10 minutes into his interview with McKinsey, Tom was given the following chart as the interviewer calmly asked:
What insights can you draw from this chart?
If you were Tom, would you be ready to answer that kind of question?
Let’s tackle the Data – Chart Insights question type in Case Interview!
Why Data – Chart Insights exist
A big part of a consultant’s day-to-day job is summarizing facts and data into charts and slides that tell messages and stories. In order to make good charts and slides, you must be able to read and understand them well.
Usually McKinsey, Bain, and BCG’s slides contain a “lead”, or a key message, written on the top with the illustrative and supporting facts / charts below. In this type of case interview question, the “lead” was removed leaving only the charts to you. So every chart you get in case interviews have insights. Your job is to reverse the process: coming up with the “lead” from the given charts.
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There are two parts to drawing insights from charts and exhibits. Part 1 is about how to read charts and Part 2 is about how to identify the “a-ha” about them.
- Part 1: Reading charts
Charts and exhibits in consulting are usually very clear with a detailed title, description, and unit of measurement. However, it would take sometime to find those information if you are not familiar with consulting charts. Here I will show you (a) the basics of all consulting chart components (using McKinsey-style examples) and (b) the basics of most common types of charts.
- Part 2: Identify insights
The key to identifying insights in most cases is to recognize the unusual or unexpected items. Let’s look at an example.
Finding insights for the question is a game of identifying the unexpected. Here are a few unexpected items on the chart:
The higher the price one charges, the worse the perception of its price is. Therefore we would expect most points to line up in an imaginary diagonal line connecting the top-left and bottom-right corners of the chart.
Amazon, unexpectedly, stays above the line, leading us to the first insight: Amazon is the top performer based on the chart. It is able to charge a high price while its customers don’t feel that they are paying too much.
Physical stores vs online stores:
Theoretically, prices in physical and online stores should be the same.
However, as shown on the chart, all brands charge a higher price in their online stores.
Moving from physical stores to online stores:
We would expect that the steepness of Target, JCPenny, Kohls, and Macys lines are the same.
However, Macys’ line is much less steep, meaning that it has success in moving from physical stores to online stores: charging higher prices while only slightly hurting their perception of price.
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