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If an interview helps you out, is that already a bad sign?

Anonymous A asked on May 03, 2018 - 4 answers

Hi lovely interviewers,

I am just wondering: If your interview starts helping you out, did you already blow the entire case or do you still have a chance?

When do you know you lost the case? Needless to say, never give up but..... =)

Thank you!

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replied on May 04, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Anonymous,

generally speaking there is no problem with the interviewer giving you guidance. In fact, this is his role - under the condition that you are crystal clear and structured in your communication, always taking the interviewer along. If you do this, the interviewer is very happy to give you guidance, and it will not even feel like he "is helping you out" - it rather feels like a discussion along a very clearly defined path (your structure, rooted in the basic question to answer).

However, if you get stuck, you can still recover by keeping your cool! Just refer back to your key question and the sub question that you are currently addressing. Summarize your learnings up to this point and outline the gaps that need to be addressed in order to come to an answer. This demonstrates composure and clear thinking, which is very much appreciated during case interviews, and it will allow you to still leave a strong impression, even if the interviewer hints you in the right direction.

Cheers, Sidi

replied on May 04, 2018
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.
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First of all, NEVER GIVE UP. Finish STRONG.

Now, to your question: it depends, so let me give you some pointers:

Here are the GOOD signs:

- she is jumping in to "guide" you - means you are thinking along various right lines and she wants you to pick the right one

- she is excited when you pick her hints

- she says encouraging things as you go along

- she is "participating / collaborating" more than helping you "solve" it for her.

Here are the BAD signs:

- her body language / tone is one of impatience / irritation

- she has lost some of the energy / enthusiasm etc

- she has had to repeat herself explaining the same topic > once.

In any case, do NOT give up. Finishing strong but limping is way better than falling down from a leading position without getting up again.


replied on May 04, 2018
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It's not necessarily a bad sign. The interviewer may help you because:

  • He just likes you and wants to save your time
  • The case is quite big and he wants to skip some part and help you get quicker to the solution
  • You are making the wrong conclusion, but that does not necessarily mean that the game is lost

I think you should:

  1. Stay calm whatever situation you have. Keep in mind that it's a game and he may be doing that on purpose.
  2. In case keep structuring and asking the right questions. If you are structured the way you think, even if it is a common sense logic - it's very hard to give you a bad feedback
  3. Try to engage the interviewer. If you take a minute - make a new structure on paper and present it.
  4. Golden rule: Remember, if you get stuck - ask about the process!!!

p.s. there is absolutely no need for you to know when you lost the case. Because when you think it's lost - it really becomes lost. Check some books and articles on how professional sportsmen prepare mentally for competitions.

All the Best

Anonymous B replied on May 04, 2018


No - obviously there are many variables in a case, but it's not the end of the world. Depends on the level of help - I.e did you not know the revenue formula or was it to do with the structure of pharma and its drivers?

I've heard of people really getting suck, getting help with maths (either cant work out the logic or getting the calc wrong), overlooking things all together and still passing the case.

People make mistakes and get stuck, we are all human. If you are 90% of the way there, or if you are generally fairly excellent, structured, controlled and enthusiastic about the process, it's likely getting a little nudge from the case interviewer will be fine.

This is why its so important to bring the interviewer along on the case with you, solve it 'together' and they will want to help you. Consultants get stuck all the time on cases, they leverage their team and network to overcome problems...I don't believe 1 person can solve every aspect of every case to the full standard and 100% accuracy.

If you do get stuck, acknowledge this, take a step back, digest the new info, relate to the objective of the case and just move on. Dont let this bother you - One area being indirectly assessed is the ability to recover from mistakes and act under pressure.

Hope this helps.