Have you ever been asked a question in a job interview that you couldn't answer? Do not despair; it happens with all professionals of all levels; We may think the question is easy, but we are entirely silent if asked. So, when you come across the same situation, don't worry and don't panic!
Here are the tried and tested ways to answer any question in a job interview without looking bad and staying true to your answer.
There are many situations in which a candidate can't answer a job interview question, but that doesn't mean the candidate is entirely out of ideas. These situations include:
- The candidate has no answer to the question and does not want to fake one.
- The candidate wants to give an honest answer but realizes it may be inadequate.
- The candidate does have an answer but feels a better one available.
There are also some situations when candidates don't know how to answer a question and, therefore, they may fake it or change the topic altogether:
- The candidate has no idea what the interviewer is asking because the interviewer's terminology is confusing.
- The candidate doesn't understand why they're being asked the question or what's expected of them in response (this can happen in both technical and behavioral questions).
- The candidate realizes that their answer would be inappropriate in this situation (for example, they may want to bring up a personal issue, but it would be unprofessional).
You Can’t Answer Any Interview Question, Here’s How You Could Respond
Ask if the recruiter can clarify the question
Interview questions often have multiple layers of meaning. Even if you think you understand what the recruiter is asking, there are always implicit goals behind the question that you never thought of.
The person asking the question here is the recruiter, and he undoubtedly knows precisely what he would like to find out about in your answer.
On the other hand, some recruiters have to ask complex technical questions or very personal questions in job interviews - which directs the entire hiring process – so they ask these kinds of questions at the beginning of the job interview so that you are not surprised later.
So, either way, don't be afraid to ask for clarification!
This shows that you are proactive and willing to follow through with the interview.
Recruiters are always happy when the candidate shows interest, and they always have great ways to explain and keep the conversation going.
Ask for an example of a similar situation
It happens to the best of us: You're in a job interview, and the employer asks you a question you have no idea how to answer.
It is perfectly appropriate to ask for an example of a problem that requires this kind of answer in these situations.
For example, if you are asked to:
Interviewer: "Tell me when you've had to deal with an angry client."
Candidate: "Give me an example of a situation where a person would be angry."
Interviewer: "Okay, let's say the customer calls you and is upset about the delay in sending his package. He says he needs it by tomorrow or he will lose his job. What are you going to do?"
In this case, the candidate will understand what the interviewer is looking for - he or she would like to know how the candidate would deal with an angry client. By simply giving an example of a situation where someone was angry, it is easier for the candidate to answer the question professionally.
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Explain what you’re thinking out loud
When you are asked a difficult question, and you don't have an answer to it, say everything you think out loud because keeping your thoughts secret always makes you more anxious.
Just come up with every thought that comes to mind, and you can use responses like: "I wonder if I'm answering this question correctly," "I'm trying to think of examples I can use," or "I want to make sure I'm specific enough."
Think out loud! This helps the recruiter know that you understand their question and are trying to find the best response for them. It also gives him a chance to step in if he wants to clarify something or add more information.
Avoid long pauses, or You are not sure, statements
Long pauses and words of "uncertainty" show an employee's lack of self-confidence and make the recruiter hesitant when deciding to hire the candidate.
Alternatively, the candidate can rephrase the question and provide the answer as accurately as possible, highlighting strengths and what will add value to the organization.
Ask to return to the question later
Deferring or asking to return to the question later is helpful in cases where answering complex questions that require more time to formulate the best answer.
You could say something like, "I'm not sure if I can give you an exact answer at this time, but I'd be happy to come back to it later."
The recruiter always welcomes this by showing how keen you are to find the best answer.
Talk about your related skills and experiences
When you can't answer an interview question, don't panic. Instead, use the opportunity to talk about related skills and experiences that will impress your interviewer.
"What are your greatest strengths?" is a common interview question. But if you're stuck and can't think of anything relevant to say, don't worry. There's still plenty you can do to convey why you'd be an asset to the company.
There's a straightforward approach: give an example of when something similar happened at work or school and how you dealt with it.
And another unstraightforward way to keep an interview going is to ask a few questions of your own. You could ask their priorities for the position or what challenges they anticipate in the coming year. This gives you a chance to talk about how your experience relates to the role and how it's prepared you to handle similar challenges in the past (without having to list all of your previous jobs). It also makes you appear interested in not just taking this job but making it work for both you and the company.
Tell them how you’d approach the problem
The recruiter is trying to gauge whether you have the skills they're looking for and whether you're even capable of doing the job.
When you can't answer an interview question, it's common to feel flustered and say the first thing that comes to mind. But when you don't know the answer, explain how you'd go about solving it, even if you haven't solved it before.
Saying, "I'd look at other companies' solutions," indicates you're willing to research a problem and adapt your skills to solve it—which is precisely what they want.
And whether you've answered the question or not, showing confidence in your skills is never wrong.
Ask if the interviewer has a suggestion he would make if he were in your position
When you can't answer the interviewer's question, you shouldn't sit silently with a blank stare, hoping they'll read your thoughts.
Instead, ask if he has any suggestions he would make if he were in your situation.
This shows the employer that you care about their opinion and are open to all possibilities.
It also allows them to share ideas about what they want to see in the candidate and how they approach problems.
This gives you a better understanding of the question and a more comprehensive answer formulation.
Ask follow-up questions to guide the conversation toward an area of strength or interest for you
There is no better way to avoid feeling lost than direct the conversation toward something easy and familiar.
If you can't think of anything to say right away, a good tactic is to ask the person who asked you a follow-up question.
You can direct the conversation toward your area of strength or interest.
In other words, if the recruiter asks you: Tell me about a situation in which you dealt with an annoying co-worker! you can ask some follow-up questions such as: What is the definition of an annoying person in your view? Then you begin to say your answer by listing your exceptional soft skills that facilitate dealing with all the characters and mention how your flexibility allows you to act in all situations.
Be honest and upfront while staying positive
You might be surprised at how well this can go over. If you're trying to hide something from the interviewer or if you're not willing to take a risk, it will come across in your body language and tone of voice. If you're honest about your lack of knowledge on the topic, however, it's likely that the interviewer will appreciate your honesty and may even ask another question to get some more information out of you.
Here are some examples of how to handle these situations:
- "I'm sorry, but I don't know much about that."
- "I haven't worked with anything like that before. What would be involved?"
It's okay if you can't answer any questions in a job interview. We all have gaps in our professional experience and have to look for ways to get through them smoothly and professionally.
So, prepare well for the interview, boost your self-confidence, and treat the situation as a regular thing.
And always remember! A recruiter is an ordinary person like you, and he may sometimes ask questions he doesn't know the answers to. All you have to do is learn how to "persuade" him and sharpen the skills of "selling" your expertise.