Special Desk: The thought of not being able to answer an interview question is a scary one for many job applicants. It happens more often than you might think. Sometimes, you simply don’t know the answer. In other cases, you may know, but your brain freezes.
Being prepared for not being able to respond can help alleviate some of the anxiety, and help you make the most out of a difficult situation. Here’s advice on what to do if you don’t know or aren’t sure how to respond to a question during a job interview.
Your mind set going into any interview is a critical ingredient for success. Many candidates assume that they must have a near perfect interview in order to land the job. In reality, it helps to recognize that other interviewees will also have difficulty answering all the questions to the complete satisfaction of the recruiter.
Often a solid but imperfect interview will be sufficient to move you on in the screening process. This realization can help stop you from panicking if you can’t answer a question well.
Do take the time to review the most common interview questions employers ask so you will have an idea of what to expect.
Your reaction if you can’t immediately come up with an answer can be more important than the ability to deliver the answer. Maintaining a calm, confident posture when confronted with a tough question will help convince the recruiter that your inability to answer a question is an unusual occurrence for you.
If you fall apart and get upset, the interviewer may lose confidence in you. Consider saying something like “That’s a very interesting question, can I take some time to consider it and get back to you later?” or “Great question, I can answer it in part but would like to consider it further and get back to you.”
Buy Some Time
You can often buy some time to formulate an answer by rephrasing the question, or asking for clarification. For example, you might say “Are you looking for an example of how I motivated an underperforming colleague in a team situation?” By the time the interviewer answers something may have come to mind.
Answer When You Follow Up
Perhaps the most significant thing you could do if you have been totally stumped by a key question is to research a strong answer after the interview. You can then include that answer as part of your follow up communication.
Very few jobs require workers to have all the answers on the spot. Demonstrating that you will be persistent, hard working, and resourceful when you initially lack information can be impressive to employers.
Readers Respond: Take a look at some of these bad interview stories shared by About.com readers to see how interviews can really go wrong. Not being able to answer right away won’t seem like such a big deal after you read some of these horror stories.