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Sidi

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7

Questions at the start?

Hello!

I am receiving lots of conflicting feedback regarding the questions at the start. Some want more questions, others say I should not ask more than 3 questions. So how does this actually work? Semms like nobody really knows what he is talking about? Any qualified adivce? Thank you.

Hello!

I am receiving lots of conflicting feedback regarding the questions at the start. Some want more questions, others say I should not ask more than 3 questions. So how does this actually work? Semms like nobody really knows what he is talking about? Any qualified adivce? Thank you.

7 answers

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Book a coaching with Sidi

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Hi Anonymous!

You actually touch on a very important point here. Many candidates don't understand what distinguishes the clarifying questions at the start from later analysis-related questions (asking for market data, financials, etc.).

In general, asking such analysis-related questions at the start is bad! It comes across completely arbitrary, and the interviewer will ask himself why you are asking analysis-questions before even having layed out an analysis approach (the structure)! It just makes no sense to ask for data before laying out your structure, because this information will have ZERO impact on this structure (--> the logic according to which you should address the question).

The clarifying 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 (e.g., "How do they make money?") if unclear!)
  2. Understanding/narrowing down the actual question(s) of the client (very often the question is poorly/vaguely stated in the prompt, and it is your duty as the candidate to make it precise!)
  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 analysis-related 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 never make sense to be asked in the clarifying questions (before making explicit your structure).

Cheers, Sidi

Hi Anonymous!

You actually touch on a very important point here. Many candidates don't understand what distinguishes the clarifying questions at the start from later analysis-related questions (asking for market data, financials, etc.).

In general, asking such analysis-related questions at the start is bad! It comes across completely arbitrary, and the interviewer will ask himself why you are asking analysis-questions before even having layed out an analysis approach (the structure)! It just makes no sense to ask for data before laying out your structure, because this information will have ZERO impact on this structure (--> the logic according to which you should address the question).

The clarifying 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 (e.g., "How do they make money?") if unclear!)
  2. Understanding/narrowing down the actual question(s) of the client (very often the question is poorly/vaguely stated in the prompt, and it is your duty as the candidate to make it precise!)
  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 analysis-related 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 never make sense to be asked in the clarifying questions (before making explicit your structure).

Cheers, Sidi

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There is one important thing here to note - which type of interview are you prepating for

1. Interviewer led cases (McKinsey)

Here asking too many questions is not recommended - all of the details you need to solve the case will be provided to you as part of the case itself. There are no hidden objectives and information is not only provided when requested. The focus here is on listening to the question being asked and answering it to the best of your abilities

2. Interviewee led (BCG, Bain)

Here you need to ask questions in order to answer the question well. However as Sidi pointed out, you need to focus on questions that would help with the analysis and not questions that are purely clarification based.

For example - ask about the objective of the client, or ask about relevant information you would need to solve the question. Do not ask about things unrelated to the question just to impress the interviewer.

All the best,

Udayan

There is one important thing here to note - which type of interview are you prepating for

1. Interviewer led cases (McKinsey)

Here asking too many questions is not recommended - all of the details you need to solve the case will be provided to you as part of the case itself. There are no hidden objectives and information is not only provided when requested. The focus here is on listening to the question being asked and answering it to the best of your abilities

2. Interviewee led (BCG, Bain)

Here you need to ask questions in order to answer the question well. However as Sidi pointed out, you need to focus on questions that would help with the analysis and not questions that are purely clarification based.

For example - ask about the objective of the client, or ask about relevant information you would need to solve the question. Do not ask about things unrelated to the question just to impress the interviewer.

All the best,

Udayan

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Hi there,

Good questions at the beginning are related to:

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

As mentioned by Sidi, don’t ask questions related to topics you will develop in your structure, you can explore them later.

Best,
Francesco

Hi there,

Good questions at the beginning are related to:

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

As mentioned by Sidi, don’t ask questions related to topics you will develop in your structure, you can explore them later.

Best,
Francesco

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Hi Anonymous,

Questions directly at the start after receiving the case prompt and having clarified the goal can be in one of the following 2 buckets:

  1. General clarifying questions because you did not understand a specific term or number during the case prompt > obviously no issue to ask for that
  2. Elimination-related questions which clarify/narrow down the scope of the analysis > here I'd say a maximum of 2-3 questions is appropriate

All other questions provide no value at this stage and are a waste of time and reflecting poorly on your approach on how to crack cases.

As additional note, I was referring only to the subject-matter related view above. However, also the appropriate framing and communication of those questions is important.

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

Robert

Hi Anonymous,

Questions directly at the start after receiving the case prompt and having clarified the goal can be in one of the following 2 buckets:

  1. General clarifying questions because you did not understand a specific term or number during the case prompt > obviously no issue to ask for that
  2. Elimination-related questions which clarify/narrow down the scope of the analysis > here I'd say a maximum of 2-3 questions is appropriate

All other questions provide no value at this stage and are a waste of time and reflecting poorly on your approach on how to crack cases.

As additional note, I was referring only to the subject-matter related view above. However, also the appropriate framing and communication of those questions is important.

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

Robert

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I agree with the others fully and won't write a length text. Let me just add one additional and very practical point:

Whenever the interviewer says something along the lines of "Recently, revenue dropped/cost went up/growth stagnatesd/etc." immediately ask for the underlying data. It is almost certainly there and it will give you an idea about the scope of the issue - like time horizon, overlap with markoeconomic events. etc...

Do this before you put down your framework, as this will help you understand the scope and direction of the case much better and tailor the framework much better to the problem statement.

I agree with the others fully and won't write a length text. Let me just add one additional and very practical point:

Whenever the interviewer says something along the lines of "Recently, revenue dropped/cost went up/growth stagnatesd/etc." immediately ask for the underlying data. It is almost certainly there and it will give you an idea about the scope of the issue - like time horizon, overlap with markoeconomic events. etc...

Do this before you put down your framework, as this will help you understand the scope and direction of the case much better and tailor the framework much better to the problem statement.

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Well, that's because you're asking the wrong question! If you say "How long should my framework be?" Or "How many cases should I do before I'm ready", of course you're going to get a range of numbers!

Life isn't that simple

By the way, consulting won't be that simple either, so you need to change your mindset!

The most important is: Do my questions come off naturally, so as to not annoy/perturb the interviewer, and so as to make it clear that I am narrowing in on my framework and not just asking questions for the sake of asking them?

For some people this will be 1 question. Others can get away with 4-6 by "tactfully" asking multiple questions at once or in a nice flow. Same cases don't require any questions. Some cases are complicated/vague and need a lot. It depends!

First: What isn't clear?

Here, you just want to ask anything you don't understand. Naturally, we want to run away from what we don't know...consultants run towards it!

  • Do you understand the context provided? Do I know how the industry works and how they company would likely be operating?
  • Do you understand the problem/opportunity they face? Is it clear what they're trying to do?

Second: Use GOBTM

Write GOBTM at the bottom of your page in case you're stumped in part 1.

G = Geography (Where to they operate, where are they looking to go, etc.)

O = Objective (Can I clarify the exact objective of this case. I.e. increase profits by how much)

B = Business Model (Am I clear on how the company makes money and what they sell?)

T = Timing (Over what time frame does this solution/problem take place?)

M = Market (Who are my customers? What market do I operate in?)

Bonus

Fundamentally, you are trying to narrow your framework. You are tyring to ask questions that get you closer to the solution

Bonus 2

Never ask an open-ended/vague question. Try to lead with a hypothesis. For example, don't say "How does this shoe company work?". Rather say "I imagine the shoemaking process involves reviewing wood/leather, cutting/shaping it, sewing/gluing it together, and then finishing it in some way. Is this about right?"

Well, that's because you're asking the wrong question! If you say "How long should my framework be?" Or "How many cases should I do before I'm ready", of course you're going to get a range of numbers!

Life isn't that simple

By the way, consulting won't be that simple either, so you need to change your mindset!

The most important is: Do my questions come off naturally, so as to not annoy/perturb the interviewer, and so as to make it clear that I am narrowing in on my framework and not just asking questions for the sake of asking them?

For some people this will be 1 question. Others can get away with 4-6 by "tactfully" asking multiple questions at once or in a nice flow. Same cases don't require any questions. Some cases are complicated/vague and need a lot. It depends!

First: What isn't clear?

Here, you just want to ask anything you don't understand. Naturally, we want to run away from what we don't know...consultants run towards it!

  • Do you understand the context provided? Do I know how the industry works and how they company would likely be operating?
  • Do you understand the problem/opportunity they face? Is it clear what they're trying to do?

Second: Use GOBTM

Write GOBTM at the bottom of your page in case you're stumped in part 1.

G = Geography (Where to they operate, where are they looking to go, etc.)

O = Objective (Can I clarify the exact objective of this case. I.e. increase profits by how much)

B = Business Model (Am I clear on how the company makes money and what they sell?)

T = Timing (Over what time frame does this solution/problem take place?)

M = Market (Who are my customers? What market do I operate in?)

Bonus

Fundamentally, you are trying to narrow your framework. You are tyring to ask questions that get you closer to the solution

Bonus 2

Never ask an open-ended/vague question. Try to lead with a hypothesis. For example, don't say "How does this shoe company work?". Rather say "I imagine the shoemaking process involves reviewing wood/leather, cutting/shaping it, sewing/gluing it together, and then finishing it in some way. Is this about right?"

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Hi there,

Just to complete on what other experts said, use this opportunity to learn more about the company and the industry in a broad way. Do not ask about specific numbers (revenues, costs, etc.) but rather about the general orientation of the company (business model, growth trend, etc.)

I hope this help!

Mehdi

Hi there,

Just to complete on what other experts said, use this opportunity to learn more about the company and the industry in a broad way. Do not ask about specific numbers (revenues, costs, etc.) but rather about the general orientation of the company (business model, growth trend, etc.)

I hope this help!

Mehdi

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