As a new joiner, how to balance between asking clarification questions and finding answer myself?

consulting
New answer on Jun 13, 2020
11 Answers
2.1 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jun 10, 2020

As a new joiner, I'm wondering how to strike a balance between asking good clarification questions and finding out the answer by myself. I understand it is important to clarify doubts and make sure that I understand what the manager really expects. However, I have also heard that managers do appreciate people who could "react fast", possess individual thinking, and could find out answers by themselves.

For example, if I get a new task - do an analysis of the semiconductor industry. Should I directly clear all my doubts at once, and ask questions like - how's this analysis usually conducted? Or, should I spend time to think just a few high quality / extremely essential questions to help me understand what would be a good way to conduct the analysis?

Thanks!

Overview of answers

Upvotes
  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

The latter :)

What I mean is, when you're told a bunch of information, you'll naturally have a million questions. Don't ask them until the dust settles.

Jot them all down as you're being spoken to. Then, take a few minutes to think about them. "Elminate" any that fit under the following:

1) If you just think about it for a second, you'll realise the answer

2) You can lookup on your own (google, company documents, etc.)

3) You can ask a trusted co-worker about (i.e. someone your level or lower, but maybe there longer)

Any remaining questions, ask your manager :). BUT, do it in a clear, organized, concise way that doesn't waste his/her time.

All this being said, it is much worse to proceed with your work without knowing/understanding what you're doing, than it is to ask 1 or 2 too many questions.

Was this answer helpful?
Robert
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

It's an excellent point you are raising - it's always a trade-off between asking too early vs. spending too much time to find out yourself.

However, one perspective which seems a bit missing is that it also depends on

  • Your counterpart - different project managers/partners have different "tolerance" levels on how fast you can/should/are allowed to approach them
  • The situation - if you have an extremely time pressure, you tend to check-in more frequently and not 'waste' time for iterations if they can be avoided with minimal input

Unless you know your counterpart and situation very well, it's a simple way to "analyze" - just address the issue in a team meeting to get a feeling early and adjust over time based on feedback!

Hope this helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

Was this answer helpful?
Antonello
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 13, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, I confirm you should spend a bit of effort in leveraging all the material you can to answer basic question, then ask for advices to the manager is totally fine. He already know the industry or the practice, so he can lead you through the best material available. A minumum of background about the manager will help you on how to bush this balance: lots of people in the firm are more than happy to coach you, you only have to understand it from your peers that already worked with him

Best,
Antonello

Was this answer helpful?
Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

I would recommend the following approach:

  • Define a structure for your approach
  • Identify the main roadblocks that make impossible for you to proceed at the necessary speed
  • Organize a quick Q&A session with your manager to clarify doubts

This will help to eliminate questions that are not critical or you could answer yourself.

If you show your manager that you have done your homework and have a structured approach, in general you should be fine.

Best,

Francesco

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020

Hello,

You always have to try to find the answer yourself, but if you spend 2 hours looking for an answer that your manager can give you in 2 seconds, it doesn't make sense.

You have to ask over the flow only the questions that are blocking to move forward.

For non-blocking questions, I advise you to log them somewhere and organize a small Q&A session with your manager to ask them all at once.

From my experience, this process is generally appreciated.

Best,

David

Was this answer helpful?
8
Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020

Hi there,

Like what the other coaches are saying

1) try to structure your thoughts (just like when you are solving a case)

2) Try to find the information you need

3) Once you have a draft version (even though there are data gaps) try to take your manager through your findings so far\

Also, try to never ask a question that is easily googleable :) - People sometimes tend to forget the power of google.

Best of luck

Khaled

Was this answer helpful?
8
Vlad
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

First, clarify:

  • Timeline
  • Expectations (deliverable)
  • Any advice your manager can get

Then share a work plan / dummy deck to make sure you are on the same page.

Then try to get the right information using:

  • Experts
  • Previous projects
  • Internal knowledge base
  • Partners
  • Client

Best

Was this answer helpful?
Luca
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 11, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached

Hello,

In order to address this point I usually tell my candidates to ask themselves:
Is this information important to better design my framework? Can the answer significantly change the focus of my solution?
If the answer is yes, you have to ask those questions before the one-minute break. It's better to spend a couple of minutes more to fully understand the case instead of having a framework that is not effective and that will affect the whole resolution.

Hope it helps,
Luca

Was this answer helpful?
Axel
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
Bain Consultant | Interviewer for 3 years at Bain |Passionate about coaching |I will make you a case interview Rockstar

Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend that you would draft an approach first for how you plan to conduct the analysis, jot down any clarifying questions or outstanding concerns, and then approach your manager. This way you should that you can think independently and want to take ownership and will only use your manager's time in the most productive way possible.

-A

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jun 12, 2020

Dear A,

I would recommend you first to look for your question by yourself and then ask manager for some detail or just clear your doubts.

Usually managers really appreciate the people who are quite mature and not like children asking for anything that come in their mind. Also following the way: first try to find answer by yourself then ask - you can be more prepared and ask some specific questions in this particular topic. Usually that tactics gives you more respect and trust.

Hope it helps,

Best,

André

Was this answer helpful?
6
Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 10, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

This is a great one honestly, I used to struggle with this same thing at the beggining.

Honestly, good news for you, since it´s get better with time. It´s a matter of callibration, not being a pain all the time but also not spending an afternoon solving something you could have solved with someone´s help in 1h.

At the end, efficency is what matters.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

Was this answer helpful?
Ian gave the best answer

Ian

Content Creator
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep
828
Meetings
54,722
Q&A Upvotes
163
Awards
5.0
100 Reviews