What should I clarify in the clarification questions?

clarification
New answer on Aug 06, 2020
6 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 30, 2020

What should I clarify in the clarification questions? I am quite confused. In some casebook, "clarificaiton question" part is long, in some, it is short. I don't know how much and how long should I clarify now....

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Robert
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replied on Aug 03, 2020
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Hi Anonymous,

You need to clarify the following 3 areas:

  1. Any open issues you might not have understood during the case outline - be it due to network interruptions or specific terms you are not familiar with.
  2. Exact goal, scope and deliverable of the case - always make double-sure you are tackling the right issue in the first place, everything else is an immediate red flag.
  3. Any additional "meat" around the bones to make you understand the client's situation and business in general terms - business models are not always that obvious today than maybe 10 or 20 years ago.

Bonus point: Whenever clarifying, don't simply repeat what you have heard but use your own wording. Only this will make sure you really understood it, and this conscious thought process will help you also in the next step (usually creating a 'structure' for the case) if you processed the information already once in your brain.

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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Sidi
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replied on Jul 30, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

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 clarifying questions should NOT be questins that are already starting the analysis (e.g., asking for financials or number of markets or number of competitors and such stuff)! It will come across completely arbitrary if you ask analysis question, before even having structured and explained your analysis approach!

The later questionsthat you ask while navigating through the case (after having structured the case solving approach) 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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Ian
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replied on Aug 04, 2020
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Hi,

Good question! I look at it in two ways:

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 asl 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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Anonymous replied on Aug 06, 2020

Dear A,

For the preparation I define 3 types of clarifying questions, which you can ask.

  1. questions that clarify the objective of the case interview

Here the basic things you have to know about the case objective:

  • What is the measurable metric of success?

  • What is the time frame?

  • What are potential restrictions or limitations?

    2. questions about information that strengthens your understanding of the company

•. Business model: How does the company make money? Do they sell directly to customers or do they sell through retailers or partners?

  • Products and services: What products and services does the company sell? What benefits do these products and services provide?

  • Geographic location: Does the company have one location or are they a national chain? Does the company operate in just one country or do they have an international presence?

3. question about definition of a term you are unfamiliar with

Most consulting interviews do not require you to have specialized knowledge or expertise in an industry. Therefore, if you come across a term that you are unfamiliar with, it is completely acceptable to ask the interviewer for the definition.

Hope it helps,

Best,

André

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Antonello
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replied on Jul 31, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi,
it depends on the question and on how much detailed is the problem statement. try to find a good balance, but anything between 1 question and 3/4 minutes of questions can be good

Best,
Antonello

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Francesco
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updated an answer on Aug 09, 2020
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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

You should ask questions until these points are clarified (usually 2 to 4 questions are enough – it depends on the complexity of the case).

Best,
Francesco

(edited)

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Robert gave the best answer

Robert

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