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Silence During Cases

Anonymous A

How many moments of silence is acceptable in the beginning of the case (to outline the case structure) before the silence gets into awkward territory?

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Sidi replied on 06/28/2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 45+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous!

everything up to a minute is absolutely no problem.

However, my recommendation if you need more time to outline a sharp and sound logic: TAKE IT! Even if it "gets into awkward territory" - if your structure is crystal clear, rooted in the core question you need to anwer, and logically deconstructing this core question into the relevant set of criteria that you can hypothesize on, I can promise you that the interviewer will instantly forget about this extra time that you took!

So in a nutshell: concentrate on crafting world class structures! The time you take for it then becomes a minor notion.

Cheers, Sidi

replied on 06/28/2018
Bain & Company London | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT

Agree with Sidi here - if you are taking a long time (1 minute+) but are still working through developing a clear structure, you shouldn't be worried.

On the other hand, if you are taking a long time because you are stuck and can't structure the problem, then the length of time you take a break for is not the biggest issue, and certaintly not what will make you pass/not pass the interview.

Vlad replied on 06/27/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


You should always take a pause (30 sec - 1 min):

  • To make the initial structure
  • To analyze the table / graph
  • To answer the creativity questions
  • To provide a recommendation

You can also take a pause:

  • Before doing the calculations (if you need to collect the numbers)
  • During the case, while making the new structure or problem-solving. The main criteria here - you should not stay silent and then come up with just one idea or a guessing. if you are taking a minute, spend your time making a new structure.


replied on 06/27/2018
Ex-Oliver Wyman with 100% interview success rate - specialized in female career coaching


in general, I would say around a minute (at that point your interviewer will start to become a bit unpatient). However, this does differ across consultancies and interviewers.

Most of the time it does not get awkward as long as you keep doing something. It only gets awkward, once you only stare on that piece of paper for too long, so try to avoid it.

Just start outlining your structure by saying: "I would just take a bit of time to structure my thoughts, if that is okay" (never go for "I would take a minute" - I have seen interviewers who will interrupt you exactly after one minute...)

It may happen that your interviewer will interrupt you nevertheless. This should not stress you out, just stay calm and finish your structure "live" together with the interviewer.

For preperations, I suggest you keep an eye on the time it takes you to outline the structure and, if it is more than one minute, try to speed up the process a bit.

Hope this helps!

Tyrion Lannister replied on 07/16/2018

I largely agree with all the excellent responses so far with these notes of caution:

1. Do try to stick, as much as possible, to the 60-second mark. As Dorothea rightly said, impatience can set in after this time-frame. I think we can all agree that negative emotion is not the best starting point for any sort of interaction as it might not be easy to overcome.

2. Do be justified if you go over the 60-second mark: in other words, your structure had better be bloody, knock-my-socks-off amazing if I have to wait two minutes to get it!

3. If you're worried about time, practice Case structure sprints: situations where you receive the prompt of a Case problem, and time yourself (60-seonds or less) to come up with a logic-based, hypothesis-driven, intellectually robust structure that drives at the heart of the problem. If this is a concern of yours, then such exercises (to be done apart from your usual Case practice) should go some way to assuaging your concerns.

Good luck!