How to make interviewer-led cases more of a dialogue?

communication Interviewer-led
Edited on Jun 03, 2022
8 Answers
Anonymous A asked on Jun 01, 2021


I recently mock cased with a McKinsey EM. The main feedback was that I needed to make the case more of a dialogue when possible.

My question is, how exactly does one make an interviewer-led case more of a dialogue? It seems difficult to me simply given the structure of interviewer-led cases: interviewer question, interviewee response, repeat until finished with case.

Any adivce on how to improve this dialogue skill, especially in context to McKinsey-style interviews, would be much appreciated.


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updated an answer on Jun 03, 2022
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers


The secret is called CONTEXTUALIZATION! Despite the sequence of questions asked by the interviewer, you should never lose sight of the general context of the case, and your answers should refer back to your initial structure. This is why your intitial structure should have an inherent logic, and not only be a list of topics or "buckets". So whatever the question and whatever the resulting analysis/brainstorming task, always relate the result back to the logic according to which the overall problem can be addressed. This is the secret sauce that makes a candidate sound super coherent and monster strong. Such contextualization is properly done by an extremely low number of candidates, and you immediately stand out enormously if you do this.

Always remember: treat your interviewer like a CLIENT, and not like an examiner! 




Dr. Sidi Koné 

(Former Senior Engagement Manager and Interviewer at McKinsey | Former Senior Consultant and Interviewer at BCG)


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updated an answer on Jun 04, 2021
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

Great question!

Starting with what not to do, I would refrain from the candidate-driven "do you have more data on x?" type of questions. Frankly, as an interviewer, it's just annoying where I would much rather be asked thoughtful questions/hypotheses.

In terms of things you should do/do more of:
1. I would start by listening well. Even when conducting final round interviews, it often amazed me how a candidate would take copious notes and play back the case brief, at the same time not use any of the provided information to develop hypotheses and prioritise. Same applies for the clarifying/probing questions you get from your interviewer. You always want to build from what your interviewer says.

2. Communicate your logic/thinking well. Your interviewer needs to be able to follow or else they won't feel inclined to engage.

3. Watch your interviewer. You should get cues from them on whether they are follwoing you and whether you are allowing them to intervene.

Good luck!


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Anonymous B updated the answer on Jun 03, 2021

One more tip: If you have a sense of PG humor, try to use that when you feel it is right. This could backfire if you can't calibrate in social settings but in general - you have to find a way to break the ice. Another thing that often works is by pulling personal experience. If your case has to do with cookie retail for example, you could quickly bring up an example of you going to the grocery store and your observations of the cookies brands & shelf location etc. Maybe even say you couldn't find your favorite cookie brand! Just little details here and there to help build a personable impression of you.

Ken gave some good tips about interview content dialogue.


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Content Creator
replied on Jun 02, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

I honestly see this all the time! Too many candidates just memorize steps of the case. "Ok. I have a few clarifying questions, may I please ask them" or "I have 3 main buckets".

Please don't do this! Remember that there is another human in front of you that is looking for you to explain things to them!

In terms of dialogue, you need to show them your thinking, take them through the journey, ask insightful questions, and show your personality! To get good at this, practice. A coach may be a good way to go about refining this skill!

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replied on Jun 02, 2021

To provide my perspective on this, I think good candidates make both interviewer and interviewee led cases as conversation, and your ability to do this is based on your level of confidence.

Good and Expert candidates show different level of confidence during their interview:

  • Good candidate: they know about how to go through the interview but are rigid i.e. they strickly follow the rules of 1. rephrase question 2. ask for sometime 3. provide hypothesis 4. go through hypothesis and calculation 5. give concolusion.
    • However this is real obvious to interviewers, because this is how they got trained as well, apart from they are better and more confident
    • This is also NOW stricly how you would talk to your client. Your interview can't get enough signal of you when you can only follow these
  • Expert candidate: they still largely follow the strucutre, but doing so much more naturally, and always try to add value and show signals at every opportunity. For example they will:
    • Provide thoughts on industry then rephrase question
    • Provide rationale for prioritisation and hypothesis
    • Relate to real world events when making assumptions

There are lots of things you can do to make your interview more like a dialogue, or in my view, more relaxed. PM me if you want to learn more!

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 08, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hello there!

First of all relax. There are rarely right answers to case studies, they are instead typically a test of how you think and problem solve. If you are not relaxed, you won’t think clearly. Think of the case study as a game or a puzzle, try to have fun with it.
Second, remember what they are looking for. McKinsey is all about structured and data-driven problem solving for their clients. They apply frameworks and emphasize thinking in a “MECE” (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) manner. So practice up on frameworks. I don't recall many case studies that couldn’t be handled by thinking through one of the following few frameworks.
Third and final, remember that McKinsey is on your side. They want to hire people, they want you to be successful. They need consultants, and there is always the chance that if you don’t get hired, you may be a client one day. Ask clarifying questions, whiteboard, take your time, don’t worry about pausing to think, have a sense of humor, and again try to have fun as you puzzle your way through it.
To be successful at this, practice. A couch be a good way to improve this skill!

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 02, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Great question!

And to be honest, there really isnt a right answer for this. What works for one interviewer may not work for another. Not having a "dialogue" in the sense we expect it to be is okay in such an interview setting. Dont force it. Let it come naturally. Smash the case and no one will remember whether you had a dialogue or not :).

Here's my tips:

  1. Make sure you are relaxed & upbeat yourself. Remove the pressure to "prove yourself every 30 secs". You chose to be in that interview so have fun with it. Enjoy the experience as much as you can
  2. Slow down the breathing. When you notice your pulse racing take long deep breaths
  3. Dont force anything. Guage what the interviewer is like and interject with your ideas at approrpriate moments- this could be ideas you have picked up from school/uni/work experience. You can do this during the case opening, during clarifying questions, during stucturing or during solutioning
  4. Summarise your thoughts regularly..dont over do it. Do it to explain to the interviewer what you are working on/thinking/approaching
  5. Rather than asking too many questions, disguise some questions as "tell & validate". Dont take a wild guess here but make sure there is credibility behind what you want to validate. E.g. I am going to take it that the market is growing at 10% YoY. Is that fair" vs "At what rate is the market growing?

Have a look at these threads for some other broad tips that are related:

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 02, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Coach | Top MBB Coach | 5 years @ McKinsey | Author of the 1% | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

I am not sure I understand the feedback of the EM.

While there is some degree of dialogue in the McK interview, it should still be 80-90% of the time you talking. This is the main difference compared to candidate-led interviews. Your mindset should be that you are in the driver's seat and you are talking to the CEO of the company that hired you.

Therefore, discuss with the interviewer to

  • play back their questions
  • ask clarification questions to make sure you understand the situation and goal properly
  • take time before each question to structure your thinking
  • guide them through your thinking
  • synthesize and elaborate on your hypotheses

These are the moments where the interviewer will reply. For the rest of the case, you are leading through each question until the interviewer proposes the next question.

From my experience, the more the interviewer has to talk, the worse off the performance is. For instance, this is demonstrated by the typical ''what else?'' questions during a structuring or brainstorming exercise where the interviewer is trying to elicit more information from the candidate in order to achieve a structure that would pass the bar of being

  • broad
  • deep
  • insightful

The structure of really strong candidates would be self-standing and does not require the interviewer to ask for more ideas.

Hope this perspective helps!



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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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