How to navigate through long case prompt?

Recent activity on Aug 31, 2018
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Anonymous A asked on Aug 28, 2018

Hi everyone,

I had a mock-interview with McK consultant and she gave me a super long case promt at beginning. I tried to write down as much information as I can and fel that I got overwhelmed by the case prompt, hence I was a bit confused about the essence of the case.

What is the best way to navigate through long case prompt and how to do recap when the case is long?

Thank you very much.

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replied on Aug 31, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

as mentioned in other posts, I would mainly work on how you take notes; specifically, my recommendation would be to divide the paper in 4 areas as reported below; when talking notes, you can then put the information in the appropriate box. Sometimes you would have to do back and forth, as you may get information, objective 1, additional information, objective 2, etc.

  • top-left: who is the client
  • bottom left: initial information
  • top right: objectives
  • bottom right: structure

After the first page, you could still divide the page in four parts. Left and right could now be at the same distance. Top areas should be smaller to leave more space for the structures:

  • top-left: name of the first area analysed
  • bottom left: structure for the first area
  • top right: name of the second area analysed
  • bottom right: structure for the second area

Besides that you should also

  • Use abbreviations. Eg, for revenues use R, for costs use C, for increase use an arrow directed up, etc.
  • Write down essential information only. You do not have time to write everything, thus you should exercise in writing down only the necessary information. If you have a client which produces steel which has four plants, with a revenue problem, your notes could be something as Steel producer, R (arrow down), 4 plants

Besides this, as already mentioned you can always ask the interviewer to repeat part of the information if needed; once completed your notes you can then provide a synthesis of all the information to verify you wrote down all the essential points.



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replied on Aug 28, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Several things here:

  1. If you don't have enough time, it is always fine to ask the interviewer in a polite manner to repeat what he just said. Basically, you have no choice.
  2. Another way is to increase the speed of taking the notes. Use acronyms, and practice to write short descriptions.
  3. Make a recap - usually, I recommend making a recap after asking clarifying questions, but in your case, it may be beneficial to make a recap right in the beginning. "Do I Understand correctly that..."

There are some questions that you should always try to ask in addition to what he told you:

1) You can also ask the interviewer to tell you more about the business model and how the company generates money. Even if you think you understand it, try to repeat it to make sure that you understand it correctly. 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.

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?


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Anonymous replied on Aug 28, 2018

Hi Anonymous!

I have had such cases in practice and my advice to you would be to fine-tune your note-taking skills so that you are taking down relevant information in concise language, rather than trying to write down each word the interviewer says.

You can also address the long prompt in your clarification of the case e.g. "That's quite a few details you've given me, let me make sure I have them down correctly..." and then clarify the key points. If you've missed something, address it head on. Stay at this stage until you are certain you have all the facts - better spend too long here than find out later down the line that you've missed a key point!

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replied on Aug 28, 2018
McKinsey EM & MD at Venture Capital || Interview coach - More than 100 Cases || INSEAD Business School

The best way to manage such a case study is to classify the information.

The approach should be the following :

- You download all the information in a structured way on the paper

- Take 2 minutes before recap - and classify them in a story line to identify the core problem

- Recap from the problem to make sure you understood what's the final outcome expected from the case.

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Francesco gave the best answer


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