How to Answer a Question You Don’t Know at an Interview in 10 Stepswalk
You might be asked questions at a job interview that you don’t know how to answer right away. You might not know the answers to all of these questions, so it might be hard to give a full, right answer. Learning how to answer these questions can help you come up with your own good answers and make it more likely that a hiring manager will give you a job. This article shows you how to answer questions you don’t know how to answer in 10 steps and gives you some examples to help you think of good answers.
When you don’t know the answer, what to say
Here are some steps and strategies you can use to answer interview questions you don’t know how to answer in a professional and confident way:
1. Take your time
If you don’t know how to answer a question, take a moment to think about what information the interviewer might want you to give. Before you answer out loud, think about the question and the steps of your answer. If you give yourself time to think about how to answer the question, you might come up with a good response. You might find it useful to tell the interviewer what you want and how you feel about the question.
2. Talk out loud
Thinking out loud can also help you work through tough questions so you can find an answer you’re happy with. So, you can show the person in charge of hiring how you thought about the question and what you thought it meant. If you say out loud what you’re thinking, you might also think of other points that are more important and give your answer more context.
For example, if you’re interviewing for a job as a writer and the hiring manager asks you how you edit your own work, you might think about each step and how you might do it. When you need to, make sure to add more information to explain something. If you don’t have a regular way to edit, thinking about the steps can help you come up with a good answer.
3. Admit you’re unsure
If you don’t know the answer to a new question, it might help to say “I don’t know.” This could happen if the other person asks a detailed or complicated question that requires more research or a deep understanding of a specialized topic in your field. Staying honest about what you know and how you talk about it can show integrity, which is something many employers look for in a candidate. It can also help you change the subject to something you know more about.
If you use this method, you should say you’re sorry and quickly explain why you don’t know how to answer the question. For example, you could say that the question is about a topic you haven’t thought about in a while or about a specialty in your field that you don’t know much about. You can keep your credibility and move on quickly if you are polite, show confidence, and give a short answer. You can also show that you have a growth mindset by saying, if it applies, that you want to learn more about the topic.
4. Think outside the box
Employers may ask you questions that are hard on purpose to see if you can come up with creative ways to solve problems at work. In these situations, the interviewer may be more interested in seeing how well you can think through hard topics and come to a well-thought-out conclusion. When answering a hard question, you should look at it from different angles. Think out loud as you come up with different ways to answer the question, and let yourself think freely about it.
For example, if you want to be a nurse, the interviewer may ask how you would handle a patient who doesn’t want to work with you. If you haven’t been in this situation before, you can think about how you would respond to a patient and meet their needs based on your experience in the field. Instead of giving a single right answer, it might be better to explain how you see the situation. By telling a hiring manager about this process, you can show how smart you are and how well you can adapt to new situations.
5. Repeat the question
If the interviewer asks you a question, repeating or rephrasing it can help you understand it better and give you time to think about your answer and how to give it well. When you sum up a question or say what you think it means, the person who asked it may give you more information, explain what they meant, or clear up any confusion you have about it. Another way to show that you care about what they have to say is to listen and be interested in what they say next.
6. Ask questions to find out more.
You could ask the interviewer to explain a question or a word if you don’t know what it means. For example, different companies in the same field may use different words to talk about the same idea. Politely asking for clarification or asking more questions may help you understand the question and what it’s about better. You can also ask a hiring manager to describe how a department’s team would answer the question to find out more before coming up with your own answer.
7. Tell the person you’ll get back to them later.
Depending on the situation, it may make sense to come back to a question later in a conversation. For instance, a speaker might ask you a question that you want to answer but need more time to fully explain. In this case, you might agree that the first question was good. This can show the person who asked the question that you are interested in the topic and want to join the conversation. Then, say that you need more time to think about the question and that you’ll get back to them with an answer later.
8. Tell how important the question is
If you don’t know how to answer a question, reminding yourself why it’s important might help. Depending on the situation, the topic of a question may help you grow in your career as a whole. You might learn about a new topic in your field or a different way to look at something you already know. Depending on the question, this process can help you grow professionally and keep you interested in the conversation. It can also help you stay positive while you plan your response, which could help you solve the problem better.
9. Pay attention to what people are saying.
It’s normal to feel distracted or unable to focus when you don’t know how to answer a question. If you don’t know what to do, you might lose faith in your answer, which could stop you from coming up with solutions. Try to stay calm and learn how to deal with stress to get through this. For example, you can do deep breathing exercises to help you think of a good answer to a question at an interview. You could also listen to the speaker instead of your own thoughts and then think out loud a response.
10. Switch to a topic that is current and well-known
If the person talking to you asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, you can change the question to focus on something you do know. When using this method, you should say that the question is about a topic you don’t know much about and then give the information you do know about the topic. This strategy lets you show that you know your field while also being honest about your weaknesses. It also gives you a chance to show off your conversation skills, since you can reframe not knowing someone as a good thing.
For instance, if you’re interviewing for a marketing job and the interviewer asks how you’d analyze a product market you’re not familiar with, you can talk about a similar market instead. You could talk about how your experience can help you understand the question’s topic, and then talk about how you might go about making a marketing plan for this new area. You can show that you can think critically and change quickly by explaining how you can use what you already know.
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