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Is the form more important than the content during case study?

Case Interview
Recent activity on Aug 31, 2018
4 Answers
2.5 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Feb 28, 2018

Hi all,

After having taken few interviews in consultancy firms until final rounds, I often got as a feedback that I demonstrated great business sense, deep analysis, very good fit and motivation. However I was always rejected at final rounds because of the form during the case study (for instance I didn't communicate the structure enough, even if I had a good structure to solve the case).

This is why I was wondering what interviewers' expectations are concerning the form during case study.

Thanks a lot in advance

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replied on Feb 28, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


There is a saying - "Idea is nothing, execution is everything"

Same with communication. It's absolutely vital to have a structure, business sense, and the right fit. But if you can't communicate it properly, it is a signal that you will not be able to communicate your ideas to the client as well.

Here are some tips on communication:

1) Communicating while structuring. Here is a long post by me on how to communicate the structure during the case study:

2) Using hypothesis. I made a post about hypothesis here:

3) Communicating while making calculations:

  • Always tell the interviewer your approach
  • Check with the interviewer that your approach is correct
  • Come to the interviewer with some preliminary answers
  • Check your assumptions with the interviewer

4) Communicating during the analysis of graphs / tables

  • Take a minute to look at the graph. Read the graph title. Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc). Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary). Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures. Look for unusual things - correlations, outliers,
  • Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think out loud on potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
  • Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case

5) Communicating while having questions on creativity

  • Ask an interview for a minute to think
  • Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. organic growth / non-organic growth / differentiation). Remember to think as big as possible
  • Narrow down to each bucket and generate as many ideas as possible
  • Present the structure (buckets) and then your ideas

6) Communicating your conclusion. You can find a good example I've posted here:

7) Communicating your FIT stories

Use the top-down approach while communicating your stories. "The Pyramid Principle" is the must-read by ex McKinsey on this topic.

I recommend using the STAR framework:

  • In Situation, you should briefly provide the context, usually in 1 or 2 sentences
  • Task usually includes 2 or 3 sentences describing the problem and your objective.
  • Then you provide a list of specific actions you took to achieve the goal. It should take 1 or 2 sentences per action (Usually 3-4 actions). Note that the interviewer can stop you any minute and ask for more details.
  • The results part should have 1 or 2 sentences describing the outcomes. This part is finalizing your story - make sure it can impress the interviewer and stay in the memory.


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replied on Feb 28, 2018
Former BCG interviewer

If you consider communication “form”, then it is equally important to content. The main job of a consultant is communicate clearly and simply recommendations based on complex analyses. The inability to do so makes consultants ineffective in their jobs. Also communication comes in place when establishing trust with client, asking questions in a fruitful way and discussing differing points of view.

Some guidelines on communication that can be used as thought starters:

-be personable and genuine

-tell interviewer what you are going to do, what you are doing and what you have done throughout the case

-always refer back to framework you set up at beginning of the case

-always explain how what you are doing is helping you to get to answer the questions of the case, it will keep you on track

-communicate always the answer first, then the explanation behind it

-communicate simply, to the level that an average high-schooler should understand you

-never talk for more than 2’minutes straight without can interjection, comment, interruption, verbal sign of interest from interviewer

-and finally, breathe and take pauses

hope it helps,


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replied on Mar 01, 2018

Hey anonymous,

Let me be very straighforward: it is not more important, but it is as important as!

And this happens because it's also what's expected from consultants in their day-to-day life. I still remember my first days at McKinsey where I thought I was giving amazing ideas and contributions for the team on a topic that I knew a lot about (and has worked before on it in the industry, so probably had even more knowledge than some of the senior people in the team), but I kept hearing: we are not here to hear about your laundry list of suggestions, be structured in approaching and communicating them if you want us to hear it pls! It was a big lesson, and you should follow the same reasoning in the interviews (especially if it's with McKinsey, very well know for paying crazy attention to structure)



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replied on Aug 31, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I generally agree with the previous comments, communication in the case is as important as the structure. The reason is, if the communication is not good, even an appropriate structure would be not be perceived as actually good.

As for the communication, I would recommend to proceed in the following way during the case:

  • STEP 1: mention first the macro areas of your framework. “In order to help our client, I would like to focus on three main areas. Number 1 we may work on [FIRST TOPIC], Number 2 on [SECOND TOPIC], Number 3 on [THIRD TOPIC]. If this is fine for you, let me go deeper in each of them”
  • STEP 2: provide details for each macro point. “In area Number 1, this is what I would analyse. First, I would like to cover [FIRST STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; second, I would like to focus on [SECOND STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]; next, I would like to work on [THIRD STEP OF FIRST TOPIC]. In area Number 2, this is what I would analyse. First,(…)”

As Andrea mentioned, explaining why you are doing such analysis is also very important.



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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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