Here are 5 tips specifically about frameworks for case interview candidates.
1. Take Your Time
As a rule of thumb, you should take 90-120 seconds on your initial framework. In a real case, that amount of time might feel like an awkward eternity. Learn to deal with the awkward though, since the first framework will be your road map throughout the entire case. Although it is possible take too long on this portion, it’s better to take too long and have a great framework than to cut it short and leave yourself with a crummy guide.
2. Tell The “Why”
I’ve mentioned the controversy about “asking vs. telling” the interviewer that you will build a framework here. Whatever transition style you choose, it is helpful for you to tell the interviewer why you are building the framework.
The whole case process is meant to be more than just a strange ritual; every step in the case process has meaning. You’re not building a framework simply because it’s what you’re expected to do, but it’s to solve a specific problem. Tell the interviewer the problem that your framework is going to address. By vocalizing the purpose behind the framework you are about to build, you will help cement your mind on the correct issue, and the interviewer will know that you have real problem solving skills instead of case-acting skills.
3. Canned Frameworks: Your “Food Storage”
There’s plenty of opinions on canned frameworks floating around. Many case publications provide some standard frameworks that fit many situations, while many consultants advise against using them in your cases. Since it’s hard to think of better frameworks after you expose yourself to a canned framework, some consultants recommend not looking at canned frameworks at all.
The reason people don’t like canned frameworks is because it does not immediately demonstrate that you can think for yourself and solve unique problems. It’s not impressive if a candidate simply whips-out a memorized framework and checks off the boxes without considering any curve-balls the case throws at the candidate. Frameworks should always be tailor-made to the case at hand.
That said, memorizing canned frameworks can really enhance your ability to build other frameworks. If you have a framework memorized, you can quickly think through its major tenants as you build your custom framework to check whether you’re missing something. Memorizing some frameworks can also help non-business majors quickly become acquainted with how business works and some common topics to be familiar with.
If you have a good framework memorized, it can be like “food storage.” It gives you some nourishment to draw from in a time of need, but it’s not tasty enough to eat all the time.
4. Take Time In The Middle
Many candidates seem to think that the initial framework construction is the only acceptable time for silence. This is not true. If the interviewer asks a new question, it’s often worth taking about 30 seconds (but not too much more) to build a quick, skeletal framework to address it. The new framework may be nothing more than some categories of things to look into, but it can help guide future thinking. This mid-case framework should be explained just like the first one, though it will probably take a bit less time.
These principles apply to math sections of cases as well. Writing out the basic equation you’re going to use (see the “calculation method” in my first tips post here) is basically building your mathematical framework. Sometimes the math will even need to look like a logic tree as you break items down into their component parts on multiple levels. Making these logic trees and equations take a bit of time, so don’t fear the silence.
I should note that this is especially important for McKinsey’s first round. The interviewer will give the candidate a bunch of semi-disconnected pieces of analysis that will all typically require some sort of new framework for analysis. Don’t skip the framework building part, even if it’s in the middle of the case.
5. Structure Your Brainstorming
As part of building frameworks in the middle of the case, you should also do so when you are asked to brainstorm. When the interviewer asks you to brainstorm ideas, he or she does not want the candidate to shoot-off a bunch of random thoughts that come to his or her head. The interviewer wants to see that the candidate can organize his or her brainstorming, and then use it both to cover all the bases, and to be creative.
Getting the right answer in a case is only half the battle. Candidates need to get to the right answer in an organized, systematic, logical way. Frameworks help you stay organized, and clearly communicate your thought process to the interviewer. If you see frameworks as a helpful tool rather than a case-interview ritual, then you’ll solve cases in a superior way.
Keep seeking truth.
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