to make sure that the market is big enough and growing;
  • In the company I would like to find additional opportunities for growth;
  • In competition I would like to check that the market is fragmented enough;
  • Finally, I would like to check if we have potential buyers and can achieve desired exit multiples"

7) Make sure that the interviewer can see that you are presenting selectively and that the actual list of bullet points you would like to check is actually longer.

8) You never stop using the structures. The most common feedback on the interviews is "You are not structured enough". To avoid this you should always be structuring. Make an initial structure and then dig deeper with the new structures. These structures can be both fully MESE issue trees or frameworks or a combination of both.

For example, if you find that we spend more time on cleaning the job shop than the other division you go with the following:

  • Frequency of cleaning * Time spent per one cleaning
  • If we find that the frequency is the same, we structure it further into: People, Process, Technology


Benjamin replied on Feb 27, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework
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Structure is indeed THE key point in case study that could introduce doubt to your interviewer.

- Ideally you structure must be tailored to the case, and not adapted from a standard framework that you can find in the books. So use your common sense here to build something that seems fitted to the situation
- It is important that each chapter of your structure brings a usefull elements in the recommandation you will formulate. So when building the structre this is a question you should ask yourslef
- Best scenario would be that you write something down, sufficiently clear so you can share it with your interviewer and he can follow your progression in your plan as you speak
- During the case resolution, you should always make sure to refer clearly to the initial structure so the interviewer knows where you're heading to and can understand / follow what drives your thinking is a plan and not just random questions.

To conclude I would repeat that structuring is key in succeeding the interviews, and hopefully that is something that everyone can work on. The appropriate exercice is called structuring drills and it focuses building and challenging structures of several case studies, without loosing time in case resolution.

Feel free to reach me out if you need help on this topic

replied on Feb 27, 2018
Former BCG decision round interviewer with 300+ real interviews in 8 years
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Yes, please always do write structure on piece of paper - turning around and explain is appreciated, but not necessary. Also structure when drawn should be easy to follow (e.g. a decision three with subsequent branches, bullet list, buckets of dimensions you want to consider). In terms of detail - ideal structure should be 2-3 level deep (e.g. under "market" you want to have competitors and few other categories, under "competitors" you can have how close is their product to ours, etc)

Hope it helps,


Anonymous replied on Feb 27, 2018

Hey anonymous,

I would subscribe others’ views on this topic.

However, let me add/comment on your last point (‘have already done 40 cases’). I would be really careful if after so many cases you still get that feedback, it most likely indicates that you’re putting too much weight on quantity over quality (I’ve seen so many people doing that exact mistake at LBS in these two years... and the results were often the same: bad rejections!).

I would try to check if you are not doing any major (un)conscious mistake at that stage - eg, the most common one is not asking enough clarifying questions upfront and design a framework without fully understanding the problem and the case

if you want to know more about how to try to solve it, feel free to reach out