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one MBB told me to come back in 6 months to re-interview - Structure weakness

Case Interview case structure MBB Structure
New answer on Jul 13, 2020
7 Answers
1.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jul 10, 2020

Hello everyone

I interviewed back in March for a summer associate with one of the MBBs, but then the partner feedback is that "They liked the way I think and brainstorm, but structuring is an issue." They said I need to focus more on drawing a solid structure and, as well, a structure every answer. I can claim that structure has always been my weakest area compared to others. They asked me to come back in the fall and they will interview me again.

The thing is that I feel that it doesn't align with how I like to think or maybe how my brain functions; i.e.: I get a flush of ideas at once and then I think of them as an essay or a speech, clearly not good if you explain that to a client.

Any advice or thoughts about addressing this weakness?

Much appreciated

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Anonymous replied on Jul 11, 2020

Hello A,

Structuring is a skill, which can be developed. In order to do so, try to train you brain to set a sort of framework and then brainstorm along this framework. So, if you're thinking about any problem, try to derive 3-5 key structural points and then go deeper to each and everyone of them and brainstorm on what other components of every structural point.

This is how you can overcome you weakness, but at the very end it's just practice-practice-practice.

In order to get a tailored advice, feel free to reach out and after test session I would be able to provide you with more specific feedback and recomendations on the way forward.

Best,

André

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

I understand you are not comfortable with structuring when you brainstorm. That’s totally fine – you can definitely learn how to be more structured. It is not difficult if you follow the right steps.

Whenever you get a question on brainstorming in the case, I would recommend the following:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure with MECE buckets
    1. You can do that even if you have never seen that question before. If you have no idea on how to structure a first level, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X.
    2. Potential examples include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial.
    3. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE buckets fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each bucket
    1. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.
    2. If you feel you are weak in one specific industry, the most effective strategy is to go through a good consulting MBA casebook for that industry.
    3. There are many casebooks available for free online – although not all are good. Screen the list for the industries interesting for you and work on them. MBA casebooks are not good in terms of the structure of the case but can help to develop creativity.

Below you can find an example of how to brainstorm in a structured way.

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Interviewer. So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?

► STEP 1: ASK FOR ONE MINUTE OF TIME

Interviewee. That’s an interesting question. Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?

Interviewer. Please take your time.

► STEP 2: IDENTIFY MECE BUCKETS

Interviewee. Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper into these two components.

(Note that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)

► STEP 3: BRAINSTORM OPTIONS IN EACH BUCKET

Interviewee. Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:

  1. we may negotiate a lower price;
  2. we may look for other suppliers.

In order to decrease the number of units, we may do the following:

  1. we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have less waste;
  2. we may use a new kind of raw material for which there is less waste.

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If you want to learn the exact steps to structure as MBB want for all the main questions they ask, please feel free PM – I do a session exactly on that.

Best,

Francesco

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Anonymous replied on Jul 11, 2020

Hi Anonymous

Structure is like arithmetic in this sense - with enough practice you can get quite good at it. Creativity on the other hand is linked in a bigger way to intrinsics and with 6 months to prepare - there should be no stopping you from doing well in the interviews

If you are serious about joining MBB - I highly recommend you work with an experienced coach to improve. Although preparing with other candidates is a cheaper option - they won't be able to give you the level of feedback required to improve. They will typically just tell you how your answer was different to the best answer vs actually identifying the core issue. In addition there is never a 'single right way to structure'.

Most coaches on this site offer a free or discounted first session - use it and then work with the coach you are most comfortable with over a couple of weeks to improve your structuring

Best of luck

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Giulia
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2020
McKinsey | 6+ years in Consulting + Health Tech |Certified High Performance + Systemic Coach | Women Empowerment

Hello,

I know exactly what you are talking about! I had the same problems when I started interviewing a few years ago.

Please remember that your mindset is a strength! It is REALLY difficult for most people to be creative and to develop diverse, ready-to-use and great ideas! So don't lose this skill and appreciate it.

In order to better explain your thoughts / ideas to others and convince them of your ideas, a clear structure is REALLY important! Otherwise you will lose them. It is also very helpful for your thinking process to actually continue working on your ideas, tracking progress, etc.

It is definitely feasible to learn how to properly structure and clearly communicate your thoughts. This is not rocket science. There are several simple tools and methods for this: MECE information, TOP-DOWN communication, etc.

I have great mini-cases to practice structuring. Please let me know if you need help!

I wish you the best,
Giulia

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2020
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

Hi,

It seems like how your brain works is - you get a surge of ideas at once and you like to communicate it all to the person listening. The problem with doing that is that most people are not accustomed to being hit by a large amount of unstructured information all at once. It is too difficult to take in and then the difficult work has to be done by the listener to interpret and organize what exactly you are saying.

Structuring takes time to learn because it is a skill. It is easy to say things as and when they come to mind but it is much harder to step back, structure your thoughts and then communicate them effectively. Once you do this, the listener also enjoys it more as you have made the information easy to digest and there is less work involved.

I suggest if you are serious about MBB you spend a lot of time on structuring, it is absoltely key to get this right if you want an offer.

Best,
Udayan

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Robert
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 11, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Completely understandable - thinking and communicating in this rigidly structured way is not how humans typically communicate. But it's neither brain surgery nor rocket science - it's mostly a habit to adopt. And actually it's not only beneficial from a customer perspective, but it really helps yourself to be more MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) in your thinking process.

What really helps most candidates is absorbing Barbara Minto's "The pyramid principle" book. It's not that easy to digest, and it's not a book you read once - you need to see it more like a guide of the underlying thought process and then start using it as much as you can all the time to develop that habits. There is no real shortcut - but luckily 'only' a matter of practice!

On top of that I also have some material on the topic of structuring case interview situations - you can PM me on that.

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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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jul 13, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Top add on top what has been shared already, have you considered working with a coach to make a personalized ad-hoc plan for structuring?

Cheers,

Clara

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