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Which strategy do you think is best regarding the prompt and clarifying questions?

Clarifying questions Framework Notes
New answer on Nov 26, 2023
7 Answers
367 Views
Yuxi asked on Nov 24, 2023

From different resources, it appears to be 2 opposing strategies regarding the prompt and clarifying questions part of the case. I would like to know your opinions, which one do you agree more with: 

1. Repeat the prompt, and ask as many questions as you have, the more “original”, “expert-like”, and “investigation-like” the better. It will allow you to understand or make sure you understand the activity of the company and show you're interested in the case/client. 

2. Do not repeat the prompt to save time (25 minutes only for the whole case) Ask high-level questions that will allow you to understand the objective specifically. Focus on the objective/question at hand. Leave the rest of the questions as additions to sub-sections of your framework.

Overview of answers

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 25, 2023
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Yuxi,

Q: I would like to know your opinions, which one do you agree more with?

I would actually not recommend either of the two.

What I would recommend is to:

  1. Repeat the prompt
  2. Ask clarifying questions useful for your structure (not really trying to be “original” or “expert-like”)

In general, the goal of the clarifying questions should be to (i) clarify what is unclear in the prompt and (ii) get the relevant information needed to properly structure your approach.

Based on that, the clarifying questions I would recommend are related to:

  1. Objective and constraints of the client. E.g. Why does the client want to complete this acquisition? or How much does the client want to increase revenues, and in what timeline?
  2. Operating model of the client - mainly what they sell, to whom and how. E.g. Could you please clarify what product the client is currently selling?
  3. Any part of the prompt mentioned by the interviewer that you don't understand. E.g. You mentioned that our client performs standard activities as an intermediary bank. Could you please clarify which activities this involves? I am not particularly familiar with that sector.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Dennis
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 24, 2023
Ex-Roland Berger|Project Manager and Recruiter|7+ years of consulting experience in USA and Europe

Hi there,

my view is that you should repeat the essential aspects of the prompt to confirm that you have correctly understood the scenario and the objective of the case (your regurgitation of the prompt should be shorter than the prompt). 

You should then ask “clarifying” questions (if you have any) that help you avoid potential misunderstandings (e.g. if you are unfamiliar with certain terminologies, questions on the intended scope of your analysis).

With that, you should be equipped to get started on an initial approach and structure. Any detailed deep-dive topics can be discussed when you explore that part of your structure - because then it has relevance. If you just expose the interviewer to a barrage of questions left and right directly after the prompt, you are wasting time without impressing anybody.

Hope that helps

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Ian
Expert
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replied on Nov 24, 2023
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Yuxi,

Neither.

Say the prompt in your own words. Ask 2-3 relevant questions that affect the framework.

At a real client site what would you do?

Would you rattle off a list of predetermined questions that are identical across every client? Of course not!

Same goes for a case. Think critically about the problem.

===============================================

There is not single question you "must" ask. Rather, every case is different. You need to ask questions that help you better understand the situation (objective, business model, etc). AND help you narrow your scope and focus your framework.

If there's no specific timeline there's no specific timeline.

Let me add to this - please don't ask timeline questions just for the sake of asking timeline questions. If, for example, the prompt is "We've seen an increase in demand and need to ramp up production", asking for timelines is silly...we know the answer to be ASAP. If you ask timelines, you both waste a question and show you don't think critically about problems!

I'll repeat: You need to ask questions that help you better understand the situation (objective, business model, etc). AND help you narrow your scope and focus your framework.

=================================================

General Rules for Clarifying Questions

  1. They should help you define your box (context/scope)
  2. They should help make your box smaller (narrow the scope)
  3. They should help you develop your approach to solving the problem…not start solving the problem already

===============================================

I always write BOTMG at the bottom of my framework page to help myself think of things I'm missing in case I'm stuck.

This helps "trigger" you to consider questions around B = Business Model, O = Objective, T = Timing, M = Market, G = Geography.

However, you should never just say "so, what is their business model?" Obviously, ask questions that help you frame your hypothesis, understand the situation, and ultimately drive your case better.

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 24, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi!

To be honest, neither of the two, but I would rather lean towards the first one. 

Instead of thinking about what the imagined expectations from the interview are, I would rather think about what is the purpose of each of the steps you are describing. 

Basically, the whole point of playing back the prompt is not to go through the motion but to validate that you understood the context correctly. 

Similarly, asking clarifying questions is not about aiming to sound smart or doing it because you think they expect it, but rather because it can help you better understand the business model of the client or bring you closer to a hypothesis. 

Once again, always think about what is the point of these things rather than what you ‘should’ do. Once you understand the role, the ‘should’ often reveals itself on its own. 

Good luck!
Cristian

———————————————

Practicing for interviews? Check out my latest case based on a first-round MBB interview >>> CodeWave  

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ALEXANDRE
Expert
replied on Nov 24, 2023
FREE INTRO I exMcKinsey EM I exKearney consultant I High Success Rate I Official Coach for HEC (160 coachees in 2022/23)

Hi,

You need to be result oriented. 

The main objective at the beginning is to be sure that you understood the question. So at least repeat the question, the if you feel that you didn't understand everything rephrase to clarify.

Then of course it's always good to ask 1 or 2 clarification questions.

Overall do not lose more than 2 min on this part.

Cheers,

Alexandre

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Alberto
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 26, 2023
Ex-McKinsey Associate Partner | +15 years in consulting | +200 McKinsey 1st & 2nd round interviews

Hi there,

I suggest you:

  • Repeat a summary of the prompt with your own words to ensure you understood it right
  • Ask 2-3 relevant high level questions for the case. Also ask yourself WHY you are doing the question as a filter to ensure it is relevant enough

Best,

Alberto

Check out my latest case based on a real MBB interview: Sierra Springs

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Pedro
Expert
replied on Nov 25, 2023
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | Market Sizing Expert | 30% discount in Feb & March

The objective in that section is to make sure you really understand what the goal is (qualitatively and quantitavely, if possible), if there are any constraints (things you want to avoid), and what the “scope” is (e.g. are we looking to grow just in this product, or the company as a whole; are we considering current business or should we look into geographic expansion or inorganic growth; etc.).

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