It happens more often than you might think. During a job interview, a hiring manager throws a curve ball: A question the candidate cannot answer. Sometimes, the person simply doesn’t know the right response. Or, their brain freezes at the moment. Another possibility is the interviewer may be deliberately trying to stump the applicant to see how they act under pressure.

Being prepared for this possibility can alleviate the anxiety any help you make the most of a difficult situation.

Don’t panic.

Your mindset throughout your interview is critical to your success. You don’t have to have a perfect performance to land the job. Often, a solid but imperfect experience is enough to move you on to the next step in a hiring process. Nobody’s perfect. This simple realization can help keep you from panicking if you don’t know an answer.

Take your time.

You may feel you have to fill up any empty airspace to avoid an awkward silence. This is a natural reaction, but it’s not necessary. Instead, take some time to gather your thoughts, versus blurting out something that gives away the fact that you’re stumped.

  • Acknowledge the question, and state you’re thinking about it. You can often buy more time by rephrasing the question or asking for clarification. By the time your interviewer answers, something may have come to mind.

Think aloud.

About half the time, interviewers ask tricky questions not so much to hear the exact correct response, but to get a better sense of how you think through problems. So, after taking a minute to think, try to succinctly explain where those thoughts have been – and then go forward from there.

  • For instance, you may be asked to “walk us through your process for handling a call from a disgruntled customer.” Imagine you’re getting that call. Then, share the steps you would take out loud. Use some transitional adverbs like “first,” “then” and “lastly” to give your response some structure. Finish with a qualifying statement such as “my process might vary depending on the specific nature of the call.” This shows that you’re flexible, even if your answer isn’t exactly what the hiring manager would do.

Have a fail-safe.

You may get a question that no amount of thinking can help you answer. In this case, turn to the research you’ve done on the position and the company.

  • If you’re applying for a finance job and are asked “What is working capital?” address it by talking about your enthusiasm for the opportunity and your knowledge of the industry. You might say, “I’m not overly familiar with that just yet, but I have been keeping up with the current deals your company is involved in and I look forward to learning more and more as I grow with your team.”

As you prepare for your next job interview – and throughout your search process – consider partnering with a career coach from PrideStaff Modesto. We have more than 30 years of experience placing professionals in accounting, finance, administration, clerical, HR, customer service, call centers, healthcare, IT, insurance, legal, management, sales and marketing, and the skilled trades. Contact us today to learn more.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *