Needed a hint in Case Interview -- How bad is this?

7thinterview Actual BCG case Bain MBB McKinsey
New answer on Oct 20, 2020
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 11, 2020

During my final round case interview, after presenting my framework I was asked where I think the problem lied in a rising cost issue. After stating some areas in which costs may have risen, I was told that costs in all of these areas had remained the same. I then thought of a couple more costs which I was told were also the same. I then asked to see if competitors have also experienced this issue and was told they have. Next, I asked if customer preferences have changed and was told they have not, as well. After this, I asked if the airplane routes have changed and potentially incorporated international flights (the case was about per-flight rising costs within the airline industry) and was told the airline was domestic. Finally, I stated that this was an interesting problem (essentially admitting I was stuck) and was given the hint that "per hour" labor costs were the same which guided me to the correct conclusion that flights have been for longer distances recently. This whole process took around 3 minutes.

My question is if getting stuck in this fashion is detrimental towards my case performance. After receiving this insight, I successfully drove the case and arrived at the right answer, and my interviewer seemed fairly enthusiastic throughout the case. Additionally, I felt that the interviewer was withholding information she could have gave me (routes had changed, though were still domestic -- which I would have thought was a good enough insights to give me the next step).

Is this a bad mistake that may indicate I cannot successfully drive a case, or is this more in line with typical pressure testing? I know that it's difficult to arrive at a definitive answer with just my perspective, though would similar incidents be counted as substantial mistakes?

(edited)

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Robert
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replied on Oct 12, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Based on your summary altogether it looks good - no big deal if you need a hint somewhere in an otherwise very strong case. Usually there is no candidate who runs the case from start to end without any (minor) issue at all, so the perfect canidate is actually more a theoretical concept.

However what is more important is having had a solid overall approach (structure) for the case. If it makes sense to start your structure on the cost side there and you followed your overall structure during analysis phase of the case in a top-down manner, then your summary looks ok. If it was more a random way of jumping to cost section, and not having a top-down approach when analyzing the different buckets of cost, it doesn't look that well anymore.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind to give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Ian
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replied on Oct 13, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

First, the fact of needing a hint and then that hint helping you is not bad at all! So, in that regard you are safe. Again, it's ok to need a hint - what's important is recognizing the hint, not getting thrown off, and moving forward.

That being said, I agree with the other coaches that you seemed to employ a "scattergun" approach. Which was basically just to guess a bunch of costs. There seemed to be no structure here. That may be ok and you may have passed, but in general you need to be much more structured (i.e. be able to employ a true process of elimination)

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Francesco
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replied on Oct 12, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

Having to ask for a hint in a case is not a deal-breaker. You could have probably been more structured when the interviewer asked the initial question though – it seems you went in brainstorming mode without a strong structure. This seems to be the main issue in your case, not much the fact you did not drive the case or needed a hint.

No one can guess the results of course, as Henning said it is very difficult to read the interviewer in these situations.

Good luck!

Francesco

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Henning
Expert
replied on Oct 12, 2020
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Hi Anonymous!

A case is always graded holistically and you will not get dinged if you needed help once but delivered a very strong case apart of that. In more than 120 real interviews for Bain I did not do a single case in which I didn't give hints. The question is more about how often / frequently this is needed and how effective the rest of the case delivery was, so relax.

On the other side, it is also very difficult to read anything into the interviewer's reaction. They will always try to make the interview a pleasant experience for you, so even if you bomb the thing completely, they will do their best to not show this.

The only thing you can do now it wait.

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Gaurav
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replied on Oct 20, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi A,

Asking for a hint may not be a problem at all as long as you use it wisely and finish the case successfully. A perfect case when you crack it completely on your own is not so 100% realistic.

What you should focus on is a proper structure. Having a framework to lay down is essential in case solving as well as in other parts of the interview.

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GB

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Robert gave the best answer

Robert

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McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author
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