Interview Tips: Answering Unexpected Questions

Interview Tips: Answering Unexpected Questions
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Regardless of how well you prepare for your interview, you will surely be asked a question you are unable to immediately answer. Knowing how to tackle situations like this will be key to ensuring you excel in your interview and make as good an impression as possible!

Your initial reaction might be to panic but try to stay calm! It may feel like the interviewer is trying to catch you out, but you must remember that their goal is simply to get to know you and your skills. If an interviewer has asked you a deliberately difficult question, it is possible that they are simply eager to learn how you handle challenging or unfamiliar situations. Try to stay present in the conversation and avoid feeling distracted as if you lose your focus you may find it more difficult to form a good response. If you need to, utilise techniques that will help you to stay calm such as calming breathing techniques. To read more about how to calm your interview anxiety, read this blog post on our website.

Try not to dive straight into giving an answer as blurting out whatever springs to mind could reveal that you’re at a loss. Take the time to acknowledge the question using sentence fillers if you need to for example, ‘What a good question.’ Or ‘Let me think..’ This will give you time to sort through your thoughts by filling in an any awkward silences.

Ask for clarification or for the question to be repeated if needed. You may be struggling to answer because you do not understand the question fully or need more information to answer it properly. Asking for more information can help you narrow down the scope of the question or even potentially gain hints from the interviewer – remember, they want you to do well! It can also benefit the impression you give as having the confidence to ask shows a curiosity and willingness to learn that will appeal to any employer.

It may seem like a good idea to just pretend you know the answer, but this can come across quite badly. You might seem disingenuous, dishonest, or even incompetent. Instead, acknowledge the question and demonstrate a respectful and attentive manner.

Once you have gathered your thoughts try explaining through them to demonstrate how you arrived at your conclusion. This will display your analytical and logical skills and give the interviewer insight into how you would apply your knowledge and experience to new or unfamiliar situations. You might even learn something new as you could gain feedback or insights from the interviewer that expand your knowledge. Aim to be succinct and give your answer as much structure as possible. Make use of transitional adverbs such as ‘lastly’, ‘first’, or ‘then’, and show flexibility by ending your explanation with a qualifying statement such as ‘this could differ depending on the circumstances’.

Redirect the conversation towards topics you are more familiar with or that are similar. Utilise experiences you have from previous work or projects that might be relevant to show related skills. Even if you lack the specific skill, showing that you have transferrable skills demonstrates a level of competency as well as adaptability and resourcefulness. The research you conducted prior to the interview will also be highly useful when approaching questions you’re not sure about. Aim to demonstrate that you are familiar with the role and what will be expected of you in your answer.

If you are still struggling to think of a response, just be honest! Explain to the interviewer that you’re not sure but that you are very interested in learning the answer. Show humility and a keen motivation to develop and grow your understanding, and that you are willing to face challenges. Demonstrate your eagerness to learn in a way that shows that you understand the job you are applying for and what is expected of the role. Make sure your enthusiasm for the role shines as much as possible!

If you find yourself faced with a question you don’t know the answer to, stay calm! Think carefully about the question and sound out your answer. Make sure you are demonstrating that you know what the role requires and showcasing your transferrable skills. Don’t forget that the interviewer wants you to do well. It might feel like they are trying to catch you out, but they likely want to see how you react to challenging situations and if you are able to effective problem-solve during unfamiliar situations.

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