question on timing

Mckinsey interview
New answer on Aug 23, 2022
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Aug 22, 2022

My Mckinsey interview is a series of 45 minute interviews where PEI + Case is within 45 minutes. With that said, given how long PEI takes(maybe 15-20 minutes), does this mean that I have to do a standard case(which takes around 45 minutes or so)in 20-25 minute during case section? I was wondering as I think I'm making some wrong assumptions and don't want to psych myself out. 

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Kiran
CoachingPlus Expert
replied on Aug 22, 2022
Former McKinsey Consultant (ranked top 3-5%)|McKinsey interview coach, 50+ sessions|30% off first session|Tech Investor

Hi there,

A different perspective I've heard on this for McKinsey at least (and something I've talked to a fair few folks on).

McK interviews are trying to figure out can you do a number of things e.g., basic numerical analysis, structuring problems etc. For many partners I've spoken to, at least in final rounds, if you can do this quickly the ‘formal interview' (both case and PEI) need not last more than 20-25mins leaving more time to build rapport/have more a conversation which can only be a positive. At the other end of the spectrum not finishing your case in the allotted time does not bode well.

What does this mean then? Your north star should be aiming to check the boxes efficiently leaving more time to show off your personality/have an informal conversation with the interviewer or allow the interviewer to end the interview on time/early (this is a rarity that they will remember). 

In practice this means not waffling in the PEI & getting to the crux of the story v quickly , hitting the math first time round, being incredibly structured, driving insights from graphs etc. 

This is of course the ideal scenario but if you aim for this and perhaps you slip up somewhere (e.g., you miss an insight from a graph etc.) then there is enough time that you've saved (e.g., by nailing the PEI in 10mins) to give you some breathing room to course correct.

 

 

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Luke on Aug 22, 2022

This is a really interesting perspective and resonates from what I've heard/experienced. Thanks!

Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Aug 23, 2022
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

McKinsey cases are a bit different and are not about getting through the case for the interviewer but collecting enough relevant data points. As such, you will go through a series of (sometimes loosely) connected questions, and more often than not the case just ends randomly without a recommendation.

Answering more questions is not necessarily better; rather focus on answering every question exhaustively and to the best of your abilities.

Let's break it down below in a bit more detail:

1. The difference between a McKinsey case and a non-McKinsey case first and foremost lies in the interviewer-led format as you are aware. Every case you have in this case book can be asked from an interviewer-led perspective.

In the McKinsey interview you will have to answer three different questions types - broadly speaking:

  • Structuring
  • Exhibit Interpretation
  • Math

While in candidate-led cases, they should arise naturally when you drill down into your structure, in McKinsey interviews, the interviewer will bring them up in succession.

2. The second big difference lies in the nature of questions asked at McKinsey. At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better.

As a result, McKinsey cases will usually be very creative in nature and not something that can be solved by looking at industry frameworks or industry trends. This also means that there are no right or wrong answers, just good or bad answers (or exceptional answers for that matter).

Be aware that frameworks were applicable in the 2000 years, the era of Victor Cheng and Case in Point. McK has long caught up on this and the cases you will get during the interviews are tailored in a way to test your creativity and ability to generate insights, not remember specific frameworks.

3. The third big difference is how to answer the questions in a McKinsey interview. Since the interviewer guides you from question to question, you need to be in the driver's seat for each question and treat each almost like a mini case in itself.

Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question. The framework should - broadly speaking - follow these three characteristics:

  • Broad
  • Deep
  • Insightful

The firm wants to see exhaustive and creative approaches to specific problems, which more often than not do not fit into the classic case interview frameworks (or can be derived from industry drivers and trends) that were en vogue 10 years ago...

Again, this only applies if everything you say

  • adds value to the problem analysis
  • is MECE
  • is well qualified
  • includes a detailed discussion of your hypotheses at the end

As a result, you can spend several minutes, guiding the interviewer through your structure!

Now for Structure and Exhibit Interpretation, there is also no right or wrong answer. Some answers are better than others because they are

  • deep
  • broad
  • insightful
  • hypothesis-driven
  • follow a strong communication (MECE, top-down, signposted)

That being said, there is no 100% that you can reach or the one-and-only solution/answer. It is important that your answers display the characteristics specified above and are supported well with arguments.

As for Math questions, usually, there are answers which are correct (not always 100% the same since some candidates simplify or round differently - which is ok), and others that are wrong, either due to the

  • calculation approach
  • calculation itself

The difference in format and way of answering a question is the reason why I recommend preparing very differently for McK interviews vs. other consultancies.

Now that you know about

  • the different format
  • the different question types and case briefs
  • the ways to answer the questions

you can start using the cases you already have and approach them in a McKinsey-specific way. 

If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out for some free guidance on how to come up with your own McKinsey-type cases on the spot.

Also, check out this answer I wrote on how the cases McKinsey posts online are comparable to the actual interviews: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/are-mckinsey-website-practice-cases-representative-for-what-will-come-10002

If you want to learn more about the McKinsey interviews, have a look at the articles I wrote for PrepLounge:

How to approach the McKinsey Case Interview

How to master the McKinsey Personal Experience Interview

Cheers,

Florian

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Cristian
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Content Creator
replied on Aug 23, 2022
#1 rated and most recommended McKinsey Coach | 97% success rate (tracked) | Honest feedback: no sugar-coating

Hi there, 

That's about right, but interviews usually take longer - 1h, perhaps even more if the consultant is willing to extend it. 

They communicate it as shorter to manage your expectations and to make it easier to timebox it to 1h. 

Best,

Cristian

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Toyyinn
Expert
updated an answer on Aug 22, 2022
Ex-McK | Dynamic case coach with 30+ placements across MBB and other firms | Most Up-voted on PL Q&A from 2017 - 2020

Typically, you can expect your PEI to run for about 15 minutes. It rarely goes over the 15-minute mark, and even if you're waffling in the last portion of it, expect the interviewer to politely cut you off and ask to proceed to the case.

25 - 35 minutes for the case portion is fairly standard, so all in all, your assumptions are in the ballpark. I would disagree with you that a ‘standard case’ takes ‘45 minutes or so’ as there are some unique variables at play during the case interview and especially with the McKinsey format.

I - practice sessions tend to be looser for time than actual interview cases. In your practices, your partner is solving for meeting the your learning objectives which usually takes a bit more time. You can expect that the trained interviewers have tightened their cases and perfected their prompts to ensure they can deliver their cases in a shorter time-frame than what you are used to.

II - the McKinsey format is loosely time-bound based on the questions you will be answering. In this format, the interviewer is firmly in the driver's seat and has even greater control of time than the other formats. As you progress through the case: i) design and explain your issue tree, prioritisation order, and initial hypothesis; ii) analyse your first exhibit, extract key insights, and feed those back into strengthening/revising your hypothesis and advancing towards the objective; etc., etc., the interviewer is guiding you through the distinct sections with a keen eye on time.

In my time, NONE of my case interviews in the first round ran over the 30-minute mark, and this time factor seems little changed since then. 
(Yes, I timed all my first-round MBB interviews!)  :-)

I wouldn't worry that your practice sessions are taking longer than will actually likely happen at your interview.  I would, however, encourage you to be aware of this (as it seems you are) and try a few sessions under more interview-accurate conditions if getting a feel would keep you from ‘psyching’ yourself out.  ;-)

(edited)

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Ian
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Content Creator
updated an answer on Aug 23, 2022
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Your assumptions are about right.

You're probably surprised that you only have 20-25 minutes because it's the natural tendency of most fellow candidates to allow far too long on cases! When you're casing with peers, remember that this is not fully representative of the case experience (it's a bit of the blind leading the blind).

Real cases tend to be shorter, more abrupt, move more quickly, and “help” less.

All that said, be careful expecting anything. It could be that your case is 40 minutes or 5 minutes. You might have 1 PEI question or 5.

Yes, there are general rules/tendencies…but make sure you go in ready for whatever happens.

(edited)

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Sofia
Expert
replied on Aug 22, 2022
McKinsey San Francisco | Harvard graduate | 5+ years of coaching| Free 15 min intro call | Personalized approach

Hello,

Don't worry too much about this. The PEI portion is usually around 15 minutes, the case is about 20-25. The case will have been structured to only take around 20-25 mins: you are not being asked to solve a 45 min standard case in 20 mins, in other words. The interviewer will guide you through all of these portions, and you may go longer on some and quicker on others. There is also some time at the beginning for small talk and at the end to ask questions.

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Emily
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Content Creator
replied on Aug 22, 2022
Ex McKinsey EM & interviewer (5 yrs) USA & UK| Coached / interviewed 200 +|Free 15 min intro| Stanford MBA|Non-trad

There’s no need to psych yourself out! So each interview is generally 45-50 mins:

- 5 min small talk

- 15 min PEI

- 20 min case (generally 3-4 questions)

- 5 min for you to ask questions

Time can shift between the PEI and case - and if you go long then you may not have time for questions at the end. But this doesn’t mean anything! The interviewer may also take some notes on their laptop while you’re taking time to think through answers on the case - this is just so that we don’t forget what you said!

Emily

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Lucie
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Aug 22, 2022
10+yrs recruiting & top BCG trainer & BCG Project leader & experienced hire & ICF coach

Hi there, 

unless you are experienced hire, very likely Personal interview will not take more than 15 min and case will be 30 min. 

Good luck!

Lucie

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Kiran gave the best answer

Kiran

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Former McKinsey Consultant (ranked top 3-5%)|McKinsey interview coach, 50+ sessions|30% off first session|Tech Investor
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