Practice cases length vs. actual case interview length and the importance of finishing the case

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Recent activity on Oct 01, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Sep 30, 2018

I keep hearing from consultants as well as people who have recently interviewed that they end up only having about 15-30 min maximum for the cases as the behavioral part went long, interviews running late, etc. and the cases are rarely ever completed but the important part is the interviewer seeing how the candidate things/functions/presents themselves/etc.

However most advice I read about case interviews, plus tools like LOMS, etc. always seem to mention the 40 min case interviews and the candidates solving the cases completely...anyone have any knowledge on this/if 40 is actually the norm? Also if we've been practicing going through cases in about 40 min. any advice on how to shorten that down or show the interviewer that we know the logical next steps for what we'd do/investigate when we're running out of time?

Not sure if it's firm/office/country specific, but I'm applying for firms in the US, Spain, and Germany (yes, I speak the local languages).


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replied on Oct 01, 2018
Collected McKinsey & BCG offers/ Ex-McKinsey consultant/Harvard/WBS/MSU

Hi A,

It is great that you think about timing.
To be honest you should not focus on case timing. During the interview, partners may stop you in a middle of a case without any recommendations. You should be prepared for that.

What is more, you should be the guy, who I can bring to a client interview - that's all MBB want from a candidate. At the same time you should

  • Structure in MECE way
  • Drive hypothesis
  • Be proactive
  • Have a matured communication (eye contact, use hands)
  • Calculate fast and without any mistakes

All the best,

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Content Creator
replied on Sep 30, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


It really depends on the interviewer (I had both 40 min and 25 min cases) and the company (Bain has the longest cases). Thus several things:

  • Practice on longer cases to get more experience
  • On the real case you should be structuring the problem quickly
  • You can not make a math mistake
  • If the case should be wrapped up in the middle - you provide a soft recommendation

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, there 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...)



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replied on Sep 30, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

40 minutes definitely not the norm - but you also aren't expected to finish if given only 15 or 20 minutes. At the end of the day, we want you to display a structured thought, MECE framework, and ability to wrap up properly.

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Egor gave the best answer


Collected McKinsey & BCG offers/ Ex-McKinsey consultant/Harvard/WBS/MSU
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