Is there a nice way to ask the interviewer to slow down when reading the case interview prompt?

Case Interview prompt
Recent activity on Mar 15, 2018
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Jeremy asked on Mar 15, 2018

I sometimes have trouble listening to everything the interviewer says and writing down notes at the same time. If the prompt is long, I get behind and I have to ask the interviewer to go back and repeat information again. It's almost like I need them to read the prompt twice. This problem gets worse if I'm nervous. Any tips on how to handle this in a real interview?


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replied on Mar 15, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Jeremy,

It is ok to ask the interviewer to repeat the information, although if you ask more than once it could appear a bit weird. I believe the main issue you have is due to how you take notes, thus I would suggest to concentrate on that area.

Specifically, I would recommend the following to improve your notes:

  1. Use abbreviations. Eg, for revenues use R, for costs use C, for increase use an arrow directed up, etc.
  2. 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
  3. Keep different section in the paper for different pieces of information. 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 some initial information, objective 1, additional information, objective 2, etc.
  • top-left: who is the client
  • bottom left: initial information
  • top right: objectives
  • bottom right: structure

Hope this helps,


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replied on Mar 15, 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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replied on Mar 15, 2018

Hey Jeremy,

I agree with others, especially on the importance of improving your capacity to take notes quicker - it's also important to be able to distinguish between what is important to right and what's not (don't aim to copy paste all the problem statement).

On other hand, if you really missed information, it's better to use the strategy of restate the problem and prompt with the interviewer if that's all rather than simply ask to repeat (this should be really your last option as this is doesn't really impress an interviewer)



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Francesco gave the best answer


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