Data Chart Insights

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?

management consulting prep data chart insight

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!

1. Why Data – Chart Insights exist

A big part of a consultant’s day-to-day job is summarizing facts and data into more comprehensible charts and slides. In order to make good charts and slides, you must first be able to 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 you with only the charts. As such, every chart you get in case interviews is a source of insights. Your job is to reverse the process: coming up with the “lead” from the given charts.

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2. Solving strategy

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 key insights.

  • 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 some time to find that 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.

(a) Components of a typical consulting slide/chart

(b) 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 items that stand out on the chart:

Amazon:
The higher the price one charges, the worse the perception of its price is. Therefore, we would expect most points to line up in a 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 still 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, Kohl’s, and Macy’s lines are the same.

However, Macys’ line is much less steep, meaning that it has some success in moving from physical stores to online stores: charging higher prices while only slightly hurting their perception of price.

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