We’ve all been there — that moment when they fire difficult interview questions at you and you have no idea what the answer is. Job interviews are stressful enough. Your career depends on this moment, so you need to be on your game. But a question you’re unsure of can really throw you. Here’s how to answer an interview question you don’t know the answer to.
You’re practiced and rehearsed. You know all the questions they’re likely to ask and you’ve outlined responses to each one. You’ve researched the company, the industry and the interviewers, and you’re prepared for anything. So don’t let one or two difficult interview questions trip you up. Don’t panic or get flustered. Pause for a moment and plan out a reply in your head-initial silence is okay: it shows you’re careful and contemplative. Don’t let the fact that you haven’t prepared for this particular question hurt your confidence.
Handle the pressure
The truth is most interviewers like to ask open-ended and difficult interview questions because they know you haven’t practiced specific questions. They want to see you let down your guard and see the real you. In other words, you can’t answer the question incorrectly. As long as you’re honest and genuine, you really can’t go wrong.
Ask clarifying questions
You don’t have to ask questions, but it’s a good way to stall for time, further the conversation, and it might reveal more of what the interviewer is looking for. Start to think out loud and if it helps you formulate a response, start to draw out an answer in the notepad you brought (hint: bring a notepad). They might enjoy witnessing your thought process, they might point you in the direction if they need to, or it might start to take the conversation in an unexpected yet fruitful direction.
Get a to-go box
If you’re really stumbling over this question, ask if you can take it home and reply to them later. You might need some extra time to think about your response or, if it’s a more technical question you don’t have any expertise about, you can do a little research when you get home and generate a quality reply. Doing so will show the interviewers you’re committed — you’re sincerely interested in the company and you’re willing to do the extra work to make sure you land the role. Just make sure that your research is thorough, your response is thoughtful, and you send it within a day or two.
Whether you feel like you fumbled an answer or you simply put it off until you get home, show off your resilience. Handle the rest of the interview questions with calm composure. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; they like to see how you handle pressure and problem-solve, so show them it didn’t faze you.
For more tips on nailing your interview, check out our blog!
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