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Clarifying questions before starting the case: data sufficiency vs time

BCG Case Interview case studies McKinsey
New answer on Aug 06, 2020
3 Answers
15.3 k Views
asked on May 30, 2017
Consultant with Big-4 and L.E.K. background looking for solid partners to fine-tune case performance

Hello the community,

I would like to share your thoughts and the approach you would recommend (and why!) regarding the depth & breadth of the clarifying questions before proposing a structure. How much time should it take as max? Should the questions on the market, client’s company be asked rather during the case analysis? What (if any) is you ‘data sufficiency filter’?

Personally, I tend to spend quite a bit of time during the clarification phase in order to be sure I have a good understanding of the clients business and high level data on the market, competitors, etc. (short checklist)

In my real and mock interviews I’ve experienced two different approaches:

  1. With ex McKinsey EM I’ve been asking quite a lot of questions on the client’s case & collecting data and got a very positive feedback on doing so in order to propose a tailor made structure.
  2. While doing a mock interview with BCG Project Leader I was advised avoid spending too much time on the early clarification (check only what is unclear and jump into structure preparation & layout).

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!

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Anonymous replied on Aug 06, 2020

Dear Anna,

Asking 2-3 clarifying questions before your case solving is quite ok.

Actually no need to clarify every detail, but there are 3 main things you need to have a clear understanding about it:

1. objective of the case interview

Here the basic things you have to know about the case objective:

  • What is the measurable metric of success?

  • What is the time frame?

  • What are potential restrictions or limitations?

    2. information about the company

In this chapter the main things you have to know are:

  • 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. 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.



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Guillaume replied on Jun 05, 2017

Hi Anna,

as always, the good answer is "it depends". Keeping the leadership on a case interview seems to be a must while cracking the case, that means you are aksed to feel when you have enough data, and when you are lacking some, and of course, not knowing the difficulty of that specific case, it seems barely guessing... But the interiewer let you understand when you asked enough question and should work on your material, especially when you'll ear "we don't know" or "we'll see in a moment", or worst "not relevant here"... These are warning telling you the data you already possess should be enough to proceed next step...

I hope this helps.

Best regards

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replied on Jun 01, 2017
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