Tips on capturing key points of a case prompt during a case interview

Case Interview Case Prompt Key Points
New answer on Jun 12, 2020
10 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 10, 2020

Hi Experts,

Whenever a case prompt is presented I struggle to extract the key information needed to form a mental image of the case. Would you happen to have any advice or suggestions on extracting key points of a case prompt?

Thanks.

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Robert
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 11, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Apart from the content-focused answers given already by know, I would like to add one more point which is easily overlooked and quite dangerous at the same.

Clearly, you are in a high-pressure situation during interviews - and that makes you even more error-prone to miss out on some details which the interviewer is mentioning (and yes, sometimes it's really about small details and nuances if you finally understand it correclty or not!).

So whenever taking notes, ensure that you practice highly time-efficient way of taking notes and use abbreviations and symbols whenever possible (so e.g. if revenue is going down severely, it's a enough to jot down a capital "R" for revenue and a downward-facing arrow, if you are used to that).

At the same time, practice hard to still actively listen to your interviewer while taking notes. We all know how bad the human brain is in multi-tasking, so be especially aware of that when taking notes while you listen.

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

Robert

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Vlad
Expert
replied on Jun 11, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

I recommend the following approach- split the main sheet into 2 parts and then the left part into 2 quadrants:

  • Upper left - initial information given at the beginning of the interview and while asking clarifying questions
  • Lower left - Your objective. The objective should be measurable and should have a timeline
  • Right part - Your structure and the whole caseflow

Also, a good practice is to put the key numbers near the corresponding buckets.

! Have a separate sheet for math calculations!

It's also important:

  1. A good habit is to guide the interviewer through your structure by showing the structure on paper. So at least the structure should look clean and clear for the interviewer. Literally, move your pen to the different elements of your structure while presenting. And very often you need to do more than one structure while solving the case.
  2. You need to have clarity with numbers to be successful at calculations.
  3. While providing the final recommendation you need to find all the key numbers quickly, in order to use them in the arguments. Thus you need clarity

All in all - having clear and organized notes have many pros while unclear notes can easily lead to failure.

Best!

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Ian
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replied on Jun 10, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi,

Write 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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Francesco
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replied on Jun 11, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

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

If you clarify the previous points, you should always be fine in terms of initial information.

Best,
Francesco

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Luca
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 11, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached

Hello,

there isn't a general structure tha can be applied for every case but you should be able to get and take note of the following information:

  • Client name
  • Industry/product of your client
  • Business model
  • General information (e.g. revenues, profits ecc.)
  • Problem

Try to use bullet points to recap information provided and bear in mind that some of the ones listed could be missing.
As general rule, every time that you hear a number you have to take note of it. Feel free to double check and kindly interrupt the interviewer if you are not sure that you got the right information.

Best,
Luca

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Anonymous replied on Jun 11, 2020

Dear A,

During the case interview you will be given sheet for taking note. Designate each sheet to each specialized task.

  • The data sheet is where you note down neatly and ideally in a table format all information, data, provided by the interviewer throughout the case. If you have additional data as the result of analyses or calculations performed, put them into the data sheet too.

  • The presentation sheet is literally what you use when speaking to interviewers. For example, if you say: “… problem A can be broken down into B and C”, literally draw those on this sheet and point to each one as you speak.

  • Lastly, the scratch paper is there for anything else you need to write out in interviews’ brainstorm ideas, calculations, etc. The purpose of this sheet is to make the other two clear and neat. So you don’t have to worry too much about what you write here on this scratch paper.

Also, below some general recommendation on how to take notes:

  • Write down all the important information. You can use abbreviations

  • Client name

  • Industry

  • Geography

  • Current situation

  • Goal/objective:

  • And for your analysis put the name of area you supposed to analysed and it structure

  • Name of the first area analysed

  • Structure for the first area

  • Name of the second area analysed

  • Structure for the second area

Hope it helps,

Best,

André

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Antonello
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 12, 2020
McKinsey | NASA | top 10 FT MBA professor for consulting interviews | 6+ years of coaching

Hi, in addition to the good advices of other coaches I recommend always taking 30 seconds before a recommendation and organizing notes to best leverage them during these 30 seconds (e.g. by circling the most important insight and numbers during the case)

Best,

Antonello

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Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020

Hi there,

Simple tips:

  • No need to write everything
  • Write down the following:
    • Client name [AutomotiveCo]
    • Industry [Care leasing]
    • Geography [Central Europe]
    • Current situation [Profits down 10% in 2y]
    • Goal/objective: [Go back to original profitability of 15% in 1 year]

No need to use full words - use abbreviations and symbols (the notes are for you, not for the interviewer)

Keep your notepad clean: 1 area for the prompt - 1 area for structuring and solving the case -1 area as "scratch paper" to run calculations

Best of luck in the process

Khaled

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 11, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Something super usefull is never to redact, but to take only bullet points. This will help you reduce drastically the amount of info and just get the "in a nutshell" concepts.

Furthermore, data is most of the times worth capturing.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020
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Robert gave the best answer

Robert

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McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author
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