Clarification Questions

clarificationquestions McKinsey
New answer on Jan 23, 2021
10 Answers
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Nika asked on Jan 21, 2021

Hi,

How many clarification questions after the case prompt are actually "too many"? Is more than 6-7 clarification questions would be too much?

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Denis
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
Ex-Bain 5 yrs | Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews

Hi Nika,

depends on what kind of questions and long it takes to answer them. Asking Qs after the case prompt should neither be (1) random or (2) focused on solving the actual case already (since you are focusing on nothing else but drafting the structure as a next step).

Purpose of asking questions should be (1) defining the goal and the scope of the case, and (2) understand basics about the situation at hand (e.g. business model of the client, its market, competition, customer). Obv you will not be able to ask about all of this (this is part of the challenge in a case interview).

This will different with each interviewer, I d be OK answering Qs for perhaps 1 minute, at most (!) perhaps 2. This translates probably into 2-3 questions phrased in a meaningful way and asnwered by me in a meaningful way.

Best,

Denis

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Florian
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
#1 rated McKinsey Case and PEI Coach | 5 years at McKinsey | Mentorship Approach | 120+ McK offers in 18 months

Hey there,

There is no hard rule on how many questions are too many. I'd like to change your perspective a bit here:

In general, focus on quality over quantity. Focus on the questions that enable you to derive value from the answer for your approach to the case.

You could ask 5 questions that are absolutely unrelated to the case prompt and client problem and won't help you come up with a proper issue tree. From my observations the more questions a candidate or coachee asks the more insecure they appear. They are fishing in the dark and appear a bit clueless.

Then, you could ask 1 or 2 killer questions that give you a lot of insights into the client's problem, thereby influencing your approach and shaping your hypotheses.

Summing up, try to focus on these killer questions that are

  • relevant to the case
  • based on common sense and an investigative mindset
  • natural and not learned by heart like a framework to be used for every case

Cheers,

Florian

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Francesco
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replied on Jan 22, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Nika,

There is no strict limit, but 6-7 sounds too many.

The main questions you should ask are related to:

  • Goal clarification and constraints of the client to achieve the goal
  • Understand how the revenue model of the client works
  • Clarify the elements that are not clear in the prompt

Usually 3-4 questions max should be sufficient for that.

Best,

Francesco

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Ian
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Oh boy! Yes, 6-7 is far too many!

You should ask 2-3.

What do you ask? Well 1) What don't you understand (in particular, about the business model and the question/promot) and 2) What will narrow your framework

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.

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Ken
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updated an answer on Jan 21, 2021
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

With the exception of the ambigious final round cases at McKinsey, the majority of McKinsey cases are designed where you are typically provided with all the information you need. Specifically, 6-7 questions does feel a little high where I woud definitely avoid asking certain blanket questions (e.g., are there any other objectives?) for the sake of just asking. My general tip is to ask clarification questions that help you develop a better hypothesis and prioritise your structuring. It makes a huge difference yet I had very few final round candidates who did so during their case.

(edited)

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Henning
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Yes, more than 6-7 would be too much.

Typically you should not ask more than 3-4. And in addition, they should be very targeted. It can be all questions that help you understand the problem better, and not related to developing the solution. That comes during the execution following your framework.

Typical questions could be (to give you an idea of what topics can be covered, though keep in mind these are 100% dependent on the case context):

  • You mentioned that revenue dropped recently. Could you be more specific by how much over what time frame, or show me the data?
  • Are there any specific hard targets that the clients wants us to achieve?
  • Is the scope of this case focused on the North American market only or on the client's global business.
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Adi
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hi Nika,

Very simply, the questions should be focused on the biggest gaps (about the company- customers, channels, products, processes, technology etc) and external factors- market, geography, region, competition etc) that you want to fill to move towards your framework/structure successfully. 2-3 key questions are okay and one or two tell and clarify questions. Space them out and come across as you are in the lead in asking those questions.

Good luck!

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Gaurav
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies
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Udayan
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replied on Jan 21, 2021
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

I want to point out that for McKinsey style cases you should not ask too many clarifying questions as all of the information is typically provided to you.

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Clara
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replied on Jan 23, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

There are no "strict" rules or magic numbers here, since it depends very much on the complexity of the case, information given, etc.

however, it´s true that 6-7 seem too many

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Denis gave the best answer

Denis

Ex-Bain 5 yrs | Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews
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