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Vlad

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I have received conflicting feedback regarding how many clarifying questions are appropriate and when I should be asking them.

Some say I can ask questions as long as they clarify main points and help understand the context and client objectives without asking for any actual data (i.e. no fishing for answers).

However, I've also been told that I should only clarify any points I didn't understandin the prompt and our clients objective, then leave all other questions for when I'm going through my structure (e.g. Who are our customers?, What are our products? How is this market doing relative to our client?)

Perhaps there is a middle-ground between the two sets of feedback I've received?

I have received conflicting feedback regarding how many clarifying questions are appropriate and when I should be asking them.

Some say I can ask questions as long as they clarify main points and help understand the context and client objectives without asking for any actual data (i.e. no fishing for answers).

However, I've also been told that I should only clarify any points I didn't understandin the prompt and our clients objective, then leave all other questions for when I'm going through my structure (e.g. Who are our customers?, What are our products? How is this market doing relative to our client?)

Perhaps there is a middle-ground between the two sets of feedback I've received?

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Coaching mit Vlad vereinbaren

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Hi,

You should ask the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. E.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! Finally - do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Best!

Hi,

You should ask the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. E.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! Finally - do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Best!

Coaching mit Alessandro vereinbaren

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From my point of view, you should ask as many clarifying questions as you need in order to feel you fully understand the client's situation. Any question which can impact the way you think about the problem, and therefore structure it, is important. Examples:

- "What exactly is product X?" - if you don't fully understand what a product/service the company/industry is selling is, you have to ask. it will actually look bad on you if you get halfway through the structure and it becomes clear you don't really understand what we are selling.

- "How exactly does this industry work?" - If you are unfamiliar with an industry and aren't sure how it works, ask about it - e.g. repair parts for cars - does this mean you ship cars to manufacturers, sell directly to consumers, etc.

- "What specifically is the client's objective?" If the objective isn't super clear (e.g. want to return to profitability) clarify this as much as possible. Even if the overall objective appears clear, further clarifying it (e.g. does the client have a specific timeframe in mind.

These are definitely not exhaustive, and every case will have it's own nuances and ambiguities.

As for when to ask, you should firstly clarify the prompt (essentially repeat it back to the interview to make sure you haven't misunderstood anything), then ask as many clarifying questions as you need, and then take a minute to lay out your structure.

From my point of view, you should ask as many clarifying questions as you need in order to feel you fully understand the client's situation. Any question which can impact the way you think about the problem, and therefore structure it, is important. Examples:

- "What exactly is product X?" - if you don't fully understand what a product/service the company/industry is selling is, you have to ask. it will actually look bad on you if you get halfway through the structure and it becomes clear you don't really understand what we are selling.

- "How exactly does this industry work?" - If you are unfamiliar with an industry and aren't sure how it works, ask about it - e.g. repair parts for cars - does this mean you ship cars to manufacturers, sell directly to consumers, etc.

- "What specifically is the client's objective?" If the objective isn't super clear (e.g. want to return to profitability) clarify this as much as possible. Even if the overall objective appears clear, further clarifying it (e.g. does the client have a specific timeframe in mind.

These are definitely not exhaustive, and every case will have it's own nuances and ambiguities.

As for when to ask, you should firstly clarify the prompt (essentially repeat it back to the interview to make sure you haven't misunderstood anything), then ask as many clarifying questions as you need, and then take a minute to lay out your structure.

Coaching mit Francesco vereinbaren

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Hi Anonymous,

yes, you can ask questions in both interviewer and interviewee led cases. Good questions include:

  • Those to understand how the business model of the client works
  • Clarification of all the elements that were not clear to you in the prompt
  • Goal clarification and constraints of the client to achieve it

You should ask questions until these points are clarified (usually 2-3 questions are enough - may depend on the complexity of the case).

If you are asking these types of questions and get the feedback you are asking too many questions, it may be you are asking questions in the wrong way - basically in a way such that the interviewer doesn't understand why you are asking the question, or feels you are trying to have the case solved by him.

For example, a good way to clarify the business model is:

"You told me our client is a major industrial goods company. Before moving to structure the problem, I would like to understand which is the current business model of the client - how do they make money basically. This will help to understand better how to face this problem."

In this way, you make clear that:

  • You are going to structure later on
  • You acknowledge the information already provided
  • You align with the interviewer on the fact that this information will help to organize a better structure

A bad way to clarify the business model is:

"Which are our revenue streams?"

With such question, it's not clear for the interviewer if you will structure your approach, why you are asking such question and which connection it has with the information he/she provided you.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Hi Anonymous,

yes, you can ask questions in both interviewer and interviewee led cases. Good questions include:

  • Those to understand how the business model of the client works
  • Clarification of all the elements that were not clear to you in the prompt
  • Goal clarification and constraints of the client to achieve it

You should ask questions until these points are clarified (usually 2-3 questions are enough - may depend on the complexity of the case).

If you are asking these types of questions and get the feedback you are asking too many questions, it may be you are asking questions in the wrong way - basically in a way such that the interviewer doesn't understand why you are asking the question, or feels you are trying to have the case solved by him.

For example, a good way to clarify the business model is:

"You told me our client is a major industrial goods company. Before moving to structure the problem, I would like to understand which is the current business model of the client - how do they make money basically. This will help to understand better how to face this problem."

In this way, you make clear that:

  • You are going to structure later on
  • You acknowledge the information already provided
  • You align with the interviewer on the fact that this information will help to organize a better structure

A bad way to clarify the business model is:

"Which are our revenue streams?"

With such question, it's not clear for the interviewer if you will structure your approach, why you are asking such question and which connection it has with the information he/she provided you.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Coaching mit Andre vereinbaren

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Dear A,

Actually it'normal to ask 2-3 questions before you start solving cases. I would split all the clarifying questions into 3 category:

1. questions that clarify the objective of the case interview

2. questions about information that strengthens your understanding of the company

• Business model: How does the company make money? Do they sell directly to customers or do they sell through retailers or partners?

• Products and services: What products and services does the company sell? What benefits do these products and services provide?

• Geographic location: Does the company have one location or are they a national chain? Does the company operate in just one country or do they have an international presence?

3. question about definition of a term you are unfamiliar with

Hope ot helps,

Best,
André

Dear A,

Actually it'normal to ask 2-3 questions before you start solving cases. I would split all the clarifying questions into 3 category:

1. questions that clarify the objective of the case interview

2. questions about information that strengthens your understanding of the company

• Business model: How does the company make money? Do they sell directly to customers or do they sell through retailers or partners?

• Products and services: What products and services does the company sell? What benefits do these products and services provide?

• Geographic location: Does the company have one location or are they a national chain? Does the company operate in just one country or do they have an international presence?

3. question about definition of a term you are unfamiliar with

Hope ot helps,

Best,
André

Coaching mit Andrea vereinbaren

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I agree with the three categories of questions suggested but would suggest to limit time spend on those to 2-3 mins, depending on the lenght of the answer. If after 2-3 mins you are still asking questions without putting a structure together, then, very likely you are starting to solve the case without a structure in place and that’s not ideal.

hope it helps,

andrea

I agree with the three categories of questions suggested but would suggest to limit time spend on those to 2-3 mins, depending on the lenght of the answer. If after 2-3 mins you are still asking questions without putting a structure together, then, very likely you are starting to solve the case without a structure in place and that’s not ideal.

hope it helps,

andrea

Hi, I'm going to give you my thoughts based on MBB Interviews.

Generally, the prompt is fairly comprehensive and long - if the info isnt in the prompt the interviewer will not normally know it ( except if this is a partner interview and they are doing it themselves atm).

It is fine to clarify points that they have been said, however in my experience when i tried to ask about time frames, hard objectives etc there was no info.

"do we have a time period for achiving this market share---NO"

"do we have a specific financial target as a revenue goal...NO"

"Do we know if this has been experienced by our competitors...NO"

Get my point? By the last question we were both laughing as it clear i had extracted all the info there was and it was time to move on.

SO - my takeaway is clarify 2 or 3 things that have been said, but as for gathering extra new info, you can still ask for it...but dont expect them to tell you anything.

please note - this has just been my experiences, but good to know none the less!

GL!

Hi, I'm going to give you my thoughts based on MBB Interviews.

Generally, the prompt is fairly comprehensive and long - if the info isnt in the prompt the interviewer will not normally know it ( except if this is a partner interview and they are doing it themselves atm).

It is fine to clarify points that they have been said, however in my experience when i tried to ask about time frames, hard objectives etc there was no info.

"do we have a time period for achiving this market share---NO"

"do we have a specific financial target as a revenue goal...NO"

"Do we know if this has been experienced by our competitors...NO"

Get my point? By the last question we were both laughing as it clear i had extracted all the info there was and it was time to move on.

SO - my takeaway is clarify 2 or 3 things that have been said, but as for gathering extra new info, you can still ask for it...but dont expect them to tell you anything.

please note - this has just been my experiences, but good to know none the less!

GL!

The number of your questions shold be inversely proportional to the amount of information you get upfront/in the prompt. For example, in McKinsey style cases you might get so much information upfront, that additional questions would be irrelevant and irritating, you'd come as robotic. In all 12 McKinsey interviews I've had, there wasn't need in additional questions at all, I had enough data to move straight to issue tree.

At the same time, if all you know is that there is a client whose profitability is declining, your questions about business model, product and specific goals are valid. I wouldn't go beyond these 3 questions.

The number of your questions shold be inversely proportional to the amount of information you get upfront/in the prompt. For example, in McKinsey style cases you might get so much information upfront, that additional questions would be irrelevant and irritating, you'd come as robotic. In all 12 McKinsey interviews I've had, there wasn't need in additional questions at all, I had enough data to move straight to issue tree.

At the same time, if all you know is that there is a client whose profitability is declining, your questions about business model, product and specific goals are valid. I wouldn't go beyond these 3 questions.

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