If You Get Stuck During a Case Interview

If you get stuck during a case and the interviewer doesn’t ask you a question to help you along, then there a few things you can do.

  • First, take a moment to recap where you’ve been. Chances are you’ve either gone into too much detail and are now stuck in the mud or you went off on a tangent. Recapping pulls you out of the mud and back above the trees. Remember, for the most part you want to view the case from a macro point of view. Many times, as you recap, you can see where you got off track.
  • The second thing to do is to go back and look at the information that the interviewer gave you. Information that originally seemed irrelevant often becomes relevant as you work through the case. Many times, information that you are looking for was already given to you, you just forgot about it. So always review your first page of notes.
  • Third, quickly run through the Five C’s in your head to see if there is something obvious that you missed. (5Cs: client, company, cost, channels, competition). Do this quietly, because if the interviewer knows that you are going through the 5Cs you’ll lose points for using a cookie-cutter approach. But the 5Cs spans a nice range of areas and could easily spark a new direction.
  • Finally, if you are still stuck, ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help. If we were working on a project together, I would much rather have you ask me for help than have you waste a lot of time banging your head against a wall. That being said, though, I wouldn’t recommend asking for help more than once. I’ve known many people who asked for help and still received an offer.

Read more about preparing for case interviews in

Case In Point 10

Marc Cosentino

Marc, the world’s foremost authority on case interviewing has twenty seven years of experience with case questions. He has written well over a hundred cases, while coaching, preparing and training more than a hundred and fifty thousand students and alumni. He has written three books involving cases and consulting. Cosentino has given workshops to students at colleges and MBA programs for the last twenty seven years and has held training sessions for career services professionals on how to give cases and how to analyze a student’s performance.