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What is the best way to explain your structure

houman asked on Jan 01, 2018
Strong practice background, more than 150+ case.

Hello Everyone,

According to different materials, I think there are two main way of explaining the structure to interviewer.

1) Numbering first layer of structure and after that going to second layer and explaining which specific data do you want for each main category and perhaps justify why you need them.

i.e. "I woould like to look at 4 area, 1:customer, 2: competition.... etc.

Now, in my first branch, I would like to learn 3 things about our customers... 1) this 2) this 3) this

2) Start with numbering the branches of first layer and give some detail about second layer of each branch and explaing which data you want to collect with justification

i.e " "I woould like to look at 4 area......

First area that I want to look at is customer. In this part I would like to learn 3 things about our customer to understant the situation better....

And explain each main category of your structure in same way...


Which one is more clear and easy to follow? What do you think?

Thank you!



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replied on Jan 04, 2018
BCG Consultant |Consulting Case Coach at London Business School
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The best approach is to use the pyramid principle (discussed by Hemant).

Start by listing out the top categories or headings. Once you have briefly described them, move on to the next layer. It is important to look at your interviewer for cues. Did they start vigorously start nodding their head when you mentioned revenue, rather than costs? Did they agree with you, or start asking questions in one particular area?

Strategy consulting uses the hypothesis method. This means that we form our best guess of the answer and proceed with it by proving or disproving the hypothesis. The answer to a case should follow a similar format. If you have a hypothesis, state it. E.g., 'You mentioned that the company is more looking for growth, so my hypothesis is to focus on revenue first, rather than cost.' Look at your interviewer for a confirmation (or otherwise), and proceed.

The most important advice is to proceed in layers, and then move down to the next layer only once you've finished the first. Don't go all the way down one particular 'branch'. You'll end up wasting time, and demonstrate to the interviewer that you can't work with the hypothesis method.

Good luck!

Dan replied on Jan 01, 2018
Dedicated to practicing and improving the performance of both myself and my partners. Prefer candidate-led style.

I think the first approach is more clear - it's easier to follow along if the interviewer (or case partner) knows generally where you are going before you dive into details.

I think of structuring the case interview like a talk or presentation: when giving a talk, one of your first slides should always an outline that gives your audience a "roadmap" of what to expect. This outline is followed by the actual details of the talk (data, insights, conclusions, etc). While there are ways to give talks where you dive straight into a narrative. it is easier for the audience to follow along and gauge progress if they see the outline first.

In a similar fashion, laying out "these are the 4 categories I want to explore" followed by "in the first category, these are my three key questions..." makes it easier for the interviewer to know where you're going and follow along.

I also think that the first one is a better approach. However I read some material of victor cheng with second approach which he thought that they were very clear and well-organazied. Thank you for your response! — houman on Jan 01, 2018 (edited)

replied on Jan 02, 2018
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.
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I highly recommend you read 'The pyramid principle' - it's a must-read for MBB. In short:

1. Don't go into list mode. Always do bucked mode. For example, if you are analyzing why birds in london are dying, don't start listing out "air pollution, food, weather, etc".. start with "natural causes, man-made causes, etc".

2. Start with top level structure first. E.g., don't go "natural causes: x, y, z". Say "natural, man-made, etc" and THEN dive into one or the other.

3. Use pareto principle. If you have 5 items in the top level, then choose which are the top-2 and start there.


Francesco replied on Jan 28, 2018
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Hi Houman,

I agree with the previous comments, the first approach is definitely better as you will let the interviewer know immediately what’s the whole plan. With the second approach, the interviewer will have to wait the end of your presentation to understand what you had in mind as first level of your structure, which is not optimal in terms of his/her comprehension of what you want to do.



Anonymous A replied on Jan 01, 2018

I think 1) is the better approach. It is important to lay out the roadmap before diving into the detail of each branch. The interviewer should know from the beginning how you are sturcturing the problem on a high-level so they won't suspect you've missed something before you've gotten the chance to talk about it.

Anonymous replied on Feb 23, 2018

Hey Houman,

Definitely follow your first suggestion (the second one, despite being also structured, is much more difficut to follow and much easier to make a mistake communicating it).

But it's equally important that you don't fortget to be hypothesis-driven immediately after explaining your first approach - explain either what's your hypothesis or where do you want to start and why.



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