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3 minute read

What to Do When You Cannot Answer an Interview Question

Ever stumbled upon an interview question and you have no idea how to answer it? We take you through some tips to prepare you for your next interview!

No interview is easy as pie — you are sure to have stumbled upon difficult interview questions you would take some time to think through. That is why preparation is very important.

What if you just do not know how to answer an interview question at all?

Fret not. You are not the first nor the last candidate recruiters come across who may not know the best response, if not any, to a question posed. It is normal, owing to the fact that recruiters are also looking for candidates who can think quickly on their feet.

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Often, it is not necessarily the answer you provide but rather how you approach the question. You need to think through what to say during an interview, and what not to.

Here are some tips to take you through that hurdle.

What to say during an interview when asked a question you cannot answer

1. “Let me think.”

What this does is to buy time on your end to consolidate your thoughts. You need to reflect on the question and think about whether you know the answer at all. However, you would want to be careful of awkward silences as you contemplate an answer. You could fill these spaces with words, be they in the form of a casual joke or a conversation – this will help calm you down as you figure how to respond.

2. “Let me think out loud.”

Getting the right answer almost immediately is not always the aim of recruiters when they ask tricky questions. More often than not, they want to hear your thought process. You could take them through just that. Suppose you have been posed with a question on your writing or research process, for instance, what you never thought you would have to explain. Listing out step after steps, albeit scattered, can convince recruiters that you are not making it up and you take your work seriously.

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3. “This relates better to…”

If you do not have an answer to a question, you could redirect the question to another relatable area on which you can share more. You could be asked if you have experience in a particular skillset – saying ‘no’ is important if you really do not have the skill, but backing it up with something is even more essential.

What not say during an interview when asked a question you cannot answer

1. “I don’t know.”

Taking off from the earlier point, it is important to own up that you do not have an answer to a question. However, leaving the recruiter hanging with an ‘I don’t know’ will not sit very well. You must show your proactiveness in participating in the interview as that will indicate your eagerness to clinch the job.

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2. “I am bad at this.”

Not everyone does very well in interviews, and that is okay. While some are natural conversationalists, others find it difficult to whip up an answer without appearing fake. You might feel you want to give up in the middle of an interview but revealing this vulnerable side of you may jeopardise your chance at the job, even if you were nervous from the start.

Instead of admitting you are not good at interviewing, apologise for your incoherent communication or stammers and try again. Your determination to perform well will leave a good impression on the interviewer.

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