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Are there any useful frameworks/checklists for asking Clarifying Questions?

Clarifying questions
New answer on Oct 08, 2023
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Dec 29, 2018

Hey guys - do you know any useful frameworks or checklists I could use to ensure that my clarifying questions are identifying relevant info?

I'm wondering if something like the 5W1H method (who, what, where, when, why, how) might be a good checklist to work through to make sure I ask clarifying questions that will give me a full understanding of the case.

I've looked at previous questions on PrepLounge and seen a lot of recommendations on case-specific clarifying questions. I'm interested to see if there are any general frameworks you'd recommend to make sure my questions are on point!

Thanks

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Sidi
Expert
replied on Jan 04, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

the questions you ask at the beginning have the following objectives:

  1. Completely understanding the context/situation (including, unclear terminology, but also, for example, the business model of the client if unclear!)
  2. Understanding the question(s) of the client
  3. Understanding (and quantifying if applicable) the underlying objective(s) of the client

These questions are aiming at understanding the initial setting, hence forming a precondition to outline your structure towards answering the core question (the issue tree)!

The later questions that you ask while navigating through the case are then aiming to verify the actual relevance of each sub-branch in your tree. So if you have defined and disaggregated the criterion to answer the client's core question in a clean way, all these leater questions follow a this precise "roadmap" as layed out by your tree. These questions then oftentimes also comprise enquiries on current performance metrics (revenues, costs, growth rates etc.), which normally should never be asked in the clarifying questions (before making explicit your structure).

Cheers, Sidi

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Ved replied on Oct 08, 2023
Building case interview tools for applicants to simplify your prep process

I think one thing to remember is why we use clarifying questions: to simplify the case prompt and ensure we are answering the right question.

and when should we clarify questions? There are three broad cases: 
❓ Short and vague case prompts (without a clear question)
🐄 Estimation about something ‘random’
🔍 Long detailed prompts

Now, regarding how do we clarify, I like the framework BOTM:

Business (B): Do you understand how the business works?
What is their value chain?

Objective (O): What is the desired outcome of your client? Do they have a specific success metric? (e.g. Profit vs Gross Margin vs Revenue). What is the actual question our client is asking us?

Timeline & Scope (T): Is this a short or long-term strategy case? What constraints are there? Is anything left vague and unclear?
(e.g. Should we analyze the entire business or a specific business unit?)

Market (M): What geography are we working in? Is there a specific customer segment?

 

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7
Anonymous replied on Aug 06, 2020

Dear A,

For clarifying question I would say there 3 main types of them which you can easily ask:

1. questions that clarify the objective of the case interview

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


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

Most consulting interviews do not require you to have specialized knowledge or expertise in an industry. Therefore, if you come across a term that you are unfamiliar with, it is completely acceptable to ask the interviewer for the definition.


So these are three main types of claryfiyng questions. If you asking too many questions, the interviewer will probably reply to you smth like this: we don't know/ we'll see later/ its’ not relevant


Best,

André

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Guennael
Expert
replied on Dec 31, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

5W1H can help, yes - but probably too much in the clarifying questions. In general, I just make sure I understand the terms + question, quantify the objectives and get a timeline. All other questions will be addressed as part of the framework

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Dec 31, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi,

There is always more that you can understand. For example, if you understand the goal as improving profits, there's so much more you can ask - do they have a % change target in mind, how long do we have to turn this around, do they prefer this to be done through raising revenue or cutting costs, etc.

I always write BOTMG at the bottom of my framework page to help myself think of things I'm missing in case I'm stuck.

This helps "trigger" you to consider questions around B = Business Model, O = Objective, T = Timing, M = Market, G = Geography.

However, you should never just say "so, what is their business model?" Obviously, ask questions that help you frame your hypothesis, understand the situation, and ultimately drive your case better.

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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