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"What Else?"

Interview McKinsey
New answer on Jul 10, 2024
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 14, 2024

Hi everyone,

I'm currently preparing for a McKinsey case interview, and I have some specific questions regarding the interviewer's prompts to "what else" and "elaborate more" after I've answered their questions.

Here are my questions:

  1. What is the interviewer's intention when they ask "what else" or "elaborate more" after I provide an answer?
  2. What are they testing or looking for when they give such responses?
  3. What strategies can I use to handle and answer these kinds of responses effectively? Is it a good strategy to intentionally hold back 1-2 points during my thinking time just in case they ask for more?
  4. What should I do if I genuinely have nothing more to add or elaborate on when prompted?

I'd appreciate any tips, personal experiences, or strategies you could share to help me prepare better for these types of follow-up questions. Thanks in advance!

Overview of answers

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Best answer
Florian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 14, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

1+2

The “What else?” usually comes up during

  • framework
  • brainstorming

which are both structuring exercises.

This usually means you have not considered the topic exhaustively, either by not being

  • broad enough - not covering all relevant elements of the problem
  • deep enough - not expanding your elements into more concrete ideas on the levels below

If you are not broad and deep enough, your answer is not insightful.

3. You should never hold anything back intentionally. The interviewer might not give you another chance and simply move on to the next question. Always discuss your framework and brainstorm in the greatest detail possible immediately (after taking time).

4. Ideally, learn the right idea and content creation strategies to expand your frameworks and then practice it with the right drills and practice questions. Happy to help out during coaching or you could check my book The 1%, where I discuss the framework and brainstorming creation techniques.

Alternatively, have a look at the article I wrote for PrepLounge: McKinsey Case Interview

Cheers,

Florian

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 14, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Happy to provide a perspective on these. I'll take them one by one. 

  1. What is the interviewer's intention when they ask "what else" or "elaborate more" after I provide an answer?
    1. Typically, it means that your answer was not deep or insightful enough. They want to hear more. 
    2. To fix this, you typically should take more thinking time upfront to be able to generate a more developed answer
  2. What are they testing or looking for when they give such responses?
    1. They're testing for lots of things - a Q&A doesn't permit for the space to properly go into the topic. But basically, they want to get an understanding of how you think through that client problem and how you would approach it in real life (assuming you'd be staffed on that kind of project)
  3. What strategies can I use to handle and answer these kinds of responses effectively? Is it a good strategy to intentionally hold back 1-2 points during my thinking time just in case they ask for more?
    1. Absolutely not. Go with what you have from the beginning.
    2. And if they ask for more, then just ask for a few more seconds of time to think through your answer. Please remember that you are not expected to answer on the spot. Ever
  4. What should I do if I genuinely have nothing more to add or elaborate on when prompted?
    1. As I mentioned above, take time
    2. If you don't get any extra ideas, then turn it into a conversation / problem-solving with the interviewer. For instance, you can ask ‘are there any specific trends that you have in mind or you’d like me to go deeper into?'

Hope this provides you with some direction.

Best,
Cristian

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Alessa
Expert
replied on Jun 14, 2024
xMcKinsey & Company | xBCG - feel free to schedule a 15 min intro call for free :)

Hey! 

To answer your question: 

Normally “what else” points to some facts that are still missing in your analysis/brainstorming. I would never intentionally hold back points since the interviewer is not always asking “what else” you have to offer! Especially in interviewer-led cases the “what else” question is often asked since the interviewer is looking for one specific fact she wants to go into a deep-dive afterward. 

On the other hand, “elaborate more” points to more details, e.g., more examples of your fact! Just be creative here! Think about innovations & out-of-the-box. 

In case you have absolutely nothing else that comes into mind, take some time to think, and let the interviewer know! If you have nothing to add, be honest and tell the interviewer that you don't have any additional in mind. That's ok if you have provided many facts and examples before. 

Good luck with your prep & I hope this helps! 

Alessa

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 16, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) What is the interviewer's intention when they ask "what else" or "elaborate more" after I provide an answer?

Usually they are looking for additional answers to a structuring/creativity question, where you have not touched yet all the points they want to cover.

2) What are they testing or looking for when they give such responses?

Usually they want to see if you can define a complete MECE answer to the question, covering all the relevant elements.

3) What strategies can I use to handle and answer these kinds of responses effectively? Is it a good strategy to intentionally hold back 1-2 points during my thinking time just in case they ask for more?

There is no reason to hold back points, as the goal is exactly to see if you cover all relevant points. If you do so, they most likely won’t ask you “what else”.

4) What should I do if I genuinely have nothing more to add or elaborate on when prompted?

I would recommend the following:

  1. Ask for some time to think
  2. Lay down a first level of a structure, if not done already. If you don’t have any ideas, you can structure as X versus non-X (eg Long-term vs Short-term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial)
  3. Brainstorm answers for each area
  4. If you cannot find any additional answers, ask if there is a particular area they are looking for in terms of additional points and try to use it as a hint for extra elements
  5. If you still cannot find any point, confirm these are all the areas you can think about

Good luck!

Francesco

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Anna
Expert
replied on Jun 14, 2024
Top Performer: From Science to working for BCG's C-suite

Here my two cents for each of your questions and some advice:

 

 1. Interviewer's Intention

When an interviewer asks "what else" or "elaborate more," their goal is to:

-              Test Depth of Knowledge: They want to see if you have a thorough understanding of the issue and can think critically about various aspects.

-              Assess Structuring and Creativity: They are evaluating your ability to structure your thoughts clearly and consider multiple angles of a problem.

-              Gauge Resilience and Flexibility: They want to see how you handle pressure and whether you can expand on your initial thoughts when prompted.

 

 2. What They Are Testing

By giving such responses, interviewers are typically testing:

-              Analytical Skills: Your ability to break down complex problems and analyze them comprehensively. If they are asking for more it is likely you can go broader or deeper.

-              Communication Skills: How effectively you can articulate your thoughts and provide coherent, structured answers on the spot.

-              Problem-Solving Abilities: Your capability to think on your feet and come up with additional relevant points or deeper insights.

-              Business Judgment: Your understanding of key business concepts and your ability to prioritize the most important issues. It is possible you may have missed something.

 

 3. Strategies to Handle These Responses

-              Structured Thinking: Use frameworks to structure your answers (e.g., MECE - Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive). This helps in organizing your thoughts and makes it easier to expand when asked. You can try to go deeper into certain topics that seem most relevant or check if you have considered all options.

-              Layered Responses: When you give an answer, start with the most critical points and leave some secondary points in reserve. This way, you can expand on them if asked for more details.

-              Deep Dive Preparation: Prepare to elaborate on each point you make. For instance, if you mention a market entry strategy, be ready to discuss the pros and cons, potential risks, and implementation steps. When they ask “what else” you can simply expand on your thoughts and arguments instead of trying to come up with a laundry list of topics. This will probably get you out of the “what else” infinity.

-              Practice Active Listening: Pay close attention to the interviewer's cues. They may give subtle hints about what area they want you to explore further.

-              Think Aloud: If you're unsure what to add, it’s okay to think aloud. This shows your thought process and can sometimes lead you to a new point to discuss. It is likely the interviewer will get involved into your thinking and guide you to what’s on their mind

 

 4. Intentionally Holding Back Points

It can be a good strategy to intentionally hold back 1-2 points during your thinking time. This approach ensures you have additional content to provide if prompted to elaborate. However, ensure the points you hold back are still valuable and relevant to the discussion.

 

 5. When You Have Nothing More to Add

If you genuinely have nothing more to add:

-              Summarize: Recap your main points concisely. This reinforces your structured thinking and ensures you’ve covered all bases. It also shows the interviewer you are trying to work with them.

-              Ask for Clarification: Politely ask if there’s a specific area they’d like you to elaborate on. For example, "Is there a particular aspect you would like me to explore further?"

-              Shift Perspective: If possible, consider the problem from a different angle. For instance, if you’ve discussed market strategies, think about operational implications or financial aspects or risks. 

 

Most importantly, Stay Calm!
The interviewer asking these questions does not mean you have missed anything crucial and it also does not mean that the case is lost. The interviewer is just testing your thinking and how well you communicate while doing so. Remember, the interview is a simulation of how you would work with a client, and with clients you often have to brainstorm and problem solve together. So don’t panic! Try to see your interviewer as a colleague you are working with.

 

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Jun 17, 2024
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Private Equity | Market Estimates | Fit Interview

What else: your answer is not sufficiently exhaustive 

Elaborate more: 1) please go into more detail and/or 2) I am not sure I understood what you mean and need more clarity

How do you deal with those? There's no specific preparation for these types of questions (i.e., different than case interview preparation in general). They are not testing anything in specific with these questions, they are providing you a (very direct) “hint” that your answer could be better. 

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Hagen
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replied on Jul 10, 2024
#1 recommended coach | >95% success rate | most experience in consulting, interviewing, and coaching

Hi there,

First of all, congratulations on the invitation from McKinsey!

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your questions:

  • First of all, please be advised that if an interviewer asks "what else" or "elaborate more", your answer was either not broad or deep enough, or both.
  • Moreover, there is therefore no point in deliberately withholding aspects either, as you want to avoid coming across as an applicant who doesn't think broadly enough or deeply enough or both. The point is not to answer these questions, but to avoid them.
  • Lastly, if you genuinely have nothing more to add, confidently explain that you believe you've covered the key aspects, but are open to exploring any specific area they think needs more detail.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to best prepare for your upcoming McKinsey interviews, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

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Florian gave the best answer

Florian

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