The thesaurus says interviews are about ‘questioning and evaluation’. Just the thought of them send chills down some people’s spines. Walking into a strange place, meeting new people and putting on your best game face is hard at the best of times but when it’s for the ‘job of your dreams’, it’s somehow even harder. So, what do you do when you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to?
This recently happened to a candidate of ours that was meeting a client for the first time; he completely froze and didn’t know what to say. He called me afterwards in a panic thinking he had missed his opportunity. This got me thinking, what should you do if this happens to you during an interview?
- First – don’t lie! You may be worried about answering incorrectly, however, it is far worse to be dishonest. If it’s a question that you really should know then perhaps this is not the right position for you, however, if it’s one of those ‘trick’ questions it could just be a way for the client to see how you respond, so keep it truthful.
- Be prepared – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Do your research. Not only should you know the company inside and out, but have you researched your interviewers? Most people can be Googled and are on LinkedIn, so be sure you know a little about them and their career to date.
Being prepared for the type of questions they may ask is important too and a good recruiter will assist you with this as they will have a good idea of the type of questions that their client may ask. There are the usual standard questions, but you may also be asked some behavioural questions also which will make you stop and think. Examples of when a project was behind schedule and how you handled it? When you had to deal with a difficult staff member? It is always beneficial to prepare a few examples beforehand if possible.
- Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer, as the more you panic the less likely you will be able to answer. Take a deep breath and think it through. If you are not clear about what that the interviewer is seeking to understand, then ask the interviewer to repeat, clarity or restate the question. Asking for a moment to think it through will be appreciated by the interviewers rather than rambling or going off topic.
It is completely fine to ask an interviewer to repeat or rephrase a question if you don’t understand it. Respond with another question if you need further information about what they are asking. Finally, research the questions afterwards and perhaps email the interviewer with an expanded or extended answer as this is a great way to show interest in the job and the company. In a lot of cases this will impress them by your follow up.
No one knows all the answers so remember it’s a lot about how you respond, which will tell a potential employer more about you.
Did my candidate get the job? Yes, he did. Why? Because he took the time to think and answered honestly. My client appreciated that, as the job was all about truthfulness and honesty – it was in Finance.
Elite Executive Pty Ltd