Below is a question I received from a student about 2nd round case interviews and time limits. I am including her question as well as my response.

Student Question:

I would like to thank you for all the material on your website, it helped me a lot as I followed your main advice: Train, Train and Train again!

I am from Europe and I applied for junior positions at the top tier firms’ local offices.

My first real case (all my trainings were with friends) was at Roland Berger. And the feedback I had was that it was excellent, a great fit with both consultants and great abilities to crack the case.

The second round however was much more difficult as they shortened the time given for the case (15 to 20 minutes instead of the classic 30-40 min). The result was that I felt I bombed the case; I am waiting for their answer during the course of the week.

I was wondering if it was a classical way of doing things: putting pressure on a candidate who showed great potential the round before in order to see his limits, or maybe is it the way it is done in Europe?

I am wondering if it might be better for me to set up a strategy (showing up weaker than I really am in order to avoid being put in an uncomfortable position the following rounds) for BCG and McKinsey next week.

I know this might sound weird, but the conditions are not the same for everybody and I am feeling like it is unfair.

Thanks in advance for your answer!

My Reply:

I think your experience in the 2nd round is highly, highly unusual.

I would suggest not putting too much importance on that data point and then over-compensating on your remaining interviews.

Sometimes interviews are shortened for ridiculous reasons — someone wanted to meet their boyfriend/girlfriend at a certain time. It’s possible you legitimately missed something, so they cut it short — though that is unlikely.

Also, one’s performance in a case is not strictly dependent on cracking the case (largely impossible to do for 50% of cases in only 15 minutes)… it is equally dependent on demonstrating a process whereby it is pretty obvious to the interviewer you’re going to eventually solve the case.

If you bombed the case because you missed something, that is your fault. If you did all the right things, but you didn’t finish the case — that is not necessarily the same as bombing the case.