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Clarifying questions?

khaled asked on Oct 02, 2018 - 5 answers

I just always don't ask clarufying questions and i depend on my structure to extract all the information i need ?. how to ask sufeecient and claruifying questions?

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Vlad replied on Oct 02, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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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!

Benjamin replied on Oct 03, 2018
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Hi Khaled,

Cases statements can differs a lot from each other. In some situation you will receive a very detailed description of the company and issue, while in others you'll only receive one or two sentence.
So consider the clarification question as a help for you to build the right structure and really focus on the key topics. Sometimes the initial issue is very open, and if you don't clarify you end up with a very wide and general structure to cover the resolution.

-on one hand the clarification question are mostly here to reduce the scope by specifying what is the issue exactly

- on the other hand, you don't want to start solving the whole with the clarification question, so once you get what you need to work, you sould take time to build your structure.

Hope this helps

Best
Benjamin

Alessandro
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replied on Oct 02, 2018
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Vlad's list has a good summary of typical questions you may want to ask.

Generally, the way you should think about clarifying questions is: "Does the answer to this question impact the way I would structure/think about this problem?" If the answer to this question is yes, then you should ask it as part of the clarifying questions!

Anonymous replied on Oct 02, 2018

I would say your clarifying questions are essential for narrowing down the scope of your issue tree, and without asking them you risk approaching the question from too broad a view, or an entirely inaccurate one.

My advice would be to make sure you clarify these two points prior to starting on your issue tree:

1. What is the business model? Ensure you understand the product and company's revenue streams and scope (e.g. do they manufacture only, or also do R&D and distribution?).

2. What exactly is the objective? Make sure you've clarified this - quite often there is a catch/additional piece of information that the interviewer doesn't immediately volunteer e.g. a target timescale for ROI or target profit figure.

Best of luck!

Kay

Guennael
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replied on Oct 02, 2018
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You need to clarify the question, make sure you understand it: what is the customer's objective, both time and $/revenue wise? Anything else you should be concerned about?

If this is a brand new industry for you, make sure also to understand the terminology. One of my cases talks about "widget" for example, asking about it is fair game.

Things you probably don't want to ask however, are things relating to the state of the competition, current growth trends, customer satisfaction... all of these are best left to the body of the case, after you have laid out your structure.

Hope this helps -

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