Note taking

consulting MBB
New answer on Aug 09, 2022
9 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 27, 2020

Hey guys

Any tips on how to best take notes effectively whilst on the job? I find it difficult to capture everything that is said in conversations.

thanks

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 28, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

please find below some suggestions:

  • Identify in advance the goal of the notes. If possible, write down the key information you need to get at the end of the conversation
  • Keep a structure for the notes. Divide in an organized way as you would do for slides.
  • Use abbreviations. Eg, for revenues use R, for costs use C, for increase use an arrow directed up, etc.
  • Write down essential information only. If you have a client that produces steel which has four plants, with a revenue problem, your notes could be something as Steel producer, R (arrow down), 4 plants
  • Double-check numbers. If possible, repeat them to be 100% sure they are correct

Best,

Francesco

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Ian
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replied on Jul 02, 2020
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

1) Decide physical vs virtual - are you a faster typer or writer?

2) If virtual, pick the best tool - try outlook draft emails (so you can store/organize with your email), try notepad, try a tablet so you can write on it, etc....find the one that works for you

3) Only write down what is important - you should know this! You don't need to capture everything. Just like in a case, figuring out what information is not needed is just as valuable as figuring out what information is needed.

4) And then, what you do write down, write it in shorthand!

I.e. If I say "Your client is Bills Bottles. They earn $800M in profits each year by manufacturing bottles to soda companies in the US and Europe. Over the past two years they've seen profits falling and have brought you in to investigate"

You should write:

  • Bills Bottles
  • Manufacture
  • Client = soda comp
  • 800M P
  • P [down arrow] 2 yrs
  • US + Europe
  • Obj: Fix P
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Robert
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updated an answer on Jun 28, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

The main point here is actually not tactical advice, but looking at it from a more strategic perspective. In simple terms speaking: What is the goal you want/need to achieve with your notes?

Once you have a clear picture in your mind about your goals, the answer of how to take the notes best is mostly common sense (e.g. if it's about next steps, the who-is-doing-what-until-when-in-which-format-with-which-level-of-quality question is relevant).

From a more tactical perspective, I developed some habits naturally to be more efficient in note-taking - maybe no need to overcomplicate it also, and you can also learn from your colleagues on the job and collect your own 'best practices'. Some ideas for that:

  • Use abbreviations as much as possible - just distracts less from taking notes and being more attentive to the meeting proceedings.
  • Keep some space left or right (depending on your preferences) of the actual notes - I use a scheme of symbols to highlight specific issues (like decisions made, risks identified, open questions raised, important new pieces of information, ...)
  • Be specific with numbers - whilst discussing a subject it might be obvious if talking about millions or billions, but a few weeks later you might not remember something which looked obvious in the past and it's easy to avoid that by adding the unit always and without exception.
  • Don't take more notes than necessary (i.e. for information which is already documented) - it will just distract you from paying attention to the actual meeting proceedings.

Hope this helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

(edited)

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Anonymous replied on Jun 27, 2020

Hello,

Some very simple advice

  • Write only on the front (not the back: this avoids looking messy when looking for information
  • Number the pages
  • Frame, circle or color the intermediate conclusions

Best

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Anonymous replied on Jun 27, 2020

Hi there,

The best tip here is to "know what to take note of" - no one is expecting a full dialogue transcript.

You need to focus on your notes on the points/info related to the meeting's objectives relevant information and agreed-upon actions (what to do / by whom/ by when)

Also, any number mentioned during the meeting, make sure you write it down. Those might come in handy later.

I hope this helps

Khaled

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Anonymous B replied on Aug 09, 2022

If you are leading the meeting then having an agenda is essential. 

If you are attending the meeting i think capturing the essence, key points is important.

Not sure if you have heard of Witful. com, it links to your Google calendar and tracks/organizes all your meeting notes. I run operations for a couple small companies and this is the only way I can stay on top of all my meetings/post meeting tasks.

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Anonymous replied on Jul 02, 2020

Dear A,

I would recommend you to take notes on: names, geographies, name of the company, numbers and details, but to keep in mind and overall idea and try to catch it.

Because if you concentrate simply on writing/typing you may easily lost the overall idea.

And also, after the meeting write down main conclusions and insight, when your memory is still fresh

Hope, it helps,

Best,

André

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Clara
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replied on Jun 29, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

To add on top of what has been said: don´t try to transcript what they tell you, but take notes in bullet points. This will filter the non-important away.

Cheers,

Clara

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Henning
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replied on Jan 23, 2021
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Hi A!

Note taking is of course a critical piece of a strong case delivery, so it will pay off to practice this early on in your preparation.

Whatever system you chose (and practice), it needs to fulfill 3 main purposes:

  • Allow you to note down the critical data and information you hear during the case prompt and have the readily available whenever you need them
  • It needs to enable you to note down an initial framework and track the execution against it
  • It should provide room to store your key insights (1-2 numbers or 1 short bullet point per branch of your framework)

There are certainly many different styles of note taking that provide these three functions, so you should find our which one works for you and enables you to focus on the case execution, rather than the note taking. Keep in mind that you should practice this system early on in your journey, so you are comfortable with this method when you go into the interviews.

Find below a screenshot of the notetaking system that works for me personally. In this system, I first draw one vertical and one horizontal line. Then I use the column on the left side to take the initial notes during the case prompt and clarifying questions. Then I write down the key question of the case in the top row and develop the framework in the main area on the page.

During the case, I scribble less important stuff on separate pages (e.g. notes during the quant part). However, I will write down the key insights of each branch of the framework at the bottom of my main page. That way, when I get to the recommendation, I can simply read the notes from left to right to have the supporting arguments for the case recommendation.

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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