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Phrase to use to ask for time during case interview

Anonymous A asked on Aug 12, 2018 - 4 answers

During an interview, we normally ask multiple time for time to think, put structure, ideas, brainstrorm.

At the same time, we don't pay attention to how we ask for time: can I take a few seconds, can I take a few minutes, can I take some time, can I take some time to put my structure? Is there a good phrase/way to ask for time?


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replied on Aug 12, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Depending on the part of the case I usually say: Can I take 30 sec / a minute to structure my thoughts / analyze the numbers, etc?

In terms of the use cases:

Always take:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better. 1.5 looks fine
  • 30 sec to analyze the graph / table. Very often you can come up with more than one conclusion from the graph / table(e.g. main conclusion, outliers, correlations)
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go". Spend this time creating the buckets of ideas and then the ideas within the buckets.
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them. Spend 1 minute on collecting the numbers for the arguments. Remember that 70% of your arguments should have numbers

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.



Hi Vlad! This is a really helpful answer to the question. Could you explain what ideas within buckets are? ("buckets of ideas and then the ideas within the buckets.") — Anonymous on Aug 13, 2018

replied on Aug 12, 2018
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Don’t over think this.

For your initial structure, “can I take a minute to structure my thoughts?”

For subsequent pauses (which are shorter) “can I take a few seconds to structure my thoughts”

Cedric updated his answer on Aug 13, 2018
Preparing for final round McK

I personally don’t specify how much time i’d need. I just say, “can I have a moment”. Last week during my first round at MBB the interviewer answered “yes sure, you can have 20 seconds”. I passed first round.


replied on Aug 13, 2018
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I agree with Cedric - ideally, don't specify the time you need, better to ask for "a moment". I have seen interviewers interrupting after precisely 60 seconds, when I asked for "a minute", which obviously may confuse you.

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