No matter how much you’ve prepared for an interview, you never know if there may be a question that you weren’t ready for or trips you up. It’s not uncommon to have a question that you don’t have the perfect answer to, and that’s okay. Instead of getting flustered, take a deep breath and learn these few simple tactics to use when you are faced with an uncertain interview question.
Try not to panic
When you’re stumped with an interview questions, it’s easier said than done to try not to panic. Even if you are getting nervous, you need to do your best to not show it. Take a few seconds to calm down and gather your thoughts so you can start to develop a proficient answer. You want to treat your interview like a conversation, so it’s natural to have pauses every now and then when talking.
Don't automatically answer with "I don't know"
Your first instinct may be to automatically answer a question you’re unsure about with “I don’t know.” This is the last answer you want to give right away, especially with no explanation as to why you are uncertain. It’s more important to attempt to find a solution for the question, even if you aren’t exactly sure how to best answer it.
Ask the interviewer a question to clarify
Before you try to start answering the question, it’s totally okay to ask your interviewer to clarify what they are asking you or ask them to provide you with more detail. This will give you a minute or two to further collect your thoughts. You also may actually get more explanation on the question itself and actually know how to answer it going forward.
Explain your thinking process
If you aren’t sure where to start when crafting an answer, it’s best to start talking confidently about your thinking process. Take your time in clarifying the parts you do know how to address. If when you’re explaining your thoughts out loud and you’re still not creating a solid answer, take a different route and describe how you could learn more skills on the job or talk about a hypothetical situation that you do know how to explain. In the end, you want to display your practical thought process at coming up with an answer, even if you don’t know how to at first.
Have a backup answer already prepared
While you may not be able to prepare for every single question you get asked in an interview, you can prepare to deal with those few times you may get baffled. You can try to come prepared with a backup answer when you need to use it in a confusing or uncertain situation. Use this time to be honest about not fully knowing the answer, and the steps you would take to go about finding the answer. You can further explain that you’re more than willing to gain experience in that area.
Utilize your thank you email
After the interview is complete, you may feel that you still didn’t give enough information when answering a question or that you want to clarify one of your answers. Your follow-up thank you email or note is a great place to address this. Utilize your message to let the interviewer know that you’ve had more time to think about the question and want to provide more information on the subject.
At the end of the day, if you don’t know the complete answer to an interview question, it’s best to handle the situation with assurance and tackle it as best you can. Don’t let one question throw you off or disrupt the rest of your interview!
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