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Opening questions

New answer on Dec 31, 2020
5 Answers
1.3 k Views
asked on Mar 25, 2019
Completed Mck first round interview.

I’m feeling a difficulty about opening/clarifying questions which we ask before we present our structure. Since the case solving is inherently asking questions & solving according to the answers received, how should we differentiate the questions we ask before we present the structure (opening questions) from the ones we ask all throughout the case. Opening questions should be i think broader & big picture questions but even those questioins need details for giving a meaningful context. Are there do's & don'ts of the opening questions? Thanks!


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replied on Mar 25, 2019
I will get you an offer|McKinsey Senior EM|Offers from MBB|100+ interviews at McKinsey|Recruiting Lead|Experienced hire


I think you should use these opening questions to your advantage and not overthink too much. Even if there are some questions that would eventually fall under a 'detailed question', don't hesitate to ask.

But do use your common sense. For instance, asking if there are any other financial targets or if the industry size is growing/has been flat seem like broad and helpful opening questions. However, asking can you give me numbers of the variable costs associated would be too specific as an opener.

Does that make sense?



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Content Creator
replied on Mar 26, 2019
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Doruk,

good questions to ask before presenting the structure include those related to:

  • Understand how the business model of the client works
  • Clarify the elements that are not clear in the prompt
  • Clarify the goal and constraints of the client to achieve the goal

You should ask questions until these points are clarified (usually 3-4 questions are enough - may depend on the complexity of the case).

The questions you ask after presenting the structure are instead related to the specific branch of the structure itself, and usually help to verify if a hypothesis you formulated is correct and/or to gain data to proceed with the case.

Hope this helps,


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replied on Mar 25, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers


The questions you ask at the beginning have the following objectives:

  1. Completely understanding the context/situation (including, unclear terminology, but also, for example, the business model of the client if unclear!)
  2. Understanding the question(s) of the client
  3. Understanding (and quantifying if applicable) the underlying objective(s) of the client

These questions are aiming at understanding the initial setting, hence forming a precondition to outline your structure towards answering the core question (the issue tree)!

The later questions that you ask while navigating through the case are then aiming to verify the actual relevance of each sub-branch in your tree. So if you have defined and disaggregated the criterion to answer the client's core question in a clean way, all these leater questions follow a this precise "roadmap" as layed out by your tree. These questions then oftentimes also comprise enquiries on current performance metrics (revenues, costs, growth rates etc.), which normally should never be asked in the clarifying questions (before making explicit your structure).

Cheers, Sidi

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Doruk on Mar 26, 2019

Thank you, always very clarifying!

Content Creator
replied on Dec 31, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate


There is always more that you can understand. For example, if you understand the goal as improving profits, there's so much more you can ask - do they have a % change target in mind, how long do we have to turn this around, do they prefer this to be done through raising revenue or cutting costs, etc.

I always write BOTMG at the bottom of my framework page to help myself think of things I'm missing in case I'm stuck.

This helps "trigger" you to consider questions around B = Business Model, O = Objective, T = Timing, M = Market, G = Geography.

However, you should never just say "so, what is their business model?" Obviously, ask questions that help you frame your hypothesis, understand the situation, and ultimately drive your case better.

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Anonymous updated the answer on Aug 14, 2020

Dear Doruk,

Actually there are 3 main types for clarifying questions you can use before you present your structure:

1. questions that clarify the objective of the case interview, when you ask about the measurable metric of success, time frame, potential restrictions, and limitations

2. If you don't then ask about the information that strengthens your understanding of the company, its business model, products, and services.

3. Important! you can always clarify the definition of a term you are unfamiliar with.

So these are three main types of clarifying questions. If you asking too many questions, the interviewer will probably reply to you smth like this: we don't know, we'll see later, it'’ or relevant.

Good luck with your interview! If you need to find more information about your future application, just write me back!




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