How to ask clarification questions and how to do a good recap

clarifing questions
New answer on Feb 29, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Feb 23, 2020

How to ask clarifing questions: I am sometimes confused about how to clarify something. Sometimes I asked too many clarifing questions before I actually take the time and structure my thoughts. I am a little struggle in striving a right balance.

How to do a good recap: When I do recap, sometimes I just repeat something (maybe I changed the sequence of some words). What is a good recap for you?

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Luca
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replied on Feb 25, 2020
BCG |NASA |20+ interviews with 100% success rate| 120+ students coached |GMAT expert 780/800 score

Hello,

The aim of the recap is to restate the problem in a quick way to make sure that you didn't miss any point. The first thing to do after this is to clatify the objective of your client, always trying to see if there is a quantitative target that you could use.
You can ask as many clarification questions as you need, but you have to be sure that those questions are significant for the resolution. Everytime that you have a clarification question in mind, try to ask yourself: why do I want to know this? How would the answer change my analysis?
If you are able to answer both of these questions, you can ask the interviewer.

Hope it helps,
Luca

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Anonymous updated the answer on Feb 24, 2020

Hey A,

Good clarification questions usually touchbase on the following 3 elements:

  1. Clarify the business model (if you are not familiar with it)
  2. Objectives of the case (quantitative and qualitative)
  3. Anything else in particular which you did not get from the case

A good recap is a paraphrising of the case question. Feel free to use SCO framework (Situation - Complication - Objectives) to better structure it.

Good luck!

André

(edited)

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Samuel replied on Feb 23, 2020

I wish you could provide more details on the training material you are using and if you have a study plan at all. I suspect that you may be training with the wrong material, for instance, case-in-point. If this is true, I suggest you grab the material, find a shovel, dig a very deep grave and bury the book in it. With all due respect to Cosentino, the book is outdated.

I suggest you build a study plan with Firmsconsulting. I say this because I am a subscriber to the platform. And I only made real improvements in my case practice after I stumbled upon the website. What makes them truly unique is that prepare all of their training material using Ex-Mckinsey Partners and Directors. I do not know of any platform that offers that the way they do.

That said, I am going to answer your questions directly.

With clarifying question, there are four rules that help:

Rule 1: Listen to the interviewer and not some voice in your head asking you to search your mind for clarifying questions. Don't worry about your speed now, it will improve if you focus on the right habits.

Rule 2: Don't ask clarifying questions for asking sake (because someone says you must ask). Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Rule 3: When you ask clarifying question, explain to your interviewer why you are asking. Else there is no point asking. In fact, if you cannot find a good reason, it is a strong signal that you are better off keeping quiet and moving on to the next thing. As your knowledge and business judgement improves, clarifying questions will come to you naturally.

Rule 4: Forget clarifying questions, work on improving your business judgement ( https://www.firmsconsulting.com/podcasts/what-is-business-judgement/)

To your second question about Recapping

I suspect this is a communication issue. When you are recapping, the interviewer expects a concise paraphrase of the problem and not repeating it word-for-word. What the interview is looking for is your ability to synthesize and not memorize. Don't worry, we have all been there before. So here is a training wheel for you to use

State the situation of the client, the complication the client is facing and the key question he/she is asking you to solve: "As I understand it, our client, a X(short description) is facing Y (problem) and what they have since is (the complication). They are wondering (the key question)"

I hope this helps!

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Antonello
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replied on Feb 29, 2020
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Recap when you get stuck, before making a decision or at the end of the case: restate the question, explain your solution, give 3 bullets that summarize the approach and state the next step or the question.

Best,
Antonello

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Nathaniel
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replied on Feb 26, 2020
McKinsey | BCG | CERN| University of Cambridge

Hello there,

It would be good to create a structure in advance on preliminary information that you always need to have in a case, in the case these information are not given, then you ask the clarification questions, hence your questions will be much more directed and structured, e.g.:

  • Business model
  • Market mechanism on the industry the company is operating in
  • Objectives
  • Technical details on operations, etc.

For recap, it is advisable to do it in a structured way and never repeat the exact same words, try to use synonyms, hence you are not just repeating sentences.

Hope it helps.

Kind regards,
Nathan

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Ian
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replied on Feb 24, 2020
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Clarifying questions: First, what don't you understand? Particularly about the business or the question. Ask that. Second, if you can't think of anything, use the pneunomic device GOBTM (Geography, Objective, Business Model, Timing, Market)

Recap: State the proven hypothesis and use supporting facts/ #s. Then, articulate the risks/missed pieces/concerns. Next steps should mitigate/address these.

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Clara
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replied on Feb 24, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Here are my toughts:

  • Regarding clarification questions: you always need to ensure that you have clear:
    • Target / what is success for the client?
    • Clarification regarding market and players
    • Clarification about ourself (regarding specifics of the case)
  • Regarding recap: Don´t worry if you repeat some words, the target here is to ensure you got it right.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Francesco
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replied on Feb 24, 2020
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Hi Anonymous,

good clarifying questions include:

  • Goal clarification and constraints of the client to achieve the goal
  • Understand how the revenue model of the client works
  • Clarify the elements that are not clear in the prompt

In terms of doing the recap, I would recommend to always cover the following:

  • Situation of the client
  • Problem of the client
  • Goal that you have to achieve

Best,
Francesco

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Vlad
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replied on Feb 24, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

In general, 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!

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Luca gave the best answer

Luca

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