No matter how prepared you are for an interview, you likely won’t be able to anticipate every question that will be asked. In fact, you may even be stumped by a question or two. Have no fear! Follow these tips to stay calm, cool, and collected no matter the question:
Take your time.
Oftentimes an interviewee puts pressure on themselves to have an immediate response. That leads to blurting out answers that begin as a way to fill up silence and then stray away from the topic at hand. Take your time; think over the question and how you want to address it.
Acknowledge that the question has been asked and that you’re thinking about how to address it. You can say something like: “That’s a great question. Let me think about that.” to gather your initial thoughts on how you want to approach the question.
Ask for clarification.
You have the right to ask for clarification if you’re confused about what the interviewer is really asking. Asking for more details shows that you are listening and that you want to reply appropriately. Depending on the circumstance, you might want to say:
- “I’m sorry. I don’t quite understand the question. Would you please rephrase it?”
- “Can you be more specific?”
- “I understand the question, but where would you like me to start?”
Redirect to an area you’re more familiar with.
You may not be able to elaborate on a given skill directly, but if you’re able to connect it to a similar skill, that’s better than simply saying you don’t have the skill. Depending on the situation, you could say something along the lines of: “That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about this position. While I don’t have direct experience in this ABC area, I do have extensive experience in XYZ. I’m excited to combine these two skills into the necessary duties for this role.”
Memorize a polite one-liner.
You’re not going to have the perfect answer every question, so instead be sure you portray your willingness to learn and to be a team player. Keep a short sentence handy, and say it with sincere eagerness: “That’s not a concept I’m really familiar with yet, but XYZ is something I’m really excited about, and I want to learn more.
Send a brief follow-up email.
You might be able to qualify a response during the interview by admitting that you don’t have an answer off the top of your head but want to follow up later. “That’s a good question, but I don’t have a thoughtful answer at this moment. I will be sure to follow up after the interview.” In a quick email, let the interviewer know that you considered their question important enough to follow up on. Or, use an email to touch on a slip-up the interviewer caught. Saying something like, “After thinking more about that question, I came up with a couple of solutions I wanted to share with you” shows that you care about the position.
If the interviewer seems to be puzzled by an answer, stop and inquire about your suspicion. Say something like, “I’m feeling like my answer isn’t heading in the direction you were looking for. Would you like me to address certain points here?” Doing so shows the interviewer that you’re paying close attention to their needs and that you are a part of the conversation rather than someone merely answering questions asked of them.
Finally, and most importantly, remain focused and calm.
The best way to react to any question is to take a deep breath and stay calm. Doing so allows body and mind to remain focused and you’ll be able to think more clearly. Remember, it’s perfectly okay to not have an answer to a question.