16 Jul 2018

What to do when you do not know the answer to a question asked in Interview?

Imagine that you've appeared for an Interview. You are sitting in front of the interviewer and the interview is progressing well. You are answering to the best of your abilities and things are good. Then comes the turning point in the Interview.

The interviewer asks a question and you go totally blank! You do not know the answer to the question that's just been asked. Your brain can't come up with answer answer relevant to the question. 

Scary, right? It happens. It's happened to me as well, years ago. But I know a way to get out of this situation and it works very well. Let me share the secret with you. 

The reason we go blank is because there's a continuous 'instruction' running at the back of our mind - we must answer every question asked 'immediately'. If we don't open our mouth to answer as soon as the Interviewer has done asking question; we've lost it. That's what we tell ourselves.

But think about it - did anyone made it compulsory to answer immediately? You can take your own time to respond, and the Interviewers do appreciate that. 

Take a moment to understand the question

Take a few seconds to understand the question. If you think you didn't understand the question well, ask a counter question to the Interviewer and ask them for clarification. That's okay. 

Once you understand the question, check if you know the answer. The chances are that when you've spent a few seconds on the question - your brain will either collect some relevant information or simply say 'I don't know'. 

If your brain doesn't come up with anything - you could simply say you do not know the answer the question. Otherwise, you could build up your answer step by step.

This technique works only when the question asked by the Interviewer is non-technical one; because for most of the technical questions, the answers are mostly 'defined'. You'll either know the answer, or you won't. 

For the non-technical questions, you can definitely build up answers by asking counter questions. 

Be honest!

Contrary to the popular advise that many gave me when I was preparing for job interviews; I'd say simply be honest. Don't waste time by talking irrelevant; which would make you look idiot. 

When you don't know the answer, don't rush in to say you don't know the answer! This is very important. It's essential that you give the question a bit of thought and see if there's anything worth answering. If not, take a pause and say, "I did not expect that question. I really have no idea about it". 

Be polite and keep your tone low when replying. 

The Best Strategy

The best strategy to avoid such situation is to thoroughly prepare for the Interview. Be it a technical interview or an HR interview - you need to prepare for every situation. 

It's essential that you remain calm and composed throughout the Interview so that you don't get a panic shot whenever an unexpected situation arises. 

Keep in mind that the Interviewers know that you are a human and sometimes they might just toss in a question only to see how you react. 

Have you ever been in such a situation? How did you handle it? Do share it with us through responses below.

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