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How to proceed when I get stuck?

Anonymous A asked on Mar 06, 2018 - 3 answers

Hi all! Every now and then I get "stuck" during cases, and I have actively tried to calm down and think logically about how to proceed. But I just don't find a real "approach" on what to do if the interviewer does not give hints. Any thoughts here?

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replied on Mar 07, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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I think there's a couple of things you can do in that situation.

  • First, take a deep breath (and/or a sip of water if you have a glass nearby)
  • Then take a moment to recap what you have learned up to this point and what you still need to find out in order to adress the main question at hand (this helps you regaining clearness on the big picture and where you are on your "roadmap" as defined by your initial structure)
  • Outline how these sub questions can be answered, and what kind of data/information you will need to do that
  • Double check whether data or information provided by the interviewer at an earlier stage is now getting new relevance
  • Don't forget to take the interviewer along and let him participate in your thinking process - think out loud!
  • If you are puzzled by some obvious contradiction, actively discuss this with your interviewer! Oftentimes an interviewer will wait for you to explicitly verbalize what combination of findings is puzzling you before gently giving you guidance.

This process should allow you stay calm and composed while regaining a grip on the problem at hand.

Cheers, Sidi

replied on Mar 07, 2018
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When you get stuck there are 2 options:

  1. You ask further questions
  2. You make a new structure to drill down further

1) You ask further questions. There are 4 types of questions that you can ask. Basically you can never get stuck if you ask one of these questions:

  1. You can ask for a historical data
  2. You ask for the comparable data of the competitors / internal benchmarks
  3. You can ask for a further segmentation
  4. You ask to describe the process behind the particular number

The 4th question is probably the most important if you get stuck. For example, if you know that the sales department is not performing you can ask the interviewer: "Could you please tell a bit more about existing sales process?"

2) You ask for 30 seconds and build a new structure. The most common feedback on the interviews is "You are not structured enough". To avoid this you should always be structuring. 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:

  • The 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


Anonymous updated his answer on Mar 07, 2018

Hey anonymous,

There are two major strategies that can help you in those situations:

  • go back to your framework, evaluate what have you already analzsed and what you're still missing and try to "recompose yourself" from there
  • you should always have on the back of your mind what's the client objective and what should be your final goal with the case, so that you can think what do you need to do in order to have an answer or recommendation for the client (based on his ask)

Hope this can help



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