Interviews are the final hurdle that one has to cross before they make it to their dream job/ college. This is one reason why they tend to make people nervous. The following video will give you a better understanding of the interview process.
Based on the nature of the interview, for a job or for admission to an institute, there will be some basic background research you would need to do – history of the company, your job profile, subject matter expertise, simple maths or academic questions.
But, at times, you will encounter a situation where you face a question that you are completely clueless about. These questions can catch you off-guard. In plain words, a question that you simply don’t know how to answer. This can be either due to you not being aware of the topic or it might be an abstract question or puzzle.
So, what is the best way to deal with such a situation?
Let us see how you can get through in such a scenario.
1. Calm Down
Do not panic! Our first response is to fall into mental despair about not knowing the answer. Sometimes we might just blank out, despite knowing the topic somewhere at the back of our mind. In such cases, the silence that follows the question becomes excruciating for the candidates and they start to panic. This further triggers a reaction that makes them say the first thing that comes to their mind, just to kill the silence even though it makes no sense. This should be avoided at all costs.
Calm down. Take a deep breath. A stress response won’t make the situation any better.
Understand that if the interviewer has asked you such a question, he probably knows the effect it might have on you and just wants to see how you react under stress. Don’t simply blurt out “I don’t know.”
2. Acknowledge The Question
Now, you obviously cannot be silent, so the question arises, what do I say when I don’t have an answer.
Start with acknowledging the question. Something as simple as, “That’s a good question.”, would do the trick. This not only kills that silence, but it also buys you time to think.
Or if you don’t understand the question or a part of the question ask the interviewer to clarify.
3. Thinking Out Loud (Approach 1)
This is by far the most effective way of tackling such a situation. And most of the times, your prospective employer will ask you such a question only to understand your way of thinking.
So after you’ve taken a few minutes to gather your thoughts on the question, state them, out loud in a logical manner. Explain what you think, how you think and why do you think so.
If it helps you to write things out do that. Explain on the whiteboard in the room, if there is one. This gives the interviewer the opportunity to step in and offer a hint. Work out the logic as you go along to show the interviewer how you are thinking about the question and possible solutions.
4. Redirect (Approach 2)
No matter how hard you try to attempt such a question, it may seem that you’re only beating around the bush. Here, one should try to bring in similar topics you’re thorough with. Try to tell them what you do know but at the same time bring up other topics that you are more familiar with.
For instance, you are asked a question about ‘Net Neutrality in India’ and you just know the very basic answer, that internet access (for all sites) won’t be free. Now, both you and the interviewer know that this is not enough. So, what you can do is say what you know and then start talking about how it will impact the economy’s growth especially when India is a developing country and how access to the Internet is crucial for the same.
This way, you have redirected the question to a topic you know a good deal about without really giving away that you didn’t know the answer to the question asked in the first place.
Remember that you have the power to steer an interview in the direction you want based on what you say.
5. Know the right time to be upfront and admit not knowing the answer
Though, in the first point we warned you against blurting out an outright, “I don’t know.”, there is an exception to this.
If the answer is such that you’ll know only through memorization and there’s no way you can deduce it then you should go ahead and admit the same. This can be a formula, some English phrase or a GK question. You are clear that you have not read up on this, you can inform them the same. At times, the interviewer might offer you an alternative question. Even if they don’t, they will certainly appreciate your honesty.
Above all, learn from each one of your interview experiences. And remember that regardless of what question you get, understand what the hiring manager is really trying to learn from the question.
Hope this helps you in your upcoming interviews.
All the best!!
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