Creativity while analyzing charts?

Charts reading Final Round McKinsey
Recent activity on Jan 07, 2019
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asked on Jan 07, 2019

Hello everyone,

I unfortunately rejected from McKinsey after final rounds recently and I have a few questions on the feedback I got.

The feedback I received afterwards mentioned I should be more planned and structured while breaking down the problem. My hypothesis on that is my structure was not MECE-enough. I am also told I should have been finding more creative insights and I could interpret the relations between parameters better while analyzing graphs. How can I improve myself on that dimension?

Thanks in advance. So far, PrepLounge has been immensely helpful for my interviews and I hope I will ace my other interviews.

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replied on Jan 07, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Serdar,

let me answer to the first part of the feedback. To be honest, this sounds like it hints to a very typical problem that candidates have who prepare using sources such as Victor Cheng's approach ("Business Situation Framework" ).

The problem with this way of approaching cases (--> Customer, Product, Company, Market oder any similar version of this) is that it does NOT show in any way how you are thinking about the problem and how you are going to answer the question! It is simply a structured list of buckets that you want to look into, in the vague hope of finding soething interesting that will allow you to solve the case. But in fact, this appraoch reveals a purely explorative mindset, which is the OPPOSITE of rigorous and hypothesis-driven thinking! Moreover, no matter what the areas are that you want to explore, it will always seem (and indeed be!) arbitrary - you do not provide any logic why and how exactly looking into these areas will lead to the answer to the case question! So the most important and fundamental element of solving a case is completely missing: making explicit the CRITERION according to which the case question can be answered, and outlining the rigorous LOGIC TREE to disaggregate each element of this criterion (or criteria) into its underlying drivers. ONLY THEN the discussion of the elements of a "Business Situation Framework" à la Cheng will make any sense (since now you can attach these elements to sub branches of the logic tree!).

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on Jan 07, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Several things about analyzing the tables / charts:

  1. Take a minute to look at the graph / table
  2. Read the graph title
  3. Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc)
  4. Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary)
  5. Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures,
  6. Look for unusual things (consultants love to integrate these traps in charts) - correlations, outliers, etc
  7. Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think of potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
  8. Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case

Sources to learn from (prioritized):

  1. "Say it with Charts" by Gene Zalazny
  2. "Pyramid Principle" by Barbara Minto
  3. Learn basic statistics (Any GMAT or MBA prep guides)
  4. Check all available MBB presentations and publications. Practice to derive conclusions and check yourself with the actual ones from the article / presentation
  5. GMAT IR part (Official guide and Manhattan prep)
  6. "Consulting Bible" and "Vault guide for consulting" - check the chapters on cases with graphs in these books

Good luck!

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replied on Jan 07, 2019
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Sidi loves to criticize Victor Cheng's methods, ha! :) Srsly - I agree with what he just wrote, do not use the "business framework" as a catch all and simply call it a day: there still needs to be progression and logic, lest is just becomes a semi-random list of buckets that have no apparent link between them. Anyone can draw lines, that doesn't make us architects.

The creativity piece is harder to fix. When you build your framework at the beginning, you obviously don't know the solution yet. I often suspect interviewers complain about your "lack of creativity" as a cop-out when you didn't do well enough but they can't exactly put the finger on the problem. I recommend you focus on really addressing the issue and build a detailed framework at first, even if it will sometimes appear fairly standard and boring. An objective here is to have such a solid structure that you can then free up more of your mental bandwith to cracking the case vs. trying to remember what you are supposed to do in a case. You will be able to display your creativity within each of these buckets and in the recommendation piece.

Serdar, sorry about the rejection. I know it hurts, but I appreciate that you are already focused on getting better. I hope the above helps. Let me know if not, I'll take another crack at it.

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McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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