Clarifying questions during case study

brainstorming questions case questions case study Structure
New answer on Jan 01, 2023
12 Answers
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Emma asked on Nov 25, 2022

I know that it is recommended to ask clarifying questions before starting to structure the case. However, are we allowed to ask more clarifying questions after thinking about the structure? For example, saying “Before I explain my thought process, I would like to ask a few more clarifying questions about the case, …?”


 

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Clara
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replied on Nov 27, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Yes, totally!

Imagine how foolish you would feel if you failed just because not asking something little!

Think about cases as business problems you are helping to solve, and you can only do that when you have 100% of the info!

Hope it helps!

Cheers, 

Clara

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Ian
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replied on Nov 27, 2022
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Absolutely you are! That said, try to ask before and during. If you ask after you've created the full framework, then it indicates that you missed something that would have informed the framework.

If you're already ready to explain the thought process, then ask the interviewer a question, and the answer changes your thought process, what do you do now? Ideally, ask the question when you think of it!

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Mario
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replied on Nov 25, 2022
Ex-Mckinsey (analyst->associate->manager) and now in tech (Bytedance) + Part time interview coach and mentor

Hi there,

 

Of course! In fact, the more clarifying questions you ask before you put your structure, the higher chances you'll land on a structure that won't need to change much during the case. 

If you rush into putting the structure, it will take 1 misunderstood input to mess it up fully. Remember, you only get few minutes to lay down your structure once, and that's at the beginning. Do that once you clarified the given as much as possible.

Mario

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Rushabh
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replied on Nov 25, 2022
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Hello Emma,

From my experience, it is completely normal to ask a couple of quick clarifying questions after your big pause, as long as you handle it well like a conversation i.e. after asking those clarifying questions - you should not ask for more time to fix your structure etc. At that point you should be ready to embed the answer you get into your structure immediately and start presenting the structure.

All the best!

Rushabh

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Dennis
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replied on Nov 29, 2022
Seasoned project leader with 7+ years of consulting and recruiting experience in USA and Europe

You should always ask clarifying questions. Their purpose is to clarify things for you after all. Nothing worse than going down a wrong path because you misunderstood the problem statement or you just assumed things without confirming.

You can ask questions throughout your case - ideally within the context of what you are currently discussing. So anything fundamental you want to get settled right after the prompt. You can address nuances along the way. 

And obviously you don't ask the interviewer for the solution :)

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Emily
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replied on Nov 27, 2022
Ex McKinsey EM & interviewer (5 yrs) USA & UK| Coached / interviewed 200 +|Free 15 min intro| Stanford MBA|Non-trad

For all cases you want to use the prompt to make sure you've really understood the case. Replay the prompt back to make sure you've understood it (sometimes you think you've had but actually you haven't), and clarify anything that you've understood. 

Then, for interviewee led cases (where you're taking the interviewer through the case rather than there being set questions), you want to ask a series of questions to further your understanding. Generally the prompts are shorter than the interviewer led cases and there's more that's missing. Make sure you've clarified the client's objective and the context. So the questions that you've laid out are exactly right. 

Good luck! 

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Francesco
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replied on Nov 27, 2022
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Hi Emma,

Q: However, are we allowed to ask more clarifying questions after thinking about the structure?

Yes. Ideally you should ask clarifying questions before taking time to structure, as this should help to personalize the structure itself. But if you forgot something critical, better to ask than not.

Best,

Francesco

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Maikol
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replied on Nov 25, 2022
BCG Project Leader | Former Bain, AlixPartner, and PE | INSEAD MBA | GMAT 780

Yes. 
The case interview is not an artificial meeting, but a normal discussion with a person that knows more than you about the matter. 
So, approach it normally, asking questions that are needed to narrow down the scope and extract insights.

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Ankit
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replied on Nov 25, 2022
BCG I Strategy& I 12+ years of professional experience

hi 


You can ask the questions as long as they are relevant and really impact the direction/structure of the case. You can frame it a bit differently if it comes to that - “as I was putting together my structure, I realized that answers to a few more clarifications questions will further help me strengthen my thought process/structure”.  

happy to a have a quick chat offline and elaborate further if needed 

good luck 

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Udayan
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replied on Jan 01, 2023
Top rated McKinsey Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience

Yes - always ask genuine clarifying questions as you need to. Where it becomes an issue is where people ask questions just because they feel it is important to ask them.

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Giacomo
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replied on Dec 22, 2022
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Just to add to what everyone has said - structure your clarifying question. “I would like to clarify three things: A,B and C. starting with A …”

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Lukas
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replied on Nov 25, 2022
3 years at McKinsey | Former JEM, knowledgeable on Data Science interviews and strategies for advanced hires (MBA, PhD)

I think ideally you don't, but as always, don't beat yourself up.

If you really need to ask something, then do.

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Clara gave the best answer

Clara

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McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut
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