When can you pause during an interview?

Bain BCG Final Round interviewee-led
Recent activity on Jun 18, 2018
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 18, 2018

This question concerns interviewee-led cases (Bain/BCG final round).

I've done several cases with MBB coaches. In this time I've gotten inconsistent advice regarding pauses.

Some say that you are allowed to pause when presented with exhibits for a short period of time (after asking permission), and this is in fact a good approach to insure you are providing a structured analysis. Others say that you should jump in right away and provide analysis on the exhibits. I've heard the same conflict on conclusions.

This is obviously very confusing. More people have told me take a pause, but those who tell me the opposite insist I will be marked down for pausing.

Who is right and what is the expectation in your opinion?

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Best answer
replied on Jun 18, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

I absolutely agree with Vlad and Francesco!

ALWAYS take time to digest an exhibit! I would even say that starting to talk right away without having properly looked at what is being given to you is an absolute No-Go - because you also should never do something like this in a client situation!

I do not know who gave you the advice that you need to jump into it right away, but this is fundamentally flawed and dangerous advice!

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on Jun 18, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Vlad, it is totally fine to ask for one minute to read a graph before moving to the analysis. After you took some time you should:

  • Summarize what the graph is about
  • Restate the main question you have to answer
  • Provide an analysis related to the question
  • Provide a conclusion for the graph which answers the original question
  • Present the next steps to follow based on such conclusion

That doesn’t mean that reading the graph right after you receive it is wrong – it just requires more experience and better communication skills to go through. In particular, I noticed that when people don’t take time at the beginning in a graph analysis, they often start to read it and then freeze when they read something they do not understand. This is not good, as the interviewer will assume you could freeze as well in front of a client. Thus in general if you feel uncomfortable with complex graph analysis I would suggest to ask for some time as first step – your following reading and analysis will be a lot better. The same reasoning is true for the final conclusion (unless the interviewer explicitly requests a 10-second one).

Finally, be aware that when you ask for some time to organize your thoughts, the interviewer could sometimes request to provide an immediate response to put you under pressure; if that happens, the best thing is to repeat the original question/information to gain some time, then move through the reading/analysis that you have to provide.



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Anonymous replied on Jun 18, 2018

Agree with all other responses - one thing to note is that at any point in the case you feel that you could benefit from a brief pause, just ask: in most cases, the interview will be fine with it (provided it is not excessive). This includes:

1) The initial structure (pausing is a must)

2) presented with data/exhibits

3) Follow-up questions/brainstorms (brainstorms should still be structured!)

4) before calculations to structure your approach



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replied on Jun 18, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / 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.


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replied on Jun 18, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

I think everyone agrees here. Are you sure if wasn't a misunderstanding? In the final conclusion for example, BCG typically tells you to give the conclusion right away since "the client is in your office". Yes, you can sometimes take a minute if you really need to (and your interviewer is particularly kind) but going straight into the recommendations is best.

I feel this may be what has happened here. I for one always tell my clients to do the math on the fly if they can. That absolutely doesn't mean they should jump right in before figuring out what they were looking at however.

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Sam on Jun 18, 2018

Hi Guennael. That's a good question. I specifically asked two different coaches whether I can take time before looking at exhibits. They said no and to engage with the exhibits right away; I even let them know other MBB coaches disagreed (three echoed what's been said here). I'm glad there is consensus here, and this is what I'll follow.

Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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