How to start a case analysis?

background information case structure frameworks
Recent activity on Aug 30, 2017
3 Answers
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Paolo asked on Aug 29, 2017

Hi everybody,

my question might appear quite banal but I hope you will find it more valuable that what it looks like. When I start working on a case I like asking, at the very beginning, basic information such as market, competitors, company... I do this because I like to have a clear picture of the background info, no matter what framework would best fit the very case I`m working on.

So, for example, the interviewer says that "revenues dropped". Oh yeah thats a rev/cost case. Let me ask to decompose revenues and to compare them with last year`s ones. Before doing this I prefer to take a big breath, take some distance from what looks like being the "best" framework to use, and ask some general information to understand better what`s going on. Of course, I would try to be fast and not to get lost into details - to go back quite quickly to the main framework.

Would that be considered acceptable? Or better to directly dig deep into THE framework and ask relevant questions while using it?


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Best answer
replied on Aug 30, 2017
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


The main goal of clarifying questions is to help you build a proper structure. Thus I strongly suggest to do the following:

1) Ask clarifying questions:

- Clarify the business model (i.e. how the business works and what are the revenue streams / core products or business lines)

- Clarify the objective both in money terms and timeline (e.g. Our objective is to increase profits by 5M in 5 years). When you have a to select from several options in a case - clarify the selection criteria

- Clarify other possible limitations if you feel that it's necessary

2) Repeat the objective and most importnat business model factors

3) Now when you've identified the most important factors - take a minute to make a structure

Good luck!

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replied on Aug 30, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Paolo,

it is definitely ok to ask clarifying questions at the beginning of the case. However, that should ideally happen in two ways:

  1. Option 1: you ask the clarifying questions before taking one minute to structure and present the framework (eg: Before we move to the framework, I would like to ask a couple of clarifying questions; to start with, do we know if that’s an industry or client problem?)
  2. Option 2: the questions are part of the framework itself (eg: The first area I would like to analyse in the framework is the industry; in particular, I would like to understand the following here. First, if this is an industry or client problem; second…)

In general, is important that you have a hypothesis or anyway explain the interviewer why you are looking for such information. In case you generally ask for market, competition and company, without explaining why you are asking, the interviewer may feel you are not able to prioritize and penalize you. On the other hand, if you have a solid hypothesis/reason for asking and formulate the question as for one of the previous options, that would definitely be ok.

Hope this helps,


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Paolo on Aug 30, 2017

thanks Francesco. I agree with you that its OK to ask more questions before getting into the framework - given that you explain why are you asking those questions.

Luis Miguel updated an answer on Aug 30, 2017

I like to start my case analysis by repeating the fact pattern provided by the interviewer, taking a moment to draw an initial framework, presenting my initial framework, and selecting a part of my framework to deliver broad questions before moving onto the next branch of the framework.


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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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