Stumped On An Interview Question? Here’s How to Tackle It

interview question

You’re ready to advance your career and send out your resume. Great! You get a call from one of the companies wanting to talk to you. You are excited but whoa, you haven’t had a job interview in while. The panic starts to set in. You start thinking, “What do I do if they ask me a question I do not know how to answer?”

The thought of not being able to answer any interview question is scary. Sure, you don’t want to be embarrassed by sitting there stumped in the interview. Here are a couple of tips to help to prepare yourself for your next interview.

Don’t panic and stay calm

If you start freaking out, your heart will start to race and your blood pressure will rise.  Once you start a stress response, you may not be thinking clearly. Maintaining a calm and confident posture may help convince the recruiter that your inability to answer is an unusual occurrence for you. Take a deep breath and answer the question to the best of your ability.

Ask for clarification

It’s possible that you didn’t understand the question. Ask them to clarify the question in hopes of them providing more details to help you answer confidentially. By the time they clarified the question, you may have had enough time to develop a response.

Don’t make up the answer or say “I don’t know”

If you make up the answer, your interview may see right through it. Take your time and acknowledge the question that was asked. Say something as simple as “That’s a great question. Let me think about that.” Saying something like this will create a natural filler to avoid any empty airspace and awkward silence. Take a few moments to gather your thoughts and make sure you don’t blurt out something that may be incorrect.

If you do not know the answer, be honest

Sometimes questions are posed to catch you off guard, not to embarrass you. Interviewers want to see your thought process, even if you don’t know how to exactly answer the question. If you do have some knowledge of the question, redirect to an area or skill that is close and tell them what you do know. By restating the question out loud, the wheels may start turning and you’ll have a better chance at providing an answer that the interviewers are looking for.

Still Stumped?

Turn it into a positive spin and tell them “That’s a great question. I don’t have the answer for you right now, but I will be thinking about it after the interview and will do some research to learn more about this topic.” Also, tell them what other steps you would take to figure out the answer.  They may just want to see your thought process and if you have the initiative and resources to find the answer. This will also show them that you are eager to learn more, persistent, and you’re honest.

Send a follow-up email to the hiring manager after you’ve done your research by the end of the day and it may give you a second chance to impress the hiring manager. Talk about the answer that you were stumped on by starting with something like “After completing thinking about the question and doing a little research on the issue, this is how I would approach the solution.”

Do your due diligence on the company and the people you will be interviewing with. And remember, practice makes perfect! Good luck!