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Stuck with a Brain Teaser question: what is the best reaction?

Anonymous asked on Nov 01, 2017 - 3 answers

What is the best reaction to have during an interview if you happen to be stuck with a Brain Teaser question for which you don't find the answer?

It doesn't happen to me so often...but yet it happens. I wonder what is the most professional reaction.

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replied on Nov 01, 2017
Two years conulting experience, went through lots of interviews and coached several candidates to MBB offers
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Hi, good question!
Probably somewhat depending on your interviewer, but this is my view on it.
In this situation it's important to try to showcase as mluch of your consulting skills as possible. Be transparent and admit you're stuck with this. Communicate clearly, explain why you do not see the appropriate solution and suggest to brainstorm together about it.

  • You show reliability. You're honest and open and don't start making stuff up
  • You show communication skills. You can explain concise and accurate why you're stuck.
  • You show proactivity by suggesting to brainstorm together and make a first attempt/proposal for a solution

Hope this helps!

replied on Nov 03, 2017
Ex-McKinsey BA/Associate across Australia and UK // Graduate and MBA case experience
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A similar situation is very common in case interviews, and I would suggest the same advice applies:

- Ask for a minute or two to think through the question. It may feel a little strange but I don't know a firm which will have an issue with you taking this time

- Secondly, the interviewer is not trying to trick you, so if you start suggesting some reasonable idea's your interviewer may well help steer you. They are not testing your ability to answer an individual question, but far more how you think. The best candidates don't always get the answer right first time

Hope that helps!


replied on Nov 06, 2017
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I would say in this case you should demonstrate something else. What can it be?

  1. Structured approach - try to make a step back and lay out a structured way to find a solution. Even if you can't find it, you can at least do a roadmap. Tip: ask an interviewer if you are going the right way
  2. Creativity - think of alternative solutions / multiple approaches / generate ideas
  3. Visualize - start drawing the details on paper, discussing it with the interviewer. It helps


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