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How to structure the initial data?

Alex asked on May 17, 2017 - 2 answers

Hello everyone! So I've been recently thinking about what is the best way to structure the initial data given to you in the case. Since in some cases you need to refer back to your initial data, I feel like it should follow some logical pattern. I've developed a strategy that works great for me in most of the cases I do. So I take a piece of paper, turn it into “landscape mode” and I make 3 columns (equal width): ABOUT | DATA | OBJECTIVE. The About column contains all the qualitative information about the case (client's situation description); Data - Numerical information (Revenues, Costs, Profits, etc.); Objective is clear. I hope that someone will find this approach helpful.

My main question here is: Is it ok to tell the interviewer you're going to break the initial data into these 3 columns BEFORE he reads the actual case description? Or should I do it after he starts reading? In the last scenario I'm afraid to lose something of what interviewer says while I'm making and labeling the columns. Advice is highly appreciated.

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replied on May 18, 2017
Ex-Bain consultant, got offers from McK, BCG, Bain. Now a startup strategist

Hi Alex!

I wouldn't ask for extra time here. Your personal note-taking technique is completely up to you and if you chose to do the three columns then no problem, as long as it doesn't interfere with the flow. You might come across as too "processy" or too trained. You also wouldn't do it in an meeting with a client. It also takes about 5 seconds so it's not a big deal, you could do it in the meantime.

Hope I could be of help!


updated her answer on May 23, 2017
Ex-Accenture Strategy Consultant, Career Coach (5yrs)

Hi Alex,

I agree with Michal here - you don't need to explain what you are doing in terms of note taking. My advice would be draw up your columns, don't worry about missing data, you can always double check and ask questions after. In fact, my advise is to always double check you have all written out:

"Just to double check I have all written up, the company is currently looking to..., the current operating profit is $X and sales is Y.."

The best candidates always check and they completely expect you to make notes. You can talk throuh structure after if you want, especially if it helps you structure your thoughts.


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