We’ve all been there—you’re sitting in a job interview and you get a question that stumps you. Even if you do all your research beforehand, and practice and rehearse, you still might get a question from left field or something you just couldn’t have seen coming. An unpredictable interview question is inevitable, but there are ways you can handle it. Here’s how to respond to an interview question you’re just not sure how to answer.

Take your time

A lot of times interviewers will intentionally ask difficult questions to see if they can stump you—they just want to see how you handle the pressure. If you get flustered and are visibly panicked, they’ll fear that’s how you’ll handle difficult situations in the workplace. But if you handle it with ease, they’ll be assured you can handle obstacles and setbacks at work with the same ease.

So when you get a challenging interview question, pause for a moment, there’s no need to rush or spit out a nonsense answer. Plan what you’re about to say so it seems thoughtful and informed.

Think out loud

Once you’ve taken a minute to gather some thoughts, start processing them out loud. Explain where your thoughts have taken you and what you’re thinking, and pepper your response with some transitional words like “first,” “then,” and “because” to give it some structure. Eventually you might find you’ve provided a pretty decent answer without any rehearsal at all.

Change course

You don’t necessarily have to change the subject, but you can admit you’re not sure of an answer and redirect the conversation to a topic you do know about. For example, if they ask you about a certain technical skill you don’t know, you can say, “I’m not totally familiar with that,” and then start talking about a similar technical skill you do know a lot about.

If you happen to know the job requires a lot of knowledge about a skill you’re not familiar with yet, mention that’s one of the reasons you were so excited about this opening—you’ve always wanted some training and experience in it and now you’re likely to get it.

Have a go-to topic

You probably have an accomplishment you’re really proud of or a topic related to your industry that you know a lot about. You can definitely turn the conversation towards that topic or achievement. Just make sure that topic really is something you know a lot about and paints you in a good light. If it’s one of your achievements or past experiences, be prepared with lots of qualifying details, so you have a lot of solid facts to talk about.

For more tips on preparing for your next interview, contact PrideStaff St. Pete Clearwater today. 

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