How do you respond to interview questions you don’t have an answer for? You’re already nervous. Your palms are sweaty. Your toes are tapping. Should you fake your answer? Admit you don’t know the answer?
The most important thing to do is stay calm. Take a deep breath, and collect your thoughts. Remind yourself that it’s okay to not have an answer. You’ll have to work through the question to find an answer.
What to Do If You’re Stumped During an Interview
It depends on the question, but you should never fake an answer. Honesty and integrity will always be rewarded.
Resist the urge to say, “I don’t know,” right away. This may come off as aloof, or make it appear like you give up easily when presented with a challenge.
Ask for Clarification
Buy yourself a little time, and dig into the question a little further. Ask the interview to repeat or clarify what they are asking you. Then, repeat the question back to them.
How to Respond to Technical Questions
If you don’t know the answer to a technical question, you should admit it. But you want to convey that you are willing to learn and understand the right answer. For example, “do you know how this part of a specific software works?” Your answer could be, “I have actually not used that before, but I am confident I can learn it pretty quickly.” If you fake it, and pretend that you know the answer, the truth will be revealed eventually once you’re hired.
How to Respond to Theoretical or Situational Questions
Theoretical or situational questions can be related to past experiences. It’s okay to admit you don’t know the right answer, but give it your best shot. Instead, tell your interviewer what you do know of the situation. It also helps to say your thought process out loud.
The interviewer wants to see your critical thinking skills in these scenarios. You can always ask questions to the interviewer, to see if you can navigate to an appropriate answer. For example, “What would you do if a client asked for something specific, but you didn’t have that specific item?” Your answer could be, “On one hand, I would be disappointed that I didn’t have what the client was looking for; but on the other hand I would want to try to show them something similar that they might like just as much, if not more. Is that how you would handle it?”