Don’t Know an Answer During A Job Interview? Tips on How to Tackle this Situation

They call out your name and you are the next one to walk into a room where a panel is interviewing candidates for your most coveted job.

Is this one of your most recent nightmares? Do not worry, you’re not alone.

An interview is nerve-wrecking for almost everybody. The job interview is often the final stage in the recruitment process, where you either make it or break it. You only get one shot at the interview process.

Unlike your resume, which you can edit and re-edit, a single interview is all you have to create a good impression on your recruiters.

The initial handshake, your poise, confidence and your body language matter in those first few minutes. But, the average interview might go on for around 40 minutes.

How do you continue to talk about yourself for such a long duration of time? What do you do when you don’t know what to say? What do you do when long nights of preparation almost seem futile?

Here are a few things that may help:

1. Do not panic

It is normal to not know answers in an interview. The most important thing is to stay calm. Take control of your mind and think of the interviewer as a friend.

Accept that a mistake is okay and human. Do not stress about the fact that you are stressed.

If a question surprises you and you have not prepared an answer to it, breathe. Focus on your strengths and purpose, take your time to gather your thoughts and answer accordingly.

2. Stay confident

Nervousness is a state of mind, do not let it affect you. An interview is not just a tight-rope bridge to reach your desired job, it is a process of excitement and learning.

Think positively, stay focused, maintain eye contact, enjoy and smile at intervals. Use formal language and provide answers in brief pauses.

3. Don’t just hear, listen carefully

Even before you greet your recruiters, it is important to stay focused and clear your head of all distractions. You need to be present physically and mentally.

Observe the facial expressions and body language of the interviewer to understand what is expected from you. This will help you to read between the lines and form a clear answer.

4. Ask questions for clarifications

Only if you are focused and listen carefully will you be able to understand if you need additional information to formulate an answer.

You may not understand a question when it is posed at you. In that case, you may ask for clarification. You may repeat the question and explain your interpretation to clarify with the interviewer.  

An interview can flow into a conversation only when the interviewee is attentive and interacts beyond the training they have done.

Example:

  • ‘That’s a new idea for me, please explain’
  • ‘You mean … (rephrase the question to your understanding) … am I right?’
  • ‘Honestly, my focus was more on … (topics you are well versed with) …’
  • Could you be more specific, where would you like me to start?
5. Proceed with examples

On being asked about your strengths, just saying that you have exceptional patience is not enough.

Provide persuasive examples to support the statements you make. Delve deeper into your personal life, if need be. Do not shy away from sharing details.

Don’t just tell, show. The more you elaborate, the higher your chances of selection based on your experiences.

Example:

  • ‘I put my leadership skills to use at the 2017 Conference of…’
  • ‘In such a situation, I would do exactly what I did when my…’ (If you have been asked to react to a hypothetical situation)
6. Maintain your posture

The interview may proceed for a longer time than you expect. Do not slouch or fidget simply because you are unable to find an answer. Do not crack your knuckles, hold things in your hands or move your feet too much.

Keep your body language professional. Try to rest for a few hours and practice power poses to boost your confidence before the interview.

7. Shift the focus

Drive an answer towards better aspects of your skill set or personality that you feel confident about sharing and elaborate on the same.

You could take this opportunity to talk about something from the past that describes your traits. You could also ask a question in response to a question and follow up on it later.

Example:

  • ‘I’m not keen on funding charity organisations but I do possess empathetic skills. Since the past few months I have been volunteering every weekend for…’
  • ‘My experience with Adobe Illustrator is limited but I have worked on a similar tool i.e., Adobe Photoshop during my tenure at…’
8. Remain sincere and honest

It is best to be honest during the interview session so the answers are natural and believable.

Do not make up bogus stories or fake skill sets or strengths about yourself simply because you feel that is what the interviewer wants to hear. They are well experienced in their field of work and would know if you fake your credentials.

Even if you are selected, a job for which you have faked your abilities is neither good for you nor a company.

Example:

  • ‘Even though team work is exciting as it gives the opportunity to connect with different ideas, I prefer to process myself first and then report to others’
  • ‘I prefer to have traditional work timings where I have enough time to rejuvenate myself for a fulfilling performance’
  • ‘Yes, we could have increased the shares, I did not pay much attention and I now realise that…’

A successful interview is only possible when you have prepared and researched on your concerned company, its functioning methods, case studies, competitors and the overall outlook and purpose.

You should go through your own resume and consider the pointers you have listed there. It is important to prepare beforehand so you have a level of composure during the interview. After all, you want to put your best foot forward.

Even after sweating towards it, it is natural to get stuck or puzzled over a few questions. Nobody can predict what interview questions are asked but only prepare for the surprise ahead.

So, there is no need to dishearten yourself or feel depressed in case things don’t work out as planned. There are always plenty of opportunities awaiting to prove your mettle.

We wish you a happy and successful interview.

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