I'm always preaching about proper preparation prior to interviews. If you research the position and company carefully, you can anticipate likely questions and prepare excellent answers.
But something I also tell job seekers is that you can never anticipate every single question.
I once had to respond to a "How would you...?" question about exhuming a dead duck. I am not making this up. The position involved community affairs work for a sewer treatment plant. How could I have anticipated such a strange question? It took me totally by surprise.
But I got the job.
Often with problem-solving questions, the interviewer isn't looking for a "right" or "wrong" answer. He or she is more interested in the thought processes you demonstrate to come up with your answer.
The dead-duck question was based on an actual incident, and the person who asked it is the person who had to deal with it. My response showed that I would have handled the situation differently than she had, but it also showed that I knew about problem solving. I didn't panic at the unexpected question; I didn't answer before thinking about it for a few seconds; and I didn't blow it by giving a lame response like, "Gosh, that's a really tough question! I honestly don't know what I would do in that situation."
Here are a few tips to help you deal with "How would you...?" problem-solving questions:
1. Ask questions to determine exactly what the interviewer is looking for. (This will also give you a bit more time to think.)
2. Explain how you would gather the information and data necessary to develop a solution to the problem.
3. Tell how you'd use the information you gathered to develop and analyze alternative courses of action.
4. And finally, tell them your solution or recommendation, explaining how you feel it's the best option based on the info you were given.
The "How would you...?" type of problem-solving questions are popular in interviews these days. You must not let them scare you. Don't rush your response and don't stress yourself out wondering what answer they're looking for.
Remember, the answer itself isn't as important as showing your ability to think logically and demonstrate problem-solving capabilities.
Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System and free information-packed ezine, "Career-Life Times." Find those and other powerful career-building resources and tips at her website: http://www.best-interview-strategies.com.