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How to separate main questions from smaller questions in an interviewer-led case?

Someone asked on Oct 12, 2018 - 2 answers

Do anyone have any hints as to how you can separate between main questions (e.g. ok to take a minute to think) and smaller questions (supposed to answer right away)?

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Vlad replied on Oct 12, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


Depending on the part of the case I usually say: Can I take 30 sec / a minute to structure my thoughts / analyze the numbers, etc?

In terms of the use cases:

Always take:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better. 1.5 looks fine
  • 30 sec to analyze the graph / table. Very often you can come up with more than one conclusion from the graph / table(e.g. main conclusion, outliers, correlations)
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go". Spend this time creating the buckets of ideas and then the ideas within the buckets.
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them. Spend 1 minute on collecting the numbers for the arguments. Remember that 70% of your arguments should have numbers

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.



Benjamin replied on Oct 12, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework

Usually the main question is formulated as "you are hired by the client to..." or "the client wants to decide..." during the case statement. This will require time to structure your thought

Sometimes you may have preliminary questions, that are directly asked by the interviewer " first I would like your to think about..."

In case of a doubt, simply ask the itw !