For interviewer-led case, should I ask clarifying questions and show my structure first

New answer on Oct 24, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 06, 2020

For interviewer-led case, should I ask clarifying questions and show my structure first as usually the first question interviewer asks is " what are some factors..."

Isn't the answer to this question a duplicate of the structure? And since before I clarify something the interviewer also says the question out, when should I clarify something?

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 07, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

In principle there is no difference to a candidate-led case, and no need to overcomplicate things - just think logically and practically what makes sense to do. Finally it should resemble a real-life interaction, so just behave and do as you would do in any reasonable business conversation. Also the interview is not a one-way street and you can clarify whenever required.

That being said: in case of doubts, just clarify with your interviewer - don't assume anything implicitly about the interviewer's question and the client goals to achieve.

If the interviewer immediately asks a specific question and you have still something to clarify, ask if it's ok to still clarify something before answering his question.

If the interviewer gives you the case outline without a specific question and he doesn't seem to ask a question in the next few seconds, then just ask and clarify if you should think about a general structure to approach this issue.

And yes, "what are some factors" is essentially the question about the structure.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind to give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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Anonymous replied on Oct 06, 2020

There is a difference between questions to clarify the problem statement of the case and questions that help you execute on the framework.

The former should be ask before layout out your structure, as you need the answers to make sure you fully understand the question of the case. Make sure you understand all definitions, special terminology, scope of the problem, etc.

Then the interviewer can ask about the driving factors that give you the opportunity to lay out your structure. If they ask this question directly after giving you the pitch, you can just tell them that you want to clarify some questions first.

After that, you can dive into the execution and ask the required, more detailed questions. Think about them as your data reqest to the client. E.g. ask for revenue/cost breakdown, customer segmentation, etc.

Hope this helps!

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replied on Oct 07, 2020
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

I would suggest waiting, unless it's blatantly obvious that the interviewer wants you to proceed, as sometimes the 'structuring question' can be nuanced from the broader question that the case is trying to solve (especially with experienced/senior decision round interviewers with a less structured/traditional case) and there is no harm in buying time (vs. rushing into the case).

I know exactly the feeling where it can be a little awkward to wait when the first question is obvious. However, the case document explicitly tells the interviewer to pause to "allow the candiate to ask any questions or need information repeated or clarified".

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 07, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

The most important is: Do my questions come off naturally, so as to not annoy/perturb the interviewer, and so as to make it clear that I am narrowing in on my framework and not just asking questions for the sake of asking them?

For some people this will be 1 question. Others can get away with 4-6 by "tactfully" asking multiple questions at once or in a nice flow. Same cases don't require any questions. Some cases are complicated/vague and need a lot. It depends!

First: What isn't clear?

Here, you just want to ask anything you don't understand. Naturally, we want to run away from what we don't know...consultants run towards it!

  • Do you understand the context provided? Do I know how the industry works and how they company would likely be operating?
  • Do you understand the problem/opportunity they face? Is it clear what they're trying to do?

Second: Use GOBTM

Write GOBTM at the bottom of your page in case you're stumped in part 1.

G = Geography (Where to they operate, where are they looking to go, etc.)

O = Objective (Can I clarify the exact objective of this case. I.e. increase profits by how much)

B = Business Model (Am I clear on how the company makes money and what they sell?)

T = Timing (Over what time frame does this solution/problem take place?)

M = Market (Who are my customers? What market do I operate in?)


Fundamentally, you are trying to narrow your framework. You are tyring to ask questions that get you closer to the solution

Bonus 2

Never ask an open-ended/vague question. Try to lead with a hypothesis. For example, don't say "How does this shoe company work?". Rather say "I imagine the shoemaking process involves reviewing wood/leather, cutting/shaping it, sewing/gluing it together, and then finishing it in some way. Is this about right?"

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 24, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi A,

The answer to the "what are some factors..." question, of course, can help you define the structure.

As for your second question, you can either just wait and answer the interviewer's question, or say "I would like to clarify a couple of things first. They would be:..."

It is always better to ask instead of assuming. After all, you should clarify all the needed data to layout a suitable structure and then dive right into the case.

Do you need any further help?


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Robert gave the best answer


Content Creator
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author
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