in addition to the previous points, I think it would also be useful to practice how to gain more time initially, in case you are not sure about the structure to apply. In order to do so, the most useful thing would be to recap all the information you received until that moment. This will give you time without giving the impression you don’t know where to go, and also help you to sound more structured. After that, you could move to the points mentioned by Vlad and Ingnacio, (i) asking for one minute of time to structure your thoughts (which, to answer your last question, is ok to ask), (ii) identifying the key pillars of your structure and then (ii) brainstorming for each of them appropriate elements.
I have reported below an example from a previous post that I wrote.
Interviewer: So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?
Step 1: Recap the situation and ask for time to think
Interviewee: So, if I got it right, you would like now to move to the elements that could decrease this cost. If it is fine for you, I would like to do a small recap and then move through the key elements that can help to do so. At the beginning you asked me what brought a decline in profits. We have identified the problem lays in Product A, and in particular in the cost area. We then found out that the main increase in cost was related to raw material.
Interviewer: That’s right.
(Notice you may have gained 30 seconds of additional time summing up information)
Interviewee: Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?
Interviewer: Please take your time.
Step 2: Present the key pillars of the structure
Interviewee: Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper in these two components.
(Notice that even if you are brainstorming, you are first putting down a list of the MECE pillars of a structure. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)
Step 3: Brainstorm elements inside each pillar
Interviewee: Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:
- number one, decrease the quality of the units that we use;
- number two, negotiate with the supplier;
- number three, find another supplier.
In order to decrease the number of units, we may do two things:
- we may implement a more efficient method to use them, so that we would have to buy fewer of them.
- We may also substitute some of the units with something else that may be cheaper and with the same effect on the final product.
Hope this helps,