Stumped at an interview? Here’s how to tackle it

When you don’t know how to answer a question during an interview, the silence can seem excruciating. You might even wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole. Not to worry, though keep these tips in mind the next time you’re strapped for an answer.

Calm down

First of all, the most important thing to do is stay calm. If you start freaking out, your body will begin reacting physiologically. Once you start a stress response, you won’t be thinking clearly, and you may throw out answers without thinking. Take deep breaths, and tell yourself that it’s OK to not know the answer to the question. You’ll just have to work through it; there’s nothing you can do to change things, but you need to stay calm to find the right answer.

Don’t make stuff up

You should not tell the interviewer you don’t know the answer without mulling it over. Then again, be careful not to make stuff up, because your interviewer can see right through that.

Ask questions

Maybe it’s the question you don’t understand. Ask your interviewer to clarify what she said. Go deeper into the question to see if you can get more details that will help you figure it out.

Tell them how you would find the answer

Even if you don’t know what the answer is, you can tell the interviewer the steps you would take to figure out the problem. Interviewers ask you hard questions because they want to see what your thought process is. Sometimes, the thought process may be more important than the actual answer. They want to see that you can take initiative and have the resources to come up with a solution on your own, instead of needing someone to hold your hand through problems.

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