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what is the max number of questions I can ask after having heard the prompt?

Anonymous A asked on Sep 20, 2018 - 3 answers

I have been told I ask too many questions at the begining, but I normally stick with the 1)product, 2)BM and 3)objective related questions, and that oftentimes is helpful to allow me to structure the problem at stake. At the same time, my case-partners ask no question whatsoever.

Is my approach fine either way both for interviewer-led and candidate-led?

I was told by a guy who was interviewed from LEK AU that he was told by his interviewer he could not ask anything aftrewards when you are digging into the problem since his time to ask questions expired.

Can you be more specific about this, please?

(edited)

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Francesco
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replied on Sep 20, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

yes, you can ask questions in both interviewer and interviewee led cases. Good questions include:

  • Those to understand how the business model of the client works
  • Clarification of all the elements that were not clear to you in the prompt
  • Goal clarification and constraints of the client to achieve it

You should ask questions until these points are clarified (usually 2-3 questions are enough - may depend on the complexity of the case).

If you are asking these types of questions and get the feedback you are asking too many questions, it may be you are asking questions in the wrong way - basically in a way such that the interviewer doesn't understand why you are asking the question, or feels you are trying to have the case solved by him.

For example, a good way to clarify the business model is:

"You told me our client is a major industrial goods company. Before moving to structure the problem, I would like to understand which is the current business model of the client - how do they make money basically. This will help to understand better how to face this problem."

In this way, you make clear that:

  • You are going to structure later on
  • You acknowledge the information already provided
  • You align with the interviewer on the fact that this information will help to organize a better structure

A bad way to clarify the business model is:

"Which are our revenue streams?"

With such question, it's not clear for the interviewer if you will structure your approach, why you are asking such question and which connection it has with the information he/she provided you.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Vlad
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replied on Sep 20, 2018
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Hi,

You should ask the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model. Ask how the company actually makes the money. For several reasons:

  1. Even if you think you understand the business model, you need to make sure that you understand it correctly.
  2. Some cases have pitfalls related to a business model (re profitability cases with several revenue streams
  3. You need to understand the revenue streams to make a proper structure. 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. (At the end of the day it may be the decline of snack sales at the gas stations:). In case of telecom company it may be the problem of the core business (wireless) or non-core (landlines, internet)

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?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.

E.g. in the market entry case ask whether we are entering the country organically or non-organically

!!! Finally - do the recap after asking the clarifying questions. Although most of the case books suggest to do it immediately at the beginning of the interview, it makes much more sense to clarify the situation first and then to make sure that you understand everything correctly.

Best!

Anonymous B replied on Sep 20, 2018

The number of your questions shold be inversely proportional to the amount of information you get upfront/in the prompt. For example, in McKinsey style cases you might get so much information upfront, that additional questions would be irrelevant and irritating, you'd come as robotic. In all 12 McKinsey interviews I've had, there wasn't need in additional questions at all, I had enough data to move straight to issue tree.

At the same time, if all you know is that there is a client whose profitability is declining, your questions about business model, product and specific goals are valid. I wouldn't go beyond these 3 questions.