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Vlad

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12

When can or can't we "take a minute to structure our thinking" ?

At some parts of the cases, the interviewer may ask you need to list ideas about how to solve a potential problem. This sometimes happens in the middle of a case, it sounds like a brainstorming question. I know we can take some time at the beginning of the case. And that we're not supposed to take any time when we conclude the case (it has to be straight away). However, I have no idea if we can, in this situation, ask for a minute to structure something. Do you have any idea ?

At some parts of the cases, the interviewer may ask you need to list ideas about how to solve a potential problem. This sometimes happens in the middle of a case, it sounds like a brainstorming question. I know we can take some time at the beginning of the case. And that we're not supposed to take any time when we conclude the case (it has to be straight away). However, I have no idea if we can, in this situation, ask for a minute to structure something. Do you have any idea ?

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Book a coaching with Vlad

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Hi,

Depending on the part of the case I usually say: Can I take 30 sec / a minute to structure my thoughts / analyze the numbers, etc?

In terms of the use cases:

Always take:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better. 1.5 looks fine
  • 30 sec to analyze the graph / table. Very often you can come up with more than one conclusion from the graph / table(e.g. main conclusion, outliers, correlations)
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go". Spend this time creating the buckets of ideas and then the ideas within the buckets.
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them. Spend 1 minute on collecting the numbers for the arguments. Remember that 70% of your arguments should have numbers

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.

Best,

Vlad

Hi,

Depending on the part of the case I usually say: Can I take 30 sec / a minute to structure my thoughts / analyze the numbers, etc?

In terms of the use cases:

Always take:

  • 1-2 min for initial structure. But the faster the better. 1.5 looks fine
  • 30 sec to analyze the graph / table. Very often you can come up with more than one conclusion from the graph / table(e.g. main conclusion, outliers, correlations)
  • 30 sec - 1 min for questions on creativity. It's really hard to be creative "On-the-go". Spend this time creating the buckets of ideas and then the ideas within the buckets.
  • Up to 1 minute for the conclusion. Again, the faster the better. But always take the time! Your conclusion should be very well structured and your arguments should include supporting numbers and you need time to collect them. Spend 1 minute on collecting the numbers for the arguments. Remember that 70% of your arguments should have numbers

It's a bit more tricky with taking time during the case:

  • It's not OK to take 30 seconds and then come up with just 1 or 2 ideas. And then if the ideas are not correct to keep the science again. This is called "Guessing"
  • It's OK to take 30 seconds, draw a new structure (or continuation of your previous structure) and come up with a structured way to approach the problem further.

Best,

Vlad

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Hey there,

In general, it is always better to take time and come up with a strong answer than rushing and coming up with an answer that is not

  • exhaustive
  • insightful
  • MECE
  • well-structured
  • top-down

Rule of thumb: If you are moving from one bigger question to the next big question, take time to structure your thinking. This applies to structure, exhibit interpretation, math, synthesis, and final recommendation!

On the flip side, if you present your answer and receive a follow-up question in the same context, it is likely meant to be a quick brainstorming exercise on top of your previous answer or meant to probe your thinking in that context a bit more.

If in doubt, ask if you can take a minute or two and play it safe.

A final observation from 100s of case interviews: Interviewees tend to take too little time rather than too much and it hurts their performance.

Cheers,

Florian

Hey there,

In general, it is always better to take time and come up with a strong answer than rushing and coming up with an answer that is not

  • exhaustive
  • insightful
  • MECE
  • well-structured
  • top-down

Rule of thumb: If you are moving from one bigger question to the next big question, take time to structure your thinking. This applies to structure, exhibit interpretation, math, synthesis, and final recommendation!

On the flip side, if you present your answer and receive a follow-up question in the same context, it is likely meant to be a quick brainstorming exercise on top of your previous answer or meant to probe your thinking in that context a bit more.

If in doubt, ask if you can take a minute or two and play it safe.

A final observation from 100s of case interviews: Interviewees tend to take too little time rather than too much and it hurts their performance.

Cheers,

Florian

(edited)

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Hi Lauraine,

The rule here is generally, when you need to.

If you have an answer ready at the tip of your tongue, and the questions is quite simple/linear (i.e. you just need to list 2-3 specific things), you probably won't need time.

If your answer clearly needs structure/bucketing, you can't be expected to do this right off the bat! Take the time required when the brainstorming question clearly requires a well thought out approach.

Examples of Qs where a minute is required

  • What do you think are the main causes of this?
  • What are some actions we could take?
  • Can you think of some solutions?
  • Any other ideas?
  • When thinking about x, what would be your approach?

Examples of Qs where you should probably have a quick answer

  • Is this a good idea? (mid-case)
  • Why do you think this is the case?
  • What do you think is the #1 "x"

Also, you're wrong about concluding the case - you absolutely can and should ask for 30 seconds prior to your final recommendation

Hi Lauraine,

The rule here is generally, when you need to.

If you have an answer ready at the tip of your tongue, and the questions is quite simple/linear (i.e. you just need to list 2-3 specific things), you probably won't need time.

If your answer clearly needs structure/bucketing, you can't be expected to do this right off the bat! Take the time required when the brainstorming question clearly requires a well thought out approach.

Examples of Qs where a minute is required

  • What do you think are the main causes of this?
  • What are some actions we could take?
  • Can you think of some solutions?
  • Any other ideas?
  • When thinking about x, what would be your approach?

Examples of Qs where you should probably have a quick answer

  • Is this a good idea? (mid-case)
  • Why do you think this is the case?
  • What do you think is the #1 "x"

Also, you're wrong about concluding the case - you absolutely can and should ask for 30 seconds prior to your final recommendation

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Hi Lauriane,

I would argue that at almost any point in time, you can take time to structure your thoughts. Given that case interviews test amongst others, your ability to structure and communicate, it is extremely important not to speak randomly, but provide answers in a distinct way. This is, from my personal experience, valued higher than absolute speed.

I would also say that in my personal experiences, it was always okay to take a moment at the end to structure your "review + recommendation" of the case, if that gives you enough time to actually give a really good concluding answer.

When interviewing with McKinsey, brainstorming a list of options will often be part of the case given to you. In that situation, it is absolutely mandatory to structure your brainstorm into buckets to stand out (e.g., external-internal // direct-indirect // financial-non financial // ...)

I hope this helps! Cheers

Jonas

Hi Lauriane,

I would argue that at almost any point in time, you can take time to structure your thoughts. Given that case interviews test amongst others, your ability to structure and communicate, it is extremely important not to speak randomly, but provide answers in a distinct way. This is, from my personal experience, valued higher than absolute speed.

I would also say that in my personal experiences, it was always okay to take a moment at the end to structure your "review + recommendation" of the case, if that gives you enough time to actually give a really good concluding answer.

When interviewing with McKinsey, brainstorming a list of options will often be part of the case given to you. In that situation, it is absolutely mandatory to structure your brainstorm into buckets to stand out (e.g., external-internal // direct-indirect // financial-non financial // ...)

I hope this helps! Cheers

Jonas

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Hello!

Indeed, asking to take 30 seconds to think about a problem is always something you can do, and it´s never oging to harm -worst case they tell you no, and you need to think of your feet-.

As as a rule of thumb, I would say:

  • 2-3 mins when drafting your issue tree
  • 30 secs when they ask you a brainstorming/bonus question within the case

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Hello!

Indeed, asking to take 30 seconds to think about a problem is always something you can do, and it´s never oging to harm -worst case they tell you no, and you need to think of your feet-.

As as a rule of thumb, I would say:

  • 2-3 mins when drafting your issue tree
  • 30 secs when they ask you a brainstorming/bonus question within the case

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Hello Lauriane,

I'm glad that you asked that question because I see around people very confused regarding this point. At any point of the case, if you need time to think, it's better to ask for 30 seconds to collect and structure your thoughts instead of giving a weak answer. THis will help you not only to give a detailed and complete answer but also to be able to answer potential interviewer's challenges.
I recommend my candidates to ask for 30 seconds also at the end of the case, because it's really important to structure your findings and give your final recommendation in an effective way.

Feel free to pm me if you still have any doubt on this,

Luca

Hello Lauriane,

I'm glad that you asked that question because I see around people very confused regarding this point. At any point of the case, if you need time to think, it's better to ask for 30 seconds to collect and structure your thoughts instead of giving a weak answer. THis will help you not only to give a detailed and complete answer but also to be able to answer potential interviewer's challenges.
I recommend my candidates to ask for 30 seconds also at the end of the case, because it's really important to structure your findings and give your final recommendation in an effective way.

Feel free to pm me if you still have any doubt on this,

Luca

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You can ask for some time to structure your thoughts whenever you need. Just don't ask for time to think too ofted. I'd say everything above 3 in one case is a bit too much.

You can ask for some time to structure your thoughts whenever you need. Just don't ask for time to think too ofted. I'd say everything above 3 in one case is a bit too much.

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Hi Lauriane, I confirm it's totally fine asking for a minute to brainstorm. I actually recommend to do it whenever you need: the structure and details of your answers will be tremendously improved

Best,
Anto

Hi Lauriane, I confirm it's totally fine asking for a minute to brainstorm. I actually recommend to do it whenever you need: the structure and details of your answers will be tremendously improved

Best,
Anto

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It's completely ok for you to take a little time before you answer, especially if it requires you to gather your thoughts and it works better with your prefered style. My only caveat would be to read the interviewer where some interviewers and/or with specific questions prefer a little more on the spot discussion.

Don't forget that a case interview is intended to mimic a "problem solving" when you are actually working as a consultant on a client project. It's important to maintain the momentum with your interviewer where you want them to leave the room/Zoom meeting thinking "wow, I would love to have Lauriane on my team!".

It's completely ok for you to take a little time before you answer, especially if it requires you to gather your thoughts and it works better with your prefered style. My only caveat would be to read the interviewer where some interviewers and/or with specific questions prefer a little more on the spot discussion.

Don't forget that a case interview is intended to mimic a "problem solving" when you are actually working as a consultant on a client project. It's important to maintain the momentum with your interviewer where you want them to leave the room/Zoom meeting thinking "wow, I would love to have Lauriane on my team!".

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Hello Lauriane!

It is very important that you can make a very clear conclusion of the case, because it is definitely the most important part of the whole process. So you definitely need to think a lot before you start to conclude and be very confident of what you will say.

That is why I would recommend to ask some time for thinking if you are not 100% sure of your conclusion.

Good luck!

Best,
GB

Hello Lauriane!

It is very important that you can make a very clear conclusion of the case, because it is definitely the most important part of the whole process. So you definitely need to think a lot before you start to conclude and be very confident of what you will say.

That is why I would recommend to ask some time for thinking if you are not 100% sure of your conclusion.

Good luck!

Best,
GB

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You absolutely can and you must take that time to structure your thoughts.

Its very hard to speak as you think and thats not impactful either.

You absolutely can and you must take that time to structure your thoughts.

Its very hard to speak as you think and thats not impactful either.

(edited)

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Generally speaking, as an interviewer I would absolutely fine if you asked for 30sec/1min to think through an answer or how to proceed if you were stuck or came across new data. You can do this as you are working through your case structure or presented with a new exhibit. It's always better to step back and reassess rather than proceeding and hitting a wall

Generally speaking, as an interviewer I would absolutely fine if you asked for 30sec/1min to think through an answer or how to proceed if you were stuck or came across new data. You can do this as you are working through your case structure or presented with a new exhibit. It's always better to step back and reassess rather than proceeding and hitting a wall