Case Interview - Tips and Technique Case Interview: How detailed a candidate’s response should be?

My Reply


Thank you for 3 excellent questions about case interview study. Those are all interesting and deep questions. They show that you have already invested in case practice. They all make me think quite a bit to answer. Please see my responses on case interview study below:


Click to find answers to Question 1 and Question 3 

Question 2: How do clearly define how detailed I should explain to one of the branch analysis? Say I list out there might be ABC factors I’ve thought of, but sometimes I’ve encountered spending too much time on explaining one factor which leads to too lengthy case interview time. Do you have any comments or suggestions on this?  

It depends on the specific situations. In terms of how long should “one response pitch” last, here are two basic must-know rules of thumb:

  • If it’s an interviewer-led case, don’t worry about spending too much time answering one question. In fact, the more insights and content you can compress into one response, the better. Each answer to each question in the interviewer-led case should be considered as a mini formal presentation. If you’re afraid that your response is “too long”, try to structure it and deliver it in an easy-to-follow style. Don’t try to trim it.
  • If it’s a candidate-led case, I tend to approach it like a working session (in McKinsey we call this “problem solving meetings”) between you (the consultant) and the interviewer (your leadership) who is there to help you. In these situations, in contrast, I would keep my responses short and interactive. I would check, align, and leverage constantly with the interviewer. I would not want to go super long into one branch and latter find out that the branch is no good.

In terms of how long you should stay exploring one branch, the rule of thumb is to keep drilling down until one of the following two things happen:

  • (a): That branch exhausts. Sometimes, you can cross out one branch quickly with some hypothesis testing. But sometimes if one branch is promising, it will take some time until the root-cause is found.
  • (b): The interviewer tells you to switch gear.

Occasionally, the branch has not technically exhausted but you do feel that it will takes years to keep drilling down. That’s the good time to check with the interviewer. But other than that, the default rules of thumb is to keep drilling down.

Good luck with your case interview study!

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