How to synthesise concisely and sharply in Bain interviews?

Anonymous A asked on Nov 11, 2019 - 3 answers

2 key questions here hoping for your advice:

1. If I am explaining my structure, how much depth should I go into? i.e. a. I shall look at profit drivers, revenue and costs - and full stop. or b. I shall look into profits, competitors and customers. Specifically, I would look into revenue broken down into price and volume, and costs I will look at fixed and variable costs. Moving on to the competitors, I would look at who our competitors are, what have they been doing....etc.

The reason I am asking this is that some people think I am too verbose (gets interviewer bored) when I try method b, but if I do method a, others might think my elaborations are too short.

2. How do you usually structure your sentences when you interpret data? a. I have 3 key observations, a,b,c and have 2 insights, a,b. OR b. One key observation is (obs A), based on this it seems like (insight A). Another key observation is (B), and it seems like (insight B), etc.

The reason I am asking this is if I do a, I might lose out some additional insights that I only discover halfway when I explain my data interpretation. However, method b seems less structured than a which might lead people to think that's bad.

Please let me know what you think! Thanks in advance!

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replied on Nov 12, 2019
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1) If your structure is a tree - it's usually 3 levels deep. If your structure has buckets and bullet points - 2 levels is enough

2) Here is the approach to analyzing data:

  1. Ask the interviewer for a minute to analyze the chart / table

  2. In your mind formulate the question you have to answer

  3. Look at the chart and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc). Read the chart title. Read the legend

  4. Analyze the chart / table. Look for: Trends, comparisons, % shares, etc. Look for unusual things (consultants love to integrate these traps in charts) - correlations, outliers, etc

  5. Ask clarifying questions if required

  6. Provide your conclusion. You should not just describe the chart but also derive the conclusions. There should be at least one major conclusion plus any additional conclusions you can make. You can also provide your hypothesis on what can be the root causes / consequences

  7. Based on the interviewer's feedback, prioritize the most important information, and define the next steps.


replied on Nov 11, 2019
Ex Bain/ A.T. Kearney: Principal with >10 years global consulting and recruiting experience and >150 interviews
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1. Critical thing is that you are concise and explain your hypothesis. For Bain the focus is on your A1 or your "answer first". Provided the structure is logical, allows you to help answer the question, and allows you to frame your A1. that is all that really matters. So if you have a hypothesis that the falling profit might be driven by a market wide factor, such as new entrants, you could break profit into revenue and profit and then revenue into market share and market size. The competitor issue would now show up as a hypothesis for the driver of losing market share. You should avoid saying "I will look at A & B" and breakdown to "C & D" without explaining the A1.

2. As for the structuring of insights, I prefer the second framing. An observation is not really that useful without the "so what". In the first way you structured the answer, you run the risk of simply describing the data, rather than focusing on the insights.

replied on Nov 11, 2019
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1. You should be very concise in the written structure, but go deeper in your presentation, without performing a 5-minute monologue. You should leverage good feedback to find the correct balance in it.

2. The top-down approach is better: it shows in a while that you really understood the exhibit and it is an important communication skill of great consultants.


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