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If I run out of time for my case and I am asked for a recommendation, should I recommend based on data I have, or avoid giving a recommendation (in case it is inaccurate)?

David asked on Sep 28, 2018

Just had my first round in BCG and failed to complete both cases in time so it's game over for me. That said, I want to better prepare for my upcoming interviews with M & B.

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Vlad replied on Sep 28, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi,

Indeed in many cases, the interviewer will interrupt you and ask for the recommendations. It does not necessarily mean something bad.

  1. Consultants want to save the time for your questions at the end of the interview. Actually, in many cases, they don't even expect you to go through the whole structure and get a final answer.
  2. Consultants may be testing several things:
  • Are you comfortable enough with providing preliminary recommendations based on limited data? (Imagine a CEO whom you met in the elevator and who wants to know the preliminary findings)
  • Will you make a mistake of providing a recommendation with a high level of certainty without having a proper supporting data?

As a result, here are two problems that you may face:

  1. In the interviewer-led cases, you have to answer the questions that the interviewer asked you and very often they don't all link up
  2. In many cases, you can't provide a definite answer since you don't have enough information and were interrupted in the middle of the case

Addressing the first problem you should:

  • Provide the recommendation for the initial objective of the case
  • Put everything else you have discussed in the additional part

For example:

  1. Our objectives were to understand why the profit is declining by X and how to bring the profit back within one year (Don't forget that your objective should be measurable in terms of money / other metric and time)
  2. According to the analysis we've done so far, my recommendation is to shut down the division A and to concentrate on the divisions b/c if we want to increase the profit, and there is a number of reasons for that.. (Remember that your arguments should include numbers).
  3. You provide the arguments a) First of all, problems in Division A are the major driver of the decline in profits - 90% of the decline in profits refer to Division A. b) Secondly, the decline is driven by the contracting market size that is shrinking at xx percent and is not expected to improve in the near future. c) Finally....
  4. Additionally, I would like to check the following... (In the last bullet, you simply provide a list of other things you have discussed, but they were not the part of the original objective / the things you slightly discussed but haven't come to any conclusion, like the questions on creativity)

As for the second problem - Indeed, in many cases, you can't provide a definite answer.

Imagine a case when you have to make a decision whether a PE fund should acquire a company. You make a proper structure (Market, Competitors, Company, Feasibility of Exit) and in 25 min of a case, you've managed only to go through the Market and Competitors branches of the analysis. What will be your recommendation?

In this case, you have to provide a Soft Recommendation:

  1. You start with an objective ("Our objective was to understand whether we should buy this company")
  2. You provide a preliminary recommendation highlighting the uncertainty("According to the limited data we have so far, our preliminary recommendation is to buy this company and there are three reasons for that..." or "Purely based on the data we have about the market it looks like it's a good idea for a number of reasons..")
  3. You provide the reasons ("First of all the market is big at X and growing at Y, Secondly the competition is fragmented with the target company having x% of the market. Thirdly...")
  4. You Mention the pieces of data that you need to provide a full recommendation ("But to come up with a final recommendation I would like to look at the company financials, key capabilities and..." or "But to be 100% sure in our recommendation we need to check...)

Best,

Vlad

Alessandro
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replied on Sep 28, 2018
Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT
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100% agree with Guennael's answer - give a recommendation, stress that it's interim, and suggest that you should further look at XYZ to increase confidence.

In fact, in many cases, even if you "complete" the case, the conclusion won't be 100% certain - and part of next steps can be "additional things to look at to be 100% sure / increase confidence".

Good luck for the rest of your interviews!

Guennael replied on Sep 28, 2018
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Give a recommendation based on what you have, but stress that it is only interim; in the next step, explain the various steps you still have to run the analysis through in order to be in a position to give a final recommendation.

PS: In every other instance, the "next steps" probably should be a version of "let me build it for you" (at least at MBB and other large international company who have a deep bench of operational guys)

Anonymous A replied on Sep 28, 2018

I was told by multiple people that candidates often don’t finish cases due to a lack of time but that it’s less about finishing the case and more about them seeing your thought process that’s important...did you get any feedback? Did they say specifically you didn’t make it to the next round because you left the cases incomplete? From what I’ve heard the 20-30 min given in an interview isn’t always enough to finish anyway so I’m looking forward to insight from others.

What country are you applying in? Could you give any insight into the process? BCG is my top choice so any tips would be great!

Best of luck in your next interviews!